Worse than a bull in a china shop!

Photo:A lamborghini bull

A lamborghini bull

From the 'Brighton Herald', Saturday 3rd February 1900



Wild excitement prevailed in the neighbourhood of the Central Station on Wednesday evening, and the covered approach to the Railway was the scene of an adventure that must be well-nigh unique in its history.

The spirit of revolt

About half past seven three bullocks were peacefully passing down New England road from the railway dock, in charge of a drover named Edward Newman. Suddenly the spirit of revolt stirred the bosom of one of the bullocks. Turning its thoughts to the butcher who purchased it, it decided that it “didn’t want to play in his yard,” and lost no time in making the drover aware of its decision. The man did his best to bring the bullock to a better frame of mind, and keep it going in the path of duty.

A terrifying spectacle

The bullock, however, was in no mood for pastoral admonitions. It bellowed scornfully at all his persuasions, and, whirling a contemptuous tale in his face, rushed headlong from the path of duty into New England street, with horns down and eyes aflame, a terrifying spectacle.

Struck with terror

The people bolted right and left.  New York-street, Fleet-street, Wood-street, and Trafalgar-street were successively struck with terror, and screams arose upon the evening air, and every available shop was used as a place of refuge.  The infuriated or panic-stricken beast rushed down through Sydney-street and Gloucester-street and back again past St. Peter’s Church into Cheapside. Breasting the rise to Station-street it bore to the left again, and took in turn Over-street and Frederick-place, whence it emerged, panting and furious, to terrify the Queen’s-road.  Queen’s-road got off lightly, however, and crossing to Surrey-street, the bullock, followed hot-foot by drovers and a crowd of people, tore down into the covered entrance to the Railway Station.


A bull in a china shop is a trifle compared with a raging bullock in a Railway terminus. It was ten minutes past eight when the animal cleared the general population and the cabs from the Station Yard, after carrying all before it for something like a mile and a half in its circuitous rush.

They closed the GATES

Realising the gravity of the situation, the Station officials promptly fortified the Station by closing or protecting all the gates and doors giving access to the booking offices. They then proceeded to protect the town at large from being laid waste by the ferocious beast by shutting the big gates of the Station across the entrance to Queen’s-road and the other gates at the Surrey-street entry.

Hemmed in on all sides

Thus the bullock found itself hemmed in on all sides.  A certain number of people remained inside the enclosure, and these, together with the horses of a couple of vans that had not made good their escape, found themselves in for a lively quarter of an hour.

Its frenzy increased

At first the panting drovers tried to lasso the beast, or corner it, but every such attempt increased it frenzy. It rushed wildly from end to end of the enclosure, and some marvellous feats of agility were performed by those persons who had remained in the yard. In fact, instead of the bullock being now the hunted, it had become the hunter, a panic-stricken hunter, it is true, but very formidable.


[Ever and anon]* with lowered head, it would [come]* like a battering-ram at the doors leading inside and quaking passengers flew back through the offices helter-skelter while those who had been trying to lasso the brute fled in confusion to the heights, and took up their position on the top of the covered way over  the Trafalgar-street steps.

They tried to scale the high spiked bars

From inside the station a crowd of passengers, strongly entrenched behind the closed iron gates, barring the approach to the London arrival platform, strained their necks in the endeavour to lose no detail of the exciting scene. Every now and again, when the bullock made a rush towards that end of the enclosure, men and boys made terrified attempts to scale the high spiked bars. Outside the Station gates cabmen commented on the situation as the spirit gave them utterance, and muttered in the intervals words of encouragement to nervous fares.

No guns to shoot him

“Shoot him!” said some of the more desperate-minded inside the Station. But there were no guns, and it was thought that this was too extreme a measure.

Someone understood the psychology of bullocks

At last, just before half-past eight, somebody who understood something of the psychology of bullocks gave the word to drive in some more bullocks. Three or four more were accordingly driven in, and their excited companion, who must by this time have been pretty well exhausted, joined them.

Finally driven to the slaughter-house

Then all the bullocks were driven together to the parcel office end; cabs which had been waiting outside with passengers were admitted, and quickly got out of the yard again; and the batch of bullocks was then driven out to Mr Parker’s slaughter-house in Centurion-road, the runaway now comparatively quiet.

No-one seriously injured

That several people were not seriously injured was the most remarkable part of the affair. The only person who seemed to have met with any mishap was Arthur Ford, of 20, Essex-place, who, while the “hunt” was at its height, was knocked down. His back seems to have been slightly hurt, but he was able to go home without assistance.

*NOTE: In a few places the original is very difficult to read, so our best guesses are inserted above with the words shown in square brackets in case we've got it wrong.

[Previously reprinted in the North Laine Runner, No 217, July/August 2012]

This page was added on 03/08/2012.

This article strikes me as interesting from several points of view:

(i) The story itself, vividly described and written very much as a 'story' rather than just as a factual news item (eg "it bellowed scornfully", "whirling a contemptuous tail", "quaking passengers" etc) - quite different from most news reports in today's press.

(ii) The punctuation of the original has been retained in the above as this too is interesting - much more of it, especially commas, than would be used today (see, for example, the penultimate sentence of the piece). Even the original headings and subheadings (shown in bold caps in the above) were given a full stop despite not being 'sentences'.

(iii) To aid legibility we have added further subheadings in the above (the ones in red that aren't in bold type).

(iv) We have also added more paragraph breaks, as the whole of the original was written in just six paragraphs!

(v) The naming of streets is also interesting, the style being eg "Trafalgar-street" rather than "Trafalgar Street" as we would write it today.

And so on...

By Jackie, website co-editor
On 06/08/2012

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