Drayneflete, Sally Thomson


Some time ago John Chandler tried (unsuccessfully) to begin a series in Local History, inviting readers to contribute interesting, odd or amusing stories from around the counties, which he called (after Osbert Lancaster’s classic book) the Drayneflete Archive. This one came from Wiltshire and may be known to WRS members. Nonetheless, it bears repetition.

‘Our Downs must have been queer places in those days for the belated traveller. I remember a story that our late neighbour, Mr Henry Merewether, was very fond of telling of how he was returning one dark night from Devizes, where he had been defending a man charged with highway robbery. So clearly had he shown the jury that, notwithstanding the existence of suspicious circumstances, his client was a man whom it was impossible for one moment to suppose capable of such a crime, that the latter was triumphantly acquitted, and ‘left the dock’, as the newspapers say, ‘without a stain upon his character’. But the same night, alas! on the top of the downs, Mr Merewether was himself requested to stand and deliver. And, still more sad to relate, the author of this request was his maligned client of the same morning!’ [Plenderleath, W.C., ‘Cherhill gleanings’, WANHM, vol.24, 1889, pp.257-70, on p.263.]

It is interesting to speculate whether the Mr Merewether in this story was the same gentleman who appears in Brian Banks’ article.