Wednesday, April 18, 2018

A Monkey Suit at St Peter's Walworth

The Rev John William Horsley had been rector of St Peter’s Walworth since 1894. He was a well beloved figure in the urban parish, ran a soup kitchen and for the “amusement & instruction” of the local children, he kept a small miniature zoo. He started with a few guinea pigs, added a hedgehog or two, some pigeons, an owl and found himself gifted with, if not a barrel, the odd monkey or two. Early in 1900, however, one of those monkeys escaped from its leash and bit a girl on the leg. 

The rector paid her bills and she was back at her schooldesk the next day. Her father had sought additional compensation and Horsley thought the man's tone was “bullying” and he resisted. Thus, he found himself in a Lambeth courtroom. Horsley insisted the monkey was quite tame and willing to shake hands with all. On that day, the creature had been startled by the sudden appearance of a cat. The monkey broke from the leash, the children screamed and, amid the general tumult, the monkey bit the unfortunate little girl. Mr. Emden, the presiding judge, thought greater care must be taken with a monkey which is a "wild animal" not a pet. The rector was ordered to pay 5s in damages. 

A Daily News reporter who cornered the rector in the church crypt, found Horsley unapologetic, asking why the law, unlike with dogs, denies the monkey the satisfaction of a first bite. Alas, the offending monkey was not available to be photographed, the poor simian had taken a London winter cold and died only days before. 

Horsley remained happily in Walworth for several more years, adding to his duties a role as Canon of Southwark Cathedral. At St. Peter's, Walworth, meanwhile, there is still a delightful "Monkey Garden." 

Horsley from Walworth Through Time (Lock, Baxter, 2012)
Monkey Park from

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