I was flicking through a copy of a 1936 book called 50 True Stories Stranger Than Fiction, a volume including stories with titles like ‘He Laughed At Death’, ‘Dope In Chinatown’ and ‘Lynch Law In The West‘, when I found this marvellous passage in a story by “Lord” George Sanger, the eccentric 19th Century circus entrepeneur entitled The Circus People Take Revenge.
He is describing an attack on a travelling show when it appeared in Bath, but extends his observations to take in a wider view: “I have, by the way, noticed that most cathedral cities – and in Britain I have visited them all – show remarkable contrasts in regard to their populations. At the top you have all that is best in the way of piety and learning, all that is enviable in the way of ease and dignity. At the bottom you will find dirt, degradation, misery and evil of the most appalling kinds. Why this should be I cannot say, but I have certainly observed it.”
The flashing blue lights and streams of blood and urine on Rochester High Street on a Friday and Saturday night bear out his observations. Sanger was eventually murdered by an “insane employee” in East Finchley in 1911.