A tale of Victorian strolling


Binge drinking is in decline, according to new research. It was recognised as a problem in Victorian times, as is demonstrated by the 1878 case of a man who drank himself all the way from The Ashville in Southville to The Rope Walk in Bedminster without noticing.

With his skull pounding, John Wren lay in bed, grieving for his poor, dead brain cells. He peered around the unfamiliar room, searching for clues to his surroundings. Nothing.

Happily, someone appeared who could help. Wren promptly asked her for a whisky. When refused, he was moved to ask where he was.

The snug, said the genial host. He guessed the name of one in Southville, the district he’d been in before alcohol wiped his memory. No, not not Southville, she told him – East Street, Bedminster.

“Good heavens!” he cried out. “Have I travelled the length of the Malago drunk?”

Wren’s rather sordid story began seven hours earlier, when the teetotaller had been enjoying the convivial company of friends and work colleagues.

They persuaded him to have a drink. He declined. They tried again. He accepted. One thing led to another. And another. And another besides.

Wren travelled more than 2 miles without noticing. The time he promised his wife would be home and last orders passed by in a boozy blur. In the bars between they called it “one of the most extraordinary drunken frolics on record”.

“So hopeless was his state of intoxication that he was taken home, put to bed where he remained until his children woke him up and his wife made his life a misery.”