Short EV Account: Larking About

This week’s Short EV Account explores an unusual incident of window-breaking and stone-throwing in Sunderland, involving yet more animals – in this particular case, a lark:

The 1885 election for the borough of Sunderland saw two Liberals, Storey and Gourlay, narrowly beat the sole Conservative candidate, Austin, by just over a thousand votes. The contest also saw some rioting, during which Storey was targeted by missiles and some damage to property occurred.

In the aftermath, some of this property damage caused much amusement at the Borough Police Court, when a man named William Summers was charged by Robert Widdrington of wilful damage on the night of the polling. At roughly 11.30 at night, when Widdrington was in bed, he was awakened by the sound of a stone being thrown at his window.  Getting out of bed, another stone stuck his house while he was opening the window. Outside, he saw Summers throwing stones at him from his own house window, across the street.

Alas, another large stone flew straight through the now-open window, and struck a cage which contained a ‘valuable lark’.  Widdrington sadly informed the court that the bird had since passed away from injuries sustained.  His lawyer lightened the mood by commenting, amidst much laughter in the courtroom, that it was ‘skylarking with a vengeance’.  Indeed, the proceedings had an element of farce throughout, as the lawyer for the defendant was a Mr. Crow!

It was thought that the motive for the incident might have been Widdrington’s position as a canvasser for the Conservative candidate Austin, though Widdrington denied this. Summers was fined 6d, together with 2s 6d damages and costs.


(Source: Sunderland Daily Echo, 1 December 1885Retrieved 2019, via British Newspaper Archive. Newspaper Images © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED)

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