Dr Trelawney's Cabinet of Historical Curiosities

By Pollard, Justin | History Today, February 2010 | Go to article overview

Dr Trelawney's Cabinet of Historical Curiosities


Pollard, Justin, History Today


Philip Bacon (d. 1666) was twice saved from death in battle by his hat. At the battle of Mardyck (June 14th, 1658) one bullet was stopped by his hatband and removed by his commanding officer, the Duke of York. In 1664, during an attack on the Dutch East India Fleet, a stray shot ricocheted off his hat as he crouched down to load his gun. His third time was not so lucky; he was fatally felled by a Dutch bullet on June 1st, 1666.

Golfer Frederick Guthrie Tait (1870-1900) once drove a ball straight through a man's hat. When he complained to his friend 'Old Tom' Morris about having to pay the gentleman for a replacement, Old Tom noted that he was lucky the drive had not been lower as an oak coffin would have cost considerably more.

Sir Robert Coryndon (1870-1925), later one of Cecil Rhodes's 'Twelve Apostles', began his political career when he joined the Bechuanaland border police in 1889. The force, recruited exclusively from the most well-to-do families of the Cape Colony, was known locally as the 'Top Hat Brigade'.

Cool as a cucumber highwayman Louis Abershaw (c. 1773-95) was caught, tried and convicted for the felonious shooting of an officer sent to arrest him in 1795. Displaying no emotion during the trial, he put on his own hat at the very moment the judge donned the black cap to pronounce the death sentence.

Sir William Compton (1482-1528) was granted a license to wear his hat in the Royal presence.

Jesuit martyr Edmund Campion (1540-1581 ) was brought to London after his capture, tied to a horse and forced to wear a hat bearing the words 'The Seditious Jesuit'.

Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965) was, at eight years old, sent to a sadistic boarding school renowned for its floggings. Having been birched for stealing sugar, the incensed Churchill was reported to have repeatedly stamped on the headmaster's best straw hat. Shortly after, he was removed to another school.

Mungo Park (1771-1806) preferred to do his exploring in normal western clothes rather than commissioning specialist equipment. …

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