Characters of City Hall : Dr Dick
The 5th of November 1847 was a historic day for Truro as its new municipal complex finally opened. The new building was thus the home of the city’s courtrooms, which over the years saw a variety of weird, wonderful and downright sinister characters.
Richard Pascoe aka Dr Dick
One such character was Richard Pascoe, otherwise known as ‘Doctor Dick.’ Doctor Dick appeared at the courts on numerous occasions and was not actually a real doctor. He was instead a ‘quack’ doctor who pretended to falsely possess expert medical knowledge as a means of conning people into believing that he could cure their ailments.
It was this practice of quackery which first landed the ‘Doctor’ at Truro courts in 1879, when a woman named Edna Chapman suffered a miscarriage and became gravely ill. This alone aroused suspicion when it was discovered that her husband had been out of the country for the past 15 months. The police at City Hall subsequently received an anonymous tip off that Edna’s miscarriage was the result of a procedure carried out by Doctor Dick. After a warrant was issued for his arrest, the doctor was eventually found worse for wear at a Truro inn.
Caption: The Red Lion Inn, one of a number of inns which surrounded City Hall at the time in which Dr Dick was a frequent visitor.
A strange turn of events then followed when Richard drunkenly showed the inspector the drugs that he administered to women in Edna’s position, before then proclaiming how many cases he had subsequently ‘cured’. After a suspenseful trial at Truro courts, where Edna revealed every detail of the events including how much she had paid the Doctor as well as revealing that she had visited him for the same procedure only 18 months before, Richard was eventually found guilty and was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment with hard labour.
However, this was not the last time that Doctor Dick would appear at Truro courts. Despite enduring such a hard time during his first prison stint, Richard immediately returned to his old ways and was back at City Hall for another trial in 1889 for performing the same procedure. There was however a difference this time in terms of the intensity of the support that Doctor Dick attracted, which was evident in the swell of supporters that attended his preliminary hearing at City Hall, as well as the crowd of cheers which awaited him as he exited onto Boscawen Street. By the time of his main trial, the doctor had attracted an even larger crowd of supporters who believed that he was entirely innocent and that the police were fabricating the case against him. Once the crowd had squeezed into the court rooms and quietened enough for proceedings to begin, claims immediately began to circle that the police had intimidated the main witness. It was then decided that Richard’s case would be transferred to the Bodmin assizes. This decision thus served to further infuriate his supporters, with some even refusing to vacate the building. After a near-on riot between the crowd and his main adversary was diffused, Richard Pascoe was able to be transported to Bodmin Jail where in a few weeks’ time he would eventually be found not guilty. The Doctor then travelled back to Truro to be greeted by hundreds of uncontrollably excited people, although this would be the last time that his supposed crimes would attract such a following.
Caption: A set of handcuffs belonging to the Collection of the City of Truro, found at City Hall at he beginning of Hall for Cornwall’s transformation in 2018.
As such, this was not the end of Doctor Dick’s criminal escapades as he stood trial for the same crime on a further two separate occasions. Not long after his last trial at Truro, Richard was found guilty of twice operating on a woman named Betsy Croft and was sentenced to 10 years penal servitude at the Old Bailey in London. Richard then again returned to City Hall to stand trial for one last time at the ripe old age of 80, although this time his frailness worked in his favour as he was found not guilty before passing away a year later in 1909.