Regency Hoax: The Berners Street Hoax

220px-Theodore_Hook The Berners Street Hoax was perpetrated by Theodore Hook in the City of Westminster, London, in 1810. Hook had made a bet with his friend, Samuel Beazley, that he could transform any house in London into the most talked-about address in a week, which he achieved by sending out thousands of letters in the name of Mrs Tottenham, who lived at 54 Berners Street, requesting deliveries, visitors, and assistance.

On 27 November, at five o’clock in the morning, a sweep arrived to sweep the chimneys of Mrs Tottenham’s house. The maid who answered the door informed him that no sweep had been requested, and that his services were not required. A few moments later another sweep presented himself, then another, and another, 12 in all. After the last of the sweeps had been sent away, a fleet of carts carrying large deliveries of coal began to arrive, followed by a series of cakemakers delivering large wedding cakes, then doctors, lawyers, vicars and priests summoned to minister to someone in the house they had been told was dying. Fishmongers, shoemakers, and over a dozen pianos were among the next to appear, along with “six stout men bearing an organ.” Dignitaries, including the Governor of the Bank of England, the Duke of York, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Lord Mayor of the City of London also arrived. The narrow streets soon became severely congested with tradesmen and onlookers. Deliveries and visits continued until the early evening, bringing a large part of London to a standstill.

Hook stationed himself in the house directly opposite 54 Berners Street, from where he and his friend spent the day watching the chaos unfold.

Despite a “fervent hue and cry” to find the perpetrator, Hook managed to evade detection, although many of those who knew him suspected him of being responsible. It was reported he felt it prudent to be “laid up for a week or two” before embarking on a tour of the country, supposedly to convalesce.

The site at 54 Berners Street is now occupied by the Sanderson Hotel.


About Regina Jeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and historical romantic suspense.
This entry was posted in British history, Living in the Regency, real life tales, Regency era, Regency personalities and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Regency Hoax: The Berners Street Hoax

  1. carolcork says:

    Oh Regina, this really cheered up my afternoon! I simply had to share this gem. I’ve reblogged and retweeted.

  2. carolcork says:

    Reblogged this on Rakes And Rascals and commented:
    I had to share this wonderful gem from Regina Jeffers blog!

  3. I was equally surprised when I came across it.

  4. eenayray says:

    Reblogged this on Obstinate Headstrong Girl ~ author Renee Ramsay and commented:
    Best. Prank. Ever.

  5. eenayray says:

    This gentleman set the standard for pranks! He makes the current-day thrill of sending some unsuspecting victim 100 pizzas seem quite tame by comparison. Tweeted and reblogged to Too funny (for those not receiving the deliveries)!

  6. Imagine watching all that chaos! Wonder what his friend said when he had to pay up!

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