G. C. Hudson, Butcher & Postmaster in early 1800's, at 90 High Street. The hero of the 'Breeches Incident'.
So runs the legend at the foot of this portrait in Barnet Museum. What was this mysterious 'Breeches Incident', and how does one become a hero in connection with a pair of short trousers? No other information was available, and the Internet drew a blank. We had to know. Did he save a drowning child by using his breeches as a floatation device? Did he perhaps use the garment as an impromptu rope, to rescue a family from a burning building? We contacted Barnet Museum to find out more, receiving the following response from Carla Herrmann:
Many mail coaches passed through Barnet day and night without stopping and at night it was usual for the postmaster to throw the outgoing mailbag out of his bedroom window to the coach guard, who might have an incoming mailbag to throw to him. All this was done at high speed. It is said that one night the postmaster, Mr Hudson, was in bed probably asleep and was woken by the noise of the approaching coach, he quickly grabbed the mailbag, as he thought, and hurled it out of the window to the guard on the coach. Hudson then went back to bed thinking everything was fine. In the morning he discovered he still had the mailbag but his breeches had disappeared.
So, it seems Mr Hudson, hero of the 'Breeches Incident' was no hero, merely a bumbling postmaster who enjoyed a gentle mocking from his neighbours after a moment of low farce. Perhaps he was the inspiration for the Wallace & Gromit film The Wrong Trousers.
Let's resurrect this old folk tale by referring to any occasion of misplaced clothing as 'Doing a Hudson'.
Barnet Museum is at 31 Wood Street, Barnet, about 10 minutes walk from High Barnet station. Its collections include a display about the Battle of Barnet, information about Barnet at war, and many items from around the borough. Entrance is free, but you're encouraged to give a donation to support this small charity.