The Bishop of Clogher

In 1822 Percy Jocelyn, Lord Bishop of Clogher, was caught with his trousers down in the company of a mere common soldier. The story really began in 1811, the year after the Vere Street raid. In that year James Byrne, coachman to the Bishop’s brother John, accused the Bishop of committing an unnatural crime. Clogher denied the facts, and prosecuted Byrne for bringing false charges against him. Byrne was tried and convicted, and sentenced to two years in prison, preceded by three floggings. He nearly died as he was severely whipped at cart’s tail through the streets of Dublin on the first two occasions. The third flogging was rescinded when he agreed to withdraw his accusation. The truth of his charge against Clogher did not emerge until eleven years later.

On the evening of Friday 19 July 1822 John Moverley, a young soldier in the Foot Guards, of slightly effeminate appearance, went to the White Lion public house, St Alban’s Place, Charles Street, Haymarket. He looked into the pub two or three times before entering, then went in and ordered a pint of porter and took it into the back parlour. Shortly afterwards a Bishop arrived, about 58 years old, six feet tall, stout, with powdered hair, sallow complexion and pointed nose, dressed in his clerical garb. He exhibited the same odd pattern of behaviour before ordering a drink and going into the back parlour. The landlord and his son-in-law immediately suspected that an unnatural assignation was taking place on the premises. Together with some other men from the pub, they went around to the back yard, and observed the proceedings through a window, across which the curtain had been only half-drawn. They were shocked by what they saw. They went back into the public rooms and fetched half a dozen witnesses to go round to the yard to see for themselves, while they went to call a watchman. In short order the entire assembly burst into the back parlour, where both offenders had their trousers down round their ankles. One story claimed that the soldier was just on the point of consummating the act of sodomy upon the exposed posterior of the Bishop. But most accounts claimed that the Bishop was buggering the soldier.

The Bishop and the soldier were immediately dragged through the streets nearly naked. As they passed the gates of Carlton Palace they were severely beaten and had their remaining clothes torn to pieces by the crowd which had gathered. Bleeding from his nose, the Bishop pleaded for mercy, but both men were locked into cells in St James’s watch house in Vine Street. Next morning they were taken to Marlborough Street station, where both men were much distressed and shed tears at their examination. Crowds of people assembled outside, while six or seven witnesses gave their evidence. Clogher refused to reveal his identity, and as a constable moved forward to search him, he took a paper from his pocket and tore it up and threw the fragments into the fireplace. He wrote a note which he asked the constable to deliver to John Waring of 21 Montague Street, Portman Square, with whom he had been staying: “John; – Come to me directly, don’t say who I am, but I am undone. Come instantly, and inquire for a gentleman below stairs, 12 o’clock – I am totally undone. P. C." (for Percy, and Clogher). The officer refused to deliver this, and it was subsequently produced as evidence in court. Clogher prayed on his knees in his cell all night long, crying for mercy.

At the examination before the magistrate the following day, both men remained silent and were professionally represented. There had been no fire in the grate, and the torn letter was produced: it was addressed to the Bishop from his nephew the Earl of Roden. Clogher demanded the letter as his property; it was handed to him and he tore it into shreds so no fragments could be produced in evidence at any subsequent trial. But finally Clogher had to divulge his name and address in order to get bail. Mr Waring soon appeared, to give one of the two £500 sureties granted for the Bishop (the other surety was given by his grocer, who lived in Montague Street, Montague Square), and Clogher was granted bail of £1,000 and allowed to leave in safety by a back door. Moverley was committed for trial, where he was visited by Lord Sefton, who said “he is a fine soldier-like man and has not the air which these wretches usually have" [F. H. Amphlett Micklewright, ‘The Bishop of Clogher’s Case’, Notes and Queries, vol. 214 (1969), p. 423.]. (Sefton had previously attended the hanging of White and Hepburn in 1811.) Within a few days, two respectable tradesman appeared to stand bail for the soldier and he decamped.

Tiny notices of the scandal appeared in the Sunday newspapers and during the following week, though the Bishop’s name was suppressed. But by the end of the following week, everyone knew that the principal actor in the affair was the Lord Bishop of Clogher, grandson of the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, brother to the 2nd Earl of Roden, uncle to the 3rd Earl of Roden, and the scandal became the talk of the town. Clogher was noted as a member of the Society for the Suppression of Vice, a revival of the earlier Societies for Reformation of Manners. His hypocrisy did not pass unnoticed by the authors of illustrated broadsides, pamphlets, and even epigrams:

The Devil to prove the Church was a farce
          Went out to fish for a Bugger.
He baited his hook with a Frenchman’s arse
          And pulled up the Bishop of Clogher.

(The Moverley family were of French origin in so far as they came over with the Norman Conquest. An alternative version of this epigram substituted ‘Soldier’s’ for ‘Frenchman’s’.)

Clergymen who were seen on the streets of London were jeered at by the populace (according to the Archbishop of Canterbury), and most of them fled indoors. The landlord of the White Lion charged a small fee for showing the room where the horrid occurrence had taken place. The Marquis of Hertford contributed £20 towards a public collection for the wrongly accused James Byrne, whose reputation was cleared though he was never formally pardoned. [ The British Library once had the single sheet of the Subscription for James Byrne with a list of subscribers, and a 36-page Sketch of the Life, and Unparalleled Sufferings of James Byrne, late coachman to the Honourable John Jocelyn, brother to . . . the Lord Bishop of Clogher. Together with some observations on the conduct of the Jocelyn family (1822). These were in a collection of documents about Byrne which was destroyed by bombing during World War II, and I have not located copies elsewhere.]

The Clogher scandal probably encouraged many gay men to leave the country, and it led to the suicide of a Cabinet Minister. Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh, who was both the Foreign Secretary and Leader of the House of Commons at the time, was visibly overwrought throughout June and July. He forgot appointments and his handwriting became hardly legible. He had an audience with King George IV on 9 August to reveal the fact that he was being blackmailed – had had been caught for picking up a soldier, whom he claimed he had thought was a woman – and to confess that “I am accused of the same crime as the Bishop of Clogher." The King advised him to consult a physician. He went to his country seat in Kent, and on 12 August cut his throat with a pen-knife. Castllereagh’s wife later confessed to the Duke of Wellington that her husband was a man who preferred men. [Montgomery Hyde first revealed that Castlereagh’s suicide had been preceded by blackmail in his book about The Strange Death of Lord Castlereagh (1959), where he also discusses Castlereagh's wife’s statement to the Duke of Wellington; there is a review of more recent research on the Castlereagh affair in Louis Crompton's Byron and Greek Love (1985).] His visible distress caused by being blackmailed during the last few months of his life was fixed upon as an excuse to say he was not in his right mind when he killed himself. His physician declared him insane, a ploy that some people find preferable to accusing someone of homosexuality. It is clear that there was a high-level attempt to cover up both the Clogher and the Castlereagh affairs.

Needless to say, neither Clogher nor Moverley showed up when the Clerkenwell sessions commenced on 9 September, and it was not long before the Dublin Morning Post reported that Clogher and Moverley had absconded and forfeited their bails. George Dawson, private secretary to the Home Secretary, Robert Peel, believed that “No event in the last century is more to be lamented both on private and public grounds – it will sap the very foundation of society, it will raise up the lower orders against the higher, and in the present temper of the public mind against the Church it will do more to injure the Establishment than all the united efforts of its enemies could have effected in a century." Dawson wrote to the Archbishop of Armargh suggesting that he arrange an “excusable connivance at his escape", and the Archbishop wrote to Lord Roden suggesting that “someone" should tender bail for Moverley for “removing him out of the way". [Matthew Parris, with Nick Angel, “The Crime Not To Be Named: Percy Jocelyn, The Arse Bishop", in Matthew Parris, The Great Unfrocked: Two Thousand Years of Church Scandal (London: Robson Books, 1998), pp. 144, 150. The Church of Ireland refused to let historians examine the correspondence between the Home Office and Archbishop Beresford of Armagh concerning the affair until 1998, when Archbishop Eames, Primate of All Ireland, finally authorized its release to Nick Angel and Matthew Parris.] Lord Sefton provided bail and Moverley disappeared.

John Moverley’s great-great-great-great nephew Stuart Moverley has researched his family tree, and discovered that John Moverley was born in 1796 in the parish of Bramham, West Riding of Yorkshire, one of eight children of William and Mary Moverley. (This would mean he was 26 years old at the time of the scandal, not 22 as some newspapers suggested.) John Moverley joined the 1st Regiment of Foot Guards (Grenadier Guards) at York on 1 May 1819, when he was described as a “labourer of Bramham", 5 feet 9 inches in height, with dark hair and a light complexion. (One of the newspaper accounts during the scandal described him as of “effeminate appearance".) Records show that he deserted from the 2nd battalion on 7 August 1822, i.e. after being bailed from prison by Lord Sefton. No court martial is recorded in the regimental archive, so presumably he was never caught. Presumably he did not return to his village, nor maintain relations with his family. His father died in 1826, and in his will listed four other sons as beneficiaries, but does not mention John.[Personal communications from Stuart Moverley during 1997 and 1998. The family tree can be seen at Stuart Moverley’s homepage,]

Clogher, for his part, sailed in a small boat from Ramsgate to Ostend on the very evening he was released from custody. The newspapers railed against the offering of bail to a man who earned at least £20,000 a year and could easily spare the trifling sum of £1,000. The public disaffection would have been even higher had only the Bishop been allowed to escape and the soldier been punished. The Bishop did not disguise his name while in Paris, nor did he change his mode of dress; he was often seen strolling the Boulevards and dining at Very’s the Restaurateurs in the Palais Royale. He was cordially received by French society, and lived in the cottage vacated by the Dublin poet Thomas Moore in 1822.

A true bill was found against both men in their absence in September. In October the Metropolitan Court of Armagh solemnly stripped the Bishop of his ecclesiastical dignities, but he had already managed to auction off the entire contents of the episcopal palace, leaving it “as a naked ruin", and the revenues to the see had not been stopped in time to prevent him from selling his tithes for a reasonable profit. [The complete record of the proceedings appears as an Appendix to the Annual Register (1822), Chronicle, pp. 425-432. The case is reviewed in the entries for 20 July 1822, p. 126, and 7 August 1822, p. 138. The selling of the tithes is confirmed by Benbow, Crimes of the Clergy, p. 140.] The fate of his “man-mistress", the only servant he had kept with him at the episcopal palace, is not known.

Mr Parkins, a former sheriff who saw an opportunity to make some money out of the affair, wrote to Byrne and offered his services as treasurer for handling his subscription and arranging collections for him. He paid for Byrne’s passage to London, and offered to buy him a coach and horses. Placards were printed, public dinners were held in aid of the subscription – at one of which William Cobbett the radical reformer and journalist presided – and money was collected in five dozen tin boxes. The celebrated coachman and his wife and daughter lived in the two rooms above Parkins’ stables, and he had unwittingly become a low-paid keeper of Parkins’ livery. Parkins gave Byrne small amounts of money from time to time, but never enough to provide the capital Byrne needed to fulfil his dream of opening a public house. Parkins pocketed a hefty share of the proceeds for his own expenses, and when the day of reckoning came he refused to give Byrne the surplus of the subscription, and turned him out of the house. The unlucky Byrne finally had to prosecute him in 1824, and was awarded damages of £194.4s.4½d. [“Court of King’s Bench, Westminster. Byrne v. Parkins. 16 February 1824", reprinted in the Annual Register (1824), Chronicle, pp. 55-62.]

On 19 December 1824 a notice was read aloud to the congregation of Marylebone Church and then posted by the Bailiff, calling upon the Bishop to surrender to the Sheriff of Middlesex to face charges “or you will be outlawed". Despite being a fugitive, after living for some time in Paris, Clogher eventually seems to have returned to Britain, for reasons unknown, and went to Scotland, where he worked for a period as a butler. In an extraordinary obituary published in The Scotsman and reprinted in the Annual Register for December 1843, he is said to have died incognito in Edinburgh in 1843. He apparently lived for a while in Glasgow, then moved to a house in Salisbury Place, Edinburgh, around 1839, where, under the assumed name of Thomas Wilson, “His mode of living was extremely private, scarcely any visitors being known to enter his dwelling; but, it was remarked, that the post occasionally brought him letters sealed with coronets." “He was very anxious to conceal his true name, having it carefully obliterated from his books and articles of furniture. He gave instructions that his burial should be . . . conducted in the most private and plain manner, and at six in the morning." His body was carried to the New Cemetery in a hearse followed by five mourners in a one-horse coach.[Obituary in the Annual Register, December 1843, p. 330.] The register of Burials in the parish of St Cuthbert’s Edinburgh, states: “1843, Sept. 13, Wilson Thomas, Assumed name Hon. Percy Percyln [sic] Bishop of Clogher, age 83, 4 Salisbury Place".[Mickelwright, “The Bishop of Clogher’s Case", p. 428.] (The age given is incorrect; he was born in 1764 and would be about 79.) No Will was found.

However, his descendant the Hon. James Jocelyn informed me in 1995 that when the Jocelyn family vault at Kilcoo Parish Church in Bryansford, Co. Down was opened for structural repairs to the church, he went inside the vault and discovered that it contained one more coffin than the number of grave markers would indicate, and that the extra coffin was unmarked. He concluded that this was the final resting place of the Bishop of Clogher. James Jocelyn generously transcribed and sent to me a copy of Clogher’s Last Will and Testament, which he had turned up when sorting out the family papers. The Will is dated 19 May 1836, and was signed in the presence of John McCullough, Newtown, John Catherwood, “Muslin Manufacturer, 62 Queen Street, Glasgow", and George Heaseley, Groomport, County Down. Most of his substantial estate of about £5,000 was left to surviving members of his family, but each of his servants was left a full year’s wages, and additional bequests ranging from £100 to £300 were left to several of his favourite servants, and their sons.

Clogher left the sum of £2,000 in trust to his one surviving sister Lady Emily Stratton and her son John Stratton, £500 to his niece Mistress Harriet, and another large sum to his nephew Rev. George Stratton. The smaller bequests include £100 “to my former servant John Warren to set him up in some kind of Trade or business", £100 to his wife Mary Warren for her sole and separate use, £100 to their daughter Elizabeth Warren, £50 to their eldest son Leonard John Warren “to set him up in business either as a cabinet maker or in any other line of business he may think most profitable for himself", £100 to any other children of John and Mary Warren living at the time of Clogher’s decease; £100 “to Alexander Murphy my faithful and affectionate Steward"; £100 each to Mistress Anne Collis or Colles and Miss Mary Anne Sempill, presumably servants; £200 to “my valuable and much respected friend" John James Bigger of Dundalk, County Louth, who was one of the trustees of his estate and executors of his will, and £50 to the other trustee/executor William Brownlow Forde of Annahilt, County Down . He hoped that heirlooms would be kept in the family: he left his watch and chain to the Hon. John Jocelyn, son of his brother the Earl of Roden who was now deceased; his sister Lady Charlotte’s writing box to the surviving Countess of Roden; his books to Rev. George Stratton; his silver plate and furniture, his “large lock" and his “Carriage and jaunting car" to relations, and his linen to be divided between his sister and his faithful housekeeper. A small additional Codicil, regarding disposal of linen, is dated 23 May 1836; a second Codicil, dated 28 August 1837, deals with a bond for his sister, and notes that Mrs Colles has “left me and gone to live in Belfast"; the third and last Codicil, dated 1 August 1840, adds another niece Mrs Anne Newson to the bequests, and cancels the bequest that was “left to Leonard Warren Eldest son of John Warren who is now dead by me" (the meaning of this phrase is unclear), and leaves small bequests to other named servants. This last Codicil is witnessed by Goerge Heaseley, Jane Murphy and Eliza Jane Murphy (probably the wife and daughter of his steward Alexander Murphy).

Clogher bequeathed “to my good friend and relation The Reverend James Hill Poe of Nenagh in the County of Tipperary the sum of Three hundred pounds late Irish currency as token of Remembrance for all the Kindness and attention which my beloved sisters and myself have uniformly experienced from him for many years past during a period of extreme calamity and misfortune." The most interesting feature of the Will is the following clause: “I desire and request that my remains may be committed to the Grave in the most private manner at a very early hour in the morning and that no Publicity whatsoever may attend my funeral, also that no name be inscribed on my Coffin and my age. And I desire no publication of my death to be inserted in any public paper."

Three Codicils were added, dated 23 May 1836, 28 August 1837, and 1 August 1840. The Probate, granted in the Court of Prerogative in Armagh, Ireland, is dated 14 October 1843. It is not clear exactly where Clogher was living at the time of his Will or its Codicils. Clogher refers to himself in the 1836 Will as ‘late of Bally William in the County of Down’. Two of the witnesses to the Will in 1836 lived in Scotland (i.e. Glasgow, and “Newtown" which I assume is New Town, Edinburgh), but all the witnesses to the last Codicil in 1840 lived in Ireland. In addition, all of Clogher’s legatees and trustees lived in Ireland, and the 1836 Will has a clause leaving £100 to be “divided among the poor householders of Dundalk . . . as a mark of my remembrance", which would imply that Clogher lived in Dundalk, County Louth, which is where his primary trustee and executor lived.

William Benbow in Crimes of the Clergy, or The Pillars of Priest-Craft Shaken (1823, p. 44) condemned Clogher as “a deserving faggot" for the flames of hell, which may be an early instance of one of the odder terms of abuse applied to homosexuals. Benbow observed that the Bishop’s homosexuality was not a great surprise, for he never engaged in sports while at Trinity College, Dublin. John Brown in his book Historical Gallery of Criminal Portraitures (1823), in a chapter devoted to “the Sufferings of James Byrne, and the Matchless Depravity of Jocelin Percy [sic], Late Lord Bishop of Clogher", observed that “It has long been understood that the park was a place of nocturnal rendezvous for male prostitutes, who were commonly private soldiers, and that such unnatural wretches as Percy Jocelyn were in the frequent habit of repairing thither to select their mates!" (p. 612).

The author of one of the pamphlets about the Bishop of Clogher prefaced his attack with some recent history about London’s gay subculture. He remarked that “the Vere-street gang can never be forgotten . . . who can ever forget the sound pelting that the wretches received", and he lamented that the pillory had been done away with at the time of his writing, 1822 [The Bishop!!, pp. 6-7]. “The crime has considerably increased since its abolition, and it has of late been ascertained that there are various houses in the Metropolis used by such wretches for their nefarious purposes, especially in the neighbourhood of Mary-le-bone." So the molly houses had been moving towards the more fashionable West End, but one gets the impression that they are small back rooms used for private purposes rather than the more sociable taverns of the previous century. Four men were arrested in such a “den" very shortly before the Bishop’s arrest, and another house “was said to be visited and supported some time ago by a nobleman". Apparently the avenues leading to theatres were thronged by gay men, and the galleries were full of well-dressed sodomites looking for simple-minded youths to accost, boys from the country who would have neither the wit nor the rank to press charges. Our pamphleteer observes the class distinctions relative to the prosecution of this offence: men of wealth or distinction are less likely to be charged with the felony; they are charged with the misdemeanour and granted bail; after being released, they either bribe the prosecutors not to press charges, or they forfeit their bail by absconding, and that is the end of it.

According to our pamphleteer, reporters are allowed into court when “poverty-struck wretches" are charged, but they are excluded from the court if persons of consequence go to trial [The Bishop!!, pp. 7-9]. However, I don’t think this particular claim is correct; William Jackson, commenting on a case involving a molly publican in 1806, says that “in such cases the judge generally forbids notes to be made" [The New and Complete Newgate Calendar; or Malefactor’s Universal Register (1818), vol. VII, p. 371], and no official notes were taken during the trial of the soldiers White and Hepburn in 1811 (or else they were totally suppressed). All sodomy trials were far more briefly recorded during the early nineteenth century than they had been throughout the eighteenth century up to the 1780s, to the extent that the trial records cease to be useful sources of information about the gay subculture. The men who jumped bail prior to trial were predominantly tradesmen and middle-class shopkeepers. If upper-class men pulled rank or offered bribes to escape public notice, they usually did so before any formal charges were made, for their names are missing from the Sessions Rolls as well as the trial records.

SOURCES: Some of the contemporary documents are gathered together in a collection of Tracts in the British Library, shelfmark, which includes newspaper cuttings, a handwritten epigram, the ballad Lion in Tears, and A Correct Account of the Horrible Occurrence Which took place at a Public-house in St. James’s Market, in which it was discovered that . . . The Bishop of Clogher . . . was a principal actor with A Common Soldier! [1822]. More details are found in The Bishop!! Particulars of the Charge against the Hon. Percy Jocelyn, Bishop of Clogher [1822], and in William Benbow, Crimes of the Clergy (1823), pp. 41–44. See also H. Montgomery Hyde, The Other Love, pp. 99–101.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton, "The Bishop of Clogher" The Gay Subculture in Georgian England. 5 April 2010 <>.

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