Newspaper Reports, 1815

Monday 6 March 1815

Our Lent Assizes will commence on Monday next, at the Castle of this City, before the Hon. Sir R. Grabant, Knt. and the Hon. Sir Henry Dampier, Knt. when the undermentioned prisoners will be tried for the various offences with which they have been severally charged:– . . . William Fryer, for unnatural crimes, on four charges. – William Fry, William Fryer, William Sweatman, and Thomas Ireland, for stealing rum on board a Victualling hoy at Stokes Bay. . . . (Hampshire Chronicle)

Monday 13 March 1815

The business of our Assizes was finished this day. . . . Eusebius Edwwards, for an unnatural crime, was sentenced to three years imprisonment; . . . (Salisbury and Winchester Journal)

Monday 13 March 1815

The following prisoners (39 in number) are for trial [in the Lent Assizes] . . . Samuel Dyke, for attempting to commit an unnatural crime; . . . (Salisbury and Winchester Journal)

Friday 17 March 1815

CROSS (John) v. PRIESTLEY (Richard).
This was an action for defamation. The plaintiff is a stone-mason at Spalding, the defendant a joiner there. The latter had a son apprenticed to the plaintiff; and the imputation was of a very shocking and abominable kind, namely, that the plaintiff had committed sodomy upon this young man. The defendant pleaded, first, that he did not utter the words, and, 2dly, a justification. Serj. Vaughan, in stating the case, observed strongly upon this conduct of a man who, like a coward, pleaded a justification, but did not dare to appear and defend his plea. the plaintiff, he observed, boldly challenged his accuser in that court: he was a married man with a family, chaste, temperate, moderate, and in every respect what a man should be. – Simon Dent was then called, and stated that he is a tailor at Spalding, and being at Priestley's house in August last, Priestley said, that his son Bartholomew and John Cross had been at work together at Mr. Everitt's in Postland Fen, and that Cross had used his son exceedingly ill, by having unnatural connection with him in his bed, when they slept together. When the lad first mentioned it, the defendant added, he had told him he must be mistaken, it would not be so, but his son still persisted in it. – Stephen Dawson said he was at the Hole in the Wall, in Spalding, when several people were by, and Priestley said that Cross had committed sodomy with his son, and deserved to be hanged for it. Defendant is a working carpenter: he was not in liquor when he used the words. – The Judge observed to the Jury, that this was an action to recover satisfaction in damages, in a case where satisfaction could hardly be given. It was a slander of the basest kind; and being spoken behind a man's back, was calculated to raise a prejudice of the most abominable kind, but of which the injured party might probably long remain ignorant. The malicious charge had been attributed by the Counsel to a disagreement between the parties respecting the young man's indentures, and perhaps it might be so. It was a base and dastardly slander, and the Jury should measure the damages by what they would think sufficient were the case their own. – The Jury returned a verdict for plaintiff, damages 100l., and declared that they were restrained from making them much larger only by a sense of the defendant's situation in life. (Stamford Mercury)

Saturday 15 April 1815

. . . the Recorder passed sentence of death on . . . Abraham Adams, for an unnatural offence; . . . (Morning Chronicle)

Monday 15 May 1815

Richard Davis was this week committed for trial, charged with an unnatural offence; . . . (Hampshire Chronicle)

Thursday 6 July 1815

The Earl of LAUDERDALE, pursuant to notice, rose to move the consideration of this Bill, and which took place in the question for its commitment. In a speech of some length he adduced a variety of objections to the mode of the punishment by pillory, and chiefly on the ground of its extreme liability to being perverted to a very different purpose, adn even in the want of punishment from that for which it was expressly intended. He instanced several cases, those of Dr. Shebbeare, in the early part of his Majesty's rein, and that of Daniel Isaac Eaton, of later occurrence, where it was converted, in consequence of the feelings that prevailed among the populace or mob, into a species of triumph. On the contrary,the Noble Earl adduced some instances, one particularly which he had witnesses in Southwark, in the year 1780, where a man, after a few minutes exposure (for a certain unnatural offence), was so treated by the mob that he actually died the moment he was taken from out the machine. There were other instances where the punishment was rendered one of much greater severity than ever the laws contemplated, on consequence of the excitement of the feelings of the mob, and which, on such occasions, was led to action with much greater facility than they could in the case of any other mode of punishment. With such a strong case against this mode of punishment, he must express his surprise that the wisdom of the Legislature had suffered it to continue so long. [But consideration of the Bill was postponed for three months.] (Morning Post)
[See Debate on Abolishing the Pillory]

Monday 10 July 1815

The business of our assizes concluded this day. The prisoners received sentences as follow:– . . . Richard Davis, for an unnatural crime, 3 years imprisonment. (Salisbury and Winchester Journal)

Friday 21 July 1815

RECORDER'S REPORT. – Yesterday the Recorder made a Report to the Prince Regent of the following convicts under sentence of death in Newgate, viz:– . . . Abraham Adams, for sodomy; . . . When Abraham Adams, William Oldfield [for rape], and Eliza Fenning [for administering poison], were ordered for execution on Wednesday next; . . . (Morning Chronicle)

Monday 24 July 1815

The Prince Regent held a Court on Thursday, at Carlton House, and afterwards a Privy Council, when the Recorder of London was admitted, and reported the criminals capitally convicted during the last three Sessions at the Old Bailey. The number reported was thirty-three; of these, Abraham Adams (aged 51), for an unnatural crime; . . . ordered for execution on Wednesday next; . . . (Hampshire Chronicle)

Friday 28 July 1815

EXECUTION. – Tuesday morning, at half after eight o'clock, Abraham Adams, for an unnatural offence, William Oldfield, for a rape, and Eliza Fenning, for administering poison, were executed before the Debtors' Door, Newgate. At an early hour every street, lane, avenue, and almost every window within view of the scene of execution, were completely blocked up with spectators, the number of whom far exceeded any recent assemblage of the kind. – At about a quarter after eight o'clock Eliza Fenning, accompanied by the Ordinary of Newgate, first ascended the platform, dressed in a suite of white, wearing a cap, and holding a prayer-book in her hands; she went forward to the place allotted her with a firm step, and stood perfectly composed during the time the executioner was fixing the rope around her neck, and did not change countenance in the slightest manner. Having performed this task, he then took a handkerchief, which he tied firm around her head. During part of the time she continued in prayer with the Ordinary, who occasionally exhorted her to confess her guilt, as also did the Rev. Mr. Williams; but she stedfastly refused to make this acknowledgment, and to the last moment protested her innocence, calling the Almight to witness the truth of the declaration she had made to her parents, who had frequently since her condemnation exhorted her to confess, but to whom she had alsoimmovably persisted in denying the commission of the crime of which she was found guilty. Her fellow-sufferers appeared soon after her on the scaffold, both of whom seemed perfectly resigned to their fate, and, along with her, were launched into eterminty. The body of Fenning was given to here parents for interment, who, it is reported, had as well as herself, possessed themselves of a certian hope of their daughter being pardoned for the offence for which she has suffered. (Cambridge Chronicle and Journal)

Tuesday 1 August 1815

EXECUTION. – Wednesday morning three unfortunate criminals were executed opposite the Debtors' Door, Newgate, London. Their names were Elizabeth Fenning, a servant-girl, for administering arsenic to her master and mistress in their food; William Oldfield, for a rape; and Abraham Adams, for an unnatural crime. By an early hour in the morning the Old Bailey was crowded to excess, chiefly with females, the case of Elizabeth Fenning having excited considerable interest among those of her own sex. Elizabeth Fenning was att4ended at an early hour by the Ordinary and two other Gentlemen, whose endeavours were unceasing in urging her to a confession of the crime for which she was about to suffer; in this, however, they entirely failed. At six o'clock she had assumed an extraordinary unconcernedness respecting the awful fate that awaited her; she could scarcely be prevailed on to reply to any questions put to her, and in this temper of mind she continued to the end. Just before she ascended the scaffold, on the last effort being made to induce hjer to a confession, she thus expressed herself – "I hope I may never enter into Heaven if I am not innocent; and God will give proof of it before the day is over." – On being further questioned as to the nature of the proof to be expected, and her certainty respecting it, she observed, in equivocal terms, that she merely "hoped God would." She was dressed in a white muslin gown, witih a white satin hat; her countenance was of a pale white, and by no means interesting. – A meeting was held on Tuesday at the Lord Chancellor's, to consider what fresh matter her friends might have to bring forwrd, but the result of their deliberations was unfavourable to her. Oldfield was very penitent in his behaviour, and took no small pains to induce the young woman to participate in his happiness by a Christian-like confession of her guilt. The other malefactor, who was upwards of seventy years of age, exhibited every symptom of personal and mental wretchedness. (Chester Courant)

Friday, 25 August 1815

Thomas Turner, and Richard Breakell, for having sent a letter to John Calvert, at Preston, threatening to accuse him of an unnatural crime, wirth a view to extort the sum of 200. – Imprisoned two years. (Liverpool Mercury)

Wednesday 4 October 1815

At the Old Bailey, on Monday, G. Manners was indicted for attempting to extort money from R. J. Parker, Esq. under a threat of charging him with the commission of an unnatural crime. – Mr. Parker is a Captain in the Army. On the 15th of August he had dined with Sir J. Skeffington, in Charles-street, Grosvenor-square, and was going through the Park to the Haymarket Theatre. This was about nine in the evening. Near Lord Harrington's house in the Stable-yard, Sr. James's, the prisoner tapped him on the shoulder; and said his name was Manners, and he believed his (the prosecutdor's) name was Parker. Mr. P. said he knew nothing of him, and desired him to leave him. Prisoner then said he was in distress, and asked him to assist him with some money, which witness refused. Prisoner then seized him by the collar, and said, "unless you give me money, I will accuse you of having here attempted to commit an unnatural crime on me, and follow you to your own house." Witness told him he had no money about him then, but if he would follow him quietly into Pall-mall, he would borrow some of a friend for him. Witness was not alarmed at all, and had money about him at the time. Witness desired him to follow him to Pall-mall, that he might give him in charge to the watch. The prisoner followed him to Hammersley's, the bankers, where witness found a watchman, and gave him in charge, and he was taken to the watch-house, where he went on his knees, and begged Mr. Parker's pardon, saying, he would never insult him, or any other gentleman again, if he would pardon him. – The Jury found him Guilty, and expressed their admiration and thanks to Capt. P. for the firmness and courage with which he resisted the atrocious threat of the prisoner. – The Common Serjeant immediately sentenced him to transportation for seven years. This atrocious miscreant escape last session from a similar prosecution, and had now another indictment against him for a similar offence. (Hereford Journal)

SOURCE: Various newspapers, dates as given. (Many reports were repeated verbatim across several newspapers, but I have not included them all.)

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "Newspaper Reports, 1815", Homosexuality in Nineteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 12 November 2014 <>.

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