Newspaper Reports, 1819

NOTE: Lord Byron’s friend John Cam Hobhouse was imprisoned in Newgate in late 1819 for having written a radical pamphlet. In his diary dated 29 December 1819 he records hearing the hanging of a man for sodomy that day. This will have been the hanging of John Markham on that day (see reports below). The diary entry reads: “A man was hanged this morning for an unnatural crime. Had my windows fastened up but could not sleep. They began putting up the scaffold at 4 o’clock. The tolling of the bell at 8 was frightful. I heard the crash of the drop falling and a woman screetch violently at the same moment. Instantly afterwards the sound of the pye man crying ‘all hot, all hot.’ Tis dreadful hanging a man for this practice.” (The diary entry is reprinted by Louis Crompton in his book Byron and Greek Love, p. 137, but Crompton was unable to identify the name of the hanged man.

Tuesday 2 March 1819

[Lord Castlereagh in a speech to the House about the state of crime:] As indeed our prospects improved, and the industry of the people found employment, there could be little doubt that a diminuttion of crimes would be the general consequence. But admist the catalogue of crimes which the returns before the House exhibited, it was some satisfaction to perceive that there was no comparative increase on those of the blacker dye, in those he meant which were revolting to human nature; in those for which poverty afforded no excuse of temptation. Considering indeed the vast increase of our population of late years, no increase whatever in such crimes had taken place, and this consideration was grateful to the national character, becuase it shewed that (in spite of every calamity against which the country had to struggle) we had not to regret any aggravation of moral depravity among our people. Taking for instance the crime of murder, it was a fact that within the last year there were fewer convictions on that score than were ever known in any former year [hear, hear, hear!], while the diminution of crime had been equally remarkable of late years with respect to cutting or maiming, to bigamy, to unnatural crimes, as well as to assaults also. Thus those crimes which marked the existence of deep moral depravity, or national degradation, or turbulent temper, had most materially diminished. Then as to the crimes which had increased, they consisted principally of forgery, burglary and robbery, . . .(Morning Chronicle)

Monday 15 March 1819

The Devon Assizes will commence on Tuesday, at Exeter, . . . where there are 115 prisoners for trial, including . . . M. Welch, 28, and G. March, 28, for attempts to commit unnatural crimes; . . . (Hampshire Telegraph)

Saturday 3 April 1819

On Saturday last, W. Orde, Esq. High Sheriff of Northumberland, and Henry Clayton, Esq. Sheriff of Newcastle met Jonathan Raine, Esq. on Tyne Bridge, who immediately proceeded to the Town and County Courts, and opened his commission for a general Gaol Delivery. . . . The following is a calendar of the prisoners, with the result of the trials which have taken place:– . . . Joseph Charlton, aged 26, charged with suspicion of sodomy; guilty – Death. (Durham County Advertiser)

Saturday 3 April 1819

Guildhall. Newcastle, Monday, March 29, 1819.
About eight on Wednesday morning, the judge took his seat, and JOSEPH CHARLTON, aged 26, charged with an unnatural offence, was put to the bar. The extreme indelicacy of the evidence, of course prevents any detail. After a trial which did not terminate till half-past eight at night, the prisoner was found guilty. An alibi was also attempted in this case, but failed; as also an attempt to impeach the veracity of the principal witness. The judge, in passing sentence of death on the prisoner, did not hold out to him the slightest hope of mercy.
          During this trial, two young men were detected picking pockets in the court, and were instantly taken into custody. (Newcastle Courant)

Saturday 10 April 1819

The Court was occupied from eight o'clock in the morning till eight at night on Wednesday, with the trial of joseph Charlton, for the commission of an unantural crime. He was found Guilty, and received sentence of Death, without any hopes of mercy in this world. He is ordered for execution on Wednesday the 14th inst. (Westmorland Gazette)

Saturday, 17 April 1819

The execution of Joseph Charlton, who was convicted at the late gaol delivery for Northumberland, of an unnatural crime, took place at Morpeth, on Wednesday morning, a little below the town. He was conducted from the gaol to the place of execution in a chaise, and ascended the platform with great firmness, but very penitent: after spending some minutes in prayer, he was launched into eternity. After his body had hung the usual time, it was cut down and delivered to his friends. On the arrival of the hearse, with the body, at Earsdon, four miles from Tyunemouth, it was met by nearly 1000 people, and by the time of its arrival at Tynemouth Priory, the concourse had increased to upwards of 2000, yet great order was preserved. It was half-past 8 o'clock at night when the procession reached the grave, in which it was deposited with decent solemnity, by candle light; and the large company, out of respect to the deceased's relatives, retired peacably, many of them deeply affected on the melancholy occasion. (The Newcastle Courant)

Saturdaty, 24 April 1819

EXECUTIONS. – J. Charlton, aged 26, late a watch-maker, at North Shields, who was convicted at the Northumberland Assizes of an unnatural crime, was executed yesterday se'nnight, at Morpeth. Ever since his condemnation he had been in a most distracted state of mind, and was greatly afflicted at the idea of a public execution. He expressed a desire that the gallows might be erected behind the prison, that he might escape the gaze of the multitude. This could not be complied with, but a post-chaise was allowed him, in which he was conveyed to the place of execution on the Green, at the outskirts of the town. On his arrival at the fatal spot he ascended the cart with a firm step. He held a prayer-book in his hand, on which he stedfastly [sic] fixed his eyes, until the cap was drawn over his face, and he was launched into eternity. After hanging the usual time the body was cut down and forwarded in a hearse to his friends, at Shields, for interment. An immense concourse of people witnessed the execution. (Jackson's Oxford Journal)

Saturday 24 April 1819

The Wednesday following [14th April], Joseph Charlton, who was convicted at the late Gaol Delivery at Morpeth of an unnatural crime, was executed at that place: he died penitently. Upwards of 2000 people attended his interment at Tynemouth the same evening, out of regard to his relatives, who are respectable. (Carlisle Patriot)

Saturday 11 September 1819

The calendar at Lancaster contains the names of 75 prisoners. The following is an abstract of it:– 3 are charged with murder, 1 with an attempt to commit an unnatural crime, 14 with burglary, 13 with highway robber, . . . (Leeds Mercury)

Saturday 11 September 1819

The following prisoners have been tried, . . .
          Edward Sutton, 27, attempting to commit an unnatural crime. – Guilty. (Lancaster Gazette)

Saturday 18 September 1819

The ladies were here desired to withdraw from the Court; and Nanny Bridge, acquitted of the murder of her male bastard child, but found guilty of concealing the birth of it, was sentenced to be imprisoned in the Castle of Lancaster three months. – Mary Taylor, convicted of uttering a counterfeit half-crown, to be imprisoner six months, and find sureties for six months. – Edward Sutton, for attempting to commit a capital offence too horrible to be named, to be imprisoned in the Castle for one year (Westmorland Gazette)

Saturday 16 October 1819

The trial of this defendant upon the second indictment, which has been instituted by the Society for the Suppression of Vice, was fixed for this morning. It is founded upon another of those blasphemous publications with which the country has recently been inundated, and of which, like Paine's Age of Reason, a vast number have obtained circulation. It is entitled Principles of Nature; or a Development of the Moral Causes of Happiness and Misery among the Human Species. By Elihu Palmer. It was originally printed in America, and reprinted by the defendant, who, we understand, was taken into custody last night, soon after the verdict of guilty was recorded against him . . .
          Mr. GURNEY, on behalf of the prosecution, spoke to the following import:–
          . . . We shall be asked, I suppose, to-day, by what law is that, of which the defendant is accused, recognised as an offence? I answer, by the ancient, the well-known, the universally recognised law of England – that which was law before any statute was entered on our books – that law by which our property is protected from the hands of the thief – our houses from the inroads of the midnight robber – our lives from the machinations of the desperate assassin – our persons from the pollution of unnatural lust. That law by which sodomy, murder, theft, and other crimes, are punished – some by death, others by inflictions of a different description. All these, gentlemen, are crimes by common law, which, we are told, is no law. This is the doctrine of those, and of those only, who set all law at defiance. . . . (Morning Chronicle)

Saturday 16 October 1819

. . . Mr. GURNEY said, . . . The Defendant had this day protested against the competency of the Court to try this question. After this he did not what offender in future might not challenge the competency of the Court before which he might be required to answer for his actions. He did not know but those accused of theft, murder, or unnatural offences, might hereafter take the same course, and deny the authority of the Court appointed to try them. He should be asked, he supposed, by what law the Defendant was this day to be tried. He would answer, by the ancient, by the well known, and universally recognized common law of England – by that law which protected our propertyi from the hands of the thief, our houses from being invaded by the robber, our lives from being assailed by the assassin, and our nature from being violated for the gratification of unnatural lust. . . . He might say, “by what law am I to be tried?” “I answer, by the common law of the land.” He will reply, “the common law of the land is no law at all. That which you call the common law, is but an unjust restriction imposed on human actions. You try me for picking another man's pocket, I saw I had a right to do so. You condemn this, I defend it, here is merely a difference of opinion between us.” So might the crime of murder be justified, and an offender could tell the Corut that no law ought to prevent him who was stronger from doing as he pleased by those who were weaker. So might a man charged with an unnatural offence, contend that no law ought to interefere with the gratification of his passions, whether regular or irregular. “Good God!” the Learned Counsel exclaimed, “and are men to complain of persecution when tried for crimes like these – and is this man to say he is persecuted, because he is tried for an offence like that now laid to his charge?” . . . (Morning Post)

Monday 25 October 1819

We should not open our columns to the correspondence of such characters as Thistlewood, Hunt, and Dr. Watson, if it were not of grateful open to the peace of the Country, to witness the disunion which prevails amongst its enemies. They are now exposing their respective villainies, and are certainly best able to remove the film which has so long concealed the real character of Radical Reformers from the people.
DEAR FRIENDS AND SUFFERING COUNTRYMEN – I little expected I ever should be called upon to address to you a word to repel so foul and wicked an insinuation against myself, of being a spy, and much less did I expect a few weeks ago, that such insinuation would proceed from Henry Hunt, the supposed friend of the People, of Justice, and of Liberty. I beseech you to read his letter in The Morning Chronicle of the 23d Oct. 1819, and judge of his pretension of being the real character he wishes to appear; indulge me with your attention, while I examine many of his acts, and many of his expressions.
          . . . Let him examine into his own perfections. Does he not abuse every man who opposes him with the most unqualified abusive and scurrilous language, charged them as spies, &c.? Does he not quarrel with his best friends upon every occasion, without any provocation, but which floats in his own captious mind, and unfeeling and unprincipled heart? Did he not drive from him a friendly Committe at Bristol, by the violence of his passion and abuse? Did he not there charge a man with being guity of an unnatural crime? Did he not endanger the life of a Gentleman at the Crown and Anchor Tavern, by charging him with being Oliver the spy? Did he not also accuse one of the Reporters to a London Journal, who hissed him upon the hustings in Covent-garden, of being one of the Vere-street gang? And was he not execrated by the public for his cowardly, wicked and blackguard brutality? Did he not charge another Gentleman at Charing-cross with being of that description of miscreants, to the danger of his life? . . . (Morning Post)
[This letter was reprinted in at least half a dozen newspapers.]

Monday 22 November 1819

Saturday the RECORDER of London made his report of the capital criminals convicted in last September Sessions; . . . William Peterson and John Andrews, also for a highway robbery, accompanied by a threat to extort money under pretence of charging a man with an abominable crime, were ordered to be hanged on Tuesday, the 30th. (Morning Post)

Friday 24 December 1819

Yesterday the Recorder made his Report to his Royal Highness the Prince Regent in Council, of the following prisoners under sentence of death in Newgate, viz.:–
          John Booth, for secreting a letter, containing a 5l. Bank note; Ann Smith, for stealing goods privately in a shop; Emma Davis, for a robbery on the highway; Ann Pearson, for stealing goods in a dwelling house; John Church, for housebreaking in the day-time; John Markham, for committing an unnatural offence; . . . when John Markham was ordered for execution on Wednesday next; and John Booth and another for execution on the Friday following. The others were respited during pleasure. (Morning Chronicle)

Thursday 30 December 1819

Execution. – John Markham, for an unnatural offence, is ordered for execution on Wednesday next, at the Old Bailey; and on Friday the like awful sentence is to be executed on Thomas Wildish, for uttering a forged 10l. note at Dover, and John Booth, for a robbery at the Post-office. (Cheltenham Chronicle)

Thursday 30 December 1819

EXECUTION. – Yesterday morning the sentence of the law was carried into effect at the usual place in the Old Bailey, on John Markham, convicted at the October Sessions of an abominable offence. Precisely at eight o’clock the wretched culprit was placed on the scaffold, more dead than alive, attended by the Rev. Mr. COTTON, with whom he appeared to join in fervent prayer while the executioner was performing his melancholy office. In a few minuters the drop fell, and the miserable wretch was dead in an instant. Markham was a person of the lowest stamp in society: he had been for some time, and was at the period of the commission of the offence, for which he forfeited his life, a pauper inmate of St. Giles’s workhouse. There were fewer spectators than ever attended on any former occasion. (Morning Post)

2 January 1820

On Wednesday morning, the sentence of the law was carried into effect, at the usual place in the Old Bailey, on John Markham, convicted at the Occasional Sessions of an abominable offence. Precisely at eight o’clock the wretched culprit was placed on the scaffold, more dead than alive, attended by the Rev. Mr. Cotton, with whom he appeared to join in fervent prayer, while the executioner was performing his melancholy task. In a few minutes the drop fell, and the miserable wrech was dead almost in an instant. (The British Luminary)

Saturday 8 January 1820

STATEMENT of the NUMBER of CRIMINAL OFFENDERS in his Majesty's Gaol of Newgate, who were convicted at the Old Bailey Sessions, in the year 1819 . . .
Unnatural Offence ..... 1
[He was executed] (Morning Chronicle)

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, 1819", Homosexuality in Nineteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 11 December 2014, updated 2 March 2015 <>.

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