Newspaper Reports, 1820

Thursday 27 January 1820

A General Quarter Sessions for the City of Rochester was held last week, before A. MOORE, Esq., Recorder; and Alderman R. THOMPSON, Esq.
          D. Livingstone, aged 31 years, a discharged soldier, was charged on the oaths of T. Pointer and –– Spooner, with having, on the night of the 18th of December last, in the parish of St. Margaret, Rochester, feloniously committed an unnatural crime with the said T. Pointer; this case occupied the attention of the Court for a considerable time; and the evidence brought forward so fully substantiated the fact, that the Jury returned a verdict of Guilty: and the Recorder, after summing up the evidence, addressed the prisoner with great feeling, but giving him no hope of mercy, and pronounced sentence of death upon him. The unhappy culprit will, therefore, suffer the awful penalty of his crime in the course of the ensuing week, in some place within the liberties of the City. As no execution has taken place at Rochester for a great many years, this unfortunate occurrence has procured an extraordinary sensation in the neighbourhood, and some difficulties have occurred in consequence of the Corporationn being unprovided for such an event, in selecting a situation, and providing the necessary apparatus for the melancholy occasion. (Morning Post)

Monday 31 January 1820

At the quarter sessions for the city of Rochester, on Tuesday last, Duncan Livingstone, aged thirty-four years, a discharged soldier, was convicted, capitally, of an unnatural crime, and sentenced to death, without hope of mercy. As no execution has taken place at Rochester for a great length of years, this unfortunate occurrence has produced an extraordinary sensation in the neighbourhood. (Salisbury and Winchester Journal)

Thursday 10 February 1820

On Thursday morning, at ten o’clock, the irons were knocked off the Prisoner in Rochester jail, and the Rev. F. BARROW, who has constantly attended him since his condennation, spent an hour with him in administering the sacrament and the performance of religious duties, with which the culprit appeared to be duly impressed. His conduct from his condemnation, had been humble, contrite, and becoming his awful situation; he had repeatedly declared that he had been a great sinner, that he deserved to die, and that he had made his peace with God. Between 11 and 12 o’clock, the preparations for the procession to the place of execution was completed, and the prisoner, accompanied by the gaoler and executioner, entered the waggon with a firm step and unaltered countenance. He was attended by Mr. DREW, a Calvinist Minister; the waggon was followed by an open carriage, in which were the Mayor, S. NICHOLSON, Esq. the town Clerk, J. PRALL, Esq. and the Reverend F. BARROW, the officiating Chaplain; a number of Peace Officers also accompanied the procession on horseback. On arriving at the place of execution, on Rochester-common, he left the waggon without assistance, and almost sprang upon the platform, where he remained with undaunted firmness whilst the executioner put on the cap and adjusted the rope to his neck. The Reverend Mr. BARROW having left the carriage and joined the Prisoner, he requested to be permitted to address the vast multitude of persons who were by that time assembled. Permission for that purpose having been granted by the Mayor, he addressed the multitude by the appellation – “Comrades!” and desiring them to take warning by his fate, particularly cautioned them against the sin of drunkenness, to which he attributed his own untimely end. The cap being pulled over his face, the Rev. Chaplain prayed with him for a few minutes and left him; when he cried with a firm voice, “God bless you all – the Lord receive my spirit, and grant that my sufferings may be soon over.” The fatal signal being then given, the unfortunate malefactor was launched into eternity, and appeared to experience but little bodily suffering. After hanging the usual time the body was taken down, put into a coffin, and, at night, was deposited in the burying-ground of the parish. (Morning Post)

Thursday 13 April 1820

MARLBOROUGH-STREET. – ATROCIOUS FELONY. – Wm. Arnold, a soldier in the 3d Regiment of Guards, was charged capitally with obtaining money, under pretence of charging a young man, named Allison, with an unnatural crime. The prisoner was fully committed for trial. (Morning Post)

Monday 24 April 1820

A soldier named Arnold, was yesterday convicted at the Old Bailey of extorting a 1l. note from a gentleman’s servant, by threatening to charge him with an unnatural crime. The Court in passing sentence of death on the prisoner, told him to expect no mercy. (Salisbury and Winchester Journal)

Friday 28 April 1820

We have, in our last publciation, given the preliminary proceedings of the trial of this unhappy man and his companions, and we now prepare to abridge the trials themselves, so as to preserve the interesting particulars as much as the press of other important matter will permit us.
          Mr. Bolland, the junior Counsel for the Crown, having opened the indictment, the Attorney-general addressed the Jury. He said, that three of the offences charged consisted in compassing and imaginign the deposition of the King; the death of the King; and a conspiracy to levy war, in order to compel him to change his measures for the government of the kingdom . . .
          The case for the prosecution being closed, Mr. Curwood, in an able speech, contended that though the great mass of evidence which had been adduced would certainly lead the Jury to conclude, that a conspiracy of some kind had existed, but it did not follow that the treason charged in the indictment had therefor been committed. . . .
          After some further remarks, the evidence for the defence was called. Among these, one named Hucklestone swore that Dwyer (a witness for the prosecution) had proposed to him to charge gentlemen with an unnatural offence in order to extract money from them. (By a trial at the Old Bailey on Thursday last, it appears that a person of the same name was connected with a man (Wm. Arnold) who has been condemned to suffer death, for extorting money from a gentleman’s servant on a similar occasion. . . . (Liverpool Mercury)

Monday 1 May 1820

[Report of the trial of Thistlewood:] Edward Hucklestone was next called. – He had known Dwyer for some years, and had reason to think that he was a man not to be believed upon his oath.
          Upon his cross-examination by the Attorney General, he said that he knew Dwyer by meeting him at a public-house; he suspected his character because he had always plenty of money and did no work. On one occasion he accompanied Dwyer to Hyde-park, and saw him extort money from a gentleman by accusing him of an unnatural crime. Dwyer confessed to him that ht had obtained 70l. at a time by this practice. He avoided Dwyer’s society after this. Witness had been brought up a shoemaker, but was now apprentice to a cow-doctor of the name of Skellet, 15, Little Portman-street. He did not go to a magistrate after the transaction in Hyde-park, for he was afraid of the Irishmen in the neighbourhood. He communicated it to his brother, for the first time, about a week.
          Re-examined. He told his brother what had happened in Hyde-park, as soon as he saw Dwyer’s name as a witness in the papers.
          Dwyer, being called again by Mr. Gurney, said that he knew no man of the name of Hucklestone; but upon being confronted with him, he admitted that he had often seen him in different streets, but did not know his name. He never persuaded him to charge any person with an unnatural crime, and never went with him to Hyde-Park in his life. He was out of work in February, and went to work at the parish-mill. He had a wife and children, and received 3s. a week from the parish while working at the mill.
          Upon his cross-examination by Mr. Adolphus, he named Hyde-Park as one of the places in which he had seen Hucklestone. He was not in Court during Hucklestone’s examination. He frequented the Rodney’s Head, but never saw Hucklestone there. . . . (Bristol Mercury)

Saturday 6 May 1820

[Huckleston’e testmony in the Thistlewood case:) I saw him [Dwyer] with plenty of money, and knowing that he had little or no work, I was surprized. I was in distress. He told me he would put me in the way to make plenty of money, if I would go with him. I agreed; and he proposed that we should charge gentlemen with an unnatural offence. I left him, quite shocked. This was about three months ago. He said he had got 10 at a time from one gentleman in St. James’s-street, by only catching him by the collar and accusing him. I met him the next night at the Rodney’s Head, and he called me a coward. I ought to have communicated it to a magistrate; but I was afraid of falling a “wictim” [sic] to the Irishmen, who lived in the neighbourhood. I was a shoemaker, but am now articles to a cow-doctor in Newman-mews. I first communicated this to my brother, about a week ago. I did not mention it before, lest I might be ill-treated. I did go with Dwyer to the Park, but I was always struck with the horror of the thing. (Carlisle Patriot)

Friday 12 May 1820

Thomas Foster, convicted at Kent Assizes, of an unnatural crime, and whose case underwent revisal of Judges, was executed Wednesday se’nnight at Penenden Heath. (Cambridge Chronicle and Journal)

Saturday 3 June 1820

On Wednesday last was committed to the Town gaol, by R. Smithson, Mayor, and C. Freeman, Esqrs. John Norcutt (not under sentence in the said gaol for a misdemeanor), charged with having, in the month of November last, committed an unnatural offence upon a boy about ten years of age. (Northampton Mercury)

Monday 3 July 1820

This was a writ of enquiry to assess damages in a case where judgment had been suffered to go by default. Mr. WALFORD conducted the Prosecution.
          It appeared that the Defendant, who is a Jew merchant, at a tavern wantonly charged the Plaintiff, who is a respectable tradesman in the city, with being a man addicted to unnatural practices.
          A number of witnesses were called to prove the slanderous words, being used by the Defendant, and the spotless character of the Plaintiff.
          Evidence was adduced to prove that the Defendant’s circumstances were such that he was unable to bear the infliction of heavy damages.
          The Jury, after an able and impartial charge from the Secondary, deliberated for a few minutes, and returned a verdict fot the Plaintiff – Damages Five Hundred Pounds.(Morning Post)

Wednesday 12 July 1820

Execution. – Wednesday morning the awful spectacle of the execution of six unhappy criminals took place at the Old Bailey. The names of the convicts, and the crimes for which they suffered, as as follow:– . . . W. Arnold, for highway robbery; and W. Sanders, for horse-stealing. – These, with the exception of Sanders, were all extremely young, and rather fine-looking men. From the moment of their conviction, they entertained very little hopes of mercy, their crimes being attended with circumstances of aggravation. At half-past seven o’clock they were brought into the press-yard, where their irons were displaced. – Arnold seemed the least affected, and maintained a sort of sullen indifference, but was observed at intervals to be praying with some fervency. He was only 19 years of age, and was convicted of extorting money from a gentleman’s servant, under a threat of accusing him of unnatural offences. . . . (Hereford Journal)

Friday 21 July 1820

John Norcutt, for an attempt to commit an unnatural crime, to be imprisoned thirty calendar months. (Stamford Mercury)

Friday 4 August 1820

Three men, Joseph Bywater, Arthur Duffield, and William Thomas, have been committed to Lancaster Castle, charged with unnatural offences. – Thomas is a Waterloo Man, and has been thirteen years in the 40th regiment. (Chester Chronicle)

Thursday 10 August 1820

CORNWALL, AUG. 7. – The Assizes for this county commenced at Bodmin this day. . . . The following prisoners are for trial: – Sarah Polgream, for poisoning her husband; Elizabeth Annear, for the murder of her illegitimate child; Samuel Dentice and John Grylls, for an unnatural offence; . . . (Morning Chronicle)

Thursday 7 September 1820

Monday Samuel Jones was committed to Ilchester gaol, for want of bail, for an attempt to commit an unnatural crime at Batheaston.
          George Burgess, late of Crawford-street, Portman-square, London, is committed to the Old Bridewell, Devizes, charged on the oath of Charles Oldham, of Blandford, servant, with having attempted to commit an unnatural crime. (Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette)

Tuesday 26 September 1820

Imprisonment in Devizes House of Correction. – George Burgess, for assaulting Charles Oldham, of Bradford, with intent to commit an unnatural crime; 2 years, and fined 10. (Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette)

Wednesday 4 October 1820

Sessions being ended, the COMMON SERJEANT last night passed Sentence of Death on the following prisoners, viz. . . . Thos. Skinner, for an unnatural offence; . . . (Morning Chronicle)

Friday 17 November 1820

George Woods, James Day, and William Roberts, who were found Guilty at the last Essex Assizes, of endeavouring to extort money from a Mr. Roberts, of that county, by falsely charging the son of that Gentleman with the commission of an unnatural offence with Woods, were brought up for judgment.
          Mr. GURNEY spoke strongly in aggravation, and, after a most impressive address from Mr. Justice BAYLEY, who told the prisoners that they had been convicted of a crime very nearly approaching to a capital offence, adding, that he would have been more satisfied if he had understood that they evinced sorrow and contrition since their committal to prison. G. Woods was sentenced to imprisonment for 20 calendar months in the Chelmsford House of Correction, and Day and Roberts for nine months each in the same prison. (Morning Chronicle)

Saturday 25 November 1820

George Woods was sentenced to twenty months imprisonment, and James Day and Wm. Roberts, to nine months each, for a conspiracy to extort money by charging a Mr. Roberts with the commission of an unnatural offence. (Yorkshire Gazette)

Tuesday 28 November 1820

Three men, of the names of Wood, Roberts, and Day, who had been convicted at the late Essex Assizes, of a conspiracy to extort, and of actually extorting money from a person of the name of Roberts, by threats of accusing his son of an unnatural crime with Wood, one of the conspirators, were on Thursday brought up for judgment, in the Court of King’s Bench. After a few observations from Mr. Gurney, on the atrocious nature of the crime, and an impressive address from Mr. Justice Bayley, the prisoner Wood was sentenced to 20 months’ imprisonment, and the two others to nine months’ each, in the gaol of Chelmsford. (Manchester Mercury)

14 December 1820

Before the Recorder and a London Jury.
On Tuesday evening JAMES TOBIN was put to the bar, upon a capital indictment, charging him with assaulting Charles Overall, on the highway, putting him in fear, and taking from his person five shillings in money, his property. There was a second indictment, charging the prisone with robbing Mr. Overall of 10l. in Bank-notes, under the same circumstances, but this was not tried.
          Mr. Charles Overall deposed, that he is an assistant to his brother, an opulent tradesman, residing at 122, Lower Thames-street, and on the 24th of October last, while in the warehouse, the prisoner came in and begged to speak to him outside. – Witness stepped out, and the prisoner first looking carefully round, said, "you don't know who I am, do you?! Witness replied in the negative, and the prisoner then said, "my name is Johnson, I am a Bow-street officer, and have a warrant against you for an unnatural offence." Witness was horror-struck at the charge, but replied that it was false, and demanded to know who was his accuser? The prisoner said, that did not matter, that his brother was an attorney; that they had often settled affairs of this kind between parties, and he asked the witness if he would give a sum of money to make it up rather than have his home and character exposed? Witness asked the prisoner what sum it would require, and he said that the last "job of this sort" that he and his brother (the Attorney) had, was for a Gentleman at the west end of the town, and he gave them 95 guineas. Witness said he could not raise so much, as he had little more than his regular earnings, upon which the prisoner asked him if he could raise 50l. and bade him remember that his character, nay, probably his very existence depended upon it! Witness said he would try what he could do, and an appointment was made for them to meet in a neighbouring street the next evening. As the prisoner was going away, he said, "Oh! I want some loose silver, give me what you have about you," and witness gave him five shillings, and then returned to the warehouse. They met the following evening, and the witness gave him 10l but with this he seemed much dissatisfied, and another appointment was made for the following night, at an adjacent public-house. Witness, scarcely knowing what steps to take, applied to a young women, named Catherine Thomas, with whom he had formerly cohabited, and relating the circumstances to her, she agreed to accompany him to the public-house. They had not been long there before the prisoner came in and beckoned to the witness to follow hiim out, but the young woman desired him, if he had any thing to communicate, to say it there. He seemed angry, and a sharp altercation ensued between him and Catharine [sic] Thomas. He at length said, it would be the worse for the witness, and he desired him to meet him the next morning at Bow-street Office. Catharine Thomas said, "No, he shall not meet you at Bow-street, but at the Mansion-house." To this the prisoner seemed to agree, and went away, and witness and the woman were waiting nearly the whole of the next day, but he did not make his appearance. In the evening, however, another fellow came ot him with a message from the prisoner to demand more money, but he refused to give him any, and his brother, Mr. —— Overall, to whom he had communicated all that had occurred, caused this messenger to be taken into custody and conveyed to the Mansion-House. Two or three days afterwards the prisoner was taken into custody. He parted with his money from no other cause but the fear of a public exposure, and the consequent ruin of his character.
          Catharine Thomas corroborated the statement of Mr. Overall, as far as her knowledge went.
          Mr. —— Overall, brother to the prosecutor, was called in corroboration of his brother's statement.
          Anthony Harrison, the City Marshalman, deposed that on the 29th October, in consequence of an application from the prosecutor, he proceeded in search of the prisoner, and on the Thursday evening following, Mr. Overall came to the Mansion-house, with a man, named Simmons, in his custody, and witness the same evening apprehended another man, named Johnson. They were examined the following day, and in consequence of further information, witness went with Mr. Overall and Catharine Thomas on Friday evening to a public house in Long Acre, where in a two pair of stairs back room he found the prisoner and two other men. He took him into custody, and informed him of the nature of the offence with which he was accused; upon which he said he certainly had the money, but it was not "that," meaning that it was not obtained under the threat described.
          Simmons and Johnson were discharged.
          The prisoner made a very long and artful defence, which consisted almost entirely of horrible accusations against his prosecutor.
          Harrison was recalled, and declared that the prisoner, when at the Mansion-house, made no accusation against the prosecutor, nor did he made the defence which he had now made. Witness heard the prisoner say, as he was leaving the Mansion-house – "I dare say they'll hang me, but I don't care for that; I'll open such a scene when I come to the Old Bailey!"
          The RECORDER summed up the evidence, and the Jury merely turned round in the bar, and pronounced the prisoner Guilty צ Death. He heard the verdict unmoved.
          Mr. LAW then rose and said, that although he had defended the prisoner, as he was bound to do, to the best of his humble ability, he felt himself called upon to declare (now that his client could no longer be prejudiced by such a declaration) that he most perfectly concurred in the propriety of the verdict given by the Jury. It was in justice to the prosecutor and his own feelings, that he made this public statement.
          The RECORDER – No reasonable man could entertain a doubt upon the subject. (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, 1820", Homosexuality in Nineteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 17 December 2014, enlarged 12 Jan. 2016 <>.

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