Newspaper Reports, 1823

NOTE:The main interest in these news reports is the tragic story of the accidental discovery of gay love letters to and from an apprentice linendraper in Grantham, which leads to the hanging of a retired soldier, a cabinet-maker, and the valet to the Duke of Newcastle. Several other men in this provincial gay network escape.

Saturday 22 February 1823

His Majesty was pleased to order the following for execution: . . . Wm. North, convicted last September Sessions of an unnatural crime, on Monday morning next. (Morning Chronicle)

Tuesday, 25 February 1823

EXECUTION. – Yesterday morning, at an early hour, considerable numbers of spectators assembled before the Debtors’ door at Newgate, to witness the execution of William North, convicted in September Sessions of an unnatural crime. The wretched culprit was 54 years of age, and had a wife living. On his trial, he appeared a fine, stout, robust man, and strongly denied his guilt. On his being brought before the Sheriffs yesterday morning, he appeared to have grown at least ten years older, during the five months he has been in a condemned cell, with the horrid prospect before him of dying a violent death. His body had wasted to the mere anatomy of a man, his cheeks had sunk, his eyes had become hollow, and such was his weakness, that he could scarcely stand without support. Though the consolations of religion were frequently offered to him, yet he could not sufficiently calm his mind to listen, or participate in them, even to the moment of his death. Sunday night he could not sleep, his mouth was parched with a burning fever; he occasionaqlly ejaculated “Oh God!” and “I’m lost;” and at other times he appeared quite childish; his imbecility of mind seemed to correspond with the weakness of his body. He exclaimed on one occasion “I have suffered sufficient punishment in this prison to atone for the crimes I have committed;” and when the Rev. Dr. Cotton and Mr. Baker, who attended him, asked him if he believed in Christ, and felt that he was a sinner? He replied “I pray, but cannot feel.” The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was not administered to him, probably on account of his occasional delirium, and the generally disordered state of his mental faculties. At five minutes before eight yesterday morning he was pinioned by the executioner in the press room, in the presence of the sheriffs and officers of the goal. As St. Sepulchre’s church clock struck eight, the culprit, carrying the rope, attended by the executioner, and clergyman, moved in procession with the sheriffs, &c. on to the scaffold. On arriving at the third station, the prison bell tolled, and Dr. Cotton commenced at the same moment reading the funeral service “I am the resurrection and the life,” &c. of which the wretched man seemed to be totally regardless. On his being assisted up the steps of the scaffold, reason returned; he became aware of the dreadful death to which he was about to be consigned; his looks of terror were frightful; his expression of horror, when the rope was being placed round his neck, made every spectator shudder. It was one of the most trying scenes to the clergymen they ever witnessed – never appeared a man so unprepared, so unresigned to his fate. – The signal being given the drop fell, and the criminal expired in less than a minute. He never struggled after he fell. The body hung an hour, and was then cut down for interment. – The six unhappy men who are doomed to suffer on to-morrow morning, appear to be perfectly resigned to their fate. (Morning Chronicle)

Friday 14 March 1823

WEDNESDAYbefore Mr. JUSTICE PARKCity Sessions House.
The Court was engaged from 8 o’clock in the morning till 8 at night in the three separate trials of WM ARDEN, Gentleman, aged 35, late of Pulteney-street, London, – BENJ. CANDLER, late valet to the Duke of Newcastle, aged 36, – and JOHN DOUGHTY, late of Grantham, joiner and cabinet-maker, aged 35, – charged with the commission of unnatural crimes. They were all convicted; principally on the evidence of Henry Hackett, an apprentice to a draper at Grantham. – The Judge (having ordered Hackett, who had been admitted evidence, to be brought into court) proceeded, in an impassioned and impressive address, to pass sentence of death on the three prisoners. They had been convicted, by a most attentive and intelligent Jury, of the crimes with which they had geen charged, after full, fair, and impartial trials, which had occupied the court nearly 12 hours. He, for one, owned he could not perceive how the Jury, consistently with their oaths, could have come to any other conclusion. Although the principal witness against them was undoubtedly one of the most infamous of mankind, yet he had been so confirmed in many essential points of his evidence, that the Jury could not but give credit to his testimony. The crime of which the prisoners had been found guilty, was too dreadful to reflect upon: it was of so horrible a nature, that in every page of the law it had been designated as an ‘offence not to be named among Christians.’ It was of so deep a dye, of so damning a character, that the Almighty had destroyed whole cities for the guilt of it; and to persons convicted of such a crime, against which God had denounced the punishment of death, a British Judge could not, dared not, hold out hopes of mercy in this world. Sentence was then passed on the prisoners that they be severally hanged. (Stamford Mercury
[For reports of their arrest, see News Reports for 13 September 1822. See also report for 28 March 1823.])

Monday 17 March 1823

LINCOLN ASSIZES, March 12. – The Court opened this morning at 8 o'clock, when William Arden, Gent., of Pulteney-street, London, Benjamin Chandeler (sic), late butler to a noble duke, and John Doughty, carpenter, at Grantham, were arraigned before Mr. Justice PARK, charged ont he oath of Henry Hackett, apprentice to a linendraper at Grantham, with an offence revolting to huma nature. The trial lasted from 8 in the morning till 8 in the evening, when the prisoners were convicted on the clearest evidence. The learned Judge passed the awful sentence of death on all the offenders. (Evening Mail)

Monday 17 March 1823

On Wednesday last the Court was occupied from eight o'clock in the morning until eight o'clock at night, in the trial of William Arden, an half-pay Officer, Benjamin Candler, a domestic in the family of the Duke of Newcastle, and John Doughty, a respectable tradesman at Grantham. The discover of the horrible practices of these offenders was curiously intereseting and apparently providential. The Duke of Newcastle is in the habit of franking letters for his serevants, and allowing their friends to send them, directed to the servants in an envelope addressed to him. In August last a letter came addressed to his Grace with a sealed inclosure, with nothing written on it except "from Henry Hackett;" the Duke not knowing from this for whom the letter was intended, opened it, and found, to his great surprize, that, as a letter from one man to another, it was of a most unequivocal nature; the first words were, "my beloved Benjamin," and as there was no other servant of that Christian name, besides Candler, his Grace's valet, it was suspected to be intended for him, but in order to remove all doubt, the letter was resealed and given to the house steward, with directions to inquire generally amongst the servants if they expected a letter from any person named Hackett. He did so, and Candler instantly claimed the letter, and after reading its contents put it into his pocket. The Duke directly afterwards sent for Candler, and asked him for the letter, which he said he had destroyed, and persisted in saying so, until the steward accused him of falsehood, and said he at that moment had the letter in his pocket. The letter was then delivered up, and Dr. Faulkner, the Duke's physician, went to Grantham, and found that Hackett was a young man about 19 years of age, of respectable connexions, and an apprentice to a Mr. Harvey, a draper in that town. The Doctor and Mr. Harvey taxed Hackett with criminality, and produced to him his own letter, whereupon he not only acknowledged his guilt with Candler, but also with Arden, Doughty, and others, who have not yet been taken. Hackett was not put into custody, and his friends sent him off to Liverpool, preparatory to shipping him abroad, but the moment the Magistrates at Grantham became acquainted with the facts, they printed a placard offering 100l. for Hackett's apprehension, and told his friends that if he immediately surrendered he would probably be allowed to give evidence for the Crown, otherwise the bill would be issued, and if taken, no favour shown him. The friends of Hackett became alarmed for his safety, and sent to Liverpool and brought him back, when he told the Magistrates where he had secreted many letters received by him from Arden and Candler. These were found in the hiding place which he described, and they fully disclosed the nature of the intercourse between Hackett and them. He also mentioned that he was in daily expectation of receiving a parcel from Arden with his miniature, directed undeer cover to Doughty. Application was in consequence made at the coach-office, and in a day or two came the parcel, in which was the picture and two letters, one from Harding and the other from a man named Greaves. Officers were now dispatched to London to apprehend Arden, and having met with him in the streets, they recognized him, from having seen hius miniature. On searching his lodgings many letters were found from different individuals of rank in society, and even from Ministers of the Established Church, demonstrating the most depraved and disgusting associations. These were taken possession of, and conveyed, together with Arden, to Grantham, and on the evidence of Hackett, which was confirmed by the letters, Candler, Arden, and Doubhty were fully committed for trial. During their imprisonment a correspondence was secretly carried on between Arden and Hackett, and the prisoners relied on assurances which Hackett made not to prove any thing against them; he, however, after some hesitation, recanted from the promises he had made the prisoners, and they were all convicted on the clearest possible evidence.
          Mr. Justice Park, in a most impressive manner, passed on them the awful sentence of death, and told them not to expect any mercy on this side of the grave; and, in the course of his address, msot feelingly and pathetically admonished the witness Hackett, whom he had desired to be brought into the Court, on the enormity of his guilt, and the necessity of his reformation and repentance. The Learned Judge was himself affected even to tears, and the wretched culprits were so overcome as to be with difficulty removed from the Court. (Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser)

Monday 17 March 1823

Statement of the Number of Persons committed to his Majesty’s Gaol of Newgate, and convicted in the year 1822, and the nature of their offences, together with the number acquitted, discharged, sentenced, &c. during the same period.
          An unnatural crime           3
          Attempting to commit an unnatural crime           6
          Statement of the Number of Criminal Offenders in his Majesty’s Gaol of Newgate, who were executed in the year 1822, with the Nature of the Crimes for which they suffered.
          An Unnatural Offence           2
[out of a total of 23 executions] (Morning Chronicle)

Friday 21 March 1823<

It was seven o'clock on Saturday night the 15th inst. when the assizes for thius county [Lincolnshire] ended: an assize of such great fatigue for the Judge had never before occurred in Lincolnshire. Our report of the business is continued in the second page of our present paper. The execution of the three criminals, Arden, Candler, and Doughty, it is expected, will take place on the Castle walls on Friday the 21st inst. at 12 o'clock. Babington, convicted of sheep-stealinjg at Revesby, was sentenced to death, but reprieved, as well as all the other convicts sentenced to death, except the three above named. (Stamford Mercury)

Friday 28 March 1823

EXECUTIONS. – On Friday last, Arden, Candler, and Doughty, the three unfortunate men who were left for execution at Lincoln, as stated in our last, paid the forfeit of their lives to the offended laws of God and their country. (Cambridge Chronicle)

Friday 28 March 1823

The three persons left for execution at the late assizes [see report for 14 March 1823] suffered on Lincoln Castle walls on Friday last, and died penitently. (Stamford Mercury)

Saturday 29 March 1823

Arden, Candler, and Doughty, the three men convicted at the assizes of unnatural crimes, who were left for execution at Lincoln, underwent the sentence of the law, on the drop at Lincoln Castle, on Friday last. (Leicester Chronicle)

Saturday 29 March 1823

Arden, Candler, and Doughty, convicted at the Lincoln Assizes of unnatural crimes, underwent the sentence of the law, on the drop at Lincoln, yesterday week. Doughty's body was taken by his friends to Grantham; Arden's and Candler's were on Saturday interred in St. John's Church-yard, Newport, Lincoln. (Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser)

Wednesday 2 April 1823

Arden, Candler, and Doughty, the three men convicted at the assizes of unnatural crimes, who were left for execution at Lincoln, underwent the sentence of the law, on the drop at Lincoln Castle, on Friday last. – They died penitently. (Derby Mercury)

Saturday 9 August 1823

Imporisonment. – Thomas Lander, for assaulting Charles Allcock and William Clegg, at Birmingham, with an intent to commit an unnatural crime, two years. (Northampton Mercury)

Wednesday 20 August 1823

CRIMES AND PUNISHMENTS. – A detailed account of the number of criminals who have been executed in the front of Newgate and at Execution Dock, since the commencement of the year 1816, with the offences numerically arranged, viz.–
Unnatural Crime . . . 6
Extorting Money – Charging with same . . . 4
(Morning Chronicle)

Sunday, 14 September 1823

This office was on Friday crowded to excess, in consequence of the examination of Ambrose Henry Crofton, in appearance and manner an educated gentleman, and Wm. Clarke, a private soldier in the first Grenadier Guards, who stood charged with an unnatural crime. – Robert Southern, a watchman of Cromer-street, Somers’-town, deposed, that about half past 8 o’clock the previous night he was gonig his rounds, when a lad came to him and informed him that himself with other lads had been watching in the adjacent fields, and that they suspected a party who were there to be improperly employed. Witness accordingly accompanied the lad into the field, where he found the two prisoners now at the bar in an unequivocal situation. He seized the soldier, who struggled hard. The other prisoner was held by the boys, who jumped upon him, and prevented him from rising. – John Blake, who came to the aid of Southern, deposed, that on taking hold of Crofton to conduct him out of the field, he fell down on his knees and besought him to let him go, saying, that he was about to enter into holy orders, and that exposure would blast his character and utterly ruin his prospects. Going to the watch-house, the prisoner frequently fell on his knees repeating as above.
          Mr. Sergeant SELLON here inquired of the prisoners whether they had any questions they wished to ask the witness?
          Crofton replied with energy – “Decidedly I have: it is a perjury – a gross perjury. I shall go out of my senses. I shall go mad.” At this instant a noise was heard, which was understood to proceed from a friend to this unhappy gentleman, who was then entering the office; on hearing which Crofton resumed, “I want no friend, I have none save God Almighty.” The prisoner then violently struck his forehead with his hand, and, as if exhausted with the vehemence of his manner and the intensity of his feelings, he dropped his head down upon the bar at which he was standing, and covered it with his hands.
          The soldier asked several questions, as also did Crofton on recovering himself, which, however, elicited nothing favourable.
          Wm. Price, a decent lad, about sixteen, deposed to the facts as first stated; and John Thomas, one of the lads who helped to hold Crofton, deposed that the prisoner offered to give him 10l. if he would permit him to escape.
          In his defence, Crofton denied the charge, adding the following declaration: – “The soldier was inebriated, and I, like a good Christian, was kneeling by his side to administer comfort.” – In reply to questions put by the Magistrate, he stated, that he was by birth an Irishman, but that he had passed the greater part of his life on the Continent, from whence he had returned only 35 days. He was not in holy orders, but was engaged in isntructing a few pupils in foreign languages.
          Mr. Sergeant SELLON committed the prisoners for the misdemeanour. – They were conveyed in a hackney-coach to the new prison, Clerkenwell, guarded by a strong escort of officers to protect them from the multitude. (The Examiner (London))

Monday 29 September 1823

We beg to acknowledge the receipt of a Copy of the Memorial of the Parishioners of Ewhurst, touching the alleged criminal conduct of their Rector, together with the case, (as supported by evidence) and Dr. Swaby’s opinion thereon; but as they exhibit matter which (although directed by a meeting of the principal Parishioners, with only one dissenting voice,) cannot with any decency or propriety be laid before the public, we shall dismiss the disgusting subject by observing, that the bill of indictment for Sodomy, returned by the Grand Jury into Court, at our last Assizes, a True Bill, was grounded on the proceedings above alluded to. (Sussex Advertiser)

Wednesday 17 December 1823

In a work, the second volume of which we have now before us, entitled Joineriana, published by the late Mr. JOHNSON, of St. Paul’s Church-yard, so early as 1772, no fewer than 93 pages are dedicated to “News and Newswriters;” . . . The following extracts may not be unacceptable to some of our readers:–
          “Crimes are unquestionably multiplied by the circulation of Newspapers. Forgeries are become common – threatening letters increase – inconsiderate youth are impassioned with the love of duelling – Suicides are committed to memory, wth numberless other evils – How should it be otherwise when the people have them constantly before their eyes?
          “A paper without murders and robberies, and rapes and incest, and bestiality and sodomy, and sacrilege, and incendiary letters and forgeries, and executions, and duels, and suicides, is said to be void of news:– For such are the melancholy themes that a corrupted and forsaken people are gaping after. . . . (Morning Chronicle)

Monday 29 December 1823

The Winter Assizes for this County [Hampshire], were held at Lewes on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, before Justices Peck and Holroyd. – There were thirty-six prisoners on the Calendar. – . . . Daniel Harmer, for threatening to accuse Henry Phillips (a respectable inhabitant of Brighton) of an attempt to commit an unnatural crime, with intent to extort money from him – To be transported for Life. (Hampshire Telegraph) [The Morning Post for Fri. 26 Dec. 1823 describes Harmar as being “aged 26”.]

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, 1823", Homosexuality in Nineteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 29 December 2014; expanded 19 August 2016 <>.

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