Newspaper Reports, 1836

NOTE: In January a 60-year-old man and a 14 or 15-year-old boy were arresed for having sex together, and they were tried in March, when the charge was reduced from the felony of sodomy to the misdemeanour or attempted sodomy. Although they were acquitted, the case provides evidence that someone as young as 15, who had given consent, could be prosecuted and sentenced to death for sex with another man.

Thursday 7 January 1836

Sussex Assizes before Mr. Justice Park and Mr. Justice Littledale. – Shepherd for burglary, and Sparshott for an unnatural crime, were sentenced to be hanged.
The CLERK read a letter from the Secretary of State's Office to the Gaoler, requesting on the part of Lord John Russell to be furnished with the names, offences, &c. of persons capitally convicted in this county.
          The return contained the names of Richard Shepherd for burglary, and James Sparshott for an unnatural crime, convicted at the last Summer Assizes, and executed at Horsham on the 22d August last. (Brighton Gazette)

Friday 29 January 1836

On Saturday last, an old man named Taylor, nearly 60 years of age, and a youth about 14, whom the old wretch had seduced as his victim, were taken into custody, charged with having committed an unnatural cime; they were examined by the Magistrates, and on Monday were both committed to Nottingham County Jail, to take their trial for the abominable offence. (Nottingham Review)

Friday 4 March 1836

NOTTINGHAM ASSIZES. – The business of the assizes will commence on Thursday next . . . There are nine prisoners for trial in the town jail; viz. one for murder, one for rape, and seven on charges of felony; in the county jail there are nineteen prisoners, viz. two for a nameless offence, . . . (Nottingham Review)

Friday 11 March 1836

There are only seven cases at present entered for trial in the county, and nineteen prisoners, viz.:–
          John Taylor, 60, and John Knight, 15, for an unnatural offence at Newark. . . . (Nottingham Review)

Friday 18 March

Nottinghamshire Assizes.
FRIDAY, MARCH 11, 1836.
At eleven o'clock, the Right Hon. Lord Abinger, Chief Baron of the Exchequer, took his seat on the bench, . . .
LORD ABINGER, in addressing the Grand Jury, said, . . . In regard to the third case, that of an offence against the order of nature, his Lordship said, that unless the evidence was such as to appear likely to end in a conviction, it would be well at once to throw out the bill, as it was not at all desirable that such cases should be made the subject of discussion in public without any result. . . .
          JOHN TAYLOR, 60, and JOHN KNIGHT, 15, were charged in the calendar, with having committed an offence against nature, &c. at Newark, on the 20th of January. The grand jury only returned a true bill for the minor offence of the attempt.
          Mr. Clarke stated the case and called witnesses; Mr. Hill appeared for the younger and Mr. Miller for the elder prisoner. – Both not guilty. (Nottingham Review)

Tuesday 22 March 1836

JOHN BAILEY, 20, charged with attempting to commit an abominable crime, at Stoke. – Two years' hard labor; two months in solitary confinement.
          JESSE DORRELL, 16, for having committed an abominable crime, at Doddington. – Two years' hard labor; two months in solitary confinement.
          ROBERT STARTUP, 18, for assaulting John Chambers, and with having committed an abominable crime. – Two years' hard labor; two months in solitary confinement.
          FRANCOIS BARABINI, 54, for assault, with intent to commit an abominable crime. – Two years' hard labor; two months in solitary confinement.

Saturday 26 March 1836

These assizes commenced on Saturday last. . . . There were several very serious charges in the calendar. In two instances of unnatural crimes, the offenders were proved to be one half-witted, and the other insane; acquitted, the latter on the ground of insanity. Thomas Jones, a schoolmaster, of Broseley, for an indecent misdemeanor, was sentenced to 4 months' imprisonment. (Staffordshire Advertiser)

Friday 27 May 1836

UNNATURAL CRIME. – The Nantwich Magistrates were engaged on Monday last, in the investigation of a charge against Randle Holden, lock-up keeper, for an assault upon a young man whom he enticed to the outskirts of the town, with intent to commit an unnatural crime. The facts are of course unfit for publication. We understand that the magistrates required him to find securities for his appearance, to answer the charge at another tribunal, and in default to be committed. (Chester Chronicle)

Friday 22 July 1836

JOHNSON (Chas.) v. ROBINSON (George).
This was an undefended action for slander. – Mr. Serj. Goulburn stated that it was an action to recover damages for the defendant's having used words imputing to the plaintiff that he had been guilty of a detestable crime: the words had been uttered publicly, and more than once, – showing that the deliberate object of the defendant was to render the plaintiff odious and detested in his neighbourhood. The plaintiff is a very respectable individual residing at Spalding; he is surveyor of the roads in that and several neighbouring parishes, and is a widower with seven children living. As soon as the rumour of this slander reached him, he instantly used every exertion to trace it to its source, and at length succeeded in discovering that it had originated with the defendant, who is a wheelwright living at Gosberton, and who occupies a house and premises of his own. This fellow at a public-house in that village had asserted that the plaintiff had been at "back-door work" with a boy. The plaintiff, as soon as he discovered the author of this base calumny, commenced an action, and dared his wicked calumniator to justify the slander, if he could, before a jury of his country. How had the wretch met that challenge? Had he dared to put a justification on the record? No; nor did he venture even to appear there to urge any thing in mitigation of damages. The action was undefended; and not only so, but the defendant, when the writ was served, said he would sell up all he had, and he had actually put that threat into execution by making an assignment. He (Serj. Goulburn) was not in the habit of asking for vindicting damages – he asked the Jury to make the case their own; and he entreated them to remember that to give slight damages in such a case, would be to prejudice the plaintiff in the future estimation of his neighbours.
          Edw. Edis, bricklayer, of Bosberton, was at the Duke of York public-house there on Saturday the 23d of January last, between 8 and 10 o'clock at night. The defendant and several other persons were there. Defendant said, "Has any body seen old Johnson today? he generally comes on a Saturday." I understood him to mean the plaintiff. Somebody said, "No." Defendant said, "No; and you will see him no more." I asked, "Is he broken?" Defendant said, "No, worse than that; he has been at back-door work." I understood him to mean that he had committed an unnatural crime. –
          By the Judge: Defendant is rather more than 40 years of age: he is a wheelwright, and lives in his own house. Plaintiff is a widower with several children – two or three of them grow-up men.
          George Ladd, shoemaker, of Gosberton, was in defendant's shop on Friday the 22d of January last, between 3 and 4 in the afternoon. He said, "Johnson has been treading in ——'s shoes" (the name, at the suggestion of counsel, the witness suppressed). I said, "I should like to tread in his shoes too," (supposing the allusion was to ——'s property). Robertson said, "No; but he had been at back-door work with some man or some boy." He said, "He had been caught in the fact." I was also at the public-house on the Saturday when Edis was present. (Witness confirmed Edis as to what passed there.) Robinson was sober enough.
          Fras. Hames, constable of Spalding, served defendant with a writ on the 12th of February: Robinson said, "Mr Johnson should have none of his money – he would assign over first." (Witness was about to produce the Stamford Mercury, to show that Robinson had made an assignment; but this the Judge held to be inadmissible.) Robinson said he should like to "ash-plant Johnson."
          The Judge, in a brief summing up, recommended the Jury not to give vindictive damages, but such liberal damages as would restore the plaintiff to that comfort and self-satisfaction in the bosom of his family which, with such an imputation hanging over him, he could not possibly enjoy.
          The Jury returned a verdict for Plaintiff, damages 50l.. (Stamford Mercury)

Saturday 20 August 1836

Patrick Conway, 26, was indicted for an unnatural crime at Brinnington on the 6th July last. The prisoner appeared to be a bricklayer's labourer. – Mr Dunn addressed the jury for the defence, and called an Irish witness to prove that the accused was working with him at the time the offence was said to have been committed; but the principal witness for the prosecution, on re-examination, proved that the witness for the defence had offered him money not to appear against Conway. – The jury returned a verdict of guilty, and the court sentenced him to two years' imprisonment. (Manchester Times)

Sunday, 25 September 1836

These Sessions commenced on Monday, the 19th instant. – The calendar presents a list of 241 prisoners, and the following is a summary of the various offences with which they are charged: – . . . assault with intent to commit an unnatural crime, 5; . . . (The Examiner (London))

Tuesday 27 September 1836

. . . the Recorder . . . directed Isaac Norton and Samuel Poole to be placed at the bar, and after dwelling at some length on the enormity of their offence (an attempt to commit an unnatural crime), he informed them that, though they were sentenced to two years' imprisonment in Newgate, they should be removed to the Penitentiary, where the discipline was more severe, as the government was determined to punish, with the utmost rigour of the law, such persons as were placed in their situation.
          Norton, who is 72 years of age, implored his lordship to mitigate the punishment; but the Recorder informed him that he could hold out no hope. (Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser)

Monday 10 October 1836

[The committee heard a report making various recommendations, including the following:]
          The Sheriffs are aware that prisons ought not to be made places of comfort, but of terror; that, instead of affording an asylum too little feared by the criminal, they ought to be places of punishment; and they therefore regret that, from the interior construction of Newgate; from the constant influx of prisoners from other prisons; from the short time most of the prisoners remain in Newgate; and from it being a prison of transit only, that many of the admirable regulations which exist, and have been enforced with so much success in othe prisons, cannot be carried into effect in this. But at the same time the Sheriffs are confidently of opinion that it is possible, even now, to effect many wise alterations; and they feel satisfied that the Court of Aldermen will cheerfully cooperate with them in giving effect to the following suggestions:–
          . . . That the condemned yard ought to be separated by a wall; and the lower cells appropriated for persons committed for unnatural crimes, and that part of the yard used for air and exercise by those persons, and that the windows of those cells be levelled off, and a water closet be made. . . . (Morning Post)

Saturday 22 October 1836

Thomas Piercy, minister of the Ranters' chapel, was charged before the Bristol magistrate on Monday, with committing an unnatural crime; he was remanded till Friday, when another charge of a still more horrible nature, if possible, was preferred against him. He was again remanded. (Western Times)

Saturday 22 October 1836

Tuesday . . . Piercy, the ranting preacher, was again brought up for re-examination. When the reporters entered, the magistrates censured, in the most severe terms, the conduct of a Mr. Sherring, of Castle-street, who, they said, had, for the sake of a few paltry shillings, under a false plea that his reporter had been exclusively admitted to the examination, published a false and indecent account of an investigation which it was said had taken place before the magistrates. Mr. Herapath said that the matter contained in that paper was exceedingly immoral and offensive, and he had given Sherring notice not to publish any more of them, but he still continued to do so; he was of opinion that he ought to be prosecuted by the magistrates for so scandalous and indecent a libel. The magistrates generally said the conduct of the reporters for the respectable portion of the press had gained for them the confidence of the magistrates, but, rather than such disgusting falsehoods should go before the public, they would have bought them all and burnt them.
          Piercy, who, after the examination was concluded, was remanded till Friday, was conveyed to Bridewell amidst the yells and execrations of several thousand persons. He was guarded by a strong body of the police. (Bristol Mercury)

Saturday 29 October 1836

Thomas Piercy, the ranter, who has been in custody during the last fortnight, for a nameless offence, underwent a final examination on Wednesday last, at Bridewell, when he was discharged, from the want of sufficient evidence to send him to trial. (Bristol Mercury)

SOURCE: Various newspapers, dates as given.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "Newspaper Reports, 1836", Homosexuality in Nineteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 12 September 2014; updated 22 March 2016 <>.

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