Newspaper Reports, 1837

Sunday 1 January 1837

A summary statement of the number of prisoners who have been committed for trial at the Central Criminal Court during the year 1836, and the various offences for which they were indicted:–
Assault with intent to commit unnatural offences       33
                (Bell's Weekly Messenger)

Tuesday 3 January 1837

The Grand Jury having been sworn, the Recorder addressed them. . . . "There was also a charge respecting an unnatural offence, committed on Blackheath, resting entirely on circumstances which they should minutely inquire into, in order that if the ends of justice required it, the prisoner might be put upon his trial; and if there appeared no probability of a conviction, the Court and the public might be spared going into the disgusting and filthy details." (Morning Advertiser)

Saturday 7 January 1837

JAMES THOMPSON, 22, charged with attempting to commit an unnatural offence on the 4th of December, at Earl Shilton, pleaded Guilty, but, owing to a flaw in the indictment, was entitled to his discharge. – Previous to his leaving the bar, however, the Chairman commented in very strong terms on the heinousness of the offence he had committed, assuring him that if he was again apprehended, he would receive a most severe sentence. (Leicestershire Mercury)

Sunday 19 February 1837

Pratt and Smith, for an unnatural offrence, were the last persons executed at the Old Bailey. (Bell's Life in London and Sporting Chronicle)

Wednesday 22 February 1837

[During a debate in the Irish Parliament, one speaker objected to the claim of one Noble Lord that crime was diminishing in Ireland.] But now let them but look to the state of one county for the last year; let them look to the county of Tipperary, which had been already alluded to by a Noble Friend of his. In one year there were not less than 1,567 persons committed for different offences. The number of persons charged were these– For murder, 54; shooting with intent to murder, 20; assault with intent to murder, 73; manslaughter, 51; assault with intent to commit an unnatural crime, 21. Of the latter offence he remarked that it was one he had never heard of before in Ireland, and it only showed how crime was increasing in that unfortunate country. (London Courier and Evening Gazette; this was very widely reported in numerous newspapers)

Saturday 25 February 1837

[From a debate in the Irish Parliament:] But to show what had been the state of crime he would take the calendar for one county, that of Tipperary, for the year 1836. In that year there had been convicted 1567 for various offences, and he begged the attention of the house while he enumerated some of the heads of crime for which some of these convictions had taken place. How many did the house think were the convictions for murder in that year? Not less than 54; for shooting at with intent to kill, which in moral guilt was equal to murder itself, 20; for assaults of various kinds with intent to murder, which he would say, as of the previous offence, that it was in moral guilt equal to murder, 73; for manslaughter 51; and he regretted to be obliged to add, which showed still more strongly the demoralised state of the country, that for an offence hitherto almost unknown there there had been twenty-one convictions, namely, for assaults with intent to commit an unnatural offence. (Warder and Dublin Weekly Mail)

Saturday 18 March 1837

CROWN COURT. Thursday, March 16.
WILLIAM ROBINSON, (23), was charged with having, at Scarborough, feloniously extorted money from Francis Henderson, by threatening to accuse him of an attempt to commit an infamous crime.
          Mr. Sergeant Atcherley, Mr. Temple, and Mr. Travis appeared for the prosecution; Sir Gregory Lewin defended the prisoner. – Mr. Sergeant ATCHERLEY stated the case. The prosecutor in this case, Mr. Francis Henderson, is a highly respectable person residing in Scarbro'. About the latter end of February or the commencement of March, 1835, he was going along Queen-street, towards home, and being in a state of intoxication, requested the assistance of a person of the name of Cockerill, whom he overtook. The next morning the prisoner, in company with Thomas Scott, went to the prosecutor's house, and upon seeing him he said that on the night before he had seen him committing an unnatural crime. The prosecutor of course flatly denied the charge, when the prisoner said "If you will give us our allowance we will say nothing about it." The prosecutor gave him a few shillings, but that not being sufficient, a sovereign was demanded by the prisoner, which, from a dread of the exposure of such a report, he consented to give. The matter rested for some time, and in July 1836, the prisoner again annoying him, the prosecutor had him taken into custody, and made the charge against him for which he stood indicted. The jury retired, and after being absent about half-an-hour, returned with a verdict of GUILTY, but recommended him to mercy. (Yorkshire Gazette)

Tuesday 21 March 1837

George Curtis and Jonathan Froud, for having committed an unnatural crime at Canterbury – Curtis eighteen months' House of Correction, hard labour, six weeks solitary confinement – Froud twelve calendar months' House of Correction, hard labour, one month solitary confinement. (Kentish Gazette)

Monday 3 April 1837

[A series of bills were proposed concerning criminal law and punishment.]
The general object of these bills will be to abolish the punishment of death for all offences except reason, murder, rape and sodomy, and the following crimes:– Administering poison; . . . Burglary . . .; Robbery . . .; Setting fire to any building with intent to murder . . .; Setting fire to, casting away, or destroying ships, with intent to murder . . .; Exhibiting false lights or signals with intent to bring ships into danger . . .; [and] Piracy. . . .
[There would come into effect: [Second Class – Felony – Transportation for life, or for any term not less than 15 years, or imprisonment for any term not exceeding 10 years, nor less than 5 years. [for various crimes including:] Whosoever shall accuse, or threaten to accuse, any person of the abominable crime of sodomy, committed either with mankind or with beast, or of any assault with intent to commit the said abominable crime, or of any attempt or endeavour to commit the said abominable crime, or of making or offering any solicitation, persuasion, promise, or threat, to any person whereby to move or induce such person to commit or permit the said abominable crime, with a view or intent in any of the cases aforesaid to extort or gain from such person, and shall by intimidating such person by such accusation or threat, extort or gain from such person any property, shall be deemed guilty of robbery, and being convicted thereof, shall be liable, &c. [The punishment of the pillory would also be abolished under these Bills.] (Evening Mail)

Wednesday 26 April 1837

The Bills for amending the criminal law introduced by Lord John Russell are now printed. . . . The Bill to amend the laws relating to robbery and stealing from the person repeals part of the 7th and 8th of Geo. IV. from a time yet to be mentioned, and substitutes transportation for life, or not less than 15 years, for death, as now applied to the principals or accessories in these offences committed before the expiration of that time. . . . Accusing another of unnatural crimes, with a view of extorting money, is, by this Bill, for the first time, we believe, made liable to transportation for life, or imprisonment for five years. This is an improvement in the law, though it adds to its severity. (Morning Post)

Saturday, 5 August 1837

Sentence of Death was recorded against James Pannifer, aged 16, for an unnatural crime. (Ipswich Journal)

Saturday 21 October 1837

Thomas Cole was found guilty of stealing a calico sheet from a fence, the property of John Webb. – The prisoner, at the Assizes of 1832, was convicted of an unnatural crime, and underwent an imprisonment of 12 months. The Court now sentenced him to seven years' transportation. (Norfolk Chronicle)

Saturday 16 December 1837

CRIME. – It appears from the Statistical Returns of the State of Crime in England, published under sanction of parliament, that in the agricultural counties sheep stealing, larceny, thefts by servants, and unnatural crimes, are upon the increase – the counties named are those in which the Poor Law Amendment Bill is most strenuously worked – this is precisely what rational men expected from the measure. It is also supposed child murder and artificial abortion have increased, but of this, from some defect in the former returns, no comparative statement can this year be given. (Northern Liberator)

SOURCE: Various newspapers, dates as given.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "Newspaper Reports, 1837", Homosexuality in Nineteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 26 March 2016 <>.

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