Newspaper Reports, 1838

Saturday 13 January 1838

Bury Quarter Sessions: . . . John Morgan Bletsoe, 70 years old, Doctor of Canon and Civil Law, for attempting to commit an unnatural crime, 2 years' imprisonment, with 2 sureties in 250l. each for future good behaviour. (Suffolk Chronicle)

10 February 1838

EXTRAORDINARY! – A poor old person who has been well known for the last 20 years in the neighbourhood of Wolverhampton and Dudley, as an itinerant pedlar, and who usually passed by the name of John Brindley, died last week in the workhouse at Dudley. On being laid out, previous to being inclosed in the coffin, it was discovered that poor "John" was a woman! Although deceased slept for some time, while in the workhouse, with a man who was a fellow inmate, neither he nor any one else had the least suspicions regarding John's real sex, until after death. For the last four years he lodged with a woman named Catherine Dudley, better known as the Old Pottery Bear Woman (from having kept a bear). She avers that she was ignorant of deceased's sex. Various are the rumours afloat as to the reasons which induced her so long and so closely to maintain her disguise, but as they appear to be merely conjecture, we forbear at present to publish them. She was interred in the old church-yard at Dudley, on Wednesday. (Staffordshire Advertiser)

Saturday 24 February 1838

COMMITTAL. – On Saturday last, an aged man named John Hardcastle, who has been several years an inmate of the Leeds Workhouse, and who had for some time been appointed to sleep in one of the boy's wards to be at hand in case of need, was charged with having attempted, if not completed, a nameless offence. After a good deal of evidence had been gone into, which we cannot detail, the magistrates resolved not to commit to York Castle, but to fine the defendant for an assault, and in default of payment he was committed to the House of Correction for two months. (Leeds Intelligencer)

Saturday 24 February 1838

TWO BRUTES. – On Saturday, an inmate in the Leeds Workhouse, named –– Hardcastle, an elderly man, was convicted by the sitting magistrates in the penalty of 5 and costs, of having committed an unnatural crime; and on Monday, Joseph Jackson, a journeyman dyer, was mulct in the same penalty for a similar offence committed in Brunswick-street. In default of payment they were both committed to prison for two months. (Leeds Times)

Saturday 3 March 1838

RICHARD ANDREWS, 47, charged with having, on the 16th of Aug., at Greenham, committed an unnatural crime.
          The evidence was of the most revolting nature; but in the learned Judge's opinion did not sustain the capital charge. If the jury thought so, they must acquit the prisoner, who could be indicted for a common assault.
          Verdict not guilty.
          The prisoner was then arraigned on the other indictment, and pleaded guilty. 12 months' imprisonment, one week in each month solitary confinement. (Berkshire Chronicle)

Saturday 3 March 1838

Richard Andrews, 47, for an unnatural offence at Greenham – acquitted of the capital charge, but pleaded guilty to the minor offence, and sentenced to twelve months' hard labour, one week in each month to solitary confinement. (Windsor and Eton Express)

Saturday 17 March 1838


[Address to the Grand Jury:] After the proclamation against vice, profaneness, and immorality had been read, his lordship addressed the grand jury to the following effect:– He said the calendar did not contain the whole number of offences, as there were some persons out on bail upon various charges, which the magistrates had not thought of a serious nature; the grand jury would of course have to investigate such charges. There was but one case to which he would direct their attention, it was the one which stood first upon the calendar, – that of Alfred Warren, charged with an unnatural offence; it was not necessary for him to tell them that the laws had been altered with respect to that offence; he need only refer them to the Statute of 9th of George the 4th, sec. 18; that Act of Parliament would convey to them all that they would require. The grand jury must be satisfied that the evidence was satisfactory before they returned the bill; it was not well to have two trials if one would do. The other causes were all of an ordinary description, and required no particular comment. Since they last met, it had been deemed advisable to make alterations in the criminal laws, the object of which was, to take away the punishment of death in cases of various descriptions. In the case of forgery the punishment of death is taken away altogether; an alteration has also taken place with regard to the offences against the person; as for instance, stabbing, or doing a person some bodily harm is not a capital offence, unless it is done with an intent to murder. Transportation for life is taken away in cases of burglary and robbery, unless they are attended with violence to the person. Alterations have also been made as to the burning and destroying ships; that was formerly a capital offence, as was the setting fire to a dwelling house; they are now no longer capital, unless set on fire when persons are within, with the intent to commit murder. There were six or seven others, in which the punishment of death was taken away. The punishment of death was also abolished in the case of riot, formerly when the mob did not disperse in an hour after the proclamation had been read, the offence was capital, but now it is not; there were several other cases which he need not enumerate, as they could see them by looking at the Act. . . . (Derbyshire Courier)

Wednesday 21 March 1838

The proclamation against vice and immorality was reqd, and the Learned JUDGE proceeded to deliver his charge to the Grand Jury. The only case on the calendar requiring especial attention was that of Alfred Warren, charged with an unnatural offence. The Learned Judge did not consider it necessary to particularize the crime, but directed the Grand Jury to place the prisoner on his trial for a misdemeanor, if the evidence laid before them should not be considered sufficient to find for felony. . . .
          Alfred Warren, aged 30, charged with committing an unnatural crime on the 31st July, at Clay Cross, was acquitted. (Derby Mercury)

Saturday, 24 March 1838

Lancaster Lent Assizes.
Thomas Arnott, 33, was charged with having committed, a most heinous and unnatural crime, in Preston, on the 4th of March, but the particulars are of so revolting and disgusting a character as to be entirely unfit for publication.
          Mr. Joseph Addison conducted the case for the prosecution, and called several witnesses. Mr. Brandt defended the prisoner. The jury retired to consider of their verdict, and returned in about three-quarters of an hour, and delivered a verdict of Not guilty of the capital charge. The prisoner was not discharged, as it was intimated that an indictment would be preferred against him for the misdemeanour. (Preston Chronicle)

Saturday 30 June 1838

TOWN-HALL. . . . Charles Horn, farming servant of Mr. Carbrook, of Attercliffe, was charged with an unnatural crime. (Sheffield Independent)

Saturday 14 July 1838

A well-dressed fellow, who gave the name and address of Thomas James or Jones, No. 14, Church-street Minories, was placed at the bar charged with exciting a youth named Benjamin Bunyon, to commit a nameless offence, in a house of ill fame, in Rose-street, Covent-garden.
          The particulars are of such a revolting nature as to be entirely unfit to meet the public eye, and the parties were fully committed for trial. (Morning Advertiser)

Saturday 21 July 1838

BUCKS' ASSIZES. The grand jury having been sworn, his lordship addressed them to the following effect:– . . . There was a charge of an unnatural offence. His lordship had read the depositions, and thought the evidence either of commission or intention to commit, and the exposure of such cases in public, did more injury to society that it could derive benefit from the punishment of the offender. (Northampton Mercury)

Saturday 21 July 1838

John Beckwith, a groom, was charged with committing an unnatural offence at Chelmsford. – Mr. Knox, who was engaged for the prosecution, said, that on looking over the depositions, he did not think the evidence was sufficiently complete to convict him of the capital offence. – Lord Denman instructed the Jury to acquit the prisoner of the capital charge, but directed that he be continued in custody till the sessions, and be indicted for a misdemeanour. (Suffolk Chronicle)

Friday 10 August 1838

. . . It was only necessary for him [the judge] to detain them [the jury] with observations on two other cases – in one of which the prisoner was charged with the commission of an unnatural offence – in the other with a rape. They knew what was necessary in order to prove the completion of these offences. With respect to one of them, they would have to consider whether the evidence was such as to induce them to think that the jury, which would ultimately pass its decision on the case of the prisoner, must come to such a conclusion as would lead to his conviction. If they thought that would be the result it would be their duty to find the bill; but if they had any reasonable doubt on that point, it would be better, as he always told a Grand Jury in such cases, that the country should be spared the ignominy and the shame of such an investigation. He feared however, that this was not a case of that nature. With respect to the charge of rape, they would consider whether the offence had been completed or not, and also whether it was with the consent of the party or not. If it were with her consent, though it was a great and heavy sin, it was no offence known to the laws of the land, and they must throw out the bill . . . (Liverpool Mercury)

Saturday 6 October 1838

Joseph Marshall, glassmaker, was charged with attempting to commit an unnatural offence on the person of Joseph McIntyre, glass-cutter, when on his way home in the Close on Saturday night, at twelve o'clock, and also with assaulting him, when trying to detain him until he got a policeman. He was ordered to pay a fine of 5., and in default of payment was committed to the house of correction for two months. (Northern Liberator)

Saturday 3 November 1838

Mr. Cresswell moved for a rule to show cause why a criminal information should not be granted against the defendant for the publication of a libel upon a gentleman named Knowles, imputing to that gentleman that he had been guilty of an unnatural offence. Mr. Knowles was the land-agent for two or three gentlemen of property in Yorkshire, and among others for Mr. Baron Parke. He had been a married man for thirteen years, and he was now in the prime of life. The defendant had written to Mr. Knowles a letter in which were expressions to this effect:– "I know you have represented me to have lost my money. I will show you that I can bring to your recollection a circumstance which occurred sixteen years ago: I can tell the day and the hour when I opened your stable-door, and saw you and your man James Harper behind it. Further particulars I can give at the proper time and place." Mr. Knowles, who felt that there could be no doubt as to the imputation that was meant to be conveyed by this letter, and how he knew it to be utterly false, conceived that no course was left open to him but at once to take notice of the calumny.
          The Court, stopping the Learned Counsel, granted the rule. (Morning Post)

Saturday 3 November 1838

Mr. Cresswell said he had to apply for a rule to show cause why a criminal information should not be filed against John Birbeck. The Learned Counsel applied on behalf of Mr. Knowles, to whom the defendant had written a letter, imputing the commission of an unnatural offence, many years ago. Mr. Knowles was a respectable manufacturer, and for several years past had been land-agent to some gentlemen, and among the rest to Baron Park. Having had this imputation cast upon him, he felt it his duty to bring the matter before the Court. From the affidavit of Mr. Knowles, it appeared that he was a land-agent, residing in Yorkshire; that he was 34 years of age, had been married 13 years, and had a family of children. Some time ago, he received by a messenger the letter from the defendant in which the charge was made, that the offence had been committed 16 years ago, and that the writer had found Mr. Knowles and his servant together. The charge was made in such terms that it was scarcely possible to doubt the insinuation intended against him. On the following day Mr. Knowles went to a gentleman in the neighbourhood, who was one of the trustees to his father's will, and with him immediately proceeded to the defendant, to ask whether he wrote the letter, and if he did, whether he really intended the abominable charge. They saw him, and he repeated the accusation in still stronger terms, and entered into some of the circumstances.
          Lord Denman. – We think you are entitled to the rule.
          Rule granted. (Morning Advertiser)

Wednesday 19 December 1838

A man named Norton, who had been carrying on business as a tailor in Tottenham-court-road, was yesterday committed for trial from Marylebone Office on a charge of having extorted various sums of money from a metropolitan clergyman, under a threat of accusing the Rev. Gentleman of an unnatural offence. Prosecutor stated that he had for several years employed the prisoner in the way of business, and that some time ago the prisoner had threatened to charge him with the offence in question, unless he gave him money. Being alarmed at the idea of such an accusation, although totally without foundation, prosecutor had at various times given him money, to the amount of 15l., till he became so importunate that the prosecutor had disclosed the matter to his friends, under whose advice he was now acting.
          The prisoner denied having threatened prosecutor in the manner referred to, and said whatever money he had received from the Rev. Gentleman had been merely in charity. (London Courier and Evening Gazette)

Saturday, 22 December 1838

The people of England, to their bitter cost, now know that amongst the other precious doctrines called "Principles" by those who rule over us, are held amongst the rest of the "principles" of that truly stupid, but at the same time, truly atrocious miscreant, Priest Malthus. Every body does not know what "Malthusianism" really is, though all are now in a fair way to know it; we shall, therefore, give a rapid sketch of what the points of the doctrine of Malthus really are, before we exhibit, as we mean to do, a sample of its FRUITS to an astounded and disgusted public. The doctrine is shortly this, that men, if not subject to some restraint or check, naturally breed too fast. That the breeding without check would go on increasing population in what is called a "geometrical ratio," doubling itself every five-and-twenty years – as 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, &c. That on the other side, food can only be increased by slow degrees, step after step, in an "arithmetical ratio" – as 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 in the same time. The conclusion is, that consequently the mouths must soon be too many for the meat. The deductions are many, but the first is, that whilst this breeding goes on good government is of no use, that misery must follow, and that the people blame the government when they ought to blame themselves. The remedies are, the preventing of breeding amongst the people; by denial of all relief, discouragement of marriage, and thinning the numbers by "emigration," which is only another name for forcing working men to transportation. Of this "emigration system" we have to tell a curious story; but this, by the way. –
          That this system of Malthus is entirely, and totally,and stupidly false, we beg to assure our readers. We are ready to prove it so, and are preparing for the press a work which shall not leave the foolish but corrupt dogmatist a leg to stand upon. We need not, however, tell our readers that this system being (as it is) altogether false and ridiculous, if it is once taken to be and acted upon as true, all kinds of wretched and mischievous absurdities must, of necessity, be the result.

          "all monstrous, all prodigious things,
          Abominable, unutterable, and worse
          Than poets yet have feign'd, or fear conceived:
          Gorgons, and hydras, and chimeras dire!"

Out of this system have sprung justifications of for [sic] every sort of unnatural crime. Even sodomy has been covertly defended by its advocates – for a palliation, if not a defence, even of the crime against nature – logically springs from the system of Malthus if it be admitted to be true. Pamphlets have been circulated describing means to cause abortion and to prevent conception. One of these beastly things was published, if not written, by Mr. Carlisle. Another was said to be written by a son of Mr. Owen, of New Lanark, the lecturer on a new view of society, but we know ont by whom published. Another of these publications is the subject of the present article. But this is not the worst. Mr. Carlisle and Mr. Owen, jun., may, if they be shortsighted enough, hold such at once disgusting and silly notions as these; and if they be so utterly devoid of common sense publish as true assertions which by the palpable "reductio ad absurdum" which they carry with them, at once, establish their character of falsehood in all reflecting and enlarged minds. . . . [etc. etc.] (The Northern Liberator (Newcastle-upon-Tyne))

SOURCE: Various newspapers, dates as given.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "Newspaper Reports, 1838", Homosexuality in Nineteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 26 March 2016, updated 9 June 2020. <>.

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