Newspaper Reports, 1839

Friday 8 March 1839

[The Judge addressed the Grand Jury:] . . . There was only one other case to which he would direct their attention, it was one in which a person was accused of an unnatural offence; and if the result of their investigation led them to think the case would not end in the conviction of this person for the felony, the ends of justice would probably be better answered, not by their throwing out the bill for felony, but by their preferring a bill for a misdemeanour against both parties. If the offence was, in their judgment, made out, they would of course present a bill; but if not, they would present one, not in the shape in which the offence was charged in the calendar, but in the shape of a bill for a misdemeanour against two persons. These were all the remarks which he thought it necessary to make, and if in the course of their enquiries, any point of law should arise, he should be happy to give them all the assistance in his power. (Newcastle Courant)

Saturday 16 March 1839

DEVON AND EXETER ASSIZES. . . . Emanuel Ford, 19, charged with an unnatural crime. . . . At the City Assizes, there are two prisoners, Jas. Proctor, 42, and John Bishop, 15, for trial, charged with an unnatural crime. (Western Times)

Wednesday 27 March 1839

The wretched fanatic who has succeeded by the aid of the truculent orange faction and the renegade BROUGHAM in procuring the censure (which we look on as the highest praise) of the House of Lords on the mild, equal and just administration of the Marquis of NORMANBY, should have extended his motion a few years farther back, and have included therein all unnatural crimes committed by the Peer as well as the Peasant. This motion could not fail to be highly instructive, particularly to the Bench of Bishops, as it would clearly prove that my Lord RODEN possessed an hereditary claim to the title of conservator morum; and that if the mantle of his uncle has not descended to him untarnished, so as to enable him to give practical illustrations of the enormity of crime, he has the same zeal as the immaculate prelate for the corporeal and spiritual advantage of his humbler neighbours, such as the poor sweep for whom his said uncle procured a flogging in Dublin, for not having the nous to "keep a hard cheek," as our friend Jack Tar would say. . . . But to be serious; it is a melancholy reflection to behold a number of sane legislators not only compelled to entertain for a moment the furious rhodomontade of a senseless bigot, but even to jeopardize, on the strength of the said bigot's own showing, the stability of the only administration that has ever manifested a sincere desire to improve the condition of this prostrate country. There is one thing, however, we would whisper in Lord RODEN'S ear – to wit, most of the crimes committed by the peasantry can be traced to the example laid down by thieir superiors; and that if they have, with all their errors on their heads, resisted a revolting and diabolical refinement in guilt, no thanks are due to his good uncle the Bishop! . . . (Wexford Independent. All the allusions are to the The Bishop of Clogher.)

Friday 19 April 1839

Nicholls, who has been twice acquitted on the charge of the commission of an unnatural offence, but convicted of the misdemeanour, was yesterday sentenced to two years' imprisonment, with hard labour. (Morning Advertiser)

Saturday 29 June 1839

[From a debate during a town meeting in Ross:] . . . We are delighted with the late heroic conduct of our young and beloved Sovereign, in resisting the demands of Sir Robert Peel; and we think that when she evinced such courage in defending her own rights, that she would not, nor will not, permit any despotic minister to trample on the constitutional rights of her faithful subjects – (cheers). Hence sir, we are not only bound in duty but in honor and gratitude to address and support her. We rejoice that by this one act she prostrated Peel and Toryism – (loud cheers). That wily minister, who called to the councils of the Queen, to the government of the country, such men as Lyndhurst and Roden, who designated us aliens in blood, in religion, and in language, and as a consequence of our alienism would not permit us to obtain these rights and liberties now enjoyed by English and Scotchmen. . . . But as to my Lord Roden, it was equally offensive and insulting to the Irish nation to call him to the councils of the nation as Lyndhurst himself. Lord Roden, the deputy grand master of the Orangemen, under King Earnest of Hanover, the slanderer of the Irish name – the foul defamers of the Irish people – calling us savages and barbarians. . . . But Sir, is it just to indiscriminately accuse a nation with the crimes of a few miscreants – would it be fair to impute to me the crime of my neighbour because he kneels at the same altar with me, although he cannot perpetrate the hateful deed without first violating the precepts of his holy religion. As well might I, and with as good a grace, charge the Protestant Bishops of England and Ireland with the worse than beastly crime of sodomy or jocelynism, as that Lord Roden should impute to me the crimes of my neighbour, or charge the Irish nation with the guilt of some few bad men out of nine millions. But no, God forbid that I should impute to the Bishops of that Church – the abominable crime alluded to, which no doubt they detest – as much as I, or even the Pope of Rome, could abominate. . . . (Wexford Independent; the speaker is mischievously alluding to the Earl of Roden's uncle Percy Jocelyn, Bishop of Clogher.)

Thursday 18 July 1839

Job Hands, 21, labourer, was found guilty of an unnatural offence; and sentenced to transportation for life. (Worcester Journal)

Friday 19 July 1839

George Miller, 45, ostler, was convicted of an unnatural offence at Great Waltham. The indictment was for a misdemeanor only, the capital charge having been ignored. – The prisoner, it appeared, was ostler at the Six Bells public-house, and on the 8th inst. he was seen by Mary Bush, who lived opposite, in the stables, where it was proved the offence was committed. – On being charged with the crime the prisoner absconded, but was taken eventually in Moulsham. He was sentenced to two years' hard labour, the first and last month in solitude. (Chelmsford Chronicle)

Friday 26 July 1839

Nottinghamshire Summer Assizes.
Unnatural Crime.
JOHN BAILEY, aged 16, was indicted for assaulting, ill-treating, and taking indecent liberties with Robert Gray, at the parish of West Stockwith, with intent to commit an unnatural crime.
          The indictment also contained a count for a common assault.
          The Grand Jury ignored the capital offence, and found a true bill for the minor charge, to which the prisoner, a very stupid, grovelling, ill-looking lad, pleaded guilty.
          His Lordship, after some remarks upon the horrible nature of the crime with which he was charged, said that though his age might be some excuse, yet he was old enough to know better, and strongly impressed upon him, if he wished to escape the gallows, to avoid in future so unnatural an offence as that for which he was indicted. There could be no doubt he had committed an assauilt. – To be imprisoned in the gaol three months. (Nottingham Review)

Friday 26 July 1839

Joseph Eld, 24, was charged with committing an unnatural offence, on Sunday morning, the 5th of May last. The Jury found the prisoner not guilty of the capital offence. His Lordship immediately ordered another indictment to be sent to the Grand Jury, charging the prisoner with a misdemeanor. A true bill was immediately found; and the prisoner was again put on his trial, and found guilty. – Two years imprisonment to hard labour. (Leicester Journal)

Saturday 27 July 1839

JOSEPH ELD was put to the bar, charged with having committed an unnatural offence. The details are unfit for publication. – The jury acquitted the prisoner of the capital offence, when Mr. Hildyard, who conducted the prosecution, said he would proceed on the misdemeanor. The indictment was immediately sent up to the grand jury, who, in a few minutes, found a true bill against the prisoner for the misdemeanor, on which the jury found him guilty. His Lordship then passed the sentence of the court upon him, accompanied by a severe reproof. – Two years' imprisonment with hard labour. (Leicester Chronicle)

Friday 16 August 1839

Thomas Hazzlehurst, 18, was indicted for an unnatural crime, at Dunham Massey, on the 30th of April. The ATTORNEY-GENERAL and Mr. TRAFFORD, prosecuted, and Mr. TOWNSEND defended the prisoner. The facts of this case are too disgusting for publication. The prisoner was acquitted of the capital offence, and an indicment was ordered to be preferred against him for the misdemeanour.
          George Baskervyle, 18, was indicted for a similar charge, committed in the township of Plumley. In this case the ATTORNEY-GENERAL and Mr. TRAFFORD prosecuted; Mr. COTTINGHAM defended the prisoner. The charge was not fully made out and the prisoner was acquitted. (Chester Chronicle)

Friday, 23 August 1839

These assizes closed on Saturday last. The following is a list of the Crown prisoners tried, the result, and their respective sentences:–
. . .
          Thomas Hazlehurst, 18, charged with an unnatural crime at Dunham Massey. Guilty of a misdemeanor: twelve months' imprisonment.
          George Baskervyle, 18, charged with a similar offence at Plumley. – Acquitted. (Liverpool Mercury)

Tuesday 8 October 1839

We published a few days ago the Fourth Report of the Inspectors of Prisons of Great Britain, on the Home District. We have since looked into the Appendix, which contains much that deserves the attention of the public. . . .
          It appears that persons unused to a prison, occasionally request as a favour to be placed in separate cells, like the prisoners under charge of murder, unnatural offences, and burglary. The reasons assigned by them for this preference, says the inspectors, "were nearly all to the same effect – that they were unused to such a place as a prison; that they did not like to associate with so many prisoners as were together in the other wards, or to make their acquaintance; they had rather be alone. Thus it often is with the comparatively uncorrupt. Such characters recoil from the forced companionship with others to which such a prison as Newgate subjects them; while the depraved and hardened offenders, on the other hand, cannot bear to be alone, and thus to be compelled to make their own conduct the subject of their reflections." In this prison upwards of 10,000 males and females have been imprisoned in 1836, 1837, and 1838, and in the present year there is a large increase. Of these prisoners a large proportion are under 17 years of age. A precious school! (Morning Chronicle)

SOURCE: Various newspapers, dates as given.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "Newspaper Reports, 1839", Homosexuality in Nineteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 18 April 2016 <>.

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