Men in Women's Clothes, 1840s

19 September 1840

A MODERN ACHILLES. – On Wednesday James Tottenham, aged 28 years, was placed at the bar, charged by Francis Bailey, Esq., of No. 37, Tavistock-place, under the following circumstances. The prisoner, who is a fair-looking man, was attired in female apparel, and was brought to the court in a cabriolet, in the custody of several officers of police, and, prior to the commencement of his examination, the avenues of the court were crowded, and considerable interest was manifested. – Mr. Combe ordered that the female apparel should be stripped off his person. The bonnet and other articles were instantly stripped off with pantomimic swiftness, and the prisoner then appeared in his shirt, the sleeves being tucked up, a pair of black trousers, the bottoms of the leggings being partly turned up, clean white stockings, light pumps, a blue white spotted silk handkerchief round his neck, no whiskers, and his own hair, curled at the temples, and a piece of black tape hair-band round his forehead to keep his curls smooth, and he seemed quite abashed, and the auditory were convulsed with laughter. His female habilliments consisted of a bonnet, shawl, gown, and petticoat. – Mr. Combe inquired of Mr. Bailey whether he had received a character with the prisoner? – Mr. Bailey said that he had, from a very respectable lady. He had been living before with a gentleman in the country. – Mary Ann Russell, housemaid to Mr. Bailey, was now sworn, and she identified the petticoat and an apron which she left in the kitchen on Tuesday night. She never knew that he meant to dress himself in women's clothes. She never authorised him to wear her clothes for a lark. – Mr. Combe told the prisoner that he would not now ask him to account for his object in wearing the female apparel, but what he had to say to the charge of stealing the property alleged against him? – Prisoner: I had no intention to steal them. I would have retuirned them. I only did it for a lark. – Mr. Thomas Taylor stated that he was in the habit of going home every night by Mr. Bailey's house, and he had seen the prisoner standing at the door in woman's apparel, and he always conceived that it was a woman. On last Thursday night week he was passing by, when, through the prisoner's solicitation, he was induced to enter the house, when he, the prisoner, closed the door, and conducted him through the passage into the garden. – Mr. Combe: Did he treat you as if he were a woman? – Witness: He did, your worship, and behaved most indecently towards me, and on discovering his object he said, "I will go and see if the servants are in bed," and he ran into the house leaving witness in the garden. In about ten minutes he returned in the garb of a groom, and seemed surprised at my being there, and inquired "What I wanted, and whether I had come to see either of the female servants," and he attempted to assume a different style and manner for the purpose of deceiving me as to his being the same person. – Mr. Combe said, that if even servants had a freak of the sort, it was no reason that he should take their clothes without their authority, and do what he had done. It was evident that the prisoner was a great impostor. He had got into the service of Mr. Bailey in an improper manner. He had represented himself as a single man, when he was a married man; and if he were remanded, he had no doubt but he had carried on his infamous system for a length of time, and that if the police were to make inquiries, other charges could be brought forward against him. Mr. Combe then remanded the prisoner. – The prisoner "looked" the character extremely well, and whilst at the bar his sex was not recognised by several persons until the circumstance was explained. (Leicester Herald)

9 September 1848

A GOOD JOKE SPOILED – A young man, named John Lear, alias Charles James, by trade an engine fitter, residing in Pinfold Street, was brought up on the charge of having been found in the Bristol Road, on the previous evening, dressed in women's clothes, with supposed felonious intentions. It appeared that the prisoner was observed by a gentleman walking backwards and forwards arm in arm with a young man, and he having communicated his suspicions that all was not right to Police-constable 169, who was not far off, the officer went up to the couple, and having tapped the would-be female on the shoulder, found that the suspicions of the gentleman were correct. The prisoner's companion very ungallantly ran off at the moment as fast as his legs could carry him. The prisoner was attired in bonnet, shawl, and gown. On being asked by the Bench what he had to say in defence, Lear said the reason why he "put the things on" was that the young man he was with had a sweetheart, who was jealous of a supposed rival to her possession of his affections, and they went to the Bristol Road on purpose to meet her and have a bit of fun over it. – The Mayor said the explanation given by the prisoner was likely enough the truth, but he advised him not to do the like again, as he might be punished for it. He was then discharged. (Birmingham Journal)

SOURCE: Various newspapers, dates as given.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "Men in Women's Clothes, 1840s", Homosexuality in Nineteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 17 December 2018 <>.

Return to Homosexuality in Nineteenth-Century England