Newspaper Reports, 1841

Friday 8 January 1841

James Dutton, aged 34, described as a servant, pleaded guilty to an indictment charging him with feloniously sending a letter to Mr. George Lane Blount, threatening to accuse him of attempting to commit an unnatural crime, with intent to extort money.
          Mr. Serjeant ARABIN told the prisoner that he had pleaded guilty to a charge of the most serious nature, and it was an offence which at one time would have subjected him to capital punishment, and which in all probability would have been carried into effect. Under all the circumstances, the sentence of the Court was, that he be transported beyond the seas for the term of 7 years. (Evening Mail)

Friday 8 January 1841

In the men's front yard the door of the ward used for the night charges has been closed, and another opened into the yard, formerly called the baker's yard. . . . A door has been made from the same yard into the middle yard, and another (formerly leading to the House of Correction passages) has been blocked up. A door has also been made at the bottom of the stair-case leading to the upper infirmary, and another from the Females' House of Correction yard to the two-cell yard. Hopper blinds have been placed in several windows of the Men's House of Correction.
          These arrangements tend in no degree to alter the general character of this prison, which continues to present as numerous facilities as ever for the corrupt intercourse and moral contamination of the prisoners.
          The north ward is appropriated to convicted prisoners not sentenced to hard labour, and is designed for twelve prisoners. No officer is stationed in the ward, and the prisons can, day and night, indulge in any conversation, however objectionable. There are generally confined together prisoners of various grades of criminality. On a late inspection we found, with the other prisoners, two persons convicted of unnatural offences. A prisoner (who had evidently seen better days) complained to us bitterly of the hardship and degradation of being compelled to associate with such characters. (Evening Chronicle)

Saturday 19 June 1841

The Marquis of NORMANBY said it was with great regret he had to state that, in consequence of the premature dissolution of Parliament, it had been found necessary to abandon, in the other House, the Bills passed by their Lordships under the titles of the Drainage of Towns Bill, and the Building Act Improvement Bill.
          The Noble Marquis having moved that the adjourned debate on the Punishment of Death Bill be resuimed.
          The Earl of HADDINGTON stated that he would withdraw the amendment of which he had given notice, because, the more he considered the subject, the more he found the difficulty of framing a clause that would unequivocally carry out the provision he wished to engraft on the Bill.
          The Earl of WINCHILSEA then moved that so much of the third clause as took away capital punishment from the commission of an unnatural offence be expunged from the Bill. The amendment was agreed to without a division, and the result, therefore, is that persons guilty of this offence will still be liable, as at present, to be punished with death.
          A second amendment, by the same Noble Earl, for exempting cases of rape from the abolution of capital punishment, was subsequently put and negatived by 64 to 60. The offence is consequently no longer a cpaital one. (Morning Post)

Friday 25 June 1841

Joseph Peace and Joseph Slaby [Staley, in another report], both of Church Gresley, colliers, were committed for trial, at the next Derby Assize, charged with an unnatural crime. (Leicester Journal)

Saturday 31 July 1841

John Hardron, 19, charged with bestiality. This offence was alleged to have been committed with an ewe.
          The evidence as to the full commission of the crime was inconclusive and the prisoner was acquitted. He was again tried for the attempt, found [Guilty, and sentenced to 12 months' imprisonment].
          James Peace, 18, and James Staley, 14, were charged with committing an unnatural crime. The prisoners were tried on two indictments, found Guilty on both, and judgment of death recorded on each. (Derbyshire Courier [and Derby Mercury 4 Aug. 1841])

Saturday 25 September 1841

EXTRAORDINARY ACCUSATION AGAINST A SHIPOWNER. – At the London Sessions, on Saturday, Mr. Alexander Thompson, an extensive shipowner of Shields, was charged with assaulting George Frederick Clement, with intent to excite him to commit an unnatural offence, and there was a second count in the indictment for a common assault. Mr. C. Phillips defended the prisoner. The prosecutor stated that he lived at No. 10, Gravel-lane, and was a shoemaker, and worked as a broker for his father. On the 20th of August he was coming into the city to fetch some tools and a great coat from No. 26, New-street. He stopped in Tower-street to look into a picture shop, when the defendant, who carried a walking-stick, came and rubbed his hand against his (prosecutor's) person; he felt confused at such treatment, but not knowing whether it was accidental or not, he moved off to the other shop window. Prisoner then deliberately caught hold of him with one of his fingers of his hand, in which he held his stick, and prosecutor called him a beastly vagabond, and several persons who were present advised him to give the prisoner into custody. He afterwards called the prisoner a miscreant, and upon a policeman coming up he gave him into custody. At the Station-house the prisoner asked prosecutor if he intended to prosecute, adding that he had children as big as he was. He denied having touched prosecutor, and at the Mansion-house he declared that he was a single man. – Recorder: Are any of the persons here who saw you give him in charge? – Prosecutor: Not that I am aware of. – The Recorder (with surprise): What! you said several persons advised you to give the prisoner in charge. Are none of them here! – Prosecutor: They followed to the Station-house, but it was impossible any of them could see the assault, from the position in which I stood. – The recorder: Why, if you were advised to give the prisoner in charge by the bystanders, it appears most extraordinary that it did not strike you that they would be required as witnesses! – Prosecutor: Why, I thought the Lord Mayor would have punished the prisoner, and that the case would not have come to trial. – Mr. C. Phillips: To be sure you did; that is exactly what you wished. – Cross-examined: He had stated all his avocations. He was never a potboy; he had lived at three public-houses, and had been a potman. He did not call that being a potboy, as he was twenty-three years of age. He did not mention this before, because he knew that the counsel would ask him the question. He was not called a "skitle-sharp," that he had ever heard of. He was out until twelve o'clock on Thursday last, and, when he met a policeman on his way home, he did not tell him that he was alarmed for the result of the trial; but, if he had known the trouble attending it, he would not have had anything to do with it. He told the policeman that he went before Alderman Pirie, and, because the prisoner was engaged in the shipping trade, he (prosecutor) was not allowed to speak. He afterwards went before the Lord Mayor, and the prisoner was ordered to find bail in 200 to answer the charge. – Mr. Phillips, at great length, commented upon the evidence of the prosecutor, and called a number of shipowners and coal factors, who gave the prisoner a most exemplary character. – The recorder summed up with great minuteness, and the Jury found the prisoner not guilty, and added, that they had great satisfaction in expressing their opinion that the defendant left the court without a stain upon his character. (Northern Star and Leeds General Advertiser)

Thursday 28 October 1841

WEDNESDAY. – The court re-opened this morning at 10 o'clock. The hall was densely crowded – of course with male adults only. The borough magistrates sat with the learned Recorder on the bench, as yesterday.
          The prisoners, Elizabeth Leverton, Wiliam Litson, and William Morris, were immediately brought to the bar. Four true bills had been found by the grand jury – one against Leverton and Litson jointly, a second against Litson singly, and two against Morris alone. The indictments varied the date at which the offences were alleged to have been committed, and varied the terms of the accusation, one alleging that the prisoners had threatened to accuse the prosecutor with the commission of an abominable crime, and the other that the threat was to accuse him of an attempt to commit it, and varying the description of the monies extorted. The prisoners all pleaded not guilty, and the indictment against the prisoners Leverton and Litson was first proceeded with.
          . . . The indictment charged the prisoners with extorting the sum of 20 from Mr. Edwin Drake, of the 'Victoria' public-house, in Boutport-street, in this town, under a threat of making an accusation against him of an unnatural crime with William Gilbert, son of a respectable builder. – The details of this case are unfit for the public eye. – Mr Mortimer conducted the case for Mr. Drake, the prosecutor; and Mr. Kingdon defended the prisoners. – The facts were briefly, that on the 30th November last the male prisoner Litson and his wife informed the prosecutor that the female prisoner Leverton had seen him in the commission of an abominable act, and threatened to accuse him of it: Leverton herself repeated the accusation, but offered to say nothing about it if he would give her 20; Litson and his wife advised him to pay the money, rather than ruin his reputation, credit, and property; he resisted the demand, and strongly declared the utter falsehood of the accusation; but at length, fearing, as he said, that they would swear away his life, he yielded to their importunities, and paid them 20, which Litson took up, and promised to share it with Leverton afterwards. – Leverton, who had been a domestic servant of the prosecutor, immediately quitted his service, and went to live with Litson. – There were two or three witnesses, but the evidence of the prosecutor was the most material. – The deposition of the prisoner Leverton, taken before the magistrates on her committal, was put in and read by the clerk: its purport was that she had witnessed the crime imputed, and that on her threatening to go for Steel, the policeman, and give him in charge, the prosecutor fell on his knees and besought her mercy.
          Mr. Kingdon addressed the jury at considerable length for the prisoners, and urged the insufficiency of the evidence, and its great improbability. For the prisoner, Litson, he called two or three witnesses, who spoke to his character, but cautiously.
          The Recorder summed up the evidence with great care and perspicuity; and in the course of his address expressed his doubt whether the indictment as it concerned Litson, was correctly framed; his doubt was that Litson should have been indicted for aiding and abetting the prisoner Leverton in making the accusation against the prosecutor, and not as a criminal in the first degree; but he should take the opinion of the jury in this particular, and if their verdict should be against the prisoner, he should take care to submit the doubt which occurred to him to the judgment of her Majesty's law adviser.
          The jury, having retired for half an hour, returned with a verdict of guilty against the prisoner Leverton; and guilty against Litson for aiding and abetting Leverton in her offence. The Recorder ordered a verdict of guilty to be recorded, but repeated that he should submit the case, as it regarded Litson, to the Secretary of State.
          The prisoner Litson was then arrainged on the second indictment, which charged him with having extorted from the prosecutor, Mr. Drake, a further sum of 5 on the evening of the 1st December, under a threat to accuse him of an unnatural crime. – The witnesses in the case were the prosecutor and William Gilbert. It appeared that the demand of 5 by the prisoner was made on the morning after the former transaction, on the ground that he had done service to the prosecutor by silencing the girl; and although the prosecutor said he gave the money under fear that if he refused it the prisoner would renew his threats to him, yet the Recorder inclined to the opinion that this did not amount to the offence charged in the indictment, because the money was rather given to the prisoner in return for his alleged services, than because of any threats made by him; for the prosecutor distinctly admitted that on that occasion he used none, the only remark of the prisoner at all bearing that character being, "It is in our power to send you to Exeter." – Mr. Kingdon, also, in his able address for the defence, strongly urged the same view of the case. – The jury, however, considered the evidence to support the indictment, and, after a brief consultation, returned a verdict of guilty.
          The Recorder ordered the prisoners to be removed from the bar, and to be brought up again in the morning, at ten o'clock, to which time the court was adjourned. The learned gentleman appeared to be labouring under a very severe cold.
          THURSDAY (this day). – The court re-opened at half-past ten o'clock.
          William Morris was placed at the bar. On the Clerk of the Peace being about to call over the names of the petty jury, the prisoner desired that the indictments might again be read over to him, remarking that he was no scholar and did not perfectly understand them when he pleaded yesterday. – The Clerk asked him if he wished to withdraw his plea; but he made no definite reply. – The Recorder directed the indictments to be again read to him. – The Clerk proceeded, and having read the first, which charged the prisoner with extorting from the prosecutor, Edwin Drake, on the 4th December last, (three days after the former transaction with the prisoners Leverton and Litson,) the sum of 5, under a threat to accuse him of an abominable crime, the prisoner again pleaded not guilty. – The second indictment was then read, which charged a similar offence on the 14th January last. To this indictment the prisoner replied, "I received the money as a promised gift, but not guilty of extorting." – The trial was then proceeded with, and the same petty jury impannelled as yesterday.
          Mr. Mortimer conducted the prosecution. – The prisoner was undefended. – The evidence was most conclusive against the prisoner; the details were, if possible, more disgusting than those of yesterday. – The prisoner rigidly cross-examined the prosecutor, but elicited no fact which bore materially on the case. – The prosecutor's testimony was corroborated in many important particulars by Philip Jones and Policeman Chanter. – It appeared that the prisoner had tampered with the girl Leverton; and there could be no doubt, on the mind of any one who heard the evidence, of a most wicked conspiracy concocted between the three prisoners and the wife of Litson, to fleece the unfortunate prosecutor. – The Recorder summer up very lucidly; and the jury, without a minute's hestitation, returned a verdict of guilty.
          On the second indictment the prisoner declined to offer any evidence, and a verdict of acquittal was accordingly found.
          The prisoners were then brought up for sentence; and the Recorder, after dwelling on the enormity of their offence – the most enormous which he had ever been called to pass sentence upon, and characterising their conduct as a most infamous conspiracy, pursued with heartless rapacity, proceeded to the painful duty before him. In the belief that the woman Leverton might have been instigated by her more wicked associates, he should make a slight difference in their sentence; and from the doubt he felt of the correctness of the form in which the first indictment was laid against Litson, he should inflict upon him on that conviction only a nominal punishment; but on the second conviction, in which there could be no doubt, he should feel it his duty to pass such a sentence as would make his sense of the crime of which he had been found guilty; as to Morris, although he had been convicted upon one indictment only, it was impossible to doubt what must have been the result if evidence had been offered on the second. The sentence of the court was – that Leverton be transported fifteen years (the shortest term the statute permitted); Litson, for the first offence, be imprisoned one day, and for the second, transported twenty years; and Morris, transported twenty years.
          The prisoner Leverton, on hearing her sentence, fell down in a fit, and was carried out of court.
          The Recorder's passing sentence was most impressive, and the scene altogether was the most distressing we have ever witnessed in this court.
          It must be satisfatory to the highly respectable connexions of the prosecutor, that this painful investigation has developed no reason whatever to believe that he was guilty of the horrid crime imputed to him; but on the contrary, the evidence tends to prove that he was the victim of a most foul confederacy; and the only misfortune is that the prosecutor had not moral courage to resist the demands of the wretches and to prosecute them for the attempt, instead of permitting himself to be victimised by them. (North Devon Journal)

SOURCE: Various newspapers, dates as given.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "Newspaper Reports, 1841", Homosexuality in Nineteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 14 July 2016 <>.

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