Caught in Hyde Park, 1843

NOTE: A man rumoured to be a wealthy baronet, together with a butler of another baronet, are caught indecently behaving themselves behind some trees in Hyde Park in 1843. He refuses to give his name during the trial, though eventually he is discovered to be a solicitor, and he ends up being bankrupted by the case. The trial captures public interest, and raises some interesting issues concerning (a) the right of a defendant to refuse to give his real name; (b) the ability of money to buy a clever solicitor; (c) the popularity of cruising in Hyde Park.

Saturday 18 February 1843

HYDE PARK. – At Marlborough street on Monday a respectably-dressed gray-haired elderly person, who gave the name of Richard Simpson, but who is a wealthy baronet, whose name was not further divulged than that it was Sir F——, as the person who was going to give the name corrected himself in time, was charged, in company with George Stacey, butler to Sir Frederick Roe, with indecently behaving themselves in Hyde park on Saturday night last. – Police-sergeant Everitt, 17 A, stated, that while on duty in Hyde park, in company with police-consable Guy, 72 A, about nine o'clock, they saw the two defendants walk together towards "a woody clump of trees," near the gravel-pits. They hid themselves behind a tree, and watched the prisoners. The witness then described the manner in which they acted towards each other. A man and woman crossed the path, and the prisoners moved to the railing by the side of the gravel pit. They then separaed for two or three yards, and after looking about to see whether they were observed, again joined company, and stood five or six minutes with their heads inclined, as if they were looking at the grass. Witness and his brother constable then "pounced upon them." He seized Simpson by the collar, and on lifting the lappet of his coat found his lower garments unfastened, and that Stacey's were in a similar position. After a severe struggle, in the course of which violent blows were given, the prisoners were conducted to Vine street station-house. – Mr Steel: how many constables are there on duty in Hyde park? – Everitt: In consequence of the complaints, ten constables are now nightly on duty, and the sergeants patrol with them. – You said that when you first observed the two prisoners you and the other constable concealed yourselves behind a tree; how far was that tree from where you observed their conduct? – The tree behind which I and Guy concealed ourselves was about 40 or 50 yards from the spot where we at last pounced upon them. – Have you ever been witness in a case of this kind before? – Never but once before, except when I have taken persons into custody, or seen them taken, for indecently committing themselves before children. – Have you never been engaged as a witness in a case like this except in that case? – I recollect now that I was an incidental witness some time since for an indecent assault upon a constable. – What! an assault upon a constable, and you forget it; that's very strange. – After Mr Wontner, on the part of Stacey, had put a few immaterial questions to the witness, police-constable Guy was called. His testimony was similar to the former witness's. When Stacey started off, while I was chasing him, he threw off his coat, and when I captured him he said – For God's sake, don't take me; I know nothing of that man. I met him in the park accidentally, and our discourse was of trees, gravel-pits, and the weather." – The case for the prosecution being finished, Mr Steel said he should reserve his defence for a higher court, where he should have a good deal to say. – The prisoners were ultimately remanded to Thursday, for Mr Maltby to decide whether he would admit either or both to bail. – The prisoners being again brought up, the police declared their entire ignorance of any information as to the identity of Simpson. – Mr Fitzpatrick: It is necessary that the magistrate should have the real address of the party before he can take his recognizance. – Mr Steel: I cannot see what objection exists against admitting Simpson to bail. You have a name given, and there is not a particle of evidence to show that this name is not the real name of the prisoner. In the absence of evidence to the contrary you are bound to suppose that the prisoner has given his real name. My client has given one name, and he declines to give any other. – Mr Wontner: As far as regards Stacey, for whom I appear, he is known to be a gentleman's servant, and if the magistrate allows him to have bail I hope it will be for a small amount, otherwise he will not be able to be bailed at all. – Mr Maltby: Under all the circumstances of the case, the amount of bail which I shall call upon the prisoner who is known to provide, is, himself in 500l. and two sureties in 200l. each. – Mr Wontner: It is utterly impossible that Stacey, he being only a gentleman's servant, can find this amount of bail. I withdraw my application, and, in that case, I hope it will be considered that no amount is yet fixed. – In order to meet a legal doubt as to the indictable nature of a particular kind of charge, the two prisoners were sent to the Central Criminal Court on a charge of having attempted to incite each other to commit a nameless offence.
          ANOTHER MISCREANT. – A well-dressed man, who gave his name James Thomas, was charged with having conducted himself indecently towards Henry Maling, a youth about sixteen years of age. – The prisoner, who has recently come up from Liverpool, has for a short period been residing at No. 5 Euston grove, Euston square. – Complainant's evidence went to show that he resided with his father, who is a baker, in Brill row, Somers town, and that on Monday afternoon last the prisoner met him, and looking hard in his face, asked him if he would have half a pint of beer, at the same time saying come along. Prisoner treated him to some beer in Middlesex street, and on quitting there he (prisoner) said to him, "Come to some house where there's a parlour." They went to the Beehive in Chapel street, where they sat down in the parlour, and the prisoner called for two glasses of stout, for which he paid. He left the room for a short period, and on his return the prisoner committed upon him an indecent assault. It further appeared, that the landlord of the public house suspected from the commencement that there was something wrong, and that having watched the prisoner by means of a crevice in the door, he was at length fully satisfied that his surmises were correct. Prisoner escaped from the house after being struck several times by complainant, and he was speedily taken into custody. – In reply to Mr Flower, complainant stated that he had served at a public-house as bar-boy; he had never been in any trouble, or connected with a case at any police-court before. – The prisoner, by the advice of Mr Flower, declined saying anythng at present. – Mr Rawlinson: The prisoner is described on the charge-sheet as a gentleman; do you know what he really is? – Mr Flower: I believe he is a gentleman, sir; he comes from Ireland, and is almost a stranger to London. His means, however, from what I can understand, are not by any means large. – The Magistrate said he should require the prisoner to enter into his personal recognizance in 200l., with two sureties in 100l. each; he should also expect 48 hours' notice. (The Examiner)

Saturday 18 February 1843

Two cases of "nameless" offences have been recently engaging the attention of the London magistrates. (Freeman's Journal)

Saturday 18 February 1843

MARLBOROUGH-STREET. – On Thursday two persons – Stacey, butler to a late magistrate and Simpson, a gentleman assuming an incognito – charged with having been found together on Saturday night by the police in Hyde Park, under disgraceful circumstances, were brought up for final examination, and placed at the bar before Mr. Maltby. – Mr. Fitzpatrick, the chief clerk, asked Simpson if he meant to adhere to the name he had given at the station-house of Richard Simpson? Simpson: I, decline to say anything, except under the advice of my attorney. – Mr. Steel: as Mr. Simpson's attorney, I do not think it is necessary to give any other name. – Mr. Maltby (to Simpson) – Am I to understand that you still decline to give your real name and address? – Simpson – My attorney will answer any questions. – Mr. Maltby: Is there any person present in court who can give any information about the prisoner? – There was no reply to this question. – Mr. Maltby: It has been publicly stated in a newspaper that the prisoner Simpson is a baronet. Now, there was nothing whatever of this kind stated before me at the first examination, nor am I aware of any circumstance to warrant this declaration. It is said that a gold pencil-case found on Simpson's person has had something to do with originating this report. Is the pencil-case still in the possession of the police? Police Constable – No, your worship; it was given back to the prisoner. – In order to meet a legal doubt as to the indictable nature of a particular kind of charge, the two prisoners were sent to the Central Criminal Court on a charge of having attempted to incite each other to commit a nameless offence. This announcement had a visible effect on both prisoners, who became greatly agitated. It appears that Magistrates are invested with no sufficient authority to compel a party, who chooses to assume a fictitious character, to disclose his real name and condition. One result of this state of the law is, that persons of wealth & station charged with infamous offences, are enable to elude the punishment of public exposure, & to escape from the consequences of their guilt at the cost of a little temporary inconvenience and an inconsiderable sum of money. But the most serious consequence which arises from this want of power to enforce identification is, that the odium of the charge not unfrequently falls on an innocent party. In a recent case at this Court, a disguised gentleman taken in the Park on a revolting charge succeeded in preserving his incognity, chiefly through the management of his solicitor, Mr. Wontner, who bailed him out – It was generally reported that the accused was a dignitary of the Church. Shortly after the prisoners were removed, Mr. Brettel, printer, came forward and mentioned to Mr. Maltby that he recognised Simpson as a frequenter of his Majesty's Levees; and though he was unacquainted with his name, he had no doubt some of the police who were usually placed to do duty at the Palace would recognise him, more especially as he was accustomed to attend the Levees in a deputy lieutenant's uniform. Mr. Brettel said he came to the Court to see if Smpson was not one of three grey-headed persons in the dress of gentlemen, who made it a constant practice to be present in the Court-hard, St. James's and who were notorious for their disgusting conduct. The prisoner Simpson was not one of these. Mr. Maltby thanked Mr. Brettel for the suggestion which he promised should be attended to. (Suffolk Chronicle)

Wednesday 8 March 1843

CHARGE OF INDECENT ASSAULT. –. Yesterday, in the Central Criminal Court, Robert Smith, a solicitor of Worcester, and George Stacy, late butler to Sir Frederick Roe, were found guilty on the 8th count of an indictment, which charged them "with having met for the purpose of committing an unnatural crime, or for the purpose of exciting in each other unnatural desires, and with having been guilty of indecent conduct towards each other in a public place" (Hyde Park). The counsel for the defence said they should not attempt to contradict the evidence of the witnesses for the prosecution, but denied that any thing more had been proved than that they had been guilty of indecent conduct. A technical objection, however, having been taken on a point of law, judgment was arrested until the point in question should be decided. A number of most respectable witnesses, many of them professional gentlemen, deposed that the prisoner, Smith, had through life borne the most honourable and irreproachable character. The case excited great interest; for the prisoner, Smith, on being taken into custody three weeks ago, gave the name of Richard Simpson, and was currently reported to be a Baronet, or some person of rank and station. (Worcestershire Chronicle)

Thursday 9 March 1843

(Before the Common Sergeant.)
CHARGE OF INDECENT ASSAULT. – Richard Simpson, described in the calendar as a labourer, 47 years of age, and George Stacey, described as a servant, 33 years of age, were placed at the bar upon a charge of an indecent assault. This case has excited some interest of a very painful nature, in consequence of unfounded and scandalous rumours, having connected with it the names of some gentlemen of rank.
          The real name of the prisoner Simpson, who appeared to be about sixty years of age, is Robert Smith, and he has been, as it was shewn in the course of the proceedings, a solicitor in Worcester; the other prisoner has been a servant in the employment of Sir Frederick Roe.
          The indictment was framed in eight counts, the first seven of which charged the prisoners with having committed an unnatural crime, or with having met for the purpose of committing it, and the eighth count charged them with having met for such a purpose, or for the purpose of exciting in each other unnatural desires, and with having been guilty of indecent conduct towards each other in a public place.
          Mr. Bodkin opened the case for the prosecution, and then called in evidence two police constables, who deposed that about nine o'clock on the evening of the 11th of February last, they had seen from behind some trees in Hyde Park, near the gravel pit, the prisoners apparently consulting together. Some people then passed, and the prisoners removed near the railing which surrounds the gravel pit. The constables there saw them lay hands upon each other indecently, and immediately rushed upon them. The prisoners struggled violently to escape from the police, but another officer coming up, they were secured. The prisoner Simpson wore a laced band round his hat, as if he had gone to the place with a desire to pass for a servant. This band he attempted to conceal, but it was seized by the police, and was now produced. A man of the name of Cole, who was passing by the place at the time, confirmed a portion of the evidence of the constables.
          Mr. Clarkson, who conducted the defence for Simpson, said he should not attempt to contradict the statements of the witnesses for the prosecution, but he denied that anything more had bene proved than they had been guilty of indecent conduct. They had not committed any capital offence, and there was nothing even to show that they contemplated the commission of such an offence.
          Mr. Doane addressed the jury for the prisoner Stacey, and took the same line of defence as the preceding Counsel.
          A number of most respectable witnesses, many of them being professional gentlemen, were then called to give evidence as to character for the prisoner Simpson. He was a solicitor of the name of Robert Smith, residing at Worcester, and he had through his life borne the most honourable and irreproachable character. – Some witnesses were also called for the prisoner Stacey, who deposed that he had always shown himself a steady, well-conducted person.
          The Common Sergent having summed up the evidence,
          The Jury, after a few minutes' consultation, returned a verdict of Guilty against the prisoners upon the eighth count, on the ground that they had been convicted of indecent conduct, and had met for an improper purpose.
          Mr. Clarkson tendered an objection to the form of the eighth count. He contended that the unnatural crime, and the intent to commit it had been negatived by the verdict of the Jury upon the other counts; and as to the conduct proved against the prisoners, it had not been committed in a public place, and was not an indictable offence.
          The Common Sergeant took a note of the objection, and deferred in the meantime taking any further proceedings in the case. – The prisoners were then removed. (Worcester Journal)

Thursday 11 May 1843

In Re Smith.
The bankrupt in this case is Robert Smith, of the city of Worcester, attorney and money scrivener. Debts proved 2200.
          The bankrupt was apprehended in London, on the 10th of February, on a charge of committing a nameless offence, and was tried at the Central Criminal Court and found guilty. He is now in Newgate awaiting the decision of the Judges on a point referred on the indictment. The bankrupt was tried in the name of Richard Simpson, with a person named George Stacey.
          Mr. J. W. Isaac, of Worcester, (debt proved 1200,) is appointed trade assignee. It is said the property seized will realise a dividend of 10s. in the pound. (Worcester Journal)

Saturday 17 June 1843

THE HYDE OFFENDERS. – Previous to the trials commencing in the New Court on Wednesday, Richard Simpson and George Stacey were brought up to receive judgment. They were convicted two sessions ago for a nameless offence, but judgment was deferred in consequence of a point raised on the face of the indictment, which point was reserved for the consideration of the court. – The Common Sergeant, in passing sentence, said that he held the offence as "committing in a public place to the scandal of persons passing by," was sufficient. He held all offences of a like nature, tending to corrupt the public morals, were in themselves criminal: he therefore felt it his duty to pass a heavy sentence. They were then sentenced to be imprisoned in the Penitentiary for one year from the date of their conviction. (Kentish Independent)

SOURCE: Various newspapers, dates as given. (Many reports were repeated verbatim across several newspapers, but I have not included them all.)

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "Caught in Hyde Park, 1843", Homosexuality in Nineteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 30 August 2016 <>.

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