Prosecutions of Consenting Partners, 1846–1847

NOTE: The following selection of reports concern the prosecution of men who consent to have sex together. In several cases the younger partner who gave consent is specifically prosecuted for "consenting"; and some men are prosecuted for "mutually inciting each other to commit a crime". If a male was at least 14 years old, he was considered a "particeps crimen" if he gave consent, and was accordingly prosecuted and sometimes sentenced to death (though that would be changed to transportation). For more details, see my short article on The Age of Consent

Saturday 14 March 1846

William Rind, aged 49, and Robert Ford, aged 16, were charged with committing an unnatural crime at Chatham, on the 25th of August.
          Mr. Horn conducted the prosecution, and Mr. Russell, by the direction of his Lordship, defended the prisoners.
          Guilty – Sentence of death recorded; but his Lordship said the punishment would be transportation for life. (Kentish Independent)

Tuesday 17 March 1846

WILLIAM RIND, 49, and ROBERT FORD, 16, were charged with an unnatural crime, at Chatham.
          Mr. Horn conducted the prosecution, and Mr. Russell, by the direction of his lordship, undertook the defence of the prisoners.
          The evidence in this case fully established the charge against the prisoners, and the jury, after retiring for some time, found both the prisoners guilty.
          His lordship ordered sentence of death to be recorded, but informed the prisoners that he should recommend them to the merciful consideration of the Crown. Their lives would no doubt be spared, but Rind would most likely leave this country for life. (South Eastern Gazette)

Saturday 28 March 1846

UNNATURAL OFFENCE AT KINGSWINFORD. – Two young men, named Samuel Adderley and Henry Travis, were charged with committing an unnatural offence on the 17th July last, but were found not guilty, and discharged. (Birmingham Journal) (The Worcestershire Chronicle for 1 April adds that the two men were "aged respectively 22 and 24".)

Friday 10 April 1846

Joseph Southwell Stokes (39) was convicted of having, on the 5th April, committed an assault on David Wilson, with intent to commit an unnatural offence, and David Wilson (19) was convicted of the same offence on Joseph Southwell Stokes. The Recorder, in passing sentence, alluded to the shocking enormity of the offence, but expressed his conviction that Wilson, who was of weak intellect, after being intoxicated, had been an easy victim to the wishes of Stokes, and, under these circumstances, the sentence of the Court was that Stokes be imprisoned for 12 months, and Wilson for three months. (Durham County Advertiser)

Saturday 11 April 1846

JOSEPH SOUTHWELL STOKES (39) was charged with committing an unnatural crime on the person of David Wilson.
          Mr King appeared for the prosecution, and Mr Otter for the defence. – The details of the case are unfit for publication. The jury returned a verdict of guilty, and the Recorder sentenced him to twelve months imprisonment and hard labour.
          DAVID WILSON (19) was then charged with the same offence, found guilty, and sentenced to be imprisoned three calendar months. (Newcastle Guardian and Tyne Mercury)
(Note: This "crime" was committed by two men consenting to have sex together.)

Thursday 11 June 1846

Francis Watson, a young man 25 years of age, was brought up on remand.
          At the conclusion of the examination, the Magistrate expressed his intention of committing Watson for trial at the Central Criminal Court, but should remand him for a few days. A boy, an accomplice implicated in the charge, the Magistrate said he should discharge, he being of that age that he was not accountable for an act to which he was instigated by an elder person.
          Watson was then removed from the bar to a cell at the rear of the Court and locked up by himself, preparatory to the departure of the prison van. About half-past four o'clock, however, when the policeman who has the care of the prisoners went to the cell where the prisoner was confined, he discovered the unfortunate prisoner suspended by the neck, and quite dead. The deceased contrived to effect his object by fastening one end of his handkerchief to the iron bars of a ventilator in the ceiling of the cell, the other end round his neck, and then jumping off a seat which he had to stand upon to arrange his plan, he remained hanging until at length seen by the policeman, and then all efforts to produce resuscitation were of no avail. (Morning Advertiser)

Friday 12 June 1846

SUICIDE OF A PRISONER IN A POLICE-STATION. – Late last night, Mr J. Payne, the Deputy Coroner, held an inquest at St. George's Workhouse, Borough, on the body of Francis Watson, aged twenty-two years, the young man who was remanded at the Southwark Police-court, before Mr. Cottingham, on Wednesday last, on the charge of an unnatural crime, and who committed suicide the same day whilst under confinement in his cell; full particulars of which appeared in our police report of yesterday. The Jury, after a lengthened investigation, adjourned the inquest to Friday next (this day), for evidence as to the state of deceased's mind. (Morning Post)

Saturday 20 June 1846


POLICE OFFICE – On Saturday morning, Captain Thomas and Robert Barker were charged before the magistrates with committing an unnatural offence. The depositions were taken and the case adjourned to Wednesday, when they were both committed to take their trial at the ensuing quarter sesson for a misdemeanour. (Norfolk News)

Saturday 26 September 1846

James Shields and Edward Bewick, the latter between fifty and sixty years of age, were charged with committing an unnatural crime, near the Tyne Bridge, and the offence beng clearly proved, they were committed to take their trial at the assizes. (Newcastle Guardian and Tyne Mercury

Saturday 27 February 1847

JAMES SHIELDS (47) and EDWARD BEWICK (74), charged with committing an unnatural offence. Mr Ingham, who appeared for the prosecution, said that, on an examination of the depositions, he was of opinion that the charge could not be sustained against the prisoners. In this decision his Lordship concurred. Afterwards, however, a true bill was found for misdemeanour, but the prisoners were acquitted. (Newcastle Guardian and Tyne Mercury)

Monday 14 June 1847

SERIOUS CHARGEJohn Robinson, a respectable-looking man, between fifty and sixty years of age, and Joseph Davis, a private of the Scotch Fusilier Guards, were charged with inciting each other, at the White Hart beershop, Cromwell lane, Old Brompton, to the commission of unnatural acts. The details are of course unfit for publication.
          Mr. Broderip ordered the defendants, who denied the charge, to find good bail to answer an indictment at the Middlesex sessions.
          Shortly after the defendants had been locked up, Mr. Chrisopher, M.P., came to the Court, and said that the defendant Robinson had been in his service as butler for fifteen years, and had hitherto borne a most irreproachable character.
          Mr. Taylor, the chief clerk, having at the request of Mr. Christopher, put him in possession of the circumstances of the case, Mr. Christopher and a relative of defendant (Robinson) immediately became his sureties. (Morning Post)

Tuesday 27 July 1847

STEPHEN BAKER, 31, WILLIAM HESKETT, 23, and JAMES DALEY, were severally convicted of an attempt to commit unnatural offences, and were each sentenced to two years hard labour. (South Eastern Gazette)

Friday 20 August 1847

WOOLWICH. – Yesterday William Henry Hornby, reported to be a person of independent fortune, residing at 7, Kirby-street, Hatton-garden, and Frederick Williams, a young man employed at a wholesale druggist's in the city, were brought up for final examination, charged with inciting each other to commit an unnatural offence.
          The evidence was conclusive.
          Mr. JEREMY said it was fortuante the prisoners had been disturbed, or they would have been committed for the capital offence. He should, however, commit them to the Central Criminal Court for the misdemeanour, but would take bail. For Hornby, himself in 400l., and two sureties in 200l. each; and William, in 200l., and two sureties of 50l. each, subject to 24 hours' notice to ascertain the responsibility of the parties.
          Hornby was removed amidst the yells of the mob. (Evening Mail)

Saturday 21 August 1847

William Henry Hornby, an independent gentleman, residing at No. 7, Gravel-lane, Hatton-garden, and Frederick Williams, a boy, aged seventeen years, of Blackfriars-road, were charged on suspicion of having committed an unnatural offence.
          William Weston deposed that he is groom at the Bull Inn, Shooter's-hill. On Friday the two prisoners called at the Bull Inn, about one o'clock. The elder prisoner Hornby called for a pint of beer for himself, and a pint of ale for the prisoner Williams. They remained in the grounds attached to the house from one to near five o'clock, and from what he observed when they left he followed them, accompanied by William Parsons, into the Crown Woods, and there witnessed their conduct, which is unfit for publication. The prisoners, finding they were disturbed, proceeded to the Castle Wood.
          William Parsons, waiter at the Bull Inn, deposed that the two prisoners called at the Bull Inn, where they remained for several hours. From what he observed he followed the prisoners to the Crown Woods. The prisoners, finding they were dodged [sic, probably an error for "dogged"], proceeded to the Castle Wood. The witness then described what he observed. The elder prisoner said, what do you mean, it is a mystery; the younger pretended to be drunk. After witness threatened to give them into custody, Williams said that he (witness) knocked him down with a stick, and robbed him of a sovereign.
          Police-constable Benjamin Thomas, 135 R, deposed that he took the prisoners into custody. They both gave their wrong names and a false address. Both the prisoners denied the offence; the younger said he was drunk, and the elder said he knew nothing about it.
          The prisoners were remanded to Monday.
William Henry Hornby and Frederick Williams, remanded from Saturday, were committed for trial for misdemeanour.
          Mr. Parry, barrister, attended for the prisoners. (Kentish Independent)

Tuesday 31 August 1847

SESSIONAL SENTENCES. – William Henry Hornby alias Moore, and John Williams, for an unnatural crime, the former 12 months, latter 6 months . . . (Kentish Mercury)

Age of Consent

Saturday 3 October 1846

SHOCKING CHARGE. – On Wednesday last a person who stated his name to be John Butler, was charged before the city magistrates, with having assaulted a boy named Emanuel Greening, with an attempt to commit an unnatural crime. The depositions of the chief witnesses were taken, and the prisoner was remanded until yesterday, when Mr. Chesshyre, solicitor, of Cheltenham, appeared on behalf of the prisoner. The following is a summary of the proceedings on the latter occasion:–
          The mother and the sister of the boy, Greening, were examined with the view of ascertaining his age. They stated he was born in 1832, but were unable to fix the birthday accurately. The boy was baptised three weeks and two or three days after his birth, and the certificate of baptism was dated the 14th Oct. and, consequently, the boy must have been born about the 19th of Sept., and would now be above fourteen years of age. The inquiry was necessary, because the expressions alleged to have been used by the boy proved that he was a consenting party. Being of a competent age, the nature of the charge was varied, and both parties were proceeded against; the man for assault with intent, and the boy for consent.
          The depositions of the witnesses which had been taken were then read over.
          William Holford, a lumper, said, about half-past one on the morning of Wednesday last, he saw the prisoners standing together in the swing gate of Barton turnpike, and he saw Butler give the boy some crackers, which they were throwing against the doors and windows of the houses. He heard Butler say to the boy "come up this passage," and they went up. He told Joseph Read of the circumstance, and then went home.
          Cross-examined by Mr. Chesshyre – The boy appeared to be very tipsy; and he laid hold of the gentleman's arm, or else he would have fallen down. He did not think the boy was capable of holding a rational conversation. He said to Read that he thought something improper was going on – he did not say what. Butler appeared to be drunk. He could walk upright; but was not so tipsy as the boy. He saw Read go up the passage after the prisoners, and then witness went away.
          Joseph Read stated that he is a cordwainer, living in Barton-street. On the night of the 30th of September, he was standing at his door, when William Holford came up to him; and in consequence of what Holford said, he went up a passage adjoining, and passed the prisoners. He then turned and watched the prisoners; and, if what he states is true, not the slightest doubt can exist that an attempt was made by Butler, with the consent of Greening, to commit the offence with which they are charged.
          The witness, on the conclusion of his evidence in chief, was asked a great number of questions by Mr. Chesshyre. He said he thought Butler was quite sober at the time. He was as near to them as two yards, and never further off than five yards; and heard the conversation, and saw the actions of the prisoners. His suspicions having been aroused that something wrong was going on between the boy and Butler, who had the appearance of a gentleman, he watched them. He did not know what their intentions were, nor did his mind suggest them. He would swear that he had not made this charge for the purpose of extorting money. He did not think that the prisoners were drunk, and when he seized them and took them round into the street, they tried to get away from him. He did not attempt to stop their proceedings until a certain time; and he would swear, positively, that he had not said that he would not tell if Butler would give him something.
          Mr. I. P. Heane, surgeon, stated in his deposition that he had examined the boy's person immediately after the prisoner had been apprehended, and he could not see any marks which led him to believe the alleged offence had been perpetrated. The boy was very drunk.
          This was the case for the prosecution. We may mention, however, that the prisoners were seen drinking together while the fair was going on, by several persons.
          Mr. Chesshyre, on behalf of the prisoner, said he wanted to ask the Bench, whether, in the face of the other witnesses, they could take Read's evidence, who was the only witness who proved a fact? If they did not receive Read's evidence, contradicted as it was as to the fact of drunkenness, by the witnesses and other persons who he was able to call, it would get rid of the case altogether; but if on the other hand the minds of the magistrates were made up to commit the prisoners for trial, then he should reserve his client's defence. He wished the magistrates to weigh the evidence given in this case; it was materially contradicted not only by the witnesses who had been examined, but by others, who he could, if it were necessary, call. Did the Bench believe that the boy had not been drinking? Did they believe that Butler had not been drinking? This was clearly a case to extort money.
          The Bench considered that the imputations cast upon the witness Read were not fairly founded. They saw not the slightest discrepancy in his evidence. Even if the prisoners were drunk that was no defence.
          The prisoners were then committed to take their trial at the Sessions.
          Mr. Chesshyre requested that bail be taken for the appearance of Butler.
          The Bench said they must have the usual notice of 48 hours and they would consider the application. Should they grant it, they would expect very heavy bail.
          Butler is a stout gentlemanly looking man, and it is suspected has given a feigned name. Several letters were found in his pockets when apprehended, addressed "J. Bruce, Esq., solicitor, 6, Portland Street, Cheltenham." (Gloucestershire Chronicle)

Wednesday 14 October 1846

A man named Butler, and a boy (a drunken youth of 14 years old,) are in custody at Gloucester on the charge of agreeing together to commit an unnatural offence. (Hereford Journal)

Saturday 31 October 1846

These sessions commenced on Thrusday last at the Shire Hall. . . .
          John Butler, 37, and Emanuel Greening, 14, were indicted for attempt to commit an unnatural crime. Mr. Leversage appeared for the prosecution; Mr. Cooke defended Butler, and Mr. Francillon defended Greening. Of course we cannot enter into the details of the case; and it will be sufficient to say, that the discrepancies in the evidence, which were powerfully commented on by the learned Counsel for the defence, appeared sufficient to warrant a verdict of acquittal. The prisoners were immediately discharged. (Gloucestershire Chronicle)

SOURCE: Various newspapers, dates as given.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "Prosecutions of Consenting Partners, 1846-1847", Homosexuality in Nineteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 2 December 2016 <>.

Return to Homosexuality in Nineteenth-Century England