Soldiers and Sailors

Reports of homosexual offences, 1848–49

Monday 10 January 1848

SOUTHWARK. – Yesterday John Richards, a man of gentlemanly appearance, described on the police sheet as residing in Acre-lane, Brixton, was brought before Mr. SECKER, charged with indecently assaulting Richard Cox, a sailor in Her Majesty's service.
          The constable of the Surrey Theatre stated, that while on duty in the pit the preceding night he saw the prisoner and two other well-dressed men in the boxes, and from their actions he suspected them, and sent for a police constable. They both went up to the boxes, and the prisoner was charged with indecently assaulting a sailor who stood near him at the time; and the parties all proceeded to the Tower-street station-house, where the charge was inserted on the police-sheet and the prisoner was locked up.
          Mr. SECKER asked whether the complainant was in attendance?
          Police constable 54 L replied in the negative; although he was ordered to be in court at 10 o'clock that morning.
          Mr. SECKER said, that as no person was in attendance to prefer the charge he must discharge the prisoner.
          The officer of the theatre handed in the card of the Rev. Mr. Tebbutt, of the French Church Rectory, St. Martin's-le-Grand, who witnessed the assault, stating that he could not attend until 11 o'clock.
          Mr. SECKER said, that it was past 11 o'clock, and he could not detain the prisoner.
          The prisoner was accordingly discharged.
          About half an hour afterwards Mr. Tebbutt entered the court and seemed surprised when he was informed that the prisoner was set at liberty, particularly after having sent a message that he should attend as a witness in the case. He would have been present to give evidence before only that his clerical duties prevented him.
          Mr. SECKER said, he could not detain a prisoner when no person appeared to charge him, as it would be a violation of the liberty of the subject. The magistrate added, that he was extremely sorry the rev. gentleman was not in attendance before, as he should have been happy to have received his evidence.
          Mr. Tebbutt said, he had been at Bow-street as a witness, and the magistrate (Mr. Henry) put the case back until he could attend. He expected that the same courtesy would have been extended at this court.
          Mr. SECKER said, that he could not draw any distinction between gentlemen who had transactions there. No person was present to charge the accused, and he was, therefore, bound to release him. The charge however did not terminate, as the accused could be taken into custody again if the sailor were found.
          Mr. Tebbutt then left the court, expressing his determination to see further into the matter. (Evening Mail)

Friday 21 January 1848

– Richard Gardiner Jackson, a surgeon in extensive practice at Barking, in Essex, was on Saturday brought up at Woolwich police-office, in custody of Police-Constable Westbrook, 114 R, charged with making proposals of an indecent nature to several soldiers. From the evidence adduced it appears that on Friday evening last he accosted a private in the Marines, whom he addressed as follows, “Soldier, I see you belong to the Royal Marines, will you have a glass of grog,” and then made an indecent proposal to him. On being pushed away, he addressed two gunners, when the Royal Marine went up to them, and told them what had occurred, whereupon the surgeon took to his heels, pursued by the Royal Marine, who called out to a constable to stop him. On reaching the water's edge the surgeon jumped in, but was pulled out by a boatman. Two other privates gave evidence that the prisoner had accosted them in a similar manner. In his defence the prisoner acknowledged that he had been intoxicated on the evening in question, but said he was not aware of being guilty of the conduct alleged of him. The two last witnesses, it seems, had been drinking with him after the alleged proposals to them. He was called upon to find bail, himself in 100, and two sureties in 50 each, for his good behaviour for twelve months. (Chelmsford Chronicle)

Saturday 22 January 1848

John Richardson Jay, a surgeon of Barking, in Essex, who was charged on the previous day with an alleged indecent assault upon William Ward, a private of the Royal Sappers and Miners, was again placed at the bar. The prisoner was remanded to this day to find sureties for his future good behaviour. Mr. Lushington Goodwin, engineer, of Ilford, Essex, and Mr. David Edwards, baker, of the same place, offered themselves as bail in 40 each, for the prisoner's good behaviour for the next twelve months. The prisoner also entered into his recognizance in 100, for his good behaviour for the same period.
          The prisoner, after receiving a caution from Mr. Jeremy, was discharged. (Kentish Independent)

Friday 27 October 1848

In their private room the Magistrates heard a charge of indecent assault preferred by a boy against a sailor, whom they fined 5, or two months' imprisonment. (Hull Advertiser and Exchange Gazette)

Saturday 21 April 1849

—— Hassan, a Lascar seaman belonging to the Turkish Government, and John Rowbottom, 18, a paper stainer, were convicted of attempting to commit a nameless offence. – The court sentenced them to twelve months' imprisonment and hard labour. (Windsor and Eton Express)

Sunday 5 August 1849

REFUSAL TO PAY WAGES. – Mr. E. Taylor, commander of the ship Simiah, appeared to a summons, for a balance of wages, issued at the suit of a seaman named Reynold. The point at issue was rather a novel one. Reynold had been second mate of the vessel, but had been disrated and reduced to the rank of an able seaman, in consequence of having attempted indecent liberties with Wm. Prior, a lad fourteen years of age, who waited in the cuddy. He was disrated on the 14th of April, and wages as an able seaman were tendered from that time, but he refused to accept the amount, claiming what would have been due as second mate. – The boy Prior clearly proved the indecent assault, though subjected to a very severe cross-examination, and it was shown by the evidence of his father, John Prior, who has been fourteen years cook at Simpson's Royal Exchange Coffee-house, that Reynold on Tuesday and Wednesday offered him a bribe to hold the lad's evidence back. – Mr. Smith said he should be able to show that the entry as to disrating, and the cause assigned therefore, was made in the log not on the 14th of April, as it purported to be, but was interpolated by the captain and the chief mate after the vessel arrived in this port. – Mr. Taylor and his chief officer indignantly denied this scandalous imputation; and Mr. Smith, having tried to establish the fact, was compelled to admit that the evidence did not bear out his instructions. – Mr. Ingham, in pronouncing on the case, referred to the 115th page of Mr. Symon's book on Merchant Seamen's Law, where it was stated on authority “That neglect of duty, disobedience of orders, habitual drunkenness, or any cause which will justify a master in discharging a seaman during the voyage, will also deprive a seaman of his wages.” Now, assuming Reynold to be guilty of the misconduct imputed to him, and the evidence warranted that assumption, if the vessel had touched at any port, instead of disrating, the captain would have been justified in putting him out of the ship; and, under the circumstances, complainant must be satisfied with the amount offered to him as an able seaman. (Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper)

Friday 21 September 1849

GUILDHALL. – Yesterday James Bissett, a private in the Scotch Fusilier Guards, at present stationed in the Tower, was placed at the bar before Alderman Fairbrother on a charge of being drunk and indecently assaulting a young man in the Owen Glyndwr public-house, Bartholomew-close.
          Alfred Burrows, who gave his address No. 2, Queen-square, Bartholomew-close, said, that between the hours of 12 and 1 o'clock the previous day he went to the Owen Glyndwr beershop in Bartholomew-close. Whilst sitting there the prisoner committed the assault, which the witness described. Witness then retired to the watercloset, and was followed by the prisoner, who, here attempted to repeat the assault. Witness, who offered no resistance, then went out, leaving the prisoner with his comrade, and proceeeded to the station-house, where he informed the inspector of what had occurred. An officer was sent with him, and he gave the prisoner into custody.
          Prisoner (vehemently). – It is all false what he is stating, for I was intoxicated and asleep a great part of the time, and never left the taproom, which can be proved by plenty of witnesses.
          Alderman Farebrother. – Was the prisoner intoxicated?
          Burrows. – He was.
          Alderman Farebrother. – And, pray, what are you?
          Burrows. – I am a chymist and druggist by profession.
          Alderman Farebrother. – With whom do you live?
          Burrows. – I am out of a situation, but my father allows me something to live on.
          Alderman Farebrother. – Have you any witness?
          Burrows. – I have none.
          Alderman Farebrother. – Don't you think his comrade might have seen what took place in the taproom?
          Burrows. – He could not, as he was sitting on the other side of the table, and there was no one else there.
          Alderman Farbrother told the prisoner to call his witnesses.
          Thomas Johnson, of No. 23, Shaftesbury-place, Aldersgate-street, compositor, said. – I was in the beershop. The prisoner and the prosecutor called at my house, and then went to the beershop already named. I followed them, and partook of a pot of beer, after which the prisoner, who was intoxicated, fell asleep, and the prosecutor was sitting close beside him, and heard his comrade telling me that he had received 20l. from Scotland to purchase his discharge, and, like a d—d fool, was spending it, but that he could get more by applying for it.
          Alderman Farebrother (to the prosecutor). – Why, you never told us anything about going into the beershop with the soldiers.
          Burrows. – I did not think it necessary.
          Alderman Farebrother (to Johnson). – Did the soldier leave the taproom?
          Witness. – On my oath he did not. The prisoner went and brought the police.
          David Jones, son of the landlord of the public-house, and other witnesses were examined, and fully established the soldier's innocence of the gross charge that had been preferred against him; they all declaring that he never left the room from the time of entering it until taken away by the constable, and that all the prosecuitor had stated was false.
          The prosecutor cross-examined them, but received flat contradictions to every question he put, and at last he asserted that none of them were talling the truth, for they were not there.
          Alderman Farebrother said he should discharge the prisoner and give him a certificate to his commanding officer of the utter groundlessness of the charge, and to explain why he was awayi from the barracks. The prosecutor himself ought to be indicted for perjury.
          An officer here stated that Burrows was supported by a woman he lived with, and had no other means of support. (Evening Mail)

Saturday 13 October 1849

William Morgan appeared to answer a charge of indecently assaulting several youths, employed in the Royal Arsenal, and his recognizances were enlarged till Wednesday.
William Morgan, who was remanded on a charge of indecently assaulting several boys employed in the Royal Arsenal, was discharged, on his entering into his own recognizances in the sum of 40, for his good behaviour for six months. (Kentish Independent)

Thursday 25 October 1849

ALLEGED INDECENT ASSAULT. – A Fusilier Guardsman, named Todd, of twenty-one years' service, and a man named Penny, in the garb of a livery servant, were indicted for having indecently assaulted each other in Hyde Park.
          The only witness called was police constable 219 A, who distinctly swore to the fact charged against the prisoners.
          Both prisoners protested their innocence, and, after some deliberation, the jury Acquitted them, “for want of corroborative evidence.” (Morning Post)

SOURCE: Various newspapers, dates as given. (Some 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.), "Soldiers and Sailors, 1848-49", Homosexuality in Nineteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 10 July 2017 <>.

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