A Rainy Night in the Park, 1849


SUMMARY:From the following reports, it would appear that a Guardsman made a regular practice, over a period of several years, of obtaining money from men by threatening to expose them as having solicited him for sex. The Guardsman exploited the opportunities of standing sentry in out-of-the-way places in the park and at night-time. My own view is that men probably did make indecent propositions to him, and he realised this was an opportunity to make money. Whether or not such a proposition had occurred in the following specific case is open to much doubt. It is clear that no demand for money was made, though it is also clear that the Guardsman would have set the clergyman at liberty if the latter had offered him money. It is possible that the Guardsman misunderstood the actions of the clergyman (e.g. he may have incorrectly heard the clergyman's alleged reference to the “Duchess of Cunt”, and the fact that the clergyman was smoking a cigar is not necessarily linked to the common practice of men offering a cigar to men they wish to solicit) and thought he was being propositioned, as had often been the case in his previous experience.


Thursday 11 January 1849

BOW STREET. – SERIOUS CHARGE – Yesterday, a respectable young man, who refused to give his name or address until he was told he should be sent to prison unless he complied, and then gave that of Henry Sadler, describing himself as a clergyman at Send, near Guildford, was placed at the bar before Mr. Henry, charged with having indecently committed an assault upon Samuel Cooper, a private in the second battalion of the Scots Fusilier Guards, while on duty at Clarence House, the town residence of the Duchess of Kent.
          A short time after the charge commenced, the prisoner, feeling very weak, requested to be supplied with a draught of water, which was immediately complied with, and he was also allowed to sit in the dock, while evidence against him was taking.
          The complainant, being sworn, said that about half past ten o'clock, while on duty at the residence of her Royal Highness, the prisoner passed by, smoking a cigar, and after going towards what is called the Milk House Gate leading into St. James's Park, he turned, and having gone through another gate, he came out along the Duke of Sutherland's wall, after which he crossed over to the portico under which witness was standing, and said “a wet night, soldier,” upon which he replied that it was. The prisoner then asked him over whose house he was keeping guard, and upon his saying the Duchess of Kent's, the prisoner repeated the words with the exception of the last, for which he substitute a very improper expression [i.e. “Duchess of Cunt”], and instantly laid hold of witness in a very indecent manner without uttering another word, upon which witness instantly laid hold of him, and gave him into the custody of the serjeant of the guard at the guard house.
          Mr. Henry – What did he say when you took him into custody?
          Witness – He did not say anytyhing, but came with me very quietly.
          Mr. Henry – Had he an umbrella or anything in his hand?
          Witness – I did not observe that he had, but he seemed agitated.
          Mr. Henry – Did he appear to be affected from the influence of liquor?
          Witness – He appeared to be perfectly sober.
          Mr. Henry – Were any other persons present?
          Witness – I think there were two persons who took shelter from the rain, but when I took him into custody a crowd collected.
          Mr. Henry – Had you your great coat on at the time?
          Witness – Yes; and, although it was buttoned, he found his hand inside.
          The prisoner said he had no question to ask; but all that had been said against him was a great untruth, and he positively denied having made use of any indecent expression.
          Constable Cronin, 158 C division, said he was called from St. James's-street, and, on proceeding to the guard room, the complainant gave the same account that he did to the Court; after which the prisoner denied having indecently assaulted him, but did not contradict him as to the improper expressions, although he did when taken to the station house.
          The prisoner said that the guard room was full of soldiers, and had he then heard that he was also accused of using indecent expressions, he would have denied having done so.
          The constable being further questioned, said that, while going through the park to the station, the prisoner said it was a shame that the soldier's word should be taken in preference to his; and complained that an officer belonging to the regiment did not appear at the guard room; but he did not express a wish to see any of them.
          The soldier, being called, said that when the nature of the charge was explained to the constable in the presence of the prisoner, he made no observation. He (witness) had been 12 years in the same regiment.
          Sergeant Grant, 5 A, who took the charge, said that when the prisoner was brought to the station the soldier used the same words, upon which the prisoner denied the charge, at the same time refusing to give either his name or address.
          Mr. Henry (to the prisoner) – You have heard the whole of the charge against you; may I ask, have you given your real name?
          Prisoner – No; my name is Henry Charles Seller.
          Mr. Henry – A clergyman?
          Prisoner – Yes.
          Mr. Henry – Are you doing duty at present?
          Prisoner – Yes, at Send, near Guildford and Oaking, and am a married man; never was there a suspicion of the kind thrown upon me before.
          A sergeant of the Fusilier Guards being called forward, said that he had been 17 years in the regiment, and he had known the complainant during 12 years; but his conduct was irregular, or he would have two stripes on his arm.
          Mr. Henry – Has any criminal charge ever been made against him?
          The Sergeant – Except for absence from duty, or being occasionally drunk, but I never knew him concerned in such an affair as the present.
          Mr. Henry, addressing the prisoner, said that he should submit the case to the consideration of a Jury, and if he had anything to say he was read to hear him.
          The prisoner replied that he was completely at the mercy of the soldier, and he distinctly denied the whole of the charge.
          Mr. Henry – You may use your own discretion in accounting for being in such a place at such an hour.
          The Prisoner – I was going to Pimlico, and was standing under the portico from the rain when I spoke to him.
          Mr. Henry – Have you any residence in town?
          Prisoner – I am stopping only for one night at the Bell and Crown in Holborn, and was on my way to Pimlico to see a friend who is never at home till a late hour.
          Mr. Henry then said that the statement of the soldier was in some degree confirmed by the evidence of the constable, upon either of which he would express no opinion, except that they did not appear to him to be founded upon perjury; and as it was a bailable charge, he should require the prisoner to find sureties, himself in the sum of 500l. and two housekeepers in 250l. each, with 48 hours' notice, to answer it at the next sessions (Tuesday) of the Central Criminal Court.
          The prisoner was then removed from the bar, and on the arrival of the van he was conveyed to prison. (Morning Post)

Friday 12 January 1849

A CLERGYMAN CHARGED WITH AN INFAMOUS OFFENCE. – At the Bow-street Police-office, on Wednesday last, a person who described himself as the Rev. Henry Charles Seller, curate of the parish of Sutton, was charged with committing an indecent assault and using infamous language to a private in the guards, whilst the latter was on duty at the residence of the Duchess of Kent, on Tuesday night. The prisoner admitted that he was in the park at a late hour, smoking his cigar, on his way to Pimlilco, and that he had taken shelter from a shower under a tree beside the soldier, but altogether denied the offence imputed to him. He was committed for trial, but told that he might be admitted to bail, himself in 500 and two sureties in 250 each. (Liverpool Mercury)

Thursday 18 January 1849

MIDDLESEX SESSIONS, Jan. 17.
The indictment preferred against the Rev. Henry Charles Sellers, charging him with an assault of a henious [sic] nature upon Samuel Cooper, a soldier of the Foot Guards, was ignored by the Grand Jury this morning. It was stated that the prosecutor, Cooper, had deserted, and it was in consequence of this absence that the indictment was ignored. (Morning Advertiser)

Thursday 18 January 1849

THE INFAMOUS CHARGE AGAINST A CLERGYMAN. – The Grand Jury, just before they were discharged, ignored the bill preferred against the Rev. Henry Charles Sellers, a clergyman of the Church of England, for a criminal assault upon a private soldier in the Fusiliers named Samuel Cooper. It will be recollected that it was proved at Bow-street that Cooper was a man whose character had prevented his promotion in the service, and it was stated in court to-day that he had been imprisoned two years for having made a false charge of a similar nature to that in which the clergyman was involved in this case. It appears that he has now deserted from the regiment, and that, consequently, this painful accusation had really no foundation whatever. (Morning Post)

Sunday 21 January 1849

THE CASE OF THE REV. H. C. SELLERS. – The bill of indictment against this reverend gentleman charging him with having indecently assaulted a soldier in the Guards named Cooper, was ignored on Wednesday by the grand jury. It was stated that Cooper had deserted from the regiment since he made the charge against Mr. Sellers, and consequently there was no evidence before the grand jury upon which to act. (The Era)

Tuesday 23 January 1849

THE CHARGE AGAINST A CLERGYMAN.
Mr. Bodkin said he had an application to make on behalf of the Rev. Henry Charles Sellers, who had recently been charged with an indecent assault upon a man, named Samuel Cooper, a private soldier in the Fusiliers. The Grand Jury at the last sessions at Clerkenwell threw out the bill against Mr. Sellers, in consequence, as he understood, of the prosecutor's absence. but the friends of Mr. Sellers, as well as Mr. Sellers himself, were most anxious that the case should go to trial, having entire confidence in the result; and the application now was for the Court to continue the defendant's, recognisances till the next sessions.
          Mr. Sergeant Adams said that adjutant of the regiment in which the prosecutor was serving had called upon him since the bill had been thrown out by the Grand Jury at Clerkenwell, to say he was not aware of the bill having been sent before the Grand Jury at those sessions, and further, that the prosecutor was at that time under arrest for a military offence. The bill could be preferred before the next Grand Jury.
          Mr. Bodkin asked whether the second bill would be preferred before the same Grand Jury who had ignored the first?
          Mr. Sergeant Adams replied int he negative. Under the circumstances he whould at once assent to the application, and continue the defendant's recognisances till the next sessions. (Morning Post)

Saturday 27 January 1849

MIDDLESEX SESSIONS, Friday, Jan. 26.
The Court sat to-day at Westminster, before Mr. Sergeant Adams, Assistant Judge, and a bench of magistrates.
          The Grand Jury having been sworn,
          Mr. Sergeant Adams told them, that owing to an accident, which now and then occurred, they would have just one bill preferred before them. Every person summoned upon the Grand Jury, except the fifteen who had been sworn, might go home as soon as they pleased, for there was nothing to detain them; and the Traverse Jury, like them, had no business to do. He supposed he should have the pleasure of seeing them again for an equally fruitless purpose in the course of a few months. The fact was, there was no occasion for sessions at Westminster.
          A Juryman:– Then we need not come again, I suppose?
          Mr. Sergeant Adams – If you do, you'll lfind nobody here. The county is put to the expense of 800l. or 900l. a year by your sitting here – a result which I foretold would be the inevitable consequence. One of the magistrates lately designated the Westminster sitting as “the ghost of a sessions,” and I think the phrase was very appropriate.
          The Grand Jury then retired. The bill referred to was that preferred by Samuel Cooper, a private in the Fusiliers, against the Rev. Henry Charles Sellers, a clergyman of the Church of England, for an alleged indecent assault. On this occasion Cooper, who had been released from military custody, was in attendance; but on examination the Grand Jury found his testimony so extremely unsatisrfactory on several points, that they immediately ignored the bill. (Morning Post)

Friday 16 February 1849

BOW-STREET.
Samuel Cooper, a private in the 2nd battalion of the Scotch Fusilier Guards, was brought up on a warrant, charging him with having made a false charge of an infamous character agaisnt the Rev. Henry Charles Sellers, curate of Send, near Guildford, with intent to extort money thereby.
          Mr. Bodkin attended to conduct the prosecution, which was one of vast importance as affecting the peace of families, and as calculated to expose a system of iniquity which, if tolerated, would tend to make life beyond endurance. The Learned Gentleman then stated in detail the entire history of the case recently investigated before Mr. Henry, and the subsequent disclosures made by the comrades of the prisoner; the whole of which were afterwards related in evidence. The language attributed to Mr. Sellers by the prisoner, in making the infamous charge before the Magistrate, was the language of the barracks, and not of a gentleman and clergyman; and if the Rev. Gentleman declined to give his name when the accusation was first made, it was a circumstance which should excite no surprise when the abominable nature of the offence imputed to him was considered, with the fact that the newspapers would convey the imputation to a sick wife, to whom he had been newly married – to a circle of friends and parishioners, who could not, necessarily, be possessed also of the true facts of the case, as they would now appear before the world. Mr. Sellers was imprisoned three days and nights before the requisite notice of bail and other formalities could be complied with, besides having to submit to other indignities; and, failing to remove the impression in the minds of some that the case had not been prosecuted at the sessions through some overtures to a man who had invented the charges, he felt bound, in vindication of himself, and to expose the system that had too evidently prevailed, to commence the present proceedings.
          The following evidence was then taken:–
          The Rev. Henry Charles Sellers. – I am a clergyman of the Church of England, and have officiated as a curate, at Send, near Guildford, in Surrey, since last July, and previous to that I was curate for three years at Sibbleheadingham, a parish in Essex. On the 9th of January I came to London, on my way to Sibbleheadingham, to see my wife, who was suffering from indisposition. I arrived in town at seven o'clock in the evening, and proceeded to the Bell and Crown, in Holborn, where I left my luggage and bespoke a bed. Having a college friend, Mr. Myddleton, residing in Upper Eaton-street, Pimlico, I set out with the intention of calling upon him, dining on my way at a tavern, in Rupert-street. I left the tavern between nine and ten, and walked through the Park towards Pimlico, passing under the portico of the Duchess of Kent's residence. I saw a sentinel there, but took no notice of him. On getting away from the buildings I found that it had commenced raining, upon which I abandoned my intention to call on my friend, and returned to the portico for shelter. The sentinel was standing under the portico. The prisoner is the same man. I said to him, “It is a wet night.” He replied, “Yes, it is.” I then asked him who he was guarding over? He said, “The Duchess of Kent.” I observed, “Oh, the Duchess of Kent.” I did not in any way alter those words. He then seized me by my collar, using some words which implied the commission of an unnatural offence, and said he would drag me to the charge-room. On my oath I had not touched the prisoner. He took me to the guard-room, and the serjeant appeared, to whom the prisoner said, “I charge this man with an unnatural offence.” I denied the imputation, and requested to see the officer of the guard; but the reply was, “You cannot see the officer, it is a police case.” I was then handed over to the custody of the policeman, and conveyed to the police station. The prisoner was there also, and repeated the charge, adding a second charge of using indecent language, of which I had heard no mention in the guardroom. I was asked for my name, but refused to state it. I inquired if I should be compelled to give my name. They said I should in the morning at the police-court. I was locked up all night. In the morning I gave the inspector the name of Henry Sadler. When brought before Mr. Henry, the magistrate, I gave the same name. His Worship asked if that was my real name. I said, “I am a clergyman,” and asked if I was compelled to give my real name. He replied that I must do so, and I then gave my right name and address. The prisoner then made the charge against me, and I was required to find bail to answer it at the Middlesex sessions. At the police-station I was searched in the presence of the prisoner, and the property I had about me, consisting of a silver watch, two 5l. notes, and some gold and silver, was taken from me also in his presence.
          Cross-examined by the prisoner. – I was smoking a cigar at the time. I did not ask you why you were not in the sentry-box.
          An examined copy of the depositions, taken before Mr. Henry when the charge was preferred, was then put in and deposed to by Mr. H. O'Brien, the second clerk.
          John George Middleton examined. – I am son of the late Admiral Middleton, and am of no profession. I reside in Upper Eaton-street, Pimlico, and, about 12 years ago, was the college companion of Mr. Sellers, with whom I have continued on terms of intimate friendship ever since. He has always been in the habit of calling on me when in town. I was not aware that Mr. Sellers was in town on the 9th of January; but, as I dine in town, and return home in the evening, about 10 o'clock would have been the most probable time of being at home.
          George Thomas Beaumont examined. – I am clerk to Mr. Cocker, of Chancery-lane, the solicitor to Mr. Sellers. By Mr. Cocker's orders I went to the Bell and Crown, in Holborn, after the complainant's examination at Bow-street, and there obtained his luggage, and paid for the bed-room which Mr. Sellers had engaged the night before. The bill against Mr. Sellers was ignored at the Middlesex sessions, upon which an application was made to the Court to enlarge the recognizances till the next sessions, in order that a second opportunity might be afforded the prisoner to prosecute the charges he had made. That bill was also ignored.
          William Price examined. – I am a private in the 2d battalion of Scotch Fusilier Guards, and a comrade of the prisoner. Have been in the regiment eight years. I was on duty the same night as the prisoner, at Sir H. Wheatley's, my sentry box being situated about 40 yards from his. There was another sentry between us, namely, at the guard entrance. It was the duty of the prisoner, if anything happened to call to the next seentry on duty, who would hail the next sentry, and so on, till the communication reached the guard-room. It was a breach of orders ever to leave the sentry. He did not hail me on the night in question. I remember seeing him seize a gentleman by the collar and drag him to the guard-room. He passed me, but said nothing. I quitted my post that night about ten minutes before 12, upon which I went into the guard-room. Cooper was there. He did not speak to me, but I heard him say to the other men round the fire that he was very sorry he took the man into custody. He said “it was a pity but what he had been in the colour-post, or some other part where there was no so many people passing, for then he would have had all the b—— [i.e. bloody] lot, watch, ring, money, and all!” He said “it was a beautiful little gold watch, about the size of half-a-crown.” I said to him, “watches are very dangerous things to have anything to do with.” “Oh,” he replied, “he could have put that out of sight for three or four days – he could have swallowed it!” He said he had seen it at the station, with a half-mourning ring, and some money.
          Cross-examined.– My sentry-box is round the corner. I must have heard you if you had called.
          The prisoner. – I deny saying that I would have swallowed the watch. That would be impossible.
          Thomas Dunawell, serjeant of the regiment, stated that it would have been the prisoner's duty to hail the next sentry for assistance. That was a rule which was never departed from in the regiment – no man being permitted to leave his post on any pretence whatever. It is part of my duty to put the men on sentry. I have reasons for putting the prisoner on particular posts. After making the present charge the prisoner was put in the military prison for a breach of duty in the regiment.
          Cross-examined. – What private reasons have you for placing me on certain posts?
          Witness. – My reason is that I have heard the prisoner boast that he would take money, or anything he could get, from the public, and had done so. This was when I was a private soldier. Since I have been an uncommissioned officer, I have placed him by authority in such posts as would prevent him committing any depredations on the public, such as the guard-room post, where he would be under observation.
          The prisoner. – did you ever know me do anything of the kind?
          Witness. – No; but I have heard you say you would do so.
          The prisoner. – I have been in the regiment twelve years, and was never placed at the guard-room sentry but twice.
          John Steward. – I am a private in the same battalion of the Fusilier Guards, and have been in the regiment about 6 years. A day or two after the prisoner had made his charge against the Rev. Mr. Sellers, I heard the prisoner describing the money and property found on Mr. Sellers, at the station. He stated the sum of money in gold and silver, but I do not recollect the amoung mentioned. He said, “I wish I had met him on the colours – A B—— [i.e. bloody] end to me but I could have swallowed the watch.” Theses are all the words I can recollect. I know the post called “the colours.” It is a much more priavate place, leading into the Old Palace-yard. I heard the prisoner say, that the gentleman (Mr. Sellers) did commit an indecent assault upon him, and made use of a filthy expression. I have often seen the prisoner in possession of money, both gold and silver, when coming off sentry, and on one occasion he told me how he had obtained it. He said he was on sentry at the Milk-house-gate, and that he collared a gentleman, and brought him to his sentry, and got it by threatening him.
          The prisoner. – Did I ever tell you, John, how I become possessed of the money?
          Witness. – Yes, you did.
          Prisoner. – I don't recollect it.
          John Walker had been 17 years in the same regiment, and had known the prisoner seven years. Was in the guardroom the same night the charge was made. He heard the prisoner say that there was a silver watch, some notes, and some gold and silver, and, if he had been on the “colours,” he would have had the b[loody] lot. I also heard him say something else, but I do not wish to mention it. I do not recollect the words. There were to the effect that if the gentleman (Mr. Sellers) had given him a sovereign, he might have gone to h[ell], if he liked. I have often seen the prisoner with silver in his hands, on coming off sentry, and have heard him say he got it off people.
          Thomas Briant, another private, had known the prisoner Cooper nine years. Heard him say in the charge-room that, if the gentleman had given him a sovereign, he might have gone to h[ell], and that if he had been on the oclours post he would have had all he had got. Witness had seen the prisoner with money at times, and once with a gold watch; also a ring, brooch, umbrella, and cloak, had been brought in by him at different times. Never heard him say how he got the property, but had seen him take the things out of his pockets.
          Mr. Jardin, after cautioning the prisoner in the usual form, asked if he wished to make any statement to the Court?
          The prisoner. – I decline saying anything.
          The prisoner was then committed to Newgate for trial. (Morning Advertiser)

Friday 2 March 1849

CENTRAL CRIMINAL COURT, March 1.
OLD COURT.
(Before the Lord Chief Baron and Mr. Justice Cresswell)
Samuel Cooper, 59, a soldier, was indicted for feloniously accusing Henry Charles Sellers, clerk, of an offence punishable by the statute, but of a nameless character, with intent to extort money from him.
          Mr. Bodkin and Mr. Richard conducted the prosecution; and Mr. Ballantine defended the prisoner.
          Mr. Bodkin, in opening the case, after calling the attention of the Jury to the statute upon which the indictment was founded, said it was hardly necessary for him to state that the present inquiry was one in which the public interests were most materially involved, and in which the safety, honour, and peace of mind of every man in the kingdom were equally interested, and he was afraid that, although the offence imputed to the prisoner was one of very frequent occurrence, yet it was generally committed under such circumstances as to render it very difficult to bring the charge home to the guilty party. In the present case, however, it appeared to him that the evidence he should lay before the Jury would clearly make out the offence imputed to the prisoner, of having falsely made an atrocious charge against the reverend prosecutor, for the purpose of extorting money from him. The Learned Counsel then proceeded to state the facts of the case, and said he felt it right to call the attention of the Jury to one circumstance, and to give some explanation respecting it, as he could not tell what view the Jury might take of the matter. He then proceeded to state that when the prosecutor was taken into custody upon the charge inquestion, he at first refused to give his name, and eventually he did give the fictitious one of Henry Sadler, and it was only when he was before the magistrate, who compelled him to do so, that he did give his real name and occupation. He could not tell, of course, whether the Jury would be inclined to put an unfavourable construction upon this proceeding, but before they did so, he begged them to recollect the position of the prosecutor. He was a clergyman, he had been but recently married, and he asked the Jury whether, under such circumstances, when such an odious accusation was made against him, it was not extremely natural that he should shrink with horror from the supposition of any connection with such a crime, and should endeavour to screen it from the knowledge of his parishioners and his family? The Learned Counsel then proceeded to explain that two bills had been preferred against Mr. Sellers at the Middlesex Sessions, both of which were thrown out by the Grand Jury; but, he said, the prosecutor feeling that this result was not a sufficient vindication of his character, had decided upon adopting the present proceeding, in order fully to establishin to his own friends and the public that there was in reality no foundation for the odious accusation that had been made against him.
          The following evidence was then adduced:–
          William Grant, a police-sergeant, deposed as follows:– On the 9th of February I was on duty in the station-house, King-street, St. James's, when the Rev. Mr. Sellers was brought to me in custody. The prisoner accompanied him, and made a charge against Mr. Sellers of having indecently assaulted him. I asked the particulars, and he said he was on duty at the Duchess of Kent's, and the gentleman passed by him, and turned back under the Duke of Sutherland's wall, and then crossed over to him and stood under the portico, and addressed him by saying it was a wet night, to which he replied that it was. The gentleman then asked him who he was keeping guard over, and when he said the Duchess of Kent, he altered the last word to a filthy expression [i.e. “cunt”]. Mr. Sellers interposed when the prisoner made this statement, and denied having acted as the soldier described. The prisoner went on to say that the gentleman then assaulted him, and he dragged him to the guard-house immediately upon his doing so. I asked Mr. Sellers to give his name, and he wished to know if he was obliged to give it. I replied that he need not give it then, but he must give his name to the magistrate the next morning. Mr. Sellers then refused to give his name. A watch, two 5l. notes, and some gold were taken from him, and he was detained at the station that night.
          Cross-examined. – It was about half-past eleven o'clock at night when this occurred. It had been raining about an hour. Mr. Sellers had no umbrella with him.
          Mr. Barnaby, the chief clerk at Bow-street Police Court, deposed that he was present when Mr. sellers was brought before Mr. Henry, the presiding magistrate. The name of Sadler was upon the police-sheet, and upon witness asking his name he said he was a clergyman, and wished to know if he was obliged to give his real name. Mr. Henry told him he was, and he gave his name Henry Charles Sellers, and described himself as Curate of Send, near Guildford.
          The deposition made by the prisoner before the magistrate, was then put in.
          Mr. Burnaby added that the result of this investigation was that Mr. Sellers was committed for trial, but was admitted to bail, himself in 500l., and two sureties in 250l. each.
          Mr. Ballantine. – I believe Mr. Sellers made a statement in answer to the charge?
          Mr. Burnaby. – He did.
          Mr. Ballantine wished that statement to be read. It was as follows:– “I asked him the question who he was keeping guard over, and when he answer me, I repeated the same words that he did. Such a thought as he alleges against me never entered my head. I am completely at the mercy of the man. I utterly deny the charge. I had a cigar in my mouth. I remained some time under the shelter of the portico. I was going as far as Pimlico, but it rained fast, and I returned for shelter to the portico. I stood there some time, and I then spoke to the man, and he seized me. I am a clergyman, a curate, at Send, near Guildford.”
          Mr. Kilsby, a clerk from the office of the Middlesex Sessions, produced two bills of indictment preferred against Mr. Sellers for the offence imputed to him by the prisoner, both of which were ignored. The prisoner, it appeared, was not examined as a witness upon the first indictment, but he went before the Grand Jury upon the second, and gave his evidence.
          The Rev. Mr. Sellers was then examined. – He said I reside at Send, near Guildford, and am curate of that parish, and have been so for nearly nine months. I was formerly curate at Sible Hedingham, in Essex, for three years. I was educated at the University of Cambridge. I have been married about a year and a half. I came to London from Send on the 9th January, and at this time my wife, who was in delicate health, was staying with her sister in Essex, and it was my intention to visit her. I arrived at Waterloo station about half past six, and immediately proceeded to the Bell and Crown, Holborn, where I left my luggage, and engaged a bed. I then went to Oxford-street, where I called at a shop, and afterwards went to a tavern in Rupert-street, where I dined, and when I had done dinner it was between nine and ten. I then walked as far as the Treasury, and afterwards intended to visit an old college friend named Middleton, in Pimlico. For that purpose I had to cross the park and pass through the Stable-yard, and I walked under the portico of the Duchess of Kent's residence, and observed a soldier on duty. I proceeded on my way towards the park, but as the rain appeared to increase I retuned to the portico, and remained under it. The soldier was still there. I do not know whether he first addressed me, or whether I said “It is a wet night,” but I did make use of that expression. The prisoner replied “It is.” I then aske dhim who he was keeping guard over, and he said the Duchess of Kent. I repeated the words “Oh, the Duchess of Kent.” I swear that was the expression I sued. The prisoner immediately seized me and made use of some words which implied a charge of indecent conduct. On my oath I never touched him. The prisoner took me away to the guardroom, but I did not notice that we passed by another soldier. There were a number of soldiers in the guard-room, and the prisoner said that he charged me with indecently assaulting him. I denied the charge, and asked to see the officer on duty, but I was told that it was a police case, and a policeman was sent for, and I was given into his custody, and taken to the station-house, where the prisoner made the charge against me. Mr. Sellers then detailed what took place at the station-house, and said that the prisoner was present when his watch and money were taken from him, and added that on the officer asking him again to give his name in the morning, he told him he might put the name of Henry Sadler, and that name was accordingly put on the police sheet. He proceeded to state that when before the magistrate he gave his real name. He likewise said that he was smoking a cigar at the time in question.
          Cross-examined. – I bought the cigar in Princes-street. I had no business that took me to the Treasury. It was a drizzling rainy night, and it was raining all the time I was out. I had no umbrella. At first I was standing at some distance from the prisoner, but when I spoke to him I was not more than half a yard from him. I do not recolelct in what position my hands were, but I do not think it was possible that one of them touched him accidentally. I will swear my hand did not touch him. I knew it was the Duchess of Kent's house when I spoke to the prisoner. Mr. Middleton did not expect me to visit him on this evening. When the charge was made against me at the station, I did not say that I was gong to vist that gentleman. It was nearly ten o'clock at night when I went to make the visit.
          Re-examined. – The portico was the first place of shelter that presented itself. I swear positively that I committed no indecent assault upon the prisoner. I merely asked whose house the prisoner was keeping guard over as a casual question, and not to ascertain the fact who the house belonged to.
          Mr. J. G. Middleton deposed that he resided at 6, Upper Eaton-place, Pimlico. He had known Mr. Sellers twelve years, and was on intimate terms with him since they were at College together. It was Mr. Sellers's custom to visit him when he came to town, both in the morning and evening. Witness usually dined at his club, and was seldom at home until after ten in the evening. Mr. Sellers was aware of the fact, and had visited him after that hour.
          Cross-examined. – Remembered his doing so upon one occasion, which was on the night before the funeral of the Duke of Sussex.
          William Price, a private in the 2nd battalion of Fusilier Guards, to which the prisoner also belonged, proved that on the 9th of January, at the time in question, he was the next sentry to the prisoner, and was stationed between him and the guard-house. He saw the prisoner pass him about twenty minutes past ten, draggng the prosecutor along with him. He said nothing as he went by. It was the duty of a sentry not to leave his post if he was attacked or assaulted in any manner, but to call for assistance to the next sentry, who would pass the word on, and a sentinel was not allowed, under any circumstances, to leave his post. After witness left duty he saw the prisoner in the guard-room, and he told him he was very sorry he had had anything to do with giving the gentleman in charge, but the old —— did not offer to “spring up” anything, or he should have let him go. The prisoner added, that it was a pity he had not been on the colour, or some other post, where there were not so many people passing, or he would have had the whole lot – watch, ring, money, and all. He likewise said it was a beatufiul little watch, not bigger than half-a-crown, and on witness remarking that watches were dangerous things to have anything to do with, the prisoner said he could have made away with that for three or four days – he could have swallowed it.
          Cross-examined. – Several other men heard what the prisoner said. He spoke out quite publicly. Although he knew that Mr. Sellers was to be taken before a magistrate the next morning, he took no further notice of the conversation. Witness had been eight years in the regiment, and he had been punished several time for being absent without leave.
          John Stewart, another private in the same regiment, deposed that, a day or two after the 9th of Janury, he was in the barrack-room, and had a conversation with the prisoner on the subject of the charge he had made, and the prisoner gave a statement of the circumstances under which he had made the charge. He then described the property that was taken from the gentleman, and said that if he had been on the “colour” post he would have had the whole lot. The post called the colour was a more retired one than the place where the prisoner was on sentry on this occasion. He added, that he had heard the prisoner, after he came off guard, on several occasions make statements as to the manner in which he had obtained money and other property which he saw in his possession.
          Mr. Ballantine objected to evidence of any statement of this kind being admitted against the prisoner, as it was only calculated to prejudice him in the minds of the Jury, without having anytging to [do] with the present charge.
          The Learned Judges, after some argument, ruled that the evidence was admissible, under the circumstances of the case. No direct demand of money had been proved, and therefore it was important, with a view to ascertain what the intention of the prisoner really was, to see what his own statement as to his conduct had been on other similar occasions.
          The examination of the witness was then proceeded with, and he stated, that in 1845 he saw some money in the prisoner's hand, and he accounted for the possession of it by saying that he was on sentry at night, and as a gentleman was passing he seized him by the collar, and put him into his sentry-box, and either got or took his money.
          Cross-examined. – Witness did not give any information to the commanding officer, or to the police, that the prisoner had committed this robbery. Of course he thought it was a robbery. Witness had been a corporal, but was degraded to the ranks, for not reporting himself to the commanding officer, and for being absent from duty.
          Joseph Walker, also a private in the same company as the prisoner, proved that on the night of the 9th of January he heard him say that he had given a gentleman in charge, and that he had got notes, and gold, and silver upon him, and if he had been on the colour post he would have had the lot. He aso heard the prisoner say that if Mr. Sellers had given him a sovereign he would have let him go. The prisoner had repeatedly told him after he came off guard that he had got money from people. He had said this, to his knowledge, three times, and witness had seen him with a sovereign in his hand, which he represented he had so obtained.
          Cross-examined. – Some of his comrades might have done the same thing. He did not wish to speak against his comrades. He never had a watch himself, or asked the prisoner to get rid of it for him.
          Thomas Bryant, another soldier belonging to the prisoner's battalion, also deposed to hearing the prisoner make use of the expression that if he had got a sovereign, the man might have gone away to h—— [i.e. “hell”], and if he had been on the colour post he would have had all he had got.
          Thomas Gunnaway, lance-sergeant of the regiment, deposed that the prisoner was under his orders, and it was his duty to place him at the different posts. He had repeatedly heard the prisoner boast that he had got money from the public, and would continue to do so, but he did not say in what manner.
          By Mr. Ballantine. – The prisoner belonged to the second battalion of the Scots Fusilier Guards.
          This closed the case for the prosecution.
          Mr. Ballantine then addressed the jury on behalf of the prisoner, but it was evident that the Learned Counsel felt that the evidence was too cogent for him to hope to struggle successfully for a verdict. He made some observations upon what he described as the extraordinary conduct of the prosecutor, a clergyman, walking about the streets at night with a cigar in his mouth, and also remarekd upon his conduct in entering into conversation with a private soldier, under such circumstances as appeared in evidence, and he urged upon the jury that if they were not perfectly satisfied of the falsehood of the charge that had been made, the prisoner was entitled to an acquittal.
          Mr. Justice Cresswell then summer up, and the Jury almost immediatley returned a verdict of Guilty.
          His Lordship, in passing sentence, said that he quite cncurred in the verdict of the jury, and notwithstanding the ingenious observations of the learned counsel respecting the thoughtless and inconsiderate conduct of the prosecutor in walking about the streets at night as he had done, he did not see any reason to doubt that the charge had been made against him by the prisoner without any foundation. It was an offence of the most odious kind. The crime which he had suggested as having been attempted, was one which every decent mind shrunk from contemplating, and was of a character to drive from society any man supposed to be guilty of it. The false accusation of such a crime was next in degree, and almost equally disgusting as the crime itself, and it was the duty of the Court in all such cases to pass a sentence calculated to protect the public from the repetition of such an offence.
          The prisoner was then sentenced to be transported for fifteen years. (Morning Advertiser)

Saturday 3 March 1849

At the Central Criminal Court on Thursday, Samuel Cooper, who it will be remembered, charged a clergyman, named Sellers, with attempting an unnatural offence, was tried for attempting to extort money, found guilty, and justly sentenced to 15 years transportation. (Kentish Mercury) (The Newcastle Courant for 9 March adds: “It appeared that he had obtained many valuables from gentlemen by similar threats.”)


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.), "A Rainy Night in the Park, 1849", Homosexuality in Nineteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 4 November 2016 <http://rictornorton.co.uk/eighteen/1849rain.htm>.


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