On the Way to Fairlop Fair, 1854

19 July 1854

George Wm. Hancock, a man of gentlemanly appearance, schoolmasster and collector of taxes, of Stratford, appeared on bail to answer the charge of ——, for indecently assaulting him with intent to commit an unnatural crime, on Friday, the 7th inst. The Court-room having been cleared by order of the Bench, the complainant, on being sworn, stated that on the day in question he was at the Shoreditch terminus of the Eastern Counties' Railway, where he met with the prisoner and a young man named Dancomb: when, after some conversation, they proceeded together to Ilford, to view the boats and pleasure parties going to and returning from Fairlop Fair, where they partook of several pots of ale, and returned to the prisoner's house in the evening. Duncomb, by direction of the prisoner, went to fetch some beer, during which time the assault complained of took place (the particulars of which are unfit for publication). Having partaken of a glass of water in the house, which made him feel very drowsy, he left the house and met a policeman, to whom he detailed the circumstances, but he seemed to treat the matter lightly, and advised him to go to the West Ham station and give information to the sergeant, where he went on the following morning. Police-constable Benton, 381, being then present, was sent with him and took the prisoner into custody. – Mr. BALLANTINE, who was instructed by Mr. Rawlings, of Romford, for the defence, severely cross-examined the complainant, but without materially altering the facts of the case. – Police-constable Benton spoke to the apprehension of the prisoner, and making inquiries, by direction of J. Reeves, Esq., the committing magistrate, as to the respectability of the complainant, and produced 2 certificates of character from late employers; he had also ascertained from several other persons that he bore a respectable character and had kept a shop in Cable Street, but he believed was at present out of employment. – Police-constable Drew, 387, K, the constable spoken to by complainant after leaving the prisoner's house, was called and sworn as to the facts of the statement made to him by complainant, which was so much at variance with the one now given that Mr. BALLANTINE thought it useless to proceed further with the case; and it appears the constable at the time thought it so trivial that he took very little notice of what complainant said. – Duncomb, formerly an omnibus conductor but now employed as a companion to the prisoner, who was subject to fits and could not be left alone, was sworn, and partly corroborated complainant's testimony; but he said he was not gone more than three minutes for the beer, and during that time the female servant, who had been out, returned home and delivered up the key to her master, so that it was impossible the offence alleged could have taken place; the complainant partook of a glass of ale, which seemed to overpower him; when leaving he wished him good night, and shook hands with the prisoner. – Mr. BALLANTINE very briefly addressed the Bench, touching upon the respectability of the prisoner and the unsupported evidence of the complainant against his client. – The Bench, with Mr. Clifton, having retired, on resuming their seats, to the astonishment of the eminent barrister and others present, the CHAIRMAN said they had come to the determination to send the prisoner for trial. – Mr. BALLANTINE. For what, I would ask, and upon what evidence? – The CHAIRMAN. For sodomy. – Mr. BALLANTINE expressed astonishment; but said he supposed the Bench would take bail? —. The CHAIRMAN. Yes: the prisoner in 200, and two sureties of 100. – Mr. BALLANTINE said that was enormous,a nd he should instruct his client to appeal to a Judge in Chambers; and if they established his innocence he would most assuredly prosecute the complainant for wilful perjury. (Essex Standard)

21 July 1854

Charge of Unnatural Offence.
George William Hancock, 32, house agent, a gentlemanly dressed man, and described in the calendar as a person of superior education, was indicted for indecently assaulting and otherwise illtreating Alfred Ventris, at West Ham. – Mr. Parry was counsel for the prosecution, and Mr. Ballantine defended the prisoner. – The particulars of this cae, like others of its charater, were of the most disgusting description, and wholly unfit for publication, but the following is an outline of the case, as given in evidence: – The witnesses on both sides were ordered out of court. – Prosecutor resides at No. 2, Camperdown, Sloane Fields, Bermondsey, and is a looking-glass silverer, aged 21 years last April; on Friday, 7th July last, prosecutor went to Shoreditch station to take the train to Ilford to go to Fairlop Fair. In the train he saw prisoner with a young man named Duncan, when they fell into conversation about the fair. Prisoner said he was going there to see the boats, which was a pretty sight, and requested prosecutor to accompany him, which the latter agreed to. Prisoner treated prosecutor with a cigar and some beer at public-houses, and by request of prisoner prosecutor went to his house at Stratford. On prosecutor going into prisoner's house he sat on the sofa, and prisoner sent Duncan out for some beer; prosecutor said he would rather have some water, and prisoner brought him some, which made him feel sick, and almost stupified him. During Duncan's agsence prisoner fastened the shutters of his house, took off his boots, and seemed much excited and unsettled in himself. Prosecutor told prisoner that he must be leaving, as he had a long way to go, when prisoner pounced upon prosecutor and fastened him so that he could not move his legs. (The disgusting particulars were related.) Prosecutor was greatly excited and ill by prisoner's conduct, and weak and incapable of resistance in consequence of his constitution having been greatly impaired by his injurious trade of a looking-glass silverer. Prosecutor told prisoner if he did not get away he would smash the things in his house. On prosecutor getting out of the house prisoner gave him sixpence, which the former took, and said, "You are a dirty vagabond, and this will show what you have done." Prosecutor then left, and gave information to the police, who took prisoner into custody. – Mr. Ballantine, in defence, characterised the present as a perfectly unfounded, false, lying, and malicious charge. Charges of this nature, he said, were constantly made with reference to some future that might occur; but what prosecutor's objects were he could not tell. He should, step by step, and point by point, by witnesses which he should call, answer every question that might raise a point against prisoner, adn show that prosecutor's story was false, and there was not a word of truth in it from beginning to end. It was perfectly true that at the Shoreditch station prosecutor and prisoner got into the same railway carriage together, fell into conversation about the fair, which they both stated their intention of visiting, and it was in consequence of prosecutor complaining of illness, that prisoner invited him to his house. Prisoner had no other motive for inviting prosecutor to his house but that of humanity, because the latter was suffering from indisposition. But he warned mankind how they took a suffering fellow creature into their house to restore him, because out of it might arise as diabolical a charge of criminality as that in the present case. Because a man had exhibited kindly feelings to another, it was not to be inferred that he had been prompted by improper objects. He contended that prosecutor's tale to the policeman, soon after the alleted offence, was inconsistent with that he now deposed to. Upon that point the jury could place no reliance upon prosecutor's testimony, and prisoner was entitled to an acquittal. He should now call his witnesses who could prove the whole was an utter fabrication, and entirely without foundation. – The learned counsel then called Duncan as the first witness for prisoner, who stated that he was in consequence of the prosecutor being taken ill after drinking some ale and smoking a cigar, that his master, Mr. Hancock, kindly invited him to his house to recover. He was present with prosecutor and prisoner at the house of the latter on the night in question, and never saw or heard of anything amiss. He was once an omnibus conductor, and first saw prisoner an entire stranger, at Woolwich, when the latter engaged him to live with him as a friend and companion, and he had lived with him 18 months. He had always slept with prisoner, who was subject to epileptic fits, and required constant attention, being frequenty attacked with them in the night, when he had to strike a light, and get his master some water and a smelling bottle. Prisoner had never committed a single act of indecency or attempted it on his person, and never heard him utter an indecent word. – Mrs. Ingram said, she had been three years prisoner's housekeeper, during which time he had been subject to epileptic fits, and sometimes narrowly escaped falling into the fire, and similar dangers. She had never seen or heard that he had been guilty of an improper action either in or out of his house. – Mr. Kennedy, sugeon, proved that he had attended prisoner for injuries which had resulted to him from epileptic fits; and Dr. Elliott, who gave corroborative evidence, said ti was usual when a person was frequently subject to epileptic fits, and they could afford it, to have some one to sleep and attend upon him. Prisoner was subject to these fits and nervous diseases, which rendered his mind weak, and required a person to attend and talk to him. – Mr. J. Hawkins and Mr. Thomas Buxton gave prisoner an excellent character for morality and decency. – Mr. Parry having replied in an energetic speech of some length, his Lordship very carefully summed up the case, in the course of which he remarked that prisoner was charged with an unmanly, indecent, and unnatural assault. The question was, whether the story of the prosecutor, or the defence of the prisoner, was true. The jury must see whether from the case before them, they could bring their minds to one or the other of these determinations. The case might present so many considerations, some of them for and some against the prisoner, and be so full of doubt and difficulty, that they would not know whether to find the prisoner guilty of the crime imputed to him, or the prosecutor guilty of perjury. If that was so, then the prisoner was entitled to their verdict of not guilty. He made his observations with a view to render the jury such assistance as he could, in a case which he thought any person who heard it must think was one not at all free from difficulty, and not less so from the strangeness of the accusation, and the still greater strangeness of some part of the transaction. In alluding to that part of the evidence of the prosecutor, which stated that after drinking the water which had been given him he felt a strange mist over his eyes, his lordship said it certainly was intended to ge shown by the prosecution that the water was drugged for the purpose of producing stupor and delirium, and unconsciousness of all that was going on. If that was the case, why then Duncan, who attended upon the prisoner, could not possibly be ignorant of the fact, and he was guilty of as wicked, horrible, and degraded a crime as man, ever since the sun shone upon the wickedness of the world, could be guilty of. With regard to the evidence of Mrs. Ingram, who, it appeared, went to prisoner's house from day to day for three years, it did not appear that it ever crossed her mind that Duncan lived with prisoner for the infamous purpose which had been suggested that day, nor yet did it strike any persons in the neighbourhood, or prisoner's relations and friends. If there was any pretence for prisoner's house being the abode of such abominable wickedness, one could hardly believe but the neighbourhood would have been up in arms to pull it down, and remove every stone of it from the street. Still it might be true, but that was for them to decide. He attached very little importance to the testimony of witnesses to character, but he did to the fact of the old woman Ingram going to the house from day to day to look after the household affairs, and waiting upon the prisoner and Duncan, and never suspecting what was suggested by the learned counsel for the prosecution. This was undoubtedly a case of great difficulty, but if they saw their way clear, in spite of their abhorrence or reluctance to do so, they must find the prisoner guilty; but if they believed Duncan, it would be their duty to acquit. If, in the difficulties of the case, they did not see their way either to one conclusion or the other with that degree of certainty they required in a criminal proceeding, then they might solve the difficulty by that which was not unfrequently the case in courts, that, not seeing their way to the conviction of the prisoner, they would acquit him, not because they believed the witness who deposed against him was perjured, but because they were not satisfied that the case was so made out as to call upon them to say they believed him. – After ten minutes' consultation, his Lordship enquired of the jury whether they wished to retire, when the foreman replied he believed not, and almost immediately after informed the court that the case was so conflicting that the jury expressed great doubts, which, of course, they wished prisoner to have the benefit of, and therefore retured a verdict of not guilty – His Lordship said, he was happy that they were to be the judges and not he, and had no doubt they exercised a wise discretion in returning their verdict. He doubted whethere the basest periods of antiquity would present a great amount of profligacy, and wickedness, and monstrous crime that had been imputed by the learned counsel for the prosecution. – Prisoner, who sat during the lengthened trial of six hours with his eyes closed, and head and arms reclining on the gaoler for support, and appeared in a state of physical and mental prostration and utter unconsciousness of the passing scene, apparently enlisting the sympathies of the court, was taken in a fit at the close of the trial, and in that state was crried by the gaolers from the dock to the rooms below. (Chelmsford Chronicle)

SOURCE: Various newspapers, dates as given.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "On the Way to Fairlop Fair, 1854", Homosexuality in Nineteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 27 November 2018 <http://rictornorton.co.uk/eighteen/1854fair.htm>.

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