Newspaper Reports, 1855

17 March 1855

JAMES JACKSON, 18, was charged with an abominable offence, at Northowram, near Halifax, on the 30th of December last. The prisoner, who had no counsel, was acquitted of the felony, but found guilty of a misdemeanour, and was sentenced to Two Years’ Imprisonment at Hard Labour. (Leeds Times)

28 March 1855

Henry Green, surgeon, native of Portsmouth, lately resident at Bridgnorth, was found guilty of attempting to commit an unnatural offence, Mr. Best conducting the prosecution. His lordship, addressing the prisoner, said – You most unnatural wretch, a disgrace to human nature, this is not the first time you have been convicted of such an abominable offence. If you had completed your purpose, the sentence of death would have been recorded against you. I regret the law does not authorise me upon this conviction to pronounce a severer sentence than that which I now pass, which is that for this detestable and abominable offence you be imprisoned in the house of correction for the term of two years and kept to hard labour. (Eddowes’s Shrewsbury Journal)

31 March 1855

Thomas Williams, 27½, alias Yorkey, was indicted with having committed an unnatural crime at the Wrexham Workhouse, on the 3rd of November last, to which indictment the prisoner pleaded not guilty.
          Mr Foulkes prosecuted; the prisoner was undefended.
          Verdict, guilty of the attempt. Sentence, two years’ imprisonment, with hard labour. (Wrexham Advertiser)

2 April 1855

Henry Green, Surgeon, native of Portsmoiuth, but lately residing at Bridgnorth, was found guilty of attempting to commit an unnatural offence. This was not the first time the prisoner had been convicted of such an abominable offence. His Lordship regretted the law did not allow him to pass a severer sentence. Two year’s imprisonment, with hard labour. (Newport & Market Drayton Advertiser)

10 April 1855

On Saturday last, a coloured man, named John Manuel, was charged at the police court, Birkenhead, before J. S.Jackson, Esq., with committing an unnatural offence, at Spittal, near Bebeington, on Wednesday. The prisoner has resided in Birkenhead for some time past, and has obrtained a livelihood by selling religious tracts. He was educated in the college at Calcutta for the medical profession. Upon being questioned by the matgistrate, the accused said that he was a Christian, went to church every Sunday, and would not be guilty of the offence imputed to him. He was committed for trial. (Liverpool Mercury)

12 May 1855

UNNATURAL OFFENCE. – At the West Riding Court, on Thursday, a man named James Hartley, a native of the neighbourhood of Halifax, but latterly residing in Shipley, was charged by Superintendent Lotty, of the Shipley police force, with having, on the 26th of December last, committed an unnatural offence on a youth of 14 years of age, named William Hall. The prisoner, who absconded, was only captured on Wednesday by Lotty at Pontefract, where he had joined the militia. The case was privately heard, and the prisoner was committed to York Castle for trial at the assizes. (Leeds Times)

7 July 1855

Elijah Newman, ventriloquist, was charged with assaulting a little boy named James Hunter, with intent to commit a felony, on the17th of June. A second count charged the prisoner with committing an indecent assault on the boy. Mr. C. Cooper appeared for the prosecution, and Mr. Palmer for the defence. The particulars stated were quite unfit for publication. – The defence urged by Mr. Palmer was, that the charge was made against his client for the purpose of extorting money. – The jury, after a lengthy deliberation, found the prisoner guilty on the second count, and he was sentenced to eighteen months’ imprisonment. (Norwich Mercury) (The Norfolk Chronicle for 7 July describes James Hunter as “a young lad” and Elijah Newman “a person of middle age”.)

11 July 1855

A BRUTE. – William Cooke, a man about 50 years of age, was charged with having committed a filthy and unnameable offence upon a little boy named Edward Duddle, about 14 years old, on the evening of Saturday last. The particulars of this disgusting case were of such a nature that we deem it prudent to refrain from publishing them. However, from the evidence adduced by the boy and two men, named Dillon and Geves, the case was sufficiently proved. We understand the prisoner has before suffered a term of imprisonment for a similar offence. Mr. Bonnor said he should adjourn the case until Wednesday in order to consult with another magistrate. (Hereford Journal)

1 August 1855

William Cooke, labourer, aged 50, was then placed at the bar, charged with having on 7th July instant, against all laws of nature, committed an unnatural offence upon a lad named Duddell. – Mr. H. James held the briefs for the prosecutioni in this case; the prisoner was undefended. – Some parts of the evidence being of a disgusting character, and the whole unfit for publication, although clearly proving the case, is here omitted. Sentence: transportation for life. (Herefore Journal)

4 August 1855

HEREFORD. – A wretch named William Cooke was foundguilty of an unnatural crime upon the person of a boy named Edward Duddle, and it was proved that he had been previously convicted of a similar offence. The Judge sentenced him to transportation for life, remarking that it was in his power to inflict the full penalty of the law for this offence. (Hereford Times)

1 September 1855

UNNATURAL OFFENCE. – An old man, named Hugh Jones was charged at the Police-court, yesterday, with trying to induce a boy to commit an unnatural and abominable offence. The charge was proved; and the old vagabond was fined forty shillings and costs, or two months’ imprisonment. (Liverpool Mail)

3 October 1855

REMOVAL OF A CONVICT. – On Monday last, William Cooke, who was convicted at the last Summer Assize for an abominable offence (in pursuance to the sentence of transportation for life) was removed from the Hereford City Gaol to Millbank Prison, London. (Hereford Journal)

15 December 1855

REVOLTING ASSAULT AT RICHMOND. – MORTIMER MAHONEY, 23, was charged with having, on the 30th of September, at Richmond, assaulted a boy named James Busby, with intent to commit an unnatural crime. – Mr. Blanshard prosecuted. – The prisoner is a private in the North York Rifles, and he was detected committing the assault by Mr. King, saddler, of Richmond, who gave the prisoner in charge of Mr. Smith, the Superintending-constable. – Captain Smith gave the prisoner a good character. – Guilty of an Indecent Assault. To be Imprisoned for One Year to Hard Labour. (Leeds Times)

18 December 1855

The Grand Jury having been sworn, his Lordship, addressing them, said . . . There was one capital offence, of which he had only now been informed, the depositions having only just then been put into his hands – it was that of a man charged with an unnatural offence. There might be some doubt whether the offence was completed, but there seemed no doubt that the attempt had been made. By a recent Act the attempt was a misdemeanor, and the bill might be returned for that. . . .
          William Standen, 16, labourer, was charged with attempting to commit an unnatural offence at Peasmarsh, on they 6th December, but his Lordship, after hearing the evidence of the principal witness ruled that the attempt had not been made, and whatever intention he had to attempt it had been frustrated by the policeman. The Jury, therefore, under the direction of his Lordship, acquitted the prisoner, and he was discharged. (Sussex Advertiser)

22 December 1855

John Symonds, 22, grocer, was indicted for having threatened to accuse John Josiett A. Hill of an unnatural offence, with intent to extort money.
          Mr. Parry prosecuted.
          The facts were unfit for detail. The prisoner had been engaged by the prosecutor as servant at his chambers, and when he first made the accusation prosecutor was weak enough to give him some money, but upon prisoner again applying to him prosecutor very properly put the matter into the hands of his solicitor, and an interview between prosecutor and prisoneer was arranged, at which a police-officer was present, and heard what took place, upon which the prisoner was apprehended.
          The prosecutor most unhesitatingly swore tht the prisoner had not the slightest grounds for making the charge.
          The jury immediately found him guilty.
          The Recorder, in passing sentence, said he entirely concurred in the verdict, and to the fullest extent he believed the assertion of the prosecutor. The prisoner’s crime was one of the very worst description; if anything, more heinous that the crime of murder, and he should order him to be transported for life. (Morning Post; the Morning Advertiser for 22 Dec. calls John Symonds a “groom”.)

SOURCE: Various newspapers, dates as given.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "Newspaper Reports, 1855", Homosexuality in Nineteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 14 December 2018 <>.

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