A Chemist and His Errand Boys, 1857

28 April 1857

LAMBETH. – DISGUSTING CHARGE OF ASSAULT. – Mr. Alfred Strickland, a chemist, carrying on business at No. 13, Bolingbroke-row, Walworth-road, and who is a married man with a family, was placed at the bar before Mr. Elliott on a charge of indecently assaulting William Rider, a boy of 14 years.
          From the evidence of the father of the youth, a respectable man, it appeared that his son went into the service of the prisoner on the day before, as errand boy, and on his returning home at night he acquainted him with the disgusting conduct of the prisoner towards him. He in consequence at once communicated with Sergeant Coppin, and the prisoner was taken into custody by that officer.
          The little boy was next examined, but much of his evidence was unfit for publication. The prisoner, he said, told him that the last boy that had been in his service had allowed him to do what he liked, and he had in consequence procured him an excellent situation in the City; and that if he (witness) did all he could to please him, he should do everything on his part to serve him, and should learn him the business of a chemist, which would be worth a hundred pounds to him.
          Sergeant Coppin said that on apprehending the prisoner he denied the charge, but admitted he had promised the lad to teach him chemistry. He also admitted that he had two other youths in his service, the one for three months and the other for three years, but refused to give their names or present address.
          The prisoner, in reply to the charge, declared that much of that stated by the boy Rider was a perfect tissue of falsehoods, and he was perfectly guiltless of the charge of indecent exposure. He acknowledged that, considering the boy exceedingly small for his age, he stripped and examined him all over. He was taken by surprise, else he should have an abundance of friends to speak to his moral and general good character.
          Mr. Elliott observed that there could not be the slightest doubt on the mind of anybody who heard it of the perfect truth of the statement of the boy, and, therefore, he must remand the prisoner to the following day.
          The prisoner, who is described as a married man, with a son of 10 years of age, and who is a person of cadaverous appearance and wore a pair of gold spectacles, was here about to be removed from the bar, when he applied to be admitted to bail, and Mr. Elliott complied with his request. (Morning Post)

2 May 1857

. . . On Wednesday the accused was again brought up, and examined, and two youths who had been in his service before the lad who had given his evidence on the day before, were brought forward by Sergeant Coppin as witnesses. The testimony of both was of a most filthy character, particularly that of one of them, which established a charge of a most criminal character against the accused.
          Mr Elliott observed that he dare not trust himself to express himself as he felt of the disgusting conduct of the prisoner, and remanded him for a week.
          Mr. Solomon applied to have the prisoner admitted to bail, but,
          Mr. Elliott indignantly refused compliance. (Lambeth and Southwark Advertiser)

5 May 1857

This insolvent was appointed to be heard under the Protection Act, and when the case was called Mr. Ingpen, the officer of the court, informed the learned Commissioner, that the insolvent was in custody on a criminal charge, and the attorney wished the case to be adjourned until after his examination.
          Mr. Commissioner Phillips asked how long the adjournment would be required for?
          Mr. Ingpen said, as the party was to be examined in a day or two, the case had better stand adjourned for a week.
          His Honour assented, and the protection was enlarged till Monday. (Morning Post

9 May 1857

THE CASE OF INDECENT AND DISGUSTING ASSAULTS. – Alfred Strickland, a married man and chemist, carrying on business in the Walworth-road, who has been in custody for a week charged with disgusting conduct towards two boys and criminally assaulting a third youth, all of whom had lived in his service as errand boys, was placed at the bar for final examination.
          The case as disclosed by the evidence was one of the most disgusting that can be possibly conceived or ever came before a court of justice, though the punishment of the miscreant prisoner is, owing to the present defective state of the law, but of light character.
          Sergeant Coppin, who had the case in hand, in reply to the question of the magistrate, said he had no further evidence to offer than that given on the last examination, and thus the case for the prosecution was closed.
          Mr. Solomon, on behalf of the prisoner, addressed the court at some length. He said that as regarded the indecent assaults he feared he could not contend against the evidence, or successfully oppose a conviction; but as regarded the criminal charge of one of the boys, the story or statement of the youth was of so extraordinary a character as to be scarcely worthy of belief. It was difficult to suppose, if there was any truth whatever in his statement, that the youth would have remained quiet and made no noise about the matter and not have disclosed it to his parents or friends; and under the circumstances he (Mr. Solomon) did not think it probable that any jury would be found to convict his client of a capital offence on the unsupported and uncorroborated testimony of the youth himself. The whole of the facts were before his worship, and the question was whether he felt called upon imperatively to place the prisoner at the bar upon his trial, or whether the case was not one which he should dispose of himself.
          Mr. Elliott commented in strong and indignant terms on the gross and disgusting conduct of the prisoner, and said the improbability of any jury convicting for so serious an offence upon the uncorroborated testmiony of a single witness was such that he did not see the slightest use in sending the prisoner for trial for the more serious offence. His (the prisoner's) conduct towards the other two boys was of the most shameful and disgusting character, and for it he (Mr. Elliott) was sorry to say the law did not sufficiently enable him to punish him; but as far as he was enabled he should exercise his power, and that was to commit him for six months each, or twelve months' hard labour in Wandsworth House of Correction.
          Some applause followed his worship's decision, and the prisoner, who during the short examination acted with the most brazen nonchalance, taking notes of what passed, was removed from the bar.
          Soon afterwards it was found that one of the lads on whose evidence he had been convicted had not in point of fact objected to the prisoner's filthy proceedings at the time, and therefore it could not be legally treated as an assault. The consequence was that the prisoner was obliged to be sent for, and one of the convictions taken off, so that his punishment consists of six months' hard labour only. (Lambeth and Southwark Advertiser)

SOURCE: Various newspapers, dates as given.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "A Chemist and His Errand Boys, 1857", Homosexuality in Nineteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 6 October 2020 <http://rictornorton.co.uk/eighteen/1857chem.htm>.

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