Newspaper Reports, 1858–59

24 July 1858

AN UNNATURAL MONSTER. – At the West Riding Court, on Monday, a middle-aged man named Titus Toothill, a weaver from Allerton, was charged with having prompted an old man named Jonathan Knowles, of the same place, also a weaver, to commit with himself an unnatural crime. He had done so three or four times during the three previous years, and the last time on the previous Wednesday. The brute was ordered out of court, which he precipitately left. This public exposure and consequent execration will punish him severely. (Leeds Times)

2 April 1858

At the Sunderland police-court, on Monday, Robert Lister, steamboat owner, was committed for trial, charged with committing an unnatural crime on the person of John Ard, aged eighteen years, shoemaker. Bail was refused. (Durham Chronicle)

29 July 1858

The Grand Jury ignored the bill against Robert Lister (44), waterman, charged with sodomy, at Sunderland. (Shields Daily Gazette)

12 August 1859

ROBERT LISTER, shipowner, Sunderland, appeared on first examination. The insolvent was supported by Mr. Brignal, and opposed by Mr. Blackwell, instructed by Mr Eglinton (clerk of Mr John Martin Cooper, solicitor). The insolvent's debts amounted to £116, 7s 9d, £78, 6s 8d of which were alleged to be due to Mr Cooper, who was the detaining creditor. The insolvent underwent a long examination with respect to the contents of his balance-sheet, and more particularly as to the debt claimed by Mr Cooper. The insolvent admitted that judgment had been given against him for the sum claimed by the detaining creditor, but still he asserted that it was a fictitious claim, and that he did not owe the money. It was elicited that in 1858 a charge of unnatural crime was preferred against the insolvent by a man whom it afterwards appeared had been convicted twenty-three times of various offences. The case was sent for trial at Durham assizes, and the grand jury ignored the bill. The insolvent had previously employed Mr Cooper to defend him, and the latter had underaken to prepare to conduct the defence for £250. This sum the insolvent paid; having raised the amount by disposing of some shares in two vessels. Not content with this, Mr Cooper charged a further usm of £75, 6s 8d. – Mr Brignal said he had never seen such a bill in his life as Mr Cooper had charged for the defence of this poor man. It was perfectly monstrous. Twenty-one guineas had been charged for instructions; forty-one guineas for attendance on witnesses; eleven guineas for going up to London to ask Mr Ballantyne to come down to defend, when a letter would have answered the purpose equally well; and £10, 1s was charged for Mr Eglington's journey from Sunderland to Harlepool in the in solvent's own vessel. All the other charges were on the same magnitude; and the sum Mr Cooper had chargted for defending a charge which the grand jury believed to be groundless would suffice to defend all the prisoners at two assizes. – Mr Eglington, Mr Cooper's clerk, was sworn, and said that the money out of pocket on the whole account amounted to £110. On cross-examination by Mr Brignal, however, he would not swear that all the counsel's fees had been paid, and he admitted that two guineas which were charged in the bill for searching the prison books had not been paid to Mr Dodds, clerk of the gaol, but he was not aware of it until that morning. – His HONOUR said he should adjourn the case until the enxt court, and in the meantime get some respectable solicitor to tax Mr Cooper's bill. (Durham Chronicle)

19 March 1859

Osman Sulaman and Huseen Aubashi, two Turks, were charged with committing an unnatural crime at Devonport, on the 10th of March.
          Mr. Powell prosecued; Mr. Cole and Mr. Slade-Gully defended the prisoners.
          The jury found both prisoners guilty, and when asked if they had anything to say why judgment should not be passed upon them, they replied that they left all they had to say to God, for they could not die but once.
          Sentence of death recorded. (Exeter and Plymouth Gazette)

19 March 1859

ASMAN SULAMAN AND HUSEEN AUBASHI, (Turks), not in the calendar, were charged with an unnatural crime at Devonport, on the 10th March. Mr. Powell prosecuted; Mr. Cole and Mr. Slade Gulley defended the prisoners. The evidence in the case was conveyed to the prisoners through an interpreter. Both prisoners were found guilty. The interpreter informed them that death would be recorded against them. They replied that they should die only once, and would leave all to God. They were then told that their lives would not be taken, but that judgment of death would simply be recorded against them. They were then removed from the dock. (Western Times)

20 April 1859

DISGUSTING CHARGE. – James Mesaye, a fashionably-dressed young man, with moustache, described as living at 5, Claremont-terrace, Prince of Wales-road, Kentish-town, was charged with indecentlky assaulting a boy, named Thomas Morris; the complainant, however, being a consenting party, the filthy case was dismissed. (Morning Chronicle)

28 April 1859

LAMBETH. – CHARGE OF INDECENT ASSAULT. – The Rev. Nicholas Bessot, a short stout person, 50 years of age, who was said to be a Belgian Catholic clergyman, was placed at the bar before Mr. Elliott on a charge of indecently assaulting William Harris, a butcher-boy, in the St. George's-circus, on the evening before.
          Mr. Solomon appeared for the accused.
          Police-constable James Lake, 153 M, deposed that, on the evening before, while on duty in the St. George's-circus, a little boy came to him and asked him to take charge of the prisoner, who stood near to him, for committing an indecent assault on him. The boy said that while standing in a crowd of persons who were assembled in the Crown public-house, for the purpose of hearing the address of Sir Charles Napier, one of the candidates for the borough of Southwark, the prisoner assaulted him.
          The witness here repeated the statement of the boy to him respecting the acts of the prisoner, which could leave no doubt whatever of his disgracefl intentions, and said that on the lad's representations he took him into custody.
          Mr. Elliott – Did the prisoner say anything to the charge?
          Witness – He denied it, your worship, and said he had not touched the boy.
          Mr. Elliott – Is the boy who made the charge in attendance?
          Witness – He is not, your worship, though he was told to be here at ten o'clock.
          Mr. Solomon. – My client is a French clergyman, and he most solemnly assures me that there is not a word of truth in the accusation. He tells me that, on returning to his residence, 39, St. George's-road, he had to encounter a large assemblage of persons collected in front of the Crown public-house, to hear an electioneering speech from Sir Charles Napier, and it was impossible to get through without touching some one, but he had not the slightest recollection of having touched the lad who gave him in charge no more than any one else, and as the complainant has not thought proper to attend, I hope your worship will dismiss the case.
          Mr. Elliott. – I think it but right that the case should be properly investigated, particularly as the prisoner has been in custody before on a similar charge.
          Mr. Solomon. – I am aware that he has, your worship, for I attended for him; and my imporession then was that the charge was perfectly unfounded, and he was at once discharged. The charge now I understand to be also unfounded.
          Mr. Elliott. – Let the prisoner be detained for the present, and let the lad be sent for.
          At a late hour in the evening the prisoner was again placed at the bar, when the father of the complainant, Wm. Harris, who resides at No. 24½, Tennison-street, York-road, Lambeth, was put into the witness box, and said his son had gone to the west end of the town at an early hour in the morning to look for a situation, and he did not know when he would return.
          Mr. Elliott. – He has given the prisoner into custody on a serious charge, and signed the charge sheet, and he must therefore attend.
          The Father. – I would much rather he did not have to attend.
          Mr. Elliott. – Yes, but he must; and I shall hold the prisoner to bail to give your son an opportunity of attending.
          The prisoner was liberated on his entering into his personal recognizance of £40 to attend at a future examination. (The Sun)

29 April 1859

LAMBETH. – THE INDECENT ASSAULT BY A CATHOLIC CLERGYMAN. – The Rev. Nicholas Bessot, a Catholic clergyman, belonging to St. George's Cathedral, who stands charged with the commission of an indecent assault upon the person of William Harris, a butcher boy of about 15 years of age, attended before the Hon. G. C. Norton in discharge of his recognisances for further examination.
          Mr. Solomon, as on the day before, appeared on behalf of the accused.
          When the case was called on, Mr. Norton was informed that the complainant kept out of the way on the day before, but that his father, who is a butcher, carrying on business at No. 24½, Tennyson-street, York-road, Lambeth, had promised Mr. Elliott he should be in attendance to give his evidence on that morning. He had not however, kept his promise, as neihter father nor son were present, and Mr. Solomon applied for the discharge of his client.
          Mr. Norton, however, desired an officer to proceed to the residence of the lad Harris, and bring him to the court to give evidence, but on the officer's return he informed his worship that the only answer he received was that both the boy and father were from home.
          Mr. Solomon complained in strong and indignant terms of the conduct of Inspector Byron, of the L division, in having, during his (Mr. Solomon's) absence, and while wholly disconnected with the case, most indecently and improperly interefered in it. The charge was in the hands of a most intelligent officer, and the interference of Byron was both uncalled for and highly reprehensible. The judges in the superior courts would not tolerate such an interference, and he trusted that for the future his worship would not do so.
          Mr. Norton directed that the constable Lake, 153 M, and Sergeant Brand, of the L division, should be sworn, and after hearing their evidence he remanded the accused, but offered to take bail for his attendance on another day. He also ordered that summonses should be issued for the attendance of Harris and his son. (The Sun)

3 May 1859

CHARGE OF INDECENT ASSAULT AGAINST A CLERBYMAN. – The Rev. Nicholas Bissot, a Catholic clergyman, belonging to St. George's Cathedral, who has been twice before the magistrate on a charge of indecently assaulting a youth named William Harris, while in a crowd at one of Sir Charles Napier's open-air electioneering meetings, appeared before Mr. Elliott, in discharge of his recognisances for final examination.
          Mr. Solomon, as on former examinations, attended for the defendant.
          Sergeant Broad, 1 L, said he had used his utmost exertion to bring forward the youth Harris, but did not succeed.
          The father of Harris assured the magistrate that he had not seen his son since he left his home on the Thursday morning last, and said he was likely to be injured in his business by the misrepresentation of the officers.
          Mr. Elliott remarked that it was the duty of persons giving prisoners into custody on such charges to come forward and substantiate them. The reasons which led to the absence of the complainant in the present case he (Mr. Elliott) could not pretend to say, but as he did not feel justified in detaining the prisoner longer, he was then discharged. (Morning Advertiser)

3 July 1859

DISGUSTING CHARGE. – The Hon. Mr. Montgomery, a relatiive of the Earl of Eglinton, was charged before Mr. Traill, at the Greenwich Police-court, on two examinations – the last of which was on Monday, the 27th ult. – with indecently assaulting a lad of 17 years of age, the son of a labouring man. The prosecutor, when first assaulted, communicated with the police, and, acting under their instructions, again met the prisoner, when he repeated the conduct, and was taken into custody. Mr. Traill committed the honourable defendant. Bail being offered was accepted, two in £250 each, and himself in £500. (Weekly Dispatch)

14 August 1859

A SERJEANT OF POLICE CENSURED FOR PERFORMING HIS DUTY – After the disposal of the general business at the Greenwhich Police-court yesterday, Serjeant Best, 21 B, applied to the Court for certain papers connected with a recent case of indecent assault sent for trial at the July sessions of the Cental Criminal Court. Mr. Traill, before whom the case was heard, addressing the serjeant, said he understood the foreman of the grand jury, in ignoring the bill, made some strong remarks respeting his (the serjeant's) conduct in connection with the case. He wished to know whether this was true, because, as the Government was about making some alterations in law with respect to the grand jury system, he thought the case in point would be an argument to show how justice was defeated by such a system. Serjeant Best replied, that he was not in court at the time, but he understood the foreman of the grand jury had censured his conduct in watching the defendant, and taking him into custody. Mr. Traill – "And have you suffered any loss in consequence?" Serjeant Best – "I have to a certain extent, having been suspended from doing duty at Sydenham for some time, by order of the Police Commissiners, but I have since been reinstated." Mr. Traill – "It is a monstrous proceeding, and if you are likely to be injured in your prosepcts in the force, let me know it and I will see that everything is made right in the proper quarter. Here is a case in which a complaint is made to you by a young man of having been indecently assaulted by an individual, who makes an appointment to meet him at a particular spot on the following evening. In consequence of this you very properly, in my opinion, arrange to watch at the spot at the time named, and the complaint is so well-founded that you see sufficient to take the accused into custody, and I send the case to the sessions, where the foreman of the grand jury, whoever he may be, gives an opinion that you ought to have directed the party who had been assaulted to go in another direction, and not meet the offender, thus leaving him undisturbed to follow his evil courses. As well might you be censured for watching a house which you may have been informed was about being broken into, and capturing the thief. I shall make some further inquiry, and should you suffer in any manner for what you have done, make me acquainted with the fact." Serjeant Best, having promised to comply with his worship's advice, left the court. (Weekly Dispatch)

17 September 1859

John Parsons, mariner, was charged with having indecentlky assaulted Titus Rodwell. The particulars of this case are not fit for publication. Parsons is mate of the sloop "Fanny," now lying in the river, and was apprehended upon this charge, as soon as the facts were known by Mr. Supt. Burke, but he was not secured without a large amount of trouble. Rodwell was cabin-boy on board the same vessel, and slept with prisoner during the voyage from Hull to Wisbech. It was considered by the Bench as a case clearly made out against the prisoner, and he was ordered to pay a fine of 4l. 5s., and 15s. costs; being unable to comply with the order he was sentenced to two months' imprisonment. (Cambridge Chronicle)

17 September 1859

Serve Him Right! – On Tuesday last a seaman named John Paroon [sic], of Hull, was apprehended by Mr. Superintendent Burke, on the charge of indecently assaulting a lad named Tybus [sic] Rodwell, on the voyage from Hull to this place. The magistrates, after a patient investigation, decided to treat the case as one of common assualt, and fined the defendant £5, or in default two months' imprisonment. The money not being forthcoming, the accused was consigned to durance vile, where we hear he is likely to remain. (Cambridge Independent Press)

15 October 1859

At the Bath Police office, on Monday, the following case was heard. The Rev. James Todd, who said he came from Bristol, was charged with an indecent assault on Thomas Stenner, a lad 14 years of age. The offence was committed in the coffee-room of an hotel, where the lad had been induced to go under a promise of money. The details are unfit for publication. The prisoner's only excuse was that he had too much drink. – Fined £5 and costs, or two months' imprisonment; and also to enter into recognizances – himself in £100, and two sureties in £100 each – to be of good behaviour for three months. The prisoner could neither pay the fine nor find the bail, and was sent to the Bath Gaol. (We do not recollect any clergyman or dissenting minister of the above name, as belonging to Bristol. – Ed. B.M.) (Bristol Mercury)

22 December 1859

An Unnatural Crime.
SAMUEL SHORE, book-keeper, and ROBERT KILWORTH, no trade, were indicted for an abominable crime, committed in September last. True bills were returned by the jury. The only evidence of the offence was that of Shore. He was therefore admitted as a witness on the part of the Crown; and Kilworth was arraigned and pleaded not guilty. The trial was then proceeded with. The details are totally unfit for publication. The jury retired from Court about eleven o'clock, and did not return until nearly six in the evening, when the foreman said they could not agree, and were divided 7 against 5. The jury was then discharged; and, the prosecution being abandoned, the prisoner was set at liberty. (Nottinghamshire Guardian)

SOURCE: Various newspapers, dates as given.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "Newspaper Reports, 1858–59", Homosexuality in Nineteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 1 November 2020 <>.

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