Newspaper Reports, 1860s

2 April 1860

Joseph Moore, described as a paper box-maker, living in Hurst-street, but who is well known to the police as a person of vagrant habits, was brought up under the following circumstances:– He was seen in the streets on the previous night in the dress of a female, and accosted various persons in terms of gross indecency. Ultimtely a police-constable saw him enter an outhouse adjoining some dwelling houses, and took him into custody on suspiciou. Moore now said he "only did it for a lark," but previous convictions having been proved, he was sentenced to three months' imprisonment. (Aris's Birmingham Gazette)

Wednesday, 13 June 1860


We noticed this painful matter very briefly in yesterday's Daily Post. Today the case was fully gone into, before T. Phillips and William Gough, Esqurs., and occupied upwards of two hours in its hearing. Of course from its nature – charges of capital offence and criminal assault upon youths – we cannot give the details, and the first or more serious charge [i.e. sodomy] was not substantiate [i.e. there was no proof of penetration and ejaculation]. As to the second – the indecent assaults – the lads gave detailed evidence. The defendant is a young man, the Rev. Henry Hatchard Coward, and he has for some time past officiated as a minister in what is called the Free Church, situate in the Grange Road, Small Heath. He is not married, and has apartments at a respectable house in Muntz Street, near his church. The witnesses were George Turner, 17, George Alcott, 16, William King, 17, and Herbet Johnson, 16. It seems that the accused was assiduous in attending to a school attached to his chapel, and took advantage of this to appoint Turner to come to his lodgings, and in a room where he professed to display some chemical experiements (the place being darkened by the shutters being closed) the indecent assault took place. As to Alcott's case, this youth was enticed by a promise orf some cast-off clothes to go into the room just referred to, and he was there also indecently assaulted by the prisoner. The case of King was one of strange character. Defendant met him accidentally in Heath Mill Lane, and after telling him that he was a doctor, recently come from London, went with him to where he worked, in Trinity Street, and appointed a place to meet him in the evening at nine o'clock; but Coward did not come till the next afternoon, when he fetched the youth, and took him to the Fountain, in Heath Mill Lane. Here, after treating him with ale, the indecent assault took place, but immediately upon its occurring, King left the place and went to his work. The last case, that of Johnson,w as of sad character. The defendant had got this youth to sleep with him on three several nights, and the indecency took place in bed. This youth, on being asked if he resiste,d answered in the negative, as on the two first occasions of sleeping together, Coward frightened him by talking of committing suicide with a pistol. After a lengthened consultation, the Magistrates were of opinion that they could only commit for trial in the cases of Alcott and King; but from what fell from Mr. Powell in Court, he being engaed for the prosecution, the charge as regards Johnson will also have the attention of a Jury. Finally the defendant, who, by the advice of Mr. Hemmant, his solicitor, reserved his defence, was committed to the Sessions for trial. The Bench, in answer to Mr. Hemmant, said that bail would be accepted for the prisoner, two sureties in 100 each, and himself in 200. The defendant, who maintained much self-possession during the painful details, was dressed in the costume of a minister, and is of short stature, pale complexion, dark hair and eyes, and apparently about thirty years of age. One of his brothers was in Court, and it is said that Coward is respectably connected. He was apprehended at Leamington on Sunday last, where he had been just before preaching a sermon in one of the chapels. To inspector Horsewill, of the Leamington police, who took him, he said, "They cannot, however, charge me with sodomy." (Birmingham Daily Post, Issue 653.

Saturday, 23 February 1861


The bills against the following prisoners were all cut: – . . . John Blenkinsop Bagley, provision dealer, 32 (imp.), indicted for committing the crime of sodomy, at Blackburn, on the 16th December, 1860. (The Preston Guardian)

Friday, 28 June 1861

CHARGE OF SODOMY. – Gillyatt Sumner, and old man with white hair, who has resided at Woodmancy, near Beverley, and a young man named Crabtree, from Bradford, were charged with committing sodomy. The charge was made by a boilermaker in the employ of Messrs Samuelsons, named Jones. Holgate, who with prisoners and some others, had occupied beds on Wednesday night in a room at the Regatta Tavern, High-street, with several witnesses were examined, and the case was adjourned until to-morrow (Friday). (The Hull Packet and East Riding Times; issue 3989.)

28 June 1861

CHARGE OF SODOMY. – Gillyatt Sumner, an old man with white hair, who has resided at Woodmancy, near Beverley, and a young man named Crabtree, from Bradford, were charged with committing sodomy. The charge was made by a boilermaker in the employ of Messrs Samuelsons, named Jones. Holgate, who with prisoners and some others, had occupied beds on Wednesday night in a room at the Regatta Tavern, High-street, with several witnesses were examined, and the case was adjourned until to-morrow (Friday). (Hull Packet)

28 June 1861

SODOMY. – Gilligate Sumner and James Crabtree were charged by Jonas Holgate, the one with committing sodomy and the other with allowing it to be committed upon him at the Regatta Tavern, High-street, on Thursday morning about two o'clock. The facts of the case are unfit for publication. The prisoners were remanded till Friday. (Hull Advertiser)

29 June 1861

At the Hull Police Court, yesterday, Gillyatt Sumner and James Crabtree, remanded on an abominable charge, were committed to the Sessions to take their trial for an attempt. Bail was offered to be taken for Crabtree, but refused for Sumner. (Beverley and East Riding Recorded)

12 July 1861

Gilyat Sumner (68) and James Crabtree (17), both described in the calendar as well educated, were charged with committing an abominable offence.
          This case caused a good deal of excitement, and the court was crowded during the proceedings of the trial. The counsel for the prosecution were Mr Smith and Mr Gresham, instructed by Mr Summers; and the counsel on the other side were, for Mr Sumner, Mr W. D. Seymour, Q.C. (specially retained), and Mr Lewers; Pettingell being solicitor for both prisoners.
          The principal witness was a boiler maker named James Holgate, and the offence was alleged to have been committed at the Regatta Tavern, High-street.
          Mr. Seymour, Q.C., addressed the jury on behalf of the defence. His speech, which wa a most eloquent defence of the prisoners, lasted an hour and twenty minutes. In commencing his observations he said he felt much pleasure and delight at hearing his voince once more in the good old town of Hull, and in this good old Court-house. Referring to the nature of the charge, he said there were occasions when a British advocate in a court of law had something to impel him in a course of duty, something far nobler and loftier than any sentiment of modesty or decorum. The prisoner he defended was charged with a crime againstwhcih his respectability and white locks spoke with eloquence. The years he had spent inpublic utility, in making a collection of antiquated lore, which literatii and men of genius in Yorkshire had visited, spoke as well as his age, his position, and his respectability. He then commented very severely on the manner in which the evidence had been given, and the character of the principal witness, and ponte dout the many circumstances which favoured doubt and disbelief of the truth of the charge, and which they were bound to, and would willingly give the prisoners the benefit. At the conclusion of his speech, the learned council was greeted with loud cheers by the people in the court.
          Several witnesses were then called to speak as to the respecability of Mr Sumner. The witnesses were Mr Matthew Denton, retired grocer, of Beverley, who knew him upwards of 30 years; Mr James Harrison, painter, Beverley; Mr Robert Park, bricklayer; and Mr Thos. Palmer, grocer. Each of these gentlemen deposed that during the many years they had known Mr Sumner he had been a person of good moral characteer. He had been a churchwarded for Beverley, and had been a member of the Town-council of that town. He was greatly respected amongst the poor people, and had been once requested byt he working-classes to put himself in nomination as a member of parliament.
          After a few words from Mr Thompson, the learned Recorder proceeded to sum up the evidence, after which the jury returned a verdict of "Guilty" against Mr Sumner, and acquitted the lad Crabtree.
          The Recorder sentenced Sumner to 14 months' imprisonment.
          This concluded the business of the sessions. (Hull Packet)

13 July 1861

Gilyat Sumner (68) and James Crabtree (17) were placed at the bar with unlawfully attempting to commit a certan abominable offence, and the prisoner Sumner was by a second count charged with assaulting Crabtree, with intent, &c. – Mr. John Smith and Mr. Gresham, instructed by Mr. Summers, appeared for the prosecution of the first prisoner; W. D. Seymour, Q.C., M.P. (specially retained), and Mr. W. Lewers, instructed by Mr. Pettingell, for the defence; and Mr. Thompson and Mr. Pechell, also instructed by Mr. Pettingell, defended Crabtree. – After the evidence of the counsel on both sides had been neard, the learned Recorder carefully summed up the whole of the evidence, when the jury retired, and after being absent a short time returned into court with a verdict of not guilty on the first count, and a verdict of guilty against Sumner on the second count. – The learned Recorder then sentenced Sumner to fourteen months' imprisonment with hard labour. (Hull Advertiser)

13 July 1861

At the Hull sessions, on Saturday, Mr. Sumner, an old gentleman of independent means, residing at Woodmanse, near Beverley, and who, only a short time ago, was solicited to become a candidate for the representation of that borough, was sentenced to fourteen months' imprisonment for an abominable offence. (Leicester Chronicle)

13 July 1861

At the Hull Sessions, on Saturday, Gilyatt Sumner, aged 68 years, a venerable looking gentleman resident near Beverley, where, owing to his antiquarian pursuits, he has been frequently visited by persons of literary distinction, and has filled the office of Churchwarden for thirty years, and James Crabtree, a youth [of] 17, were arraigned on a criminal indictment for having on the night of the 26th and 27th June last, attempted to commit an unnatural offence; and the prisoner, Sumner was by a second count charged with assaulting the younger prisoner, with intent, &c. – Mr. Smith and Mr. Gresham (instructed by Mr. Summers) appeared for the prosecution, while Mr. Digby Seymour, Q.C. (specially retained) and Mr. Lewers defended the prisoner Sumner, Crabtree being defended by Mr. Thompson and Mr. Pechell, all the defendants council being instructed by Mr. Pettingell. The case seemed to excite the deepest interest, not only the court being crowded to its utmost capacity, but there being an unusual assemblage of the magistracy on the bench, whom the extraordinary circumstances of the case and the respectability of the accused, who is a person of independent circumstances, had attracted. – Mr. Smith opened the case in a very temperate speech, from which it apeared that the prisoner Crabtree, an innocent looking youth, who wept bitterly on being placed in the dock, was one of the three youths who had left Bradford, and arrived in Hull on the 22nd June, with the view of shipping on board the guard-ship Cornwallis. For this purpose they haunted for three days the Humber Tavern, in Humber-street, which it seems is what is termed a "house of call" for the guard-ship. Here on Wednesday, the 26th, they fell in with the elder prisoner, who accosted them, asked them their history, and finally ordered for them a quart of ale, of which he partook with them. They afterwards met a man of the name of Watson, when all five adjourned to another tavern, where they had more ale, after which the man Watson, who it seems keeps a public-house, went home to tea. The three lads and Sumner then seem to have made a round of the public-houses, drinking at Sumner's expence, till one of their number, a lad named Pitt, began to feel the effects of the liquor he had consumed, and talk oscenely. They then went to Watson's and asked him if he could furnish the party with beds. He, however, could only offer accommodation for two, upon which sumner objected to separate. They went to the Regatta Tavern, where also they were at first unsuccessful, but room was afterwards made for them in a large room at the top of the house, where they were ushered into a room having three beds, in one of which two men named Peters and Holgate were sleeping when the party came in. sumner thereupon said the two other lads, Hodgson and Pitt, should sleep in one bed, and himself and Crabtree would occupy the othe which adjoined the window, and, as the night was clear, permitted the occupants of the bed in which Peters and Holgate were sleeping to see anything that might take place between the occupants of the bed adjoining the bed-room window. Pitt, who acnowledged to being very drunk, and Hodgson turne dinto bed at once, being tir3ed, and positively denied having been conversing together after undressing.
          Jonas Holgate,on whose evidence the entire case rested, then desdribed what took place in the bedroom, the particulars of which are unfit for publiczation.
          Mr. Thompson, on behalf of the defendant, Crabtree, raised a technical objection to the terms of the indictment, which the learned Recorder overruled.
          The counsel for the defence then, for the space of one hour and twenty minutes, delivered a most powerful, impressive, and eloquent speech in defence of Sumner, and in conclusion asked – What and who was the man Holgate, where did he come from? Bright, was his reply. But, what was he? an honest, hardworking man, a boiler-maker, staying in Brighton, out of work, living on his means, as he said. Was it becasue there was no work to be had? or was it rather thant he was one of that class of men who preferred idleness to working, and who when they have got a little money could not work until they had spent it? What was there about him, but the coat of the Messrs. Samuelson to commend him as a respectable man to the jury? The jury would have heard of men, for the purpose of extorting money from parties, making aanst them the most abominable charges. What was there in the present case to preclude it from being included in that category? Look at the conduct of the man Holdgate. According to his own evidence he overhears a conversation which arouses his honest suspicions. These suspicions being aroused, he awaits the prisoners goint to bed. Not only that, he lies awake for the space of two hours, says he hears expressions which convince him that an unnatural offence is contemplated, and further, that he actually witnesses what confirms those suspicions. But he would beg the jury's attention to his conduct under the circumstances. He says he lay looking on for three or four minutes before jumping out of bed an charging sumner. He sould ask whether a man of an honest and pure disposition would have looked on for a length of time sufficient for the consummation of the offence, or he would not have on the very first second of his beholding anyting improper have jumped up and stopped it. He does not do that. He lies there with listening ears and stifled breath, allowing his eyes to rest on the operation he had described. What was the inference to be drawn from his conduct? Was it as he had suggested, that he knew that Sumner was a man with money, and that he thought if he even mentioned such a matter as the one under consideraton to him, he (Sumner) would at once have come out with the expression satisfactory to the feelings of an extortioner? but that Sumner, instead of having done so, indignantly refuted the accusation made against him, and calle dhim (Holgate) a villain, and that therefore Holgate, finding his project a failure, felt bound to proceed with his charge against the parties to protect himself from having to stand at that bar to answer a charte of attempting to extort money from Sumner. It was possible, very possible, that such might have been the case.
          The learned Recorder having very carefully summed up the whole of the evidence,
          The jury, after a short consultsation, returned into court wiht averdict of not guilty on the first count, and a verdict of guilty against Sumner on the second count. – The learned Recorder sentenced him to 14 months imprisonment. (Beverley and East Riding Recorder)

Saturday, 15 February 1862

PETTY SESSIONS [Portsmouth], Saturday. – John Phillips, keeper of the "Evening Star," beerhouse, was summoned by Superintendent Cook, charged with keeping a disorderly house, and allowing persons to meet together therein for immoral purposes. Mr. Field conducted defendant's case. The evidence is unfir for publication. The defendant was convicted in the penalty of 2l. 10s., and costs.

COMMITTED TO THE HANTS COUNTY PRISON. – . . . Sodomy – Charles Winfield and Samuel Gobey, 330 days. (Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle; Issue 3254)

Friday, 16 May 1862

SODOMY. – William Normanton, a resolute looking fellow, was brought up on a charge of attempting to commit sodomy upon a youth named Ralph Oliver, residing with his parents in Church-street, Drypool. After the hearing of the prosecutor's evidence, which was of a very disgusting character throughout, his worship expressed himself dissatisfied with the evidence, and therefore discharged the prisoner on the ground that the charge was not substantiated. (The Hull Packet and East Riding Times; Issue 4034)

10 January 1863

Thomas Brown (65), and Wm. Pitchford (19), the former stated to have been a Methodist local preacher, were charged with sodomy, at Staveley, on the 11th November last. – Mr. Stephen prosecuted. – The evidence was most revolting. The prisoner Brown harangued the Court, and blasphemously quoted Scripture, and spoke in religious terms. Not the slightest doubt existed in the case, the prisoner Brown having admitted the offence to Serjeant Bown, Staveley. – Brown, in his final defence, with tears, said that if Christ were to call him at once, he believed he should go to heaven, an announcement which was received with the utmost disgust in Court. – Guilty. – The Chairman said they had been convicted of the most horrible offence, and he never heard a defence more calculated to disgust than that of Brown. He might mention that they might have been indicted at the Assizes. – Brown was sentenced to penal servitude for five years, and Pitchfork for three years. (Derbyshire Courier)

29 June 1864

SERIOUS CHARGE AGAINST A GENTLEMAN. – Mr. H. B. Ogilvy, of Brook-street, London, brother of the Earl of Airlie, was charged at the Marlborough-street Police-court, with assaulting Mr. Hahn, wine merchant, in a brotherl. The prisoner admitted that he had been present during an improper scene between a prostitute and a boy, and that subsequently Hahn charged him with an unnatural offence, which led to the assault. He was committed for trial, bil being taken. The Earl of Airlie complained of the treatment the prisoner had received at th House of Detention when remanded for further examination. Shaving was not permitted, brushes had to be smuggled into the prison, and the blankets were full of vermin. He considered it was very harsh and improper that prisoners awaiting their trial should be treated in such a manner. (Mona's Herald, Isle of Man)

18 October 1864

John Scott, 17, collier, pleaded guilty to an indictment charging him with an attempt to commit sodomy with William Cook, at Mansfield, on the 30th August, 1864. Sentenced to 6 calendar months' imprisonment with hard labor. (Nottingham Journal)

Saturday, 5 August 1865


WEDNESDAY.   Thomas Manuel, 23, was arraigned for having, at Wrexham, committed an unnatural crime with one William Williams, on the 10th of July, 1865.
          Prisoner pleaded not guilty.
          Mr. Swetenham prosecuted.
          John Bonnor, a hawker, residing at Chester, John Lueas [?] Watson, P. C. Huffrens, and Wm. Williams, were calle dupon to prove the case. The evidence at Prisoner's request, was interpreted into Welsh, by Mr. Isaac Clarke.
          The jury found the prisoner guilty of an attempt to perpetrate the offence.
          The judge, addressing the prisoner, said – You have been found guilty of an attempt to commit the abominable offence of sodomy. I am afraid that anything I might say to you would be thrown over. [i.e. ignored] Therefore I shall content myself with passing a sentence upon yo of 18 months' imprisonment, with hard labour. (North Wales Chronicle, issue 1972)

Friday, 13 November 1868

POLICE – On Thursday, the 5th insatant, at the Magistrates' Clerk's office (before the Rev. J. R. Hill, James Mitchelson, and S. H. Loy, Esqs.) – Thomas Williamson and jonathan Goodwill, both young men from the village of Sinnington, were brought up in custody, charged witih committing the unnatural offence of sodomy in a plantation at Sinnington, on the 1st of November. From information given to the police they were apprehended by P. C. Jackson, Wrelton, on the 3rd instant, and remanded until Monday, the 9th inst, when they were again brought up before the Rev. J. R. Hill, and finally committed to York Castle, for trial at the next assizes. (The Hull Packet and East Riding Times; issue 4371)

24 April 1869

Anybody who is accustomed to pass through Regent-street in the afternoon must have noticed a feminine-looking youth in company with an over-dressed and obtrusive woman. The long neck and the narrow waist of the youth, his short steps in walking, his rouged and powdered face, his shape, figure, and demeanour altogether, attract something more than passing attention. Sometimes he may be seen in evening dress at the theatre, and there are certain places of more familiar resort where he is as well known as the man or woman behind the bar. The youth who thus figures in the London world is, in fact, a woman; and although we mention one only, by way of illustration, it is a fact that this kind of masquerading is now coming into vogue. If women disguise themselves as men, men return the compliment by assuming the garb of women. As a rule, men can "make up" better as women than women as men, although in either case the walk is pretty sure to betray the truth. Among the other novelties introduced into the Park this season, the fashion of men and women changing clothes with each other has more than once been observed. Where the fun lies, only the idiots who indulge in the practice would be able to explain. Perhaps the knowledge that the pastime is not unattended with risk may give it a zest which the casual observer would fail to appreciate. When a woman who has parted with all the nobler attributes of her sex casts off the outward semblance too, and goes forth in male attire, she is not unlikely to fall into the hands of the police. On the 16th inst. we had to notice a misadventure of the kind which happened to one of the male masqueraders – a booby of sixteen. He was well dressed, and his head carried the regulation chignon. He had nothing to say for himself in defence, but a woman in the court called out, "Speak the truth, Henry. They are my clothes your Worship." This boy seems to have begun life in a promising fashion; and if he continues to travel by the same road, his first interview with a magistrate may not be the last. Although the little check to his career in feminine disguise may not prove a sufficient warning to others, we trust that somebody will always be found to hand over the impostors to the police. The joke may not seem irresistibly comic in the light of morning, with a magistrate and the reporters as part of the audience. – Daily Telegraph. (Cardiff and Merthyr Guardian;
also repeated in many other newspapers)

SOURCE: Various newspapers, dates as given.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "Newspaper Reports, 1860s", Homosexuality in Nineteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 24 June 2012, updated 6 December 2018, 18 April 2020, 8 August 2022 <>.

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