Newspaper Reports, 1877

17 March 1877

L. Davis and J. Clarke, young men of the town, were charged with attempting to commit an unnatural crime at the Midland Railway Station, St. John's-street, on the 9th inst. – The magistrates committed prisoners for trial at the Sessions, bail being allowed – two sureties in 100 each, and themselves in 200. (Northampton Mercury)

20 March 1877

SHOCKING CHARGE AGAINST A THEATRICAL AGENT. – At the Police-court, yesterday, Frederick Harvey alias Frederick Carlton, agent in advance for the "Our Boys' Company," was committed for trial on a charge of attempting to perpetrate an unnatural offence on a boy named Russell, in a house in Abbey-road, last Friday afternoon. – Mr. Carter defended the prisoner. – The case was heard in private. – It appears that Captain Bent (Chief-Constable of the Exeter Police) having received information as to the doings of the accused at Exeter, communicated with the Superintendent of Police at Torquay, and a detective was accordingly despatched to watch the prisoner. The officer was concealed in the house where Harvey lodged, and caught the culprit in flagrante delicto. The details of the case were of a horrible character, and totally unfit for publication. Substantial bail was offered, but the magistrates, after hearing what Captain Bent had to say agbout the accused's antecedents, declined to accept bail. the prisoner was conveyed to the gaol at Exeter, and both at Torre and St. David's Stations was hooted by crowds of people, some of whom loudly assured him that he was safe to get ten yars at least. (Exeter and Plymouth Gazette)

4 April 1877

ATTEMPT TO COMMIT AN UNNATURAL OOFFENCE AT KIDDERMINSTER. – James Herbert Piper (33), shoemaker, pleaded not guilty to attempting to commit an unnatural offence with George Reed, at Kidderminster, on the 30th September, 1876, and on other days within the last twelve months. He was also charged with committing the same offence with one or two other boys. Mr. Streeten prosecuted; prisoner was undefended by counsel. – The prisoner was industrial trainer at Kidderminster Workhouse, and the boy alleged prisoner committed the offence with which he was charged on a number of occasions, and the reason he did not tell the master was because prisoner threatened him with the cane if he said anything about it. Prisoner left his situation on the 19th December, and the boy told what had happened three weeks afterwards. Two other boys, Cartwright and Rodd, were produced as witnesses, and asserted that prison had misconducted himself with them. – Prisoner shortly addressed the jury in his defence, denying in a most solemn manner that he was guilty. – The jury, however, found him guilty, and he was sentenced to seven years' penal servitude. Two other indictments of a similar nature were not proceeded with. (Birmingham Daily Gazette)

12 April 1877

James Smith, 37, described as a clerk, and George Wright, 17, were indicted for an unnatural offence.
          Mr. Straight prosecuted for the Treasury; Mr. Besley and Mr. Green defended the prisoner Smith, and Mr. W. Goodman appeared for Wright, who pleaded guilty.
          This case was one of a most atrocious character, it being alleged that the elder prisoner had pursued a systematic course of improper conduct towards the other prisoner Wright, who is employed in the telegraphic department of the Post office, and a number of other lads in the same employment. The prisoner Wright was summoned as a witness for the prosecution, and he gave a detailed account of the filthy conduct practised by the prisoner, who appeared to have met the boys in the street, and invited them to his residence, No. 17, Park-street, Islington.
          The jury found the prisoner Smith guilty.
          Mr. Goodman urged on behalf of the boy Wright that he had been a good respectable boy until he had, unhappily, fallen in with the older prisoner.
          Mr. Justice Manisty sentenced Smith ot be kept in penal servitude for life, and the boy Wright to 10 years of the same punishment. He observed that he had no power to pass a lighter sentence upon the prisoner, but he would take care that the matter was referred to the proper quarter; and he had no doubt that this would have the effect of rendering this prisoner subject to a much lighter punishment. (Morning Post)

14 April 1877

Frederick Harvey, 21, agent in advance for the "Our Boys" Company, was indicted for an attempt to commit an unnatural offence on a youth named John Henry Dicker Fussell, age 16 years, residing in Wilton-terrace, St. Sidwells, Exeter, at a lodging-house, No. 2, Oak Cottages, Abbey-road, Torquay, on the 17th March, 1877. Mr. McKellar prosecuted, and Mr. St. Aubyn was for the prisoner. – After hearing the evidence of P.C. Grills, a detective officer, was was concealed in the house, and of the youth Russell, the jury found the prisoner guilty. – The counsel for the prosecution informed the Court that there was another warrant out against the prisoner on a similar charge. – The prisoner said that if he were sent to prison he should lose his situation and 150 a-year, his salary. He was, and had been, the sole support of his widowed mother, and she would have nobody to support her. – Sentenced to seven years' penal servitude. (Somerset County Gazette)

30 June 1877

James Thorpe and George Vines, two men belonging to the Royal Marines, were charged with attempting to commit an unnatural offence at Walmer. The Grand Jury found a true bill against both perisoners, and the Recorder transferred the trial of these men to Maidstone Assizes. (Thanet Advertiser)

13 July 1877

UNSUSTAINED OFFENCES. – James Thorpe and George Vines, marines, were acquitted by an alleged unnatural crime, at Waler. – Hugh McDonald, for an unnatural crime, at Gravesend, was sentenced to ten years penal servitude. (Kent and Sussex Courer)

14 July 1877

Unnatural Offences.
George Vines, a sergeant, and Thomas Sharp, who wore three good conduct stripes (Marines), were indicted for attempting to commit an unnatural crime, at Walmer, on June 3rd. – Mr Deane prosecuted. – Acquitted.
          Hugh McDonald, 30, Artilleryman, was indicted for committing an unnatural offence, at Grain, on July 1st. – Mr F. J. Smith prosecuted. – Ten years' penal servitude. (East Kent Gazette

25 July 1877

William Lamb, aged 17, was indicted for an unnatural offence. – Mr. Burke prosecuted, and Mr. Higgins defended. – In charging the jury, his lordship said it would have been better for the prisoner – were he found guilty – that the law should have been unaltered, for then he would have been sentenced to be hung, whereas now, if found guilty, he would be condemned to a life of degradation, misery, and shame. – The judge was often and visibly affected, and the jury immediately returned a verdict of not guilty, in which he said he entirely concurred. (Oswestry Advertiser)

28 July 1877


On Monday morning, shortly after ten o'clock, Mr. Mustice Manisty entered the Crown Court, at the Town Hall, and proceeded with the criminal business of the Assizes. The Grand Jury having been sworn (the Hon. Francis Dudley Stuart Wortley, foreman) his Lordship proceeded to deliver the opening charge. He said he was sorry he could not congratulate the grand jury on the calendar which lay before him. It was a very dark and dismal calendar – chiefly owing to the unprecedented number of crimes of one class. He alluded to the crime of rape and cases of an unnatural character. The list presented a catalogue of offences not only in point of number, but, as they would find, in point of character, many of which were of a revolting and shocking description, and revealed a state of immorality, especially in one part of this county, which it was difficult for any one to conceive. The cases of this class amounted to nineteen, to say nothing of three unnatural crimes. The highest number of the first-named class of offences which had up to the present come before a grand jury was, he believed, ten, so that in this instance they had nearly double that number. The was only one observation which it would be necessary to make upon this class of cases. They would find, probably, that in more than one instance only an attempt with intent was made, or that the case was properly one of aiding and abetting, but it would be unnecessary for the grand jury, if they came to the conclusion that a case of attempt with intent, or of aiding and abetting, was made out, to find specially a true bill to that effect, because if they found a bill in the way it was presented it would be open to the petty jury, when they tried the case, to reduce it to the minor offence, if they could do so. With these remarks he would dismiss these cases, which amounted to no less than 22 out of an entire list of 71. . . . (Leeds Times)

28 July 1877

John Ruisen, 48, engine driver, and Henry Ox, 49, groom, for unnatural offences, were respectively sentenced to 20 and 15 years' penal servitude each. (Huddersfield Chronicle

28 July 1877

John Raisin (46), engine driver, was indicted for an unnatural offence at Hull, on the 16th July, and was sentenced to twenty years' penal servitude. – Henry Ox (49), groom, upon an indictment charging him with a similar offence at Doncaster on the 11th April, was sentenced to fifteen years' penal servitude. (Bradford Observer)

28 July 1877

Wm. Bound, 29, weaver, Macclesfield, was indicted for the abominable crime of sodomy, at Macclesfield, on the 29th March last. Mr. U. Burke prosecuted, and Mr. Dunn defended the prisoner. The jury gave a verdict of acquittal, whereupon the prisoner, as it appeared, mechanically dropped down on his knees, clasped his hands and lifted up his eyes, as if in thankfulness. There was another indictment against the prisoner charging him with attempting the same offence, on the 27th March. – The Jude asked Mr. Burke if he intended to proceed on that indictment. – Mr. Burke said he should do so. (Cheshire Observer)

10 August 1877

SUICIDE IN A POLICE CELL. – On Monday, J. N. Dudlow, Esq., the Mid Kent Coroner, held an inquiry at the Police Station, relative to the death of Amos Heath, 20, a labourer, of Shoreham, who committed suicide by hanging himself in one of the cells, on Sunday, with a strap which he placed round his neck and then through the ventilator of his cell. – The deceased was locked up for an unnatural crime, and the lock-up-keeper spoke to him at 20 minutes past 3 in the afternoon, and at 4 he found him hanging quite dead. Did not see anything that led him to suppose the deceased's head was affected. – Dr. Thompson said that death arose from strangulation and he had heard nothing from the evidence to lead him to supppose that the deceased was of unsound mind. – The Jury returned a verdict "That the deceased committed suicide while in a state of temporary insanity." (Kent and Sussex Courier) [I don't know if his "unnatural crime" was a matter of homosexuality or of bestiality.]

2 November 1877


Michael Quinn, 19 years, a soldier, was found guilty of an attempt to commit an uinnatural offence at Fleetwood, on the 9th of August, and was sentenced to twelve months' hard labour. – Henry Johnston, 25 years, a coloured man, described as a barber, was sentenced to ten years' penal servitude for the commission of the actual offence at Wavertree. (Liverpool Mercury)

2 November 1877

Michael Quinn (19), a soldier, was indicted for having, at Thornton, near Fleetwood, on the 9th August last, committed an unnatural offence. Mr. Addison prosecuted, and the prisoner was undefended by counsel. The jury found the prisoner guilty of the attempt, and he was sentenced ot twelve months' imprisonment.
          Henry Johnson (25), a coloured man, described as a barber, was sentenced to ten years' penal servitude for an unnatural offence, at Wavertree, near Liverpool, on the 3rd Sept. (Liverpool Daily Post)

3 November 1877

Henry Johnston, 25, a coloured man, described as a barber, was sentenced to ten years' penal servitude for committing an unnatural offence.
          Michael Quinn, 19, a soldier, was convicted of attempting to commit an unnatural offence at Fleetwood, on the 9th of August, and was sentenced to twelve months' hard labour. (Liverpool Weekly Courier)

PRISON REGISTER: Henry Johnston. Date of commital: 11 September 1877. Tried 1 November 1877. Indictment: "Having, at Wavertree, on the 3rd September, 1877, feloniously, wickedly, and against the order of nature, unlawfully committed the abominable crime of buggery with one John Martin, a boy." Sentenced to ten years' penal servitude. (Prison Register, Calendar of Prisoners Tried at the Assizes for the Years 1877, HO140, pc. no. 42)

6 November 1877

The learned Judge said . . . There was a class of cases – a fearful number of them – which certainly shocked one to see – persons charged not only with committing unnatural offences, but that of abusing children under thirteen years of age. He forbore to allude to the circumstances further than to observe that if they [the Grand Jury] found to their thinking that the common jury ought inevitably to rturn a verdict of not guilty, he thought they were entitled to deal with it in a somewhat different manner to other cases, and thus prevent the circumstances being brought before the public. These cases were very numerous, and he was sorry to see that out of five cases from Shropshire three of them were of this character. . . .
          NO TRUE BILLS. – The jury returned no true bills against Thomas Whitebrook, 27, miner, for an unnatural offence at Stone, on the 21st September; against John Pugh, for a like offence at Sedgley; and Simon Fradsman, for an unnatural offence at Biddulph, on the 10th July. (Staffordshire Sentinel)

7 November 1877

James Birkett, 23, labourer, and Hugh Rane, 28, teacher, were indicted for committing a criminal offence in the prison, at Taunton, on August the 30th. They were found guity and were each sentenced to ten years' penal servitude. (Taunton Courer, and Western Advertiser)

SOURCE: Various newspapers, dates as given.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "Newspaper Reports, 1877", Homosexuality in Nineteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 4 June 2019, updated 20 August 2021 <>.

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