The Exeter Scandal, 1878

NOTE: In September 1878 Henry Ford, long-time Clerk of the Peace for the County of Devon, a middle-aged unmarried man, was arrested on charges of making sexual advances to a soldier near the Topsham Barracks. In due course he was charged with soliciting three soldiers and one civilian, whose evidence revealed very interesting details about cruising practices in Exeter. The series of trials received very widespread national and provincial newspaper coverage, with literally hundreds of reports, many relating the full proceedings of the court. There was common talk in the Barracks about "a man in a white hat" who cruised the area, and the soldiers had even composed doggerel songs about him. He was apparently in the habit of loitering along the road to the Barracks around 11.30 at night, and picking up soldiers on their return to the Barracks, giving them a pipe of tobacco, asking them about their military life, then propositioning them, reaching out to unbutton their clothes, and rubbing up against them so they felt his erection: the interesting slang term for this was "bobbing". As the prosecution said, "He has put his arm around their necks and waists, he has walked with them half-a-mile and further, and he has done other acts of familiarity and indecency which no man in his sober senses, standing upright within half-an-inch of another, could make the slightest mistake about whatever." Two of the soldiers said that Ford spoke to them in a low voice, more like that of a boy or woman than of a man. A total of eleven soldiers deposed that a man had propositioned them near the Barracks, though only four (plus the main accuser) could positively identify him as Ford, and Ford had an alibi for the date of the incident given by one of the soldiers. A billiard-marker at the Devon and Exeter Reform Club testified that Ford had repeatedly propositioned him in the billiards room and kept poking him indecently with his cue stick while playing billiards. The manager of the club was charged with trying to intimidate this witness into not coming forward. This waiter must have been good-looking, because he had previously been propositioned by men; a year before this case one had even been sent to prison for seven years. The defence did not claim that the witnesses' accusations were fabricated, but successfully argued that the man who had indecently propositioned them bore a strong resemblance to Mr Ford but were not Mr Ford; one witness's date could not be correct because Ford had an alibi for that date. Despite very strong and, to my mind, convincing circumstantial evidence that Ford was indeed in the habit of cruising for sex on the road to the Barracks, the jury gave him the benefit of the doubt and acquitted him. But none of the witnesses were subsequently charged with perjury. A month after the acquittal, the Magistrates had a meeting and required Mr Ford to tender his resignation as Clerk of the Peace for Devonshire.

10 September 1878

A warrant has been issued for the arrest of Mr. Henry Ford, for many years and now clerk of the peace of the county of Devon, on a charge of attempting to commit a nameless felony. Information has been telegraphed to the police throughout the district, directing search to be made, but as yet unsuccessfully. Mr. Ford is a middle-aged man with a family [not correct], and for many years has associated with the first county families. (Gloucester Citizen)

10 September 1878

Up to last evening no tidings of the whereabouts of Mr. Henry Ford, who for the past sixteen years has been Clerk of the Peace for the county of Devon, had been received by the county police, in whose hands the warrant for his arrest was placed. Rumours were current that he had been apprehended and remanded, but they were quite baseless. Mr. Ford's friends assert that in due time he will appear to confront his accusers, but if he is keeping out of the way only temporarily, his proceeding is very ill-advised and is seriously compromising his reputation. The offence was alleged to be committed so near to the borough boundaries as to give rise to doubt as to jurisdiction, and the city magistrates (before whom the information was first laid by a private of the battery of Horse Artillery stationed at Exeter, under the command of Colonel Williams,) remitted the unpleasant duty of taking action to the county magistrates, who on Friday afternoon granted the warrant. Yesterday, however, fresh information was sworn, and another warrant was issued to the city police, and was placed for execution in the hands of one of the most reliable members of the city force. The painful affair has created the greatest excitement in the city and county, few men being more widely known. Mr. Ford was a strong politician, a Liberal; he is unmarried. (Western Morning News (Plymouth))

12 September 1878

The excitement (says the Plymouth Mercury) caused by what is now everywhere known as the Exeter scandal increases rather than diminishes. The public betray the utmost eagerness for information, and it may be safely affirmed that never before was there in the county a case surrounded by so much mystery. There is, however, no public purpose to be served by witholding the name of the person on whom these suspicions have fallen. It is of course to be hoped that the unhappy accusation may be disproved, but in the meantime the name of Mr. Henry Ford, Clerk of the Peace for the county of Devon, must be given as the subject of these distressing reports. To avoid misapprehension, it is necessary that the public should understand that Mr. Henry Ford is charged in the warrant issued by the county police with the attempt to commit a detestable crime. The special case, leading up to the taking of the present criminal proceedings, appears to rest upon the following allegations:– That Mr. Henry Ford and a soldier were met on the road to the Topsham Barracks by a policeman, and that the soldier then made an accusation of infamous conduct against Mr. Ford. Having done that the man ran away, but the fact that he entered the barracks at a late hour led to his identification. Subsequently, a court of inquiry was held by Lieutenant-Colonel Williams, at which certain statements were made on oath, and alleged extraordinary revelations were forthcoming concerning an individual who was said to have been in the habit of frequenting the Topsham-road by night, and concerning whom the soldiers had composed doggrel songs. So far as the case on which the county warrant was issued rests, it is but fair to state that Mr. Ford's friends assert – it is believed with truth – that since that inquiry that particular soldier has made a request to be withdrawn from any complicity in the legal proceedings, and Mr. Ford's friends further claim that this has been objected to on his behalf. In the meantimg Mr. Ford is not forthcoming, and his continued absence is explained in all kinds ofways. Many influrnetial people, who are likely to be reliable, insist that he has absconded, and will never more be seen in England. But Mr. Ford's friends say that he is in the neighbourhood of Exeter, and that at no distant date he will be prepared to surrender himself to meet the charges. On the other hand it is pointed out that these statements have been only propagated with a view of blinding the local authorities, by deluding them giving the accused the better chance of getting clear. On Saturday there is no doubt that an effort was made to effect the withdrawal of the warrant, and to get bail taken for his appearance on Monday next. The latest report, circulated with persistence by Mr. Ford's friends, is that bail, in the sum of 5000, was accepted for his appearance to-day, when the whole matter will be investigated. Mr. Henry Ford is not and never has been married. The appointment of a successor to Mr. Ford, as Clerk of the Peace, is in the hands of the Lord-Lieutenant. The duties are the conduct of all county official business, and the emoluments attaching thereto amount to upwards of 1000 per annum. Mr. Michelmore, of Newton, is spoken of as being likely to fill what must evidently be regarded as a vacancy. (Gloucester Citizen)

12 September 1878

We (Western Morning News) very greatly regret to learn that a warrant has been issued for the apprehension of Mr. Henry Ford, Clerk of the Peace for the county of Devon, on a charge of attempting to commit a crime so foul that we cannot even hint at its nature. . . . (Cornishman)

12 September 1878

Mr. Henry Ford, solicitor, of Exeter, who has for many years held the position of clerk of the peace for the county of Devon, was on Wednesday apprehended on a warrant charging him with the commission of a crime of too serious a nature to be specified. Two warrants had to be granted, one by the county magistrates, the other by the city. The first was issued on Friday last, and on the same day Mr. Ford left the city. He returned last evening, it is supposed with the intention of surrendering; but he had no opportunity of doing this, being met at the railway station by Captain Bent, chief constable, who at once arrested him and had him conveyed in a cab to the Guildhall, where a special petty sessions was held in private. After hearing the evidence of the chief constable, the Bench remanded the case until Tuesday next. Accused was liberated on heavy bail – his own recognisances for 1,000 and two sureties for 200 each. The case has caused much consternation throughout the county, Mr. Ford having up to the initiation of the present proceedings been highly respected. He filled important positions in religious and charitable societies, and was a prominent member of the local branch of the English Church Union. (Western Mail)

18 September 1878

Before the commencement of the ordinary business at the Guildhall yesterday, and before the public were admitted, Mr. Henry Ford, Clerk of the Peace for the County, who was accompanied by his brother, Mr. Brutton J. Ford, formally surrendered on the serious charge preferred against him, and for the purpose of the bail being renewed, to admit of an adjournment of the case, which had been previously agreed upon by the solicitors for the prosecution and defence. Bail to the same amount as previously – Mr. Ford himself in 2,000 and two sureties of 1,000 each – was taken, Mr. Brutton Ford again becoming one of the sureties, and Mr. Edward Johnson, of Farringdon, the other, in the place of the Rev. F. A. Stewart Savile, J.P., of Torquay. The statement of recognizances and of adjournment were read to the persons concerned, and signed by them, and the book was also signed by the presiding magistrate, R. Sanders, Esq. The magistrates on the Bench were R. Sanders, Esq. (chairman), C. J. Follett, Esq., H. C. Lloyd, Esq., H. Norringhton, Esq., and C. Lewis, Esq. The formalities were concluded at eleven o'clock, just as the public burst into the hall in large numbers, but Mr. Ford and his brother had already left the Court by the back entrance, and thus escaped notice.
          It is arranged that the charges contained in the county magistrates' warrant against the accused will be investigated at the Castle of Exeter on Thursday at eleven o'clock, and the adjourned case on the city magistrates' warrant will be heard at the Guildhall on Friday at the same hour. We hear that Mr. Walter Friend will conduct the prosecution, and that Mr. Geo. Lewis, of London, has been retained for the defence. (Exeter and Plymouth Gazette)

20 September 1878

A special Petty Sessions was held at the Castle of Exeter yesterday, for the purpose of investigting the very serious charges brought against Mr. Henry Ford, the Clerk of the Peace for the County. W. Barnes, Esq., occupied the chair, and there were also on the Bench, J.P. Lousada, Esq., and Trehawke Kekewich, Esq. The inquiry was conducted in open Court, and immediately the doors were opened all the available space devoted to the public was occupied. The Chief Constable of Devon (G. De Courcy Hamilton, Esq.), Captain Cunningham, deputy chief constable; Colonel Williams, Major Scott, and other officers of the R.H.A. were also present. The accused, who was accommodated with a seat, was accompanied by his brother, and sat at the table near his legal adviser, Mr. George Lewis, the well-known practitioner in the London police courts. The case for the prosecution was conducted by Mr. Friend. the evidence taken was lengthy, and the case for the prosecution occupied the whole of the day. During the evidence of one of the soldiers, some answeres of his drew forth applause, which was immediately suppressed by the Chairman, who threatened, if it were repeated, to have the Court cleared. The case for the defence will be opened at the Castle at eleven o'clock this morning.
          Before Mr. Friend opened the case for the prosecution, Mr. Lewis asked that the witnesses might be ordered out of Court, except Major Scott and Col. Williams, and the Bench ordered them to withdraw.
          Mr. Lewis, addressing the Bench, said: Will the Magistrates allow me to explain why Mr. Ford was not here at an earlier period last week? It appears that Mr. Ford, before leaving this town, saw Captain Bent and told him that he was leaving in half-an-hour. He left Exeter for the purposes of consulting with me. I happened to be in Scotland, and Mr. Ford followed me to Glasgow. When he arrived there I had left Glasgow and gone to Edinburgh. Indeed, I had taken a trip to Oban, and was no expected to return to Edinburgh for two days. Mr. Ford remained there till last Monday eening. I arrived in Edinburgh at seven o'clock that evening, and Mr. Ford left by ten o'clock that night, telegraphing to the Chief Constable here that he intended to arrive here on the following evening. It should be explained that he went away for the purpose of receiving professional advice, and in no way to elude the fullest inquiry into this matter, which he now wishes.
          Mr. Friend then stated his case. He said: Your worships will not be at all astonished to hear me say that we all of us have to-day an excessively painful task to perform. I say painful, because of the position of the gentleman who now stands before you as a defendant; for if the proofs which I intend to offer you are of sufficiently cogent character to bring home to your minds the facts which the prosecution seek to establish, he will without doubt have been guilty of an offence of the most heinous character known to the laws of this country. I do not seek to offer any remarks for the purpose of paining and irritating the feelings of a gentleman whose position at this moment must be of so harassing a nature; but I cannot refrain from making some observations in reference to the case before I proceed to give a narrative of the evidence I shall lay before the Court. There can be no doubt that Mr. Ford is a gentleman who has enjoyed the blessings of a first-class education, who has moved in the very best society, who has been entrusted by those who are now sitting in judgment upon him with the highest legal office in the county; and it will therefore appear most remarkable to your minds, as it does to my own, that a gentleman of such position, and with such advantages, should fall to such depths as it is to-day charged that he has. But, sir, our senses have been assailed on former occasions and in similar cases with proofs of such strength and solidity that we cannot allow such a matter as this to rest upon mere conjecture. We cannot and ought not to dismiss from our minds the possibility that such a crime may occur even to those who have had the great advantages I have named, although one would suppose that these advantages would in themselves be of sufficient weight to crush from out the intellect of such a person every germ of such hideous and frightful form of crime as that with which Mr. Ford is now charged. I should regret to make any further observations on that topic. I will, therefore, out of kindliness to Mr. Ford – because I am quite sure he must know, everybody in this Court must know, I have no desire to wound him unnecessarily – at once proceed to inform the Court what it is that the prosecution alleges. The facts are these:– Mr. Ford was on the Topsham-road on the hight of the 25th August, being a Sunday. On the same evening, and at the same hour, viz., at 11.15, a soldier was going home from Exeter to the Barracks. The soldier, who was "on pass," as it is termed, found Mr. Ford loitering along the path; and he will tell you that at Parker's Well Mr. Ford stopped him and asked him if smoked.
          The Chairman: What was the soldier's name?
          Mr. Friend: Samuel Hutton. When Mr. Ford made this remark – "Did he smoke"? Hutton answered in the affirmative. A light was suggested, but it was then discovered that the soldier had no pipe, upon which the accused drew from hius pocket a pipe charged with tobacco and offered it to him. He allowed the soldier to smoke this pipe, and walked together with him along the road a considerable distance, conversing with him on various subjects, not of an important or indecent character. Shortly afterwards the pipe was finished and it was returned to Mr. Ford. Then a very singular circumstance occurred; for Hutton states that shortly afterwards Mr. Ford charged the same pipe and smoked it himself. They were together some little time after that before they were discovered by a police-officer. On the police-officer coming up some conversation took place, and the policemen ultimately ordered Hutton into barracks, saying, "Now it is time for you to be in barracks; you don't look quite sober; you can retire." Hutton did so. Undoubtedly the man was under the influence of beer; but I shall prove to you by numerous witnesses he was not so drunk that he did not known well what he was about – he was in a condition to know quite well what was done, and to walk first to the Buildhall and then to the barracks without assistance. After meeting the poiliceman Hutton went on his way to the barracks a short distance; but, as he will tell you, on turning round he saw the officer and Mr. Ford standing close by each other, apparently to him in very deep conversation. It occurred to him that they were "plotting" to make a charge against him; and resolving, to use his own words, that he would be the first in that direction, he went back hastily to the parties, and, putting his hand on Mr. Ford's shoulder, said "I have a great mind to give you in charge, you old ——, for what you have been saying and doing to me." A conversation followed. The man was asked by the police-officer if he would return to the Guildhall and make the same charge. He somewhat refused to do so; but eventually they walked along the road towards Exeter, and after going a few hundred yards they met another policeman, named Wheeler. To P.C. Wheeler Hutton made precisely the same charge. The two officers, thinking it a serious matter, asked Mr. ford to proceed to the Guildhall with them, which he did. When Mr. Ford was questioned by the police-officer about it, he did not, as you might have imagined he would, indignantly repudiate the charge. I say this not unkindly, but simply to show you the condition of the defendant's mind at this time, which you would have supposed under the circumstances would have been somewhat different. Mr. Ford knew that this charge was made against him in the presence of third persons, and these third persons police-officers; but instead of saying at once, "This is an infamous charge against me; this man is drunk; and I insist on his being taken to the Guildhall and inquiry being made – this is a crime I cnanot be guilty of, or even thinking of" – instead of that, Mr. Ford rather adopted a process of entreaty. Mr. Ford said, ""Don't take any notice of it – he is intoxicated, you see that – I should take no further notice of it." And later, when they accompanied the accuser to the Guildhall itself, he there expressed, on more than one occasion, a desire and a strong wish that these things should not be mentioned. I can quite understand that a gentleman in Mr. Ford's position would be glad indeed to have nothing more said about a matter so disagreeable and so unpleasant; but I do think you will agree that, gentleman as he was, his conduct should have been rather in the direction I have before described, viz., that of insisting on an inquiry rather than wishing to have a veil thrown over it. When he arrived at the Guildhall, Hutton, who was somewhat drunk, declined to pursue the charge against Mr. Ford; and it was then that Mr. Ford still impressed upon the police-officers that he had no desire that the thing should be further inquired into – that it was a drunken affair, and had better end where it was. Hutton was sent about his business, and the sergeant on patrol went home with him. the sergeant will tell you that he was prefectly well able to take care of himself, and knew perfectly well what he was doing, though no doubt he had been in a state of beer during the evening. Hutton himself will give you an explanation of why he denied, as he afterwrds did deny, that he had put his hand on Mr. Ford's shoulder. Military law, as you know, is rather more strict that that which proceeds from the civil authorities. An order from the Colonel commanding at Barracks is intended to be obeyed under all circumstances, and soldiers know that, if they disobey, they are visited with very disagreeable consequences. About six months before this there had been some quarrel between Colonel Williams's men and the police and some civilians, resulting in an inquiry at the Guildhall and fines in some cases. In consequence of this the Colonel ordered a general parade, at which he issued a very stringent order. Hutton will tell you that he acted very differently in this matter from what he would have acted had it not been for the Colonel's order; and the other soldiers whom I shall call will tell you the same. Because no doubt you will say that if a man were approached with such an overture as I shall suggest was present to the defendant's mind, it is fair and natural to expect that strong, stalwart fellows, like Hutton and the other witnesses, would feel an inclination to known down a man who was gulity of such a proposition. I have named the fact of the Colonel's order. These men had been told that if they put their hands on a civilian, or insulted a civilian in any shape or form, and it became known at the Barracks, the colonel would visit the offender with a very serious term of imprisonment. The consequence is that these men, one and all, will tell you that they listened to Mr. Ford and received his propositions quietly, without interfering with him, for the one and only reason I have mentioned to you. It may be urged on the part of the defendant in Hutton's case that the man was drunk, and that you will be hardly able to come to a conclusion as against the defendant upon the testimony of a drunken man. But I would recall to your minds that a drunken soldier, with a reeling brain, is an individual far more likely to be operated upon by the entreaties of another; that it is hardly likely such a man would be sufficiently decent, sufficiently repellant, to use force against his assailant. It is much more likely that a man under the influence of liquor would be induced by offers of money or drink to step beyond the line of decency than a sober man. You may believe that such a man would be a much easier prey. Therefore, although defendant may seek to urge upon you that this man was drunk, I boldly say there is the fact before you, undeniably, that Mr. Ford was found loitering upon the road between Exeter and Topsham Barracks, that Mr. Ford was the gentleman who thought fit to speak to the soldier and invite him to stop, that Mr. Ford was the gentleman who took from his pocket a pipe already charged with tobacco, put it in his own mouth and lit it with his own match, handed it to the man to smoke, and when he finished fileld it again and put it in his own mouth.
          Mr. Lewis: Is this the drunken soldier's statement?
          Mr. Friend: It is. If that is so, Mr. Ford must have had a reason for stopping a man, who, according to his own judgment, was not quite in his sober senses. There is another fact that I ask you attention to. this man was out on "pass;" it was a quarter-past eleven, getting hard on half-past eleven. At this hour, as your worships know, there would be verey few persons on the Topsham-road other than soldiers returning to barracks. that, therefore, may be one reason why that locality was selected for the occasion inqustion. The road was dark, there being only a lamp here and there. You will also hear that Mr. ford was dressed in a way which would favour the object he had in view, and which, under the circumstances, would tend to cloak his identity. Mr. Ford is a gentleman whom verey few soldiers would be likely to associate with, or to recognise if they had seen him once. If they had ever seen Mr. ford in his own office or at the Castle, he would be a very different person from what he would appear in the clothes I shall describe. Hutton says he had on a round felt hat, and a waterproof coat reaching to his heels.The hour of the night, the partial drunkenness of the soldier, the altered state of Mr. Ford's dress – covering him from neck to heels – would be all circumstances bending to favour the belief that Mr. Ford was on the Topsham-road that night, as we charge him to have been, for the purposes of meeting anyone whom he thought most likely to favour the wishes he desired to carry out.
          Mr. Lewis, interposing, asked if the cases were to be tried separately?
          Mr. Friend said he intended to call all the witnesses before closing his case.
          Mr. Lewis respectfully asked the Bench to try the cases separately. The defendant had been served with summonses which showed that there were two other charges against him, alleging offences at intervals of two months; therefore he should ask the Bench to decide each case upon its own evidence, and to adjudicate upon one before going into another. To mix up the cases would be to create a prejudice against the defendant.
          Mr. Friend contended that as this was a misdemeanour, the jointure of several offences would not vitiate thee prosecution. His friend was really calling upon him to make an election; but he claimed the right to give evidence of more than one case. further, he had a common-law right; having charged defendant with the intent to commit a crime, he had a right to call witnesses to speak of what took place on the other occasions in order to show the intent that moved him on this particular occasion.
          Mr. Lewis said he did not require Mr. Friend to elect which charge he would proceed on; all he asked was that the Bench would take the cases separately. He did not even object to their reserving judgment on one until the whole had been heard; but he maintained that they should be dealt with as separate charges.
          After further discussion, the Chairman said that as far as he understood Mr. Friend's contention, he claimed to bring forward the other witnesses to show the defendant's intent in the case of Hutton. The Bench, anticipating that an object of this kind would be raised to-day, took counsel's opinion on the point before-hand; and they were decidedly of opinion that the witnesses might be called to prove intent. It seemed to be a distinction without a difference, whether the Bench adjudicated upon the cases separately or took them as a whole, and they would therefore postpone their deciion in Hutton's case until after the evidence in all the cases had been given.
          Mr. Friend: Then I will not trouble you with many more remarks. The man Hutton was no doubt, as the defence has intimated, in a conditon of beer; but he was able to know what he was about. But with regard to the other witnesses, all the men I shall call are men of great respectability in the regiment, men whose testimony when you hear it will inspire you with a desire to believe them, and unless there shall be some very cogent reason for shaking your beief you must accept them as witnesses of truth. Now, each of those men was sober, and there can be no mistake – if I know what evidence is, to boldly affirm that there can be no mistake, though I regret to say it, as to the identity of Mr. Ford. He has put his arm around their necks and waists, he has walked with them half-a-mile and further, and he has done other acts of familiarity and indecency which no man in his sober senses, standing upright within half-an-inch of another, could make the slightest mistake about whatever. Mr. Friend then proceeded to call witnesses.
          Samuel Hutton said: I am a driver in the K Battery, A Brigade R.H.A. On the night of Sunday, the 25th August last, I was out on pass; under that pass I was called upon to be in Barracks at 12 o'clock. I was returning home between a quarter and half-past eleven o'clock. I know a place on the road called Parker's-well, on the road from Exeter to the Barracks. On reaching Parker's-well I saw a man. The man was the accused. He spoke to me. He asked me if I smoked. I said I did. He said would you mind having a smoke in my pipe? I said, "Thanks, I will." He lighted the pipe and gave it me. He got the pipe out of pocket. It was already loaded with tobacco. He lighted the pipe and gave it to me to smoke. I did smoke the pipe; and whilst doing so I walked with the accused towards the Barracks as far as Dr. McNamar's cottage. I was quite close to the defendant. It was a pretty dark night. He asked me how old I was; and I said 19. He put his hand on the side of my face and said "You are rather rough for 19." I said, in reply, they are all rough in my family. There were no lamps at that part. My age is 28. – What made you say your age was 19? A. Well, in Barracks there was a rigmarole that there was a man going about with a white hat, and no gentleman will ask a soldier his age unless he had some bad purpose, and I told this lie to see what his game was. – Witness, after speaking of other acts, said: "Defendant asked me how long I had been in the service. I said 3 months. He said I was very stout, and I said we all had to be stout in our corps. By this time we had reached the cottages. He leant his hands on the rails and looked towards the Baracks. I was a few inches from him at this time. I handed him back the pipe. He said, if you have been in the regiment three months you must have been at Okehampton. I said, "Yes, we were nearly flooded out." No further conversation took place at this spot. I turned to go to the Barracks. Mr. Ford turned about towards the Barracks with me and lit his pipe – the same I had smoked. – Q. Was anything further said? A. Well, I "disrelect." We were speaking about Okehampton and trivial things. We got as far as the cottages, when a police-officer came up and spoke to me. He said, "It has gone half-past eleven. It is time for you to be going." I went a few yards, and Mr. Ford and the poilice-officer went towards Exeter. I turned about and went to them. They were 10 or 15 yards off. I took hold of Mr. Ford by the shoulder, and said, "You old —— I've a good mind to give you in charge." He did not say anything. The police-officer said, "Give him in charge for what?" I told the police-officer what I thought, and he said, "Will you come to the Guildhall and state that?" I replied I would. Mr. Ford was close to me and the officer. We all left to go to the guildhall together. A short way down the road we met another policeman. Before we met the other officer, Mr. Ford and the officer Walsh went aside to speak. The other policeman came up, and I said, "You will take notice this policeman is speaking to Mr. ford." I said, "Take notice of this, constable; Walsh and Mr. Ford are speaking together." I was the next to speak, and I said to Walsh, "We had better let it drop." The other policemen said "No; you must go to the guildhall." After going another 40 yards, Mr. ford said, "We had best to let it drop; it is only a drunken spree." When Isaw the officers pressing the case, and were determined to go to the guildhall, I said they had not got a dummy to deal with, and I did not want to have six months. I thought they were plotting a crime against me. We were going up to the Guildhall, when we met a bombardier and corporal. I told the police-officer to tell them, so that if anything should occur they would know that I had gone to the guildhall. Nothing more was said until I got to the Guildhall. I stook outside, and Mr. Ford and the policeman went inside. After waiting a little while, I was called inside. the Inspector asked me what I had to make against that gentleman? I said "None." The Inspector said, "Will you explain the same words you told the policeman?" I said I would not. – Q. What was the reason? – Mr. Lewis: I object. – Mr. Friend: Very well. – Witness: The next thing Mr. Ford said was he did not wish to hear any more about it, as he thought it a drunken spree. The Inspector called the Provost in, and I was handed over to the picquet. I was taken to the Barracks and put in the guard-room. I had been drinking a little that night, but what occurred made me a deal worse. I walked from the guildhall to the Barracks without assistance. I was put in the guard-room for being drunk. I was brought before the Colonel on the following Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, but Mr. Ford was not there. On the Friday I was taken before the colonel again, and Mr. Ford was then there. Police-constable Walsh was there, and made a statement about the matter. Mr. Ford cross-examined me. Col. Williams said he would deal with me, and Mr. Ford said he would be glad if he were allowed to make a statement. Mr. Ford said he did not assault me. I denied having put my hand on Mr. Ford, as the Colonel had read out an order on parade that if a soldier assaulted a civilian he would punish him severely. I was sentenced to 96 hours in the cells, and, by the intercession of Major Scott, it was remitted.
          Cross-examined: I left the Barracks that day about two o'clock. I did not enter any public-house until the evening. From two to five I was with a friend, and stayed in his house. At five o'clock I went with him to the Valiant Soldier. We had one pot of beer. We left between seven and eight o'clock. I then went to Exe Bridge. At half-past nine o'clock I went to the Three Tuns and had a glass of bitter beer. I strolled up and down the street to see if I could see any one I knew. I walked down Holloway-street, and met a girl, and turned and walked back with her. When it was ten o'clock I thought it was time to go back. – Mr. Lewis: Do you mean that the two quantities of beer you had taken between five and ten made you intoxicated? A. I had beer before I left Barracks; the canteen opens at half-past twelve. – Were you sober when you left? A. I was not to saya sober and not to say drunk. I was sensible sober. – Mr Lewis: I must have his answers taken; they are of paramount importance. – Witness: When I met Mr. Ford I was perfectly aware what I was about. – Mr. Lewis: Do you mean to say that when Mr. Ford first spoke to you you had it in your mind that he intended to commit an indecent assault on you? A. No. – Q. Did it first enter your mind when you said you were 19? A. Yes. – Mr. Lewis: That was, you say, in consequence of talk you had heard in the Barracks. What was that? A. To lookout for a man with the white hat. – Mr. Lewis: Was that said to you that day? A. It was said every day. It was common talk. I had heard it about a month previoiusly. The only description was the man with a white hat. – Q. Do you say you told him you were 19 because you believed he was going to be indecent? A. (witness) I would not have let him go that far. I told him I was 19 to find out his game. – Q. Why did you say 19? A. I thought it pretty young – to find out his game. –. Q. Had it been the talk in the Barracks that these things had been? A. Yes. I had heard he had offered money. – Q. You had heard that he had offered money for indecent purposes? A. Well, yes. – You started with telling a lie. Was not your drunkenness apparent to other people? A. No. Mr. Ford did not tell the policeman in my hearing that I was drunk. – Q. You say he touched you. What did you do? A. I said nothing, and did nothing. – Q. Did ye ask you if you like it? A. No. – Mr. Lewis: I should like that answer taken down. Was it your impression that Mr. Ford and the policeman were conspiring against you when they first left? A. No. – Q. Why did you not at first make this charge. A. I was a soldier and he was a gentleman, and I thought he might say I had been trying to rob him or knock him about. – Q. Then why did you make it after? A. Because I thought the officer would see me righted. – Q. Do you mean to say that the policeman did not pass you before this? A. Not that I know of. – Q. When he put his hand on you why did you not seize him? A. Because I wanted to see what further liberty he would take, and what his game was. – Q. On going to the Guildhall, did you attempt to escape? A. No. – Q. Not once or twice? A. I say I did not. Q. Did not the policeman go behind you, and prevent your escape? A. I stopped when I said we had better let it drop, but the policeman said we had better go on. – Q. Will you swear you used the word "dummy?" A. Yes. – Q. Did you say first that Mr. Ford only put his arm around your neck? A. No. – Q. Did you not make a rambling statement? A. No. – Did the Inspector say, "What do you mean by making a charge and not know what you are saying;" and did you say to the Inspiector, "I have no charge to make?" A. Not that I recollect. – Mr. Lewis: I should like to have all this taken down, for Mr. Ford is at the mercy of this man. – Witness: The Inspector said, "What charge have you to bring against this gentleman?" I said "None" as soon as I heard the word gentleman. He then turned to Mr. Ford and asked him something. Mr. Ford did not say, "The man is drunk; I don't wish to hear anything more about it." He said it was a drunken spree. – Q. When you say Mr. Ford first did not you ask him to give you a light? A. No. – Q. Did you stop in front of him and say, "Will you give me a bit of tobacco?" A. No. – Did you not say "I have just broken my pipe." and did he not say "You can have this?" A. No. – Q. Did he ask how long you had been enlisted? A. I told him three months. – Q. Why did you tell him a lie? A. Because I thought it a silly thing for a gentleman to ask a soldier such questions, and I wanted to see his game. – Q. Indecency must be strong in your mind? A. Not particularly. – Q. You say it was public talk that a man wearing a white hat committed indecencies? Witness: It was public talk about a man who attempted to commit indecencies. I have never asked a gentleman for a light before. – Q. Is it ot a common thing for soldiers to do so? A. Not of gentlemen; I only speak for myself. (Languter and applause).
          Mr. Lewis: This matter is painful enough to Mr. Ford without these demonstrations.
          The Chairman said the Magistrates had the power to have the Court cleared if they chose, and if those demonstrations were repeated they would be obliged to do so.
          Witness: If I said at the Court of Enquiry that I first met him between the Soldiers' Institute and the toll-bar it was incorrect. What I had heard did not come into my mind until he "bobbed" against me. – Witness, in answer to first questions, said the quesstion as to whether he like it referred to the pipe he was smoking. He said nothing at the Court orf Inquiry or at the police-station about having been "bobbed" against. He then denied everything. – Q. At the police-station did you deny that Mr. For had been guilty of any impropriety? – Witness: No I did not. The inspector said I had told a policeman something and would not stick to it there, and then Mr. Ford said he wished for it to drop. I have given the names of men who had received money and been stopped. I gave the names of McCormick and the boy Ward, and I have heard that they had been stopped. – Mr. Lewis: Neither of these persons is present to make a charge against Mr. Ford. Are you aware of that? A. I am not aware of it. Mr. Ford had not a white hat on that night.
          Re-examined: I allowed him to take these liberties in order to see what he would do. – Friend: If he had gone further, you would have knocked him down:
          Mr. Lewis said nothing of the sort had been said.
          Mr. Friend said that was the impression he underestood witness intended to convey.
          Anthony Walsh, a police-constable, said: On Sundy, the 25th August, I was on duty on the Topsham-road. My beat extended as far as Matford-lane. At eleven o'clock I was at the corner of the lane, and Driver Hutton passed and wished me good night. I walked on the footpath as far as Bellair Gate. I saw, as I thought, a soldier and a woman near the Gate. As I came up I saw it was a man with a low hat and a long coat which covered him to within a few inches of the ground. They were in deep conversation. One of the persons was Private Hutton, and the other was Mr. Ford. After I saw Hutton at the bottom of Matford-lane I lost sight of him for a time, as I did not proceed towards the Barracks for about three minutes. They were in deep conversation, and I heard the word Okehampton. I passed them, and both turned towards Exeter. I went as far as Mr. Snow's gate, the end of my beat, and there lit my lamp. I returned on the left-hand side of the road opposite the Topsham boundary-stone, and I then saw Hutton and Mr. Ford leaning against Bellair wall, and facing each other. They were about three feet apart. I crossed the road, went on the footpath, and told the soldier that it was after hours, that it was a quarter-past eleven, and time he was in Barracks. At that time Hutton appeared to have been drinking, but he was not that drunk that he did not know what he was doing, and he was perfectly capable of taking care of himself. On ordering him to go on, Mr. Ford said, "He is very drunk;" and I said, "He is not that drunk but he can find his wayi to Barracks." On that the soldier went towards the Barracks, and I and Mr. Ford came on towards Exeter. After we had gone about five yards, Hutton returned. Another soldier was passing at the time, and tried to prevent his returning; Hutton, however, came up and caught hold of Mr. Ford by the shoulder, twisted him about, and said, "You old ——, I've a good mind to give you in charge for what you said to me." Mr. Ford replied, "Take no notice of what he said, he is drunk." I asked Hutton what Mr. Ford said. Hutton made a charge against Mr. ford, and I asked him if he would go to the Guildhall and make the same statement. He said he would, and would do anything to prosecute the defendant, for he richly deserved it. I asked Mr. Ford to accompany me to the Guildhall, and he said he would go anywhere with me. We proceeded to Exeter, Hutton in front and I and Mr. Ford behind. We got as far as the bungalow, and there met P.C. Wheeler, when Hutton made the same charge to him against Mr. Ford. Hutton next said he did not want to have anything more to do with it. Wheeler said he should have to take him to the Guildhall, after making so serious a charge against the gentleman. We all went to the guildhall, and on the road met the provost-sergeant, who asked if Hutton was a prisoner, and was told he was not. On reaching the Hall, I went into the Inspector's office, and Mr. Ford followed in. Hutton remained outside. I made my report in Mr. Ford's present. On hearing it Mr. Ford said he had met the soldier on the Topsham-road, and he asked him for a light; that he gave him the light, when the soldier said he had broken his pipe, and he (Mr. Ford) gave him his pipe. Then Hutton came in, and I made the same statement in his presence as to what he said to me on the Topsham-road. then Driver Hutton denied it. He said he did not want to make the charge. I asked Mr. Ford if he did not recollect Hutton catching him by the shoulder and twisting him round. Mr. Ford answered that he really did forget, but if I said so it must be true. Mr. Ford said to Inspector Short that he did not want to say anything more about it. The Inspector then said "If you want to get the soldier out of trouble you had better see one of the officers on the following morning." He said he would do so. The provost-sergeant took Hutton in charge, and took him to Barracks.
          Cross-examined: I believe Mr. Ford took the Inspector's advice, and saw one of the officers the next morning. As I passed them, nor at any time, did I see an act of indecency. I did not hear any indecent conversaton whatevere. The soldier could walk straight, but I could see that he had been drinking. I was in uniform, and the soldier could have made a complaint the first time he passed me. Hutton was not sober, and not drunk. He was thoroughy capable of taking care of himself,and knew what he was saying. If he had been drunk it would not have been my duty to take him to Barracks, as the pathway is out of my beat. – At the police-station did not the Inspector say to Hutton, "What could induce you to make such a charge?" and did he not reply, "I saw the man and police-constable whispering together?" A. He did. On the way to the police-station, Hutton only made a charge, and did not enter into any details. At the police-station, when I repeated the charge he had made to me, Hutton said, "I don't want to make any charge; I deny it altogether." When the charte was made on the Topsham-road, Mr. Ford said, "Take no notice of what he says; he is drunk" It is not true that I stopped on the way to the police-station two or three yards off Hutton and conversed with Mr. Ford. After making this charge Hutton twice tried to run away, and the other constable walked behind to prevent him. I did not remember hearing Hutton say, "I suppose I shall get six months for this." If I said so at the Court of Enquiry I don't remember it. I understood Mr. Ford to deny the charge at the station, and he explained how he came to speak to the soldier.
          Inspector John Short, of the city police, said: On the night of the 15th August, about a quarter-past eleven o'clock, Constable Walsh, Driver Hutton, and Mr. Henry Ford came up. Walsh said he had a statement to make, and they all came into the office. Walsh made a statement.
          Witness here read the report he had made from the statement, in which it appeared that Walsh ordered the soldier into Barracks because he was drunk, and that on the way to the station-house Hutton denied having made any charge.
          Witness, continuing, said: I told Mr. Ford I should be bound to make a report, and he said he did not wish to hear any more about the matter. Mr. Ford asked me what he had better do, and I said that as the soldier had denied the accusation, it was not likely that we should take any seps in the matter, but if he was willint to keep the soldier out of trouble he had better go to the Barracks and see the commanding-officer. The soldier, when I saw him, was very much the worse for liquor – evidently drunk.
          Cross-examined: When Hutton denied having made any charge I asked Mr. Ford if he wished to make any charge gainst him, and he said he did not. – Q. As far as Mr. ford is concerned you understood him to deny the accusation?
          Mr. Friend: I understand very differently. Neither he nor any of the witnesses has said he denied it.
          Mr. Lewis: I am surprised, when the case has so broken down, that Mr. Friend should get up.
          Mr. Friend: That is an individual opinion.
          Mr. Lewis: I wish to ask the Bench that the other policeman who was present may be called.
          Mr. Friend said Mr. Lewis had himself subpoened the officer and could call him. In the exercise of his discretion, he should decline to call him.
          Mr. Lewis said he wished to state publicly, on behalf of Mr. Ford, that he desired everybody who was present on that occasion, or who knew anything of it, might be before the Bench. But Mr. Friend refused to call a policeman who had not been seen by the defence, and one who was said to have prevented the man from escaping. His object was to get at the truth, and at that period he could not call a policeman. He should hesitate to take such a step.
          The Chairman said it was usual for the prosecution to conduct a case in their own way.
          Mr. Friend declined to call the policeman, and said he was at hand, and could be called by Mr. Lewis.
          Sergt. Zeal, provost-sergt., proved receiving Hutton into custody for being drunk. Hutton was able to walk, and witness would have passed him in the street, as he was perfectly capable of getting to barracks.
          Corporal Youngman, R.H.A., proved receiving Hutton in the guard-room from the provost-sergt. for being drunk. – Q. In what state was he. A. Well, there is only two things in the army – drunk and sober. – Q. Well, which was he? A. The man was perfectly capable of taking care of himself. If he had come in by himself I should have taken no notice.
          Major Scott said about Christmas last, there was a disturbance between the civilians and soldiers, and the Colonel, at one of the muster parades, told the men if they interefered with civilians they would be severaly punished. If they had any complaint to make they could make it at the proper quarter. There were several inquiries into this matter, but they were adjourned from day to day pending Mr. Ford's presence. Mr. Ford came to witness on the day after this occurred, and said he knew something about a case in the city in which Hutton was concerned. Mr. Ford said he was returning from Countess Weir, and met Hutton, who asked him for a light. He offered him one, and the man said he did not want a light as he had no pipe. He said to the man, "Do you smoke," and the man said, "Yes." He then said, "Do you mind smoking my pipe," and Hutton said he had no objection. He then gave his pipe, which Hutton smoked out and returned, thanking him for it. Mr. Ford also said, "You may think it very odd my offeering a private soldier my pie, but the fact is I went down to Dawlish the other day and bought this trumpery 6d. one, which I never intended to use again." He said something about the man saying he had made indecent overtures, and they and the policemen had all gone to the Guildhall, where the man withdrew the charge. He then said, "I hope you will not deal severely with the man, he was so stupidly drunk he did not know what he was about." – Cross-examined: Mr. Ford said he hoped witness would not deal severely with the man, because he did not attempt to extort money. Witness added that he had subsequently taken several statements and writings from soldiers, and handed them to Mr. Friend.
          Mr. Lewis asked for the production of these documents.
          Mr. Friend declined to produce them. They were private and privileged.
          Mr. Lewis said he was perfectly amazed at the conduct of Mr. Friend, who had given no legal reason why they should be privileged.
          . . . After a conversation, Col. Williams consented to the production of the documents.
          Major Scott then stated that on the following day Hutton made a statement, and other men came up and said they had been stopped by civilians. They names were Benyon, Lewis, Davis, Wilkinson, and McCormick. These men saw Mr. Ford as he left the Colonel's office, and he was identified by Lewis and Davis. The other men said Mr. Ford was not at all like the man, but Lewis and Davis identified him.
          Mr. Friend: I shall call these witnesses next.
          Mr. Lewis put several questions as to the opportunities of seeing Mr. Ford the men had had.
          . . .
          Major Scott, continuing, said that on the following Thursday other men came up and made statements.
          Gunner Lewis said: On the 14th August, about 10.45 p.m., I was returning home, and met Mr. Ford in Holloway-street between the Antelope public-house and the Soldiers' Institute. He said, "Good night, soldier, where ar eyou bound for?" I told him I was going to the Barracks, and he then asked me how I liked my billet. I said I liked it very well, and continued my walk to the Barracks. Mr. Ford walked by my side. Passing St. Leonard's Church, he put his arm around my neck. I shook him off. He walked on with me, and just below the toll-gate put his arm round my waist. I pushed him off again, and said if he did not "drop it" I would strike him. After that he continued to walk by my side. He interfered with my jacket, and I told him to keep off, and asked what he wanted. He said "Nothing," and he hoped I would not take offence at it. When by Gras Lawn he put his hands on me and asked me to go home with him. I said I would strike him if he did not leave off. He said, "You will not be so cruel as all that." At the corner of Barrack-lane I stood in the centre, and he "bobbed" against me. He asked me to go home with him, as he had a fine house and plenty of drink. I said "No," as I wanted to go in. He then asked me to go up the lane, and he would make it all right. At that time he put his hand in his pocket, and offered money to me, saying, "Here is the price of something to drink in the morning." I told him I did not want his money nor his company, and went into barracks.
          Cross-examined: He did not give any description of the man that night. Next day he spoke of it, when he heard that Hutton was under arrest. Did not say to the bombardier that he could not describe the man. He gave a description of his features, but not a minute description, and said nothing of his long coat. He said the man was about 5ft. 7in., with a rather thin face and a bit of whisker. He saw Mr. Ford as he left the Colonel's office on the Friday, and identified him at once. Saw him full in the face. Major Scott asked him if that was the man, and he said yes. One or two others identified him.
          Mr. Lewis called for the production of the witness's statement to Major Scott, and the statement was read by Major Scott. It was similar to his evidence.
          Cross-examination continued: He never told Major Scott anything about the man wearing a long grey coat. The man had a curious voice, more like a boy's than a man's. On the occasion he spoke of it was a dark night. He had never seen Mr. Ford before, and neve saw him again until he came to make the complaint against Hutton. He swore most positively that Mr. Ford was the man. After witness had identified Mr. Ford, Hutton was discharged form his imprisonment. When he identified Mr. Ford he had on a tall hat. Witness was quite sober that night.
          Robert Higgins, a gunner of the F Battery, B Brigade, of Royal Artillery, was at Okehampton with the batter, and rturned about six weeks ago. One evening he was returning to Topsham Barracks, about a fortnight after coming from Okehampton, and met a gentleman near Bellair, coming towards the town. The gentleman stopped him, put his hand against his chest, and asked him if he had got a lucifer [match]. He said he had not got one, and the gentleman said he did not believe it. He unbuttoned his jacket and turned his pocket out to satisfy him. He walked on to the Barracks, and the gentleman walked behind him, about three paces to the rear, up to the Barrack-lane, where the "late gate" is situated. Witness bade him "Good night." He said, "You might come a little bit further with me up the lane." They went about 20 yards, to where there is another gate. The gentleman put a shilling into his hand, and began to meddle with his clothes. Witness then gave him the shilling back, and told him that if he was not off about his business he would give him in charge. He went away. Witness saw Gunner Vickers, who had just run the bell at the gate, before he went into Barracks, and after had had told Vickers what had occurred they went up the lane again to look for the gentleman, but could not find him. Asked to point out the gentleman in Court, the witness at once pointed to Mr. Ford and positively swore that he was the man. He had seen him since, one day in passing the Guildhall. – Cross-examined: Did not give Gunner Vickers a description of the man. He spoke of it in the Barrack-room the same night. When he was called to the orderly-room by Col. Williams and Major Scott he made a statement. (Produced and read. It supported his evidence, and his description of the voice was that it was "a low voice, and more like a woman's" than a man's.) When he made the statement to Major Scott, he thought he could identify the man. When he went to the Guildhall he did not know he was taken there to identify any one. It was not until he got there that he was told that he had been brought to identify Mr. Ford. He saw Mr. Ford pass through. Knew Mr. Ford was coming to the Guildhall – he was told so by the Bombardier – but did not hear people shout "Here he comes." He had a high hat on as he passed through the Guildhall: could not say what kind of a hat he had on when he met him on the road. He was certain that Mr. Ford was the man. Was at the Antelope public-house on Tuesday, but did not say there, "I would not swear now that he is the man I spoke to, but I think he is;" nor did he say that he was "pretty boozey" on the night he was spoken to, that he had been "wetting it sharp at several pubs," but was not "properly drunk." He was not drunk that night. His age was 19; he had been in the army about sixteen months. Captain Bent had given him a shilling since he had identified the man; it was at Mr. Friend's office, to get some refreshment.
          Gunner James Vickers said that one night he saw Higgins at the Barrack-gate, about half-past 111 o'clock, as he was about to ring the bell. There was a civilian with Higgins, and they were conversing, about 100 yards up the lane. Higgins came running down the lane and told him something, after which they went back together in search of "the party," but "the party" had disappeared. Higgins was perfectly sober.
          Mr. Lewis did not cross-examine this witness.
          This concluded the case for the prosecution, and at this stage the case was adjourned until to-day at 11 o'clock, the bail being renewed. (Exeter and Plymouth Gazette)

21 September 1878

Yesterday morning the Magistrates assembled in Special Petty Sessions at the Castle of Exeter resumed the hearing of the serious charges against Mr. Henry Ford, solicitor and Clerk of the Peace for the County of Devon. . . . The Chairman announced that, the case for the prosecution having been closed, the Clerk would now proceed to read over the depositions.
          Mr. Friend [for the prosecution] intimated that when they reached a certain point in the evidence he should introduce that of anothe witness, to which he apprehended there would be no objection.
          The Chairman said there would not be the least objection to that course.
          The Clerk to the Justice (Mr. Drake) read over the evidence of P.C. Walsh, Inspector Short, Provost-Sergt. Zeal, and Major Scott. In Major Scott's evidence an error was desired to be corrected. He had been made to say in the papers that Hutton asked Mr. Ford for a light, whereas Hutton informed Major Scott that Mr. Ford asked Hutton if he wanted a light.
          Mr. Friend now proposed to call Police-constable Wheeler. His only object, he explained, in excluding him on Thursday, was that his evidence was a mass of tautology, repeating over and over again the evidence of other persons; but Mr. Lewis had expressed a wish that he should be called, and he therefore produced him.
          The chairman expressed his concurrence in this course, lest it should appear that there had been testimony kept back.
          . . .
          P.C. Henry Wheeler said: I am a member of the city police force. I remember Sunday evening, the 25th of August last. I was on duty on the Topsham-road, and met P.C. Walsh, according to my orders, at 11.20, oppoosite the Bungalow-road. Mr. Henry Ford and Driver Hutton were with him. Hutton said he wanted to prefer a charge against Mr. Ford. I asked him what the charge was. He said that Mr. Ford had made indecent overtures to him. I said if he wished to prefer a charge of so serious a nature he would have to go to the guildhall. He said, "I shall not go to the Guildhall with you; I wuld rather let the matter drop." He said, "If you'll let me go to the Barracks I'll say no more about it." I said, "I cannot settle it; you will have to go to the Guildhall." He said, "I shall not go;" and he then made away towards the Barracks. I took hold of him and took him to the Guildhall. He tried to get away twice, but I led him as far as the turnpike-gate, and afterwards I led him to the Guildhall. When I first saw, he was a great deal the worse for liquor, but capable of taking care of himself and walking to the Barracks without assistance. He seemed rather confounded at first; but he recovered himself, and then knew what he was about. – Cross-examined: Constable Walsh did not stand aside two or three yards from Hutton, talking low to Mr. Ford. I did not hear Mr. Ford make any such remark as that "it was better to let it drop, as it was only a drunken spree." I heard Hutton say, "I shall get six months for this, as I am only a poor soldier, and have got no money," on the way to the Guildhall. I did not hear him saying anything about a dummy.
          At twelve o'clock the military witnesses had not arrived, and Mr. Friend said that, with the permission of the Bench, he and Mr. Lewis would proceed to the Guildhall, and apply for an adjournment until that day week. . . .
          . . .
          On the return of Mr. Friend and Mr. Lewis to the Castle, the depositions of the witnesses who had arrived from the Topsham Barracks were read over and signed.
          Mr. Lewis, addressing the Bench, said: I believe that the deposition of the last witness (Gunner Higgins) will close the reading of the depositions of the various witnesses who have been examined before the Bench in support of these three charges against Mr. Ford; and if this were an ordinary case, I should feel that it would be my duty to address the Bench, with the view of showing that upon the evidence adduced before the Bench no sufficient case has been proved against Mr. Ford – or rather that the man Hutton is so contradicted, so entirely and conclucisvely contradicted by the police-constable (Wheeler), and that his own conduct and character, his own language and drunkenness are such that it would be almost, I might say, a crime to commit a person of the character and position of Mr. Ford upon the unsupported and uncorroborated evidence of that man. In reference to the other two charges – one in which Mr. Ford is alleged to have committed an indecent assault upon a man named Lewis, and another upon a man named Higgins – I think it will have been conclusively proved to the Bench, according to the statements of the various soldiers who have been examined, some eleven of whom have alleged that on various occasions they have been stopped and indecent conduct has been pursued towards them, and of those eleven soldiers two only, Lewis and Higgins, have indentified Mr. Ford as the person who is said by them to have been guilty of this conduct, that, therefore, it appears, if their stAements be true, there is more than one person in this town who has upon some occasions been guilty of indecency towards them. And you will remember that the charge against Mr. Ford by these Ywo men, Lewis and Higgins, arose not in consequence of any original charge that either of them had made against Mr. Ford, but arose out of the fact that Mr. Ford, under the advice of the Inspector of Police on the evening when he left the police-station, went up to the Barracks to complain of the conduct of Hutton, so that he might be punished, although not too severely, in consequence of his not attempting to extort money for his conduct, on the night in question. It was when Mr. Ford was there, for the purpose of giving evidence against Hutton – who had made the unfounded accusation against Mr. Ford, who had wished to withdraw it, who had denied that he had ever made it, who had tried to evade it by twice attempting to escape, who was drunk at the time, who was drunk at the Police-station, and who said that he might get six months for having made it – it was when Mr. Ford came up to the Barracks to give evidence against Hutton, that two of his comrades, Lewis and Higgins, being placed at a point where they had an opportunity of seeing Mr. Ford leave the Colonel's room, identified him as the person who had been guilty of assaults upon them. So far as their cases are concerned, Mr. Ford knows nothing whatever of the depositions they have given here; and the question turns upon whether these two men have not mistaken Mr. Ford for the other man, or the other two men, who have been guilty of assaults upon other soldiers, and that in the endeavour to alleviate the position of their comrade, Hutton, they have not too hastily identified Mr. Ford as the person, in consequence of which Hutton, who had been sentenced by his Colonel to seven days' imprisonment, was immediately released. These are considerations which would have induced me, if I had not received direct instructions from Mr. Ford himself, to address the Bench in the confident hope that they would have dismissed the case of Hutton, having regard to the circumstances under which it was made; and also that the circumstances under which Lewis and Higgins saw the individual upon the night on which it was alleged he met them, would have induced the Bench to dismiss the charge against Mr. Ford; but I am bound to tell the Bench that, acting under the direct personal instructions of Mr. Ford, conscious of his entire and absolute innocence of every charge that can be brought against him, I am not to offer to express any opinion or ask for any decision upon this case, but to ask you to send it where it may be tried and once and for ever determined – that these charges which have been brought against him, in the first instance by perejured evidence, and in the other two instances by two mistaken persons, may be authoritively and for ever decided, and his innocence proved. Mr. Ford, who has held, probably, as high a position as any gentleman can in the legal profession in this county – who is, if I may be forgiven for saying it, at the close of an honoured and useful career, met face to face by charges of which he declares himself absolutely and entirely innocent – desires me to ask this Bench, without any delay whatever, to send this case for trial, that it may be at once and for ever determined whether he is or is not innocent of the charges made against him; that I should ask the Bench, having regard to the extreme importance of the case, to send it to the Assizes, to which I suppose there can be no possible objection. . . .
          The Chairman: . . . (addressing Mr. Ford) my duty, therefore, will be simply to read the usual caution to you, and to say that you will be committed to take your trial at the Assizes. (Mr. Barnes then read the caution that whatevere the defendant said would be taken down in writing, and might be used as evidence against him at the trial.)
          . . . considering that Mr. Ford has other charges pending against him, and that he is at present under heavy responsibility for his appearance to answer those charges elsewhere, we shall be satisfied with doubling the present bail,viz., Mr. Ford himself in 4,000 and two sureties in 2,000 each.
          . . . The witnesses were bound over to appear at the Assizes, and Mr. Ford and his sureties (Mr. Brutton J. Ford and Mr. E. Johnson) entered into the recognizances.
          . . . (Exeter and Plymouth Gazette)

27 September 1878

. . . [From Hutton's testimony]: While walking, defendant was a little in the rear, and he kept "dodging against hiim," but said nothing at the time. . . ." (Western Gazette)

28 September 1878

At the Castle of Exeter yesterday, . . . Mr. Raymont Sarell, manager of the Devon and Exter Reform Club, and formerly steward of the County Cub, Northernhay, was charged by the Deputy Chief Constable (Capt. Cunningham) under a warrant, with unlawfully endeavouring to intimidate Sidney Seldon, a witness, from giving evidence for the Crown in a prosecution against Mr. Henry Foird for a misdemeanour, and with using threatening language towards the said Sidney Seldon.
          Capt. Cunningham asked the Bench to adjourn the case until four o'clock that afternoon as all the witnesses were engaged at the Guildhall in the City charge. the application was granted.
          . . . The Chairman informed Mr. Floud that the case could not be gone into then, as all the witnesses were still at the Guildhall. ... (Western Times)

28 September 1878

Yesterday morning, at ten o'clock, Mr. Henry Ford, solicitor, surrendered to his recognizances, before the magistrates specially assembled at the Exeter Guildhall, to answer further charges of a serious nature preferred him in informations upon which a warrant was granted – charges similar to those which formed thesubject of so lengthened an investigation last week, before the county justices, at the Castle of Exeter. The Right Worshipful the Mayor (H. D. Thomas, Esq.) presided, and the other magistrates present were R. Sanders, W. Cuthbertson, H. C. lloyd, W. Davy, and F. Franklin, Esqrs. Mr. W. Friend appeared to conduct the prosecution, and Mr. George Lewis, of London, for the defence.
          When Mr. Ford had taken his place in the dock, Mr. Lewis asked that the defendant might be permitted to leave the dock and take his seat near him; but the Mayor said, although the Bench pesonally would be glad to accede to the request, yet they thought the case was one in which it would be undesirable to make any departure from the ordinary rule. Mr. Ford therefore remained standing in the dock until long past noon, when, on the application of Mr. Lewis, he was allowed to be seated.
          Mr. Friend opened the case on behalf of the prosecution. He said: . . . Society in this city and county has recently received a serious and frightful shock – a shock quite unprecedented. The morality of society has been shaken to its very base. You are now looking upon a gentleman, who, by his education and position in society, and by the high office he has held in this county, you would have thought would have been the very last to have indulged in the practices that are now laid to his charge, and to have placed him in the wretched position he now occupies as the defendant in such an abominable case. I will now pass on to comment on the evidence which it is my duty to offer to you. That evidence will in the first place come from the lips of two soldiers, and I think when you have heard the evidence of those men you will come to the conclusion that they are the witnesses of truth. The only possible observation that can be within the range of probability is that they may be mistaken with regard to Mr. Ford's identity. But I think their statements will be laid before you in so clear, lucid, and succinct a form that you not be left in any doubt – and I regret to say it – that at least Mr. Ford must have been with the witnesses a sufficient time, and must have done such things in their company as would leave them no opportunity for mistake. That Mr. Ford would not be an associate in a general way with such men is natural enough to suppose; and possibly these poor men – who have been alluded to as "common soldiers," for so it is their fate to be – are likely under certain circumstances to make mistakes, perhaps through inebriety, or some other unsteadiness unknown to us; but it would be unfair of you to come to an unfavourable conclusion if they give their testimony with the saem appearance of truth, and with the same steadiness, firmness, and unhesitating manner that you would expect from any respectable civilian witness. The first witness I shall call will be a man named Davis, who says that he met Mr. Ford between ten and half-past on the night of the 28th of August last; that he was walking down the High-street of this city, where lamps are plentiful and light abundant; that Mr. Ford passed him, and that so determined was he to speak to him that he turned upon the man as if he had known him before. The soldier will tell you that this attracted him so very much that he turned to see why a gentleman had looked at him so steadfastly. Having turned, Mr. Ford troubled himself to come back and speak to him. He entered into an ordinary conversation with the soldier, and then asked if he was going to Barracks, to which he replied, "Yes." Shortly afterwards Mr. Ford suggested that he should be allowed to accompany him, and he was permitted to do so. Their route was through South-street. Now here comes a fact in this man's testimony which I think will lead you to hesitate greatly before you come to a conclusion adversely to the truth of his statement as regards identity. There is a public-house just below the Britannia Inn, in South-street; it has two entrances, one used by the general public, who go in for glasses of ale and so on, the other known as the "Bottle department." Mr. Ford, so Davis will tell you, called him into this house to have something to drink. I should say that whatever is served here is handed to the customer through a small pigeon-hole, the rest of which is about breast high, so that no-one from inside can see those who come forward and give orders without stooping, and, as a matter of course, those who are giving the orders are under the same difficulty. That was the house to which Mr. Ford took the man. There would be plenty of light; there would be gas burning, as is usual in such places, ad libitum; and the soldier, therefore, could make no mistake about the countenance of his companion. They remained there a sufficient time to enable Mr. Ford to drink a glass of ale himself and for the soldier to drink a second – in fact, they were there several minutes. They then left the shop, and proceeded towards the Barracks. They conversed on ordinary topics in a very respectable manner the whole distance until what I am about to describe took place. On arriving at Parker's Well, where, as your Worships know, Matford-lane turns off, Mr. Ford invited the soldier to accompany him up the lane, saying that he lived in that direction. The soldier, unthinkingly and unsuspectingly, went up with him for a distance of about 200 yards, and then certain acts of indecency occurred by means of Mr. Ford approaching the man in a most objectionable manner; and he was thrust from him and told to desist. I shall not use the expressions which passed, and I shall refrain from describing exactly [what] took place; for I would prefer that you should hear the testimony of the witness himself upon that. The soldier will tell you that he began to think it was time to part with Mr. Ford before any further indignities were offered him; but before parting Mr. Ford asked that he would take no offence at it, presented him with 2s., and subsequently asked him to be kind enough to meet him the next night. The soldier will tell you that much talk had taken place in Barracks about some person or other who was infesting the Topsham-road for improper purposes, and that excited by curiosity to see and have a better knowledge of who this man was, and what he wanted, he did go out the next night, but he failed to see him, and thus the matter ended so far as he was concerned. the next witness called is a man called Lewis, with regard to whom I should state that on another night, viz., the 14th of July, certain indelicacies were indulged in between him and Mr. Ford. I shall call that witness for the express purpose of showing that the practice named by Davis is accurring between him and Mr. Ford was not a single instance of that character.
          Mr. Lewis: Is this the same man whose evidence was taken at the Castle last week?
          Mr. Friend: Yes; but he will give evidence as to what was done in the city and not in the county.
          Mr. Lewis: Was it on the same date as he spoke to last week?
          Mr. Friend: Yes.
          Mr. Lewis contended that Mr. Friend could not go into the other case.
          Mr. Friend: I am calling him as a witness to shew the intent, which I have a perfect right to do. We will pass fromt he soldier for the present. I am now in a position to inform the Bench, and I do so with very much regret indeed, that I have it in my power to call, and shall call, before you a civilian witness – a witness who you will probably consider can make no mistake as to Mr. Ford's identity; because he has been associated with him for a considerable period of time – perhaps twelve months – in a place, and in a way, about which there can be no mistake before us to-day. And I deeply regret to say that the sacredness of a retreat for the gentlemen of this county was so far forgotten by Mr. Ford that at the County Club on Northerhay the practice of indecency of demeanour and of utterance was continually indulged in by Mr. Ford with this lad. I am happy to tell you that the lad will swear he had fortitude to reject any proposition that Mr. Ford might have been leading up to, and that he visited him with certain censures on several occasions; but that on various days, and at various times of the day, the attempts were repeated. If, therefore, I bring home those facts conclusively to your minds, you will not be able to doubt that the gentleman who stands before you charged with occupying his time at night with the society of soldiers can only have done it with one intent. There can be no doubt whatever that the boy is the witness of truth; for I must tell you that I have examined him this morning for the first time, although his testimony has been submitted to me before, and everything he has said to me has been said in the clearest possible way, and with the greatest possible steadiness, and I think, as far as I can judge, that he will pursue the same course before you. But I will observe here, because I think it a fitting opportunity – I do not seek, of course, to charge Mr. Ford or anyone else concerned with complicity in the matter – that there is a person in the city who, since it became known that this lad had sworn an information before the justices I am addressing, has taken the pains to journey twice in one day to Sidmouth to see that boy, and if possible to intimidate him from coming here. I have the boy's own testimony to that fact on oath; and I shall venture to say that I have laid information within the last half-an-hour against that person for his conduct. I acquit Mr. Ford at once. I have no knowledge of his guilt in the matter, and I acquit him at once of any endeavour to seduce a witness for the prosecution, but that it has occurred I know on the solemn oath of the person I am going to call. Every possible inducement – inducements to come to Exeter to see a solicitor even – has been held out to him. I do say that it is a grievous misfortune on the part of the defence that such a thing could have been done. There must be some spirit at work – somebody must at least have a deep interest in the position of this unfortunate gentleman to-day, if they have without his consent acted in the way I have described; but that it has occurred the public will know, and shall, I am determined, have the opportunity of hearing it on the oath of those concerned. That in itself appears to me to be a most unfortuante feature in this case. And, with regard to the soldiers, or indeed any one else making a charge of this kind against a gentleman, you will naturally follow this line of argument. What is the motive? Can it be malice? Malice between soldiers of a battery or artillery, and Mr. Henry Ford, Clerk of the Peace of the County of Devon! Is it possible that malice can arise between such persons? No; you will dismiss it from your minds at once. Then what is the next thing that can have prompted these men to give this testimony? It has not been hinted on the part of the defence that anything like extortion, anything like a desire to obtain money from a man in a better class of society has occurred, or has been attempted by these poor men. Well, then, gentlemen, in the absense of malice, in the absence of any desire to extort money from a rich man, what are you feelings and convictions? To what do your conclusions lead you? I hope they lead you in the same direction that my own conclusions lead me – viz., that they have come here to protect themselves and the rest of society against the practice of a most abominable crime. That, I think, is the only foundation upon which you can rest as regards the reason why such testimony as you will hear to-day has been brought before you. Look for a moment, if you please, at the position of these men. It is one in which men may be supposed to be easily got at through the inducement of gold. A "common soldier" is never very flush of money; a rich man who chooses to cultivate a taste of this kind will be very lavish in the way of coin in seeking to gratify it; and I can only think that soldiers who, as I say, are proverbially poor, whose pocket-money is known to be small, may for that reason have been considered the best persons to approach on these occasions. With regard to this civilian witness whom I shall put into the box, he is not a person of mature years – he is but 18, and when these things occurred between him and Mr. Ford he will tell you he had not reached the age of 17. So that you see the unsophisticated minds of children and the uneducated minds of soldiers would be just the field most likely to be occupied by a person seeking such ends as those alleged. Of course, gentlemen, if you are of opinion that this story has been invented by these witnesses, strange though it may be – you will have the utmost pleasure, I feel sure, in saying so, and Mr. Ford will leave this Court freed from the charge that now rests against him. But, on the other hand, if I shall be able to bring home to your convictions the fact established as I have now put it before you in suggestion, I am satisfied that as men, as gentlemen, and as protectors of society, you will feel – however unfortunate and sad it may be that you should be placed in so terrible a position – that you have but one duty to perform, and that will be to send this gentleman's case to the decision of a jury.
          The following evidence was then adduced for the prosecution:– Joseph Davis, examined by Mr. Friend: I am a driver in the K Battery of Royal Horse Artillery, at Topsham Barracks. I was on leave on the night of Wednesday, the 28th of August in the present year, and passed down the High-street between 25 minutes and half-past ten o'clock. I met a gentleman there who seemed to recognise me. Mr. Ford (touching the defendant on the shoulder) is the man. I met him as I was going home to the Barracks. I observed that he looked at me as he turned also as if he was coming my way. I slackened my pace, and he overtook me. He asked me how I liked my quarters in Exeter. I said I liked Exeter all right. He said "It is a fine station for soldiers," and asked me if I was on the road to Barracks. I said I saw. Then he asked me if I was on leave, and I told him I was. On that he asked me if I was bound to be in. I said I was not, being on leave. We continued walking on until we turned down South-street. He said he was going down the Topsham-road, and would accompany me. After that we walked on until we came to a little refreshment-house below the Britannia, when he asked me to come in and take something to drink. I said I would do so. We went in together and had some beer handed through a little trapdoor. Two glasses of beer were ordered by Mr. Ford. The persons inside could not see us through the pigeon-hole unless they put their heads through. It was not very light, but there was gas burning; it was rather a long passage, and the gas was a little way from me, but I saw the burner. I had a second glass of ale, but Mr. Ford had only one. We were there about five mnutes. There were no seats, and while we stood to drink the beer Mr. Ford stood close to me, and I had a fair opportunity of seeing his countenance. I have no doubt whatever that Mr. Ford is the same gentleman. Having drank our ale, we left and went down South-street. We cnversed on the road as far as Matford-lane, where we stopped, and Mr. Ford asked me if I would come up the lane with him. I remarked that I wanted to get home to Barracks, and he said, "Oh, you have plenty of time; come up a little way with me." I went, and we had advanced a few yards when he took hold of my hand. I made him loose my hand, and then I walked on. We advanced up the lane a little way, and then we stopped. I thought we were going to part, and that he might be living in the terrace. He acted indecently (described) and I pushed him away, and asked him what he was doing. He put his hand in his pocket and handed me 2s., and wanted me to stay a little longer. I said I should not, and I left and went into Barracks, making an appointment to meet him the next night, about ten mnutes to nine o'clock, at the bottom of Matford-lane. In the Barracks, that night, there was a conversation about a civilian. Next night I went out to Matford-lane, according to appointment, with the intention of giving him in charge. I waited until half-past nine, but he did not come. I have seen the gentleman since, before to-day, in Colonel Williams's office, with a taller gentleman, two days afterwards – on Friday, the 30th of August. As Mr. Ford was leaving the colonel's office I was standing in a passage opposite a door through which he would have to come out, and I had a full opportunity of looking him full in the face. The next time I saw him was at the Castle of Exeter on Friday last. I saw him a few minutes only, but had a distinct opportunity of looking in his countenance. From the opportunities I have had of seeing him, I am sure that Mr. Ford is the man. – Cross-examined by Mr. Lewis: I made a statement, which Major Scott took down in writing, and I signed it. The statement was made a few minutes after I had seen Mr. Ford leave Colonel Williams's quarters. The assault was on the Wednesday, the 28th of August; the Artillery sports were on the Thursday, the 29th; and I saw Mr. Ford at the Barracks on Friday, the 30th. I was quite sober on the night I met him. I entertained no doubt that he was the man, and I don't entertain any doubt now. I had a perfect opportunity of seeing him, walking on, by the light of the gas-lamps. I suspected, when he came out of Colonel Williams's quarters, that he was the man who had been giving evidence against Driver Hutton. when Iwas ordered into the passage I did not know for what purpose it was; I did not know that Mr. Ford was there, but I believed that Hutton's case was going on. I identified Mr. Ford at once. – By the Mayor: When you were outside Colonel Williams's office, were you placed there for any specific purpose? – Not that I know of.
          Thos Lewis was the next witness called by Mr Friend.
          Mr. Lewis raised the question whether the evidence that Mr. Friend proposed now to introduce was evidence in this case. . . . Mr. Lewis objected to such evidence as to general conduct in the city being admissible in a case alleged to have been committed in the county, and already adjudicated upon. It would be unfair to the accused.
          The Mayor, after the magistrates had consulted in private, said: 'We understand that this witness, Thomas Lewis, will be called solely for the purpose of showing the intent or animus of the defendant. We are of opinion, under the circumstances, that the witness is therefore inadmissible.
          . . .
          Mr. Lewis [for the defence]: . . . so far from Mr. Ford being the man who stopped that soldier on the 28th of August, had a conversation with him, and had a drink with him in the public-house that he has told us of, at the very time, the very hour, that this soldier swears that beyond any doubt in the world Mr. Ford was walking with him on the Topsham-road and in Matford-lane, Mr. Ford was actually fifty miles from Exeter, dining at the house of a nobleman, with persons of distinction, who will be called before you, whose evidence you cannot doubt, and who will satisfy you that so far from Mr. Ford being the gentleman who stopped this soldier, he was dining in that nobleman's house in their society, sleeping in the house upon the occasion of his visit, and not leaving the house and returning again to Exeter until Thursday, the 29th of August, when he came to give evidence against the soldier Hutton. . . . I honestly believe that the soldier has given his evidence thinking that he is accurate. I do not think that anybody has any doubt that some one has stopped this soldier, and has been engaged in making indecent overtures to soldiers; I do not make the least aspersion upon him; but it is the misfortune of Mr. Ford that whoever has been guilty of these practices bears such a strong resemblance to Mr. Ford, either in height or in figure, that when he went to give evidence against the soldier who had dared to assail his reputation and character, these soldiers, who had been placed in a passage to identify the man, by a marvellous mistake identified Mr. ford as the real guilty party in the transactions which form the subject of this investigation. . . . I am not prepared to go into the defence of Mr. Ford to-day; but I shall call one witness, Mr. Ford's brother, and ask for an adjournment to a day that may be convenient; and if I think succeed in proving an alibi and convince you that Mr. Ford cannot have been guilty of this offence, I shall ask you at once to discharge him.
          Mr. Brutton John Ford, examined by Mr. Lewis: I am a solicitor at Exeter, and also Under-Sheriff for the county of Devon. I have been in practice nearly thirty years. the defendant, Mr. Henry Ford, is my brother; his age is between 57 and 58. On Wednesday, the 28th of August, my brother was not in Exeter. He left on the previous day, Tuesday, the 27th, to pay a private visit (Mr. Ford handed to the Bench the address.) He left Exeter at mid-day on the Tuesday. I wrote to him on the Wednesday, as I, as Deputy-Clerk of the Peace, had to attend to his duties; and he returned, in consequence of my letter, on the Thursday, the 29th, between 12 and 1 o'clock. . . .
          . . .
          Cross-examined by Mr. Friend: I did not join my brother on his journey, and I was not present with him during any period of his visit to his friend's house, nor at any part of his travel back – whether on the journey to or from his visit. I will swear that he returned to the office between 12 and 1 o'clock; but I could not undertake to swear, from my personal knowledge, where he came from, or at what time he arrived in Exeter. . . . The residence at which my brother visited in eight miles off a railway. I do not know how he pereformed that part of the journey. Except so far as others have told me, I do not venture to swear that my brother made that journey; but he was not in the office, and not in his house. . . .
          Re-examined: I did not meet my brother at the railway station. He did not return to the office on the Tuesday after he had left to pay this visit. He took his luggage with him. On the Wednesday he was not in the office or the house during the time that I was there. On the Thursday he returned with his luggage. I produce a letter from Earl Fortescue, dated the 23rd of August 1878, giving the invitation to my brother for the following Tuesday.
          Mr. Friend objected to the letter being received in evidence unless Earl Fortescue were present.
          Mr. Lewis did not intend to call Earl Fortescue that day, but his Lordship would be called on a subsequent day, and he merely produced the letter for the purpose of fixing a date.
          Mr. Friend warmly said that Mr. Lewis might practice like that in London, but he objected to it in Exeter.
          . . . The Mayor expressed the opinion of the Bench that the contents of the letter had better be deferred.
          . . . It was arranged that the case should be adjourned until next Friday. . . .
          Mr. Friend said he now proposed to enter into the evidence on a summons against Mr. Ford that, on certain days, he did unlawfully assault a person named Sidney Seldon; and if the evidence would bear out the charge of soliciting to commit an unnatural offence, he should ask the magistrates to commit Mr. Ford for trial.
          Sidney Seldon, examined by Mr. Friend: I am a domestic servant, now out of employment. Previously to January last, I was the billiard-marker at the Devon and Exeter Club, on Northernhay. I was in that situation a year and ten months. Mr. Henry Ford was a member of the Club during the whole of the time I was there. He was in the habit of coming to the billiard-room frequently during the first year, but not so much afterwards. His visits principally were by night; he generally came about nine o'clock. About fifteen months ago, he came in about nine o'clock in the evening, as I returned from the post, rang the bell in the billiard-room, and asked me if I was inclined for a game of billiards. At that time there was no one in the room but Mr. Ford and myself. I said I would play one game, and commenced to play. Every time that I endeavoured to make a stroke, Mr. Ford touched me in an indecent manner with his cue. I said, "Mr. Ford, that does not show gentlemanly conduct in you, in doing such a thing." Mr. Ford said, "If I were a girl, you would like it." I said I should like to know his reasons for thinking so. The next time was about a fortnight after. About 9 o'clock in the evening he came in and asked me to play a game of billiards. There was no other person in the room. We played a game of billiards, 50 up, which lasted about an-hour-and-a-half. Ordinary players, with ordinary luck, would play such a game in about 20 minutes. During the game Mr. Ford treated me in a similar manner as before with his cue, and also with his hand. A gentleman came inside the door, but did not remain. Mr. Ford was laughing in a silly, swoony way at the time. When the game was finished, Mr. Ford sat on the sofa, and asked me what I would like to drink. I said, "Gin and ginger beer," which was brought in. He asked me to sit on the sofa, and I did so, on the further end. Mr. Ford gradually got near me, and put his arm round my waist. I rose from the sofa, put the cloth on the table, turned off the gas, and left the room, leaving Mr. Ford in the dark, still sitting on the sofa. I went downstairs. I afterwards saw Mr. Ford come downstairs and go out. Within two or three weeks I saw Mr. Ford again in the billiard-rom, and I think we played on 50 game up, on a Saturday evening. At the end of the game Mr. Ford asked me if it was my "Sunday out" to-morrow, and I told him it was. He asked me if I would come over to his house, on Southernhay, in the morning, to see him. I was not quite certain at the time where Mr. Ford lived. I said, "No, sir, I shall not; it is my rule, on Sunday mornings, to go to chapel with my fellow-servant, Oldridge." Nothing further was said at that time, but on passing out of the Club Mr. Ford said to me, "Don't forget to-morrow morning." I was then standing in the hall of the Club. Next day, as I was going down Northernhay-place, about a quarter past 10 in the morning, to meet my felllow-servant, Oldridge, I saw Mr. Ford. He said, "Good morning, Sidney, what are you going to do?" Seeing Oldridge, I said, "There's Oldridge coming, I'm going with him." I walked around the bottom of Northernhay, and when I got to the bottom of Paul-street, leading into Bartholomew-street, I met Mr. Ford again. He said, "How do you do?" I did not stop, and he passed on. In about a month, as I was returning from post, I saw Mr. Ford in Northernhay-place, at a short distance from the Club, just about nine o'clock at night. I was talking to the page-boy at No. 8 as Mr. Ford passed, and he touched the tail of my coat – he pulled the coat-tail. I left the page-boy and went to the Club gate, where Mr. For was standing, and as soon as I got there Mr. Ford, with a quick movement, acted indecently, and pulled open three buttons of my clothes. I had the post-bag in my hand, and I struck Mr. Ford with the bag, holding it by the strap. At the same time I said, "You had better leave that off; it does'nt do for me." Mr. Ford went away down the street, and I went into the Club. About a month after that I saw Mr. Ford again in the billiard room. He said, "What a stupid you must be to get in such a rage the other night." I said, "Not at all;" and I believe I said, "You've not heard the last of that yet, sir." Nothing more was said that night; they played one game of billiards, and Mr. Ford quietly left the room. On some of these occasions Mr. Ford used indecent expressions (described). Three weeks afterwards I saw Mr. Ford on a seat on Northernhay, with a little boy sitting by the side of him. I am positive it was Mr. Ford. I made a complaint to Mr. Sarell, the steward; I said to him, "What sort of a gentleman is this?"! He said, "Don't you get having much to do with him." I made a complaint to the present steward, Mr. Ablett, a short time after he came, and declined to go into the room with Mr. Ford. – Cross-examined: I am in my twentieth year. The first person I mentioned this to was Mr. Sarell. The first person I told of being indecently assaulted was Capt. Bent, the Chief Constable. I was in Exeter on business, and a gentleman met me in the street and told me what was going on about Mr. Ford. I believe the person is a brass-fitter, who passes me the time of day, but I don't know his name or address. He asked me if I had heard of Ford's case. I said, "No." He then told me all about it, and spoke to me about the Club, and asked me what sort of a gentleman Mr. Ford was. I said I had always known him as a loose character at the Club, and if I was called before the Court I should speak the truth. I told Capt. Bent the same day. I had not come up from Sikdmouth to see Capt. Bent, but on my own business. I knew Capt. Bent as a member of the Club. It was about March, 1877, as well as I can remember, that Mr. Ford first assaulted me; at any rate it was about fifteen or sixteen months ago. I think it would be in August that he last assaulted me. I had never had any quarrel with the other billiard-markers or fellow-servants. One was about my own age. I lived at the Club; I slept in the same room as Warr, the other billiard-marker; and at another time with a billiard-marked named Fice, before Warr came. I never told Warr or Fice. The Club shuts about 12 o'clock at night. I went on playing billiards with him, saw the servants, slept in the same room as my fellow-marker, and never told anybody. There is not a glass door to the billiard-room, but a little glass hole, so that a waiter could see not to open the door as a gentleman was making a stroke. I have waited on Mr. Ford and handed him his coat. Down to the time I left the Club I joined in a game of pyramids with Mr. Ford once or twice; it was in December, long after the time I first allege these assaults. I thought some one else in the street followed me for an indecent purpose. This was during the same time, between March and August, 1877. The police were set to watch me on four nights, but could not find that I was followed at all. Somebody else had tried, on one occasion, to commit an indecent assault on me in the street. The police could not find any confirmation of my statement. I do not remember the waiter who brought the gin and ginger-beer. He put it on the table, Mr. Ford paid him for it, and I drank it. I did not refuse it becasue I wanted a drink, and it saved my own expense. I should not do it again. I did not tell any one next day, next week, or next month. On three occasions Mr. Ford assaulted me in this way with the cue. I should think the third time was in April or May, but I cannot remember the month at all. There wa a period of between two and three months between the first and third assault. On the second occasion he touched me with the cue and also with his hand, and when we had played up to 30 I told him it was ungentlemanly conduct. On the fourth occasion, which occurred outside No. 8, Northernhay-place, I do not think the page-boy saw him touch my coat. I said to the boy, "That's Mr. Ford going up to our Club." I went into the Club immediately afterwrds. I did not make any complaint to the steward or waiter. I told Mr. Sarell about the other fellow, and he told Captain Bent immediately. I did not think so much of Mr. Ford's conduct then. If I had not heard of the charge by the soldier, I should have made a complaint; I knew it would come out by-and-bye, and I kept quiet. I have never told others that there had never been any impropriety between Mr. Ford and me, nor words to that effect. I did not tell Mr. Sarell, or any other person, that Mr. Ford had always acted as a gentleman. After the last occasion I played one game of billiards with him, and I played pyramids with him in the lower-room. I gave notice in September, and left the Club in January, 1878. My father and mother live at Alphington. I did not mention this to them, nor to my brother. When I was sat upon the sofa, Sarell or his wife looked through the door and saw me, and ever since, from that time until I left, Sarell has given me sly blows and called me a dirty ——, and would never give any explanation of his meaning. Sarell complained of my having an illness. I told Mr. Friend's clerk that Sarell had seen me on the sofa. I cannot read very well. I don't know that I am prosecuting in this case; I am only called as a witness to speak the truth. – Re-examined: If [I] had refused to play billiards with Mr. Ford, he would very likely have reported it to the steward, and I should have lost my situation. After I was followed about by another person, I was not present in Court when that person was tried here. I do not know his name, or that he was tried here.
          Mr. Friend said this was his case.
          Mr. Lewis said he thought Mr. Friend would have withdrawn the case and not have called upon the magistrates to send a gentleman of education for trial on such evidence. If the case were sent before a judge for trial it would bring forth some observations of a rather strong nature. It had been laid down by judges over and over again, until it was part of the text book, that the best proof in support of a charge of this kind was speedy and prompt complaint to somebody. A case of this kind to be brought home to anybody must be proved by substantial reliable evidence, because it was one of the most difficult to repel except by the improbability of the surrounding circumstances. There was no one within reach of his voice, if such a charge as that was to be relied on, whose liberty, character, and reputation would be safe. There was not a man who went into a Club-house in London or elsewhere against whom, 15 or 18, probably 20 months after, there might spring forth a man and say, "Never having opened my mouth to any human being, never having made any complaint to anybody up to this moment, I stand forth after two years and say an assault was made upon me, and I say that of a man whom I know from circumstances can produce no evidence whatever in denial of that complaint." Eighteen months ago or more, in a Club-house at Exeter, he said Mr. Ford committed an assault upon him of an indecent character. He knew when he said that it was impossible for Mr. Ford to produce any evidence of denial; that he was at his mercy, and they knew when a charge of this kind was made against any person, he must of necessity be at the mercy of the person making it. There was not a single item of corroborative evidence; not a single piece of confirmative evidence, not even the waiter said to have taken up the gin and ginger-beer, nor even the waiters who played billiards; not one single witness. Yet they were asked to believe the evidence of a man who, after 18 months, came forward; they were asked to believe this story. . . . It was not for him to suggest what this man's motive could be – whether love of notoriety, or sheer wickedness. His experience had led him to the conclusion that it was impossible to fathom the motives of peopole who came forward with charges of this kind, any more than it was possible to find the motive of any man who could commit such an act as was alleged to have been committed by Mr. Ford. . . . He made no complaint, neither to the steward, the waiters, his bedfellow, nor even his own father. Was it possible to believe that such things as he deposed to could have occurred, and the man not say a word about it to a single soul? The thing was beyond all human possibility. Look at the conduct of Mr. Ford. Did he keep away from the Club? So far from that, he was frequently playing billiards in the man's presence, and waited upon by him. . . . With regard to Mr. Sarell, he was instructed to say that the statement that he or his wife saw Seldon sitting on the sofa with Mr. Ford was utterly fase. Mr. Sarell had come into Court to give evidence for the defendant; but to their amazement he had actually been arrested on a charge of interfering with the witness. That he characterised as a high-handed way of dealing with the case which would have to be answered for by-and-by. In consequence of the extraordinary conduct of the prosecution he was unable to call Mr. Sarell; but without even hearing what Mr. Sarell had to say he should, with confidence, ask the Bench to dismiss the case. . . .
          The Mayor said the Bench would adjourn the case if it was desired to call witnesses, and after a discussion with Mr. Ford the case was adjourned until Friday next.
          Bail was accepted as before.
Raymond Sarell, manager of the Devon and Exeter Reform Club, Castle-street, was brought up at the Castle yesterday under a warrant, charged by the Deputy Chief Constable (Capt. Cunningham) with unlawfully endeavouring to intimidate Sidney Seldon from giving evidence for the Crown in a prosecution against Mr. Henry Ford, Clerk of the Peace for the county of Devon, for a misdemeanour; and also with using threatening language to the said Sidney Seldon. – On the application of Capt. Cunningham, who stated that the witnessess in the case were engaged at the Guildhall, the case was adjourned until four o'clock, when the magistrates again met and further adjourned the case until this morning. Bail was refused. (Exeter and Plymouth Gazette)

28 September 1878

The Clerk of the Peace for Devonshire, Mr. Henry Ford, was on Friday, by the County Magistrates of Exeter, committed for trial at the Assizes on three charges of attempting to commit a nameless felony. The evidence given was chiefly that of soldiers. Bail for 8,000 was accepted. Other charges will be heard by the City Magistrates. (Worcestershire Chronicle)

30 September 1878

On Satuday, at the Castle of Exeter, Raymond Sarell, manager of the Devon and Exeter Reform Club, Castle-street, was brought up in custody, on remand from the previous day, charged with unlawfully endeavouring to intimidate Sidney Seldom from giving evidence for the Crown against Mr. Henry Ford, Clerk of the Peace fo the County of Devon, for a misdemeanor; and also with using threatening language to Sidney Seldon, who asked for sureties to keep the peace. The magistrattes present were J. E. C. Walkey, Esq., (in the chair), J. B. Lousada, Esq., F. Mitford, Esq., and C. R. N. Collins, Esq. Mr. W. Friend appeared for the prosecution, and Mr. Floud for the defence.
          Mr. Friend, in opening the case for the prosecution, said: The charge against the defendant in the present case is one of the most serious known to the British law, and the circumstances arise out of the prosecution of another case of a very painful nature. The defendant whom I now charge before you with the offence of intimidating a witness, who was to give evidence and did give evidence yesterday in the case of Regina v. Ford, is a butler or manager of a club in the city of Exeter. He was known to this youth Seldon, whom, as I have said, was yesterday called as a witness in that case. I should tell you that Seldon, some time ago, was summoned to appear at Exeter on Friday, the 20th September, to give evidence. He came in accordance with his summons, and the case was adjourned to the 27th. Between those dates, viz., on the 24th, the defendant in this case went to Sidmouth early in the morning – on horseback, as he himself stated – and went to where Seldon was there living in the service of a gentleman residing close by. This was as nearly as a quarter before nine. Sarell called him out and spoke to him. I prefer that Seldon should tell you what he really did say. It amounted to this – that he was not to go to Exeter to give evidence in the trial against Mr. Ford on any consideration whatever; that if he did he would be ruined, that those who were drawing him on would in no way support him, but would desert him at the last moment; and using expletives of a very positive character, explained to Seldon that if he did venture to go to Exeter he would not return – in other words, explained to him that he would have his life taken. (Language.)
          Mr. Floud: I hope you intend to prove this.
          Mr. Friend: I shall prove it on the sworn testimony of the witness. I am simply stating that which I will prove. The words used by Sarell were these: "Now, don't you go to Exeter, because if you do I'm —— [i.e. damned] if you shall ever return." I don't know whhat construction my friend can put on those words. I have sufficient ability to guide me to the belief that they amount to a threat of a serious attack on this youth either by the person who uttered them or by his instruments. And not only so, but from these expressions and others which Sarell was unguarded enough to use, the witness is afraid that unless Sarell is bound over to keep the peace he will keep the threats he has made. I shall therefore unhesitatingly ask you to bind the defendant over to keep the peace to this young man. I have said that this interview took place in the morning. Between that time and the evening a Crown office subpoena was served on Seldon to secure his attendance at Exeter with more certainty; and after that subpoena was served, as late as a quarter to seven in the evening, Mr Sarell again presented himself at the residence of the gentleman with whom the young man was living, and again entered into the same kind of conversation, and made use of the same kind of threats as those I have before described. If I prove these thins I think you will say that this is a case in which a person of intelligence, a person who ought to know better, and a person who ought to be desirous of upholding the laws of his country, has committed a very serious breach of those laws, for which he ought to go for trial before a jury of his fellow-countrymen.
          Sidney Seldon, examined by Mr. Friend, said: I am a domestic servant, at present out of employ, and was lately in service at Sidmouth. I was served with a summons on the 19th of September to attend at the Guildhall on the 20th of September, to give evidence on the part of the prosecution against Mr. Henry Ford, charged wth misdemeanour. I did attend the Court at the Guildhall on Friday, the 20th of September, and laid an information against Mr. Henry Ford. After that I went to Sidmouth, as I was told that the case on which I had been summoned was adjourned until Friday, the 27th. On Tuesday morning, the 24th, I saw Mr. Sarell in front of the house, opposite the drawing-room window. I went down and spoke to him at the gate, at about a quarter to nine o'clock. He had beckoned me with his head to come down. He said, "I have rode down from Exeter on purpose to se eyou this morning. I hear you are mixed up in Mr. Ford's case." I said, "I am." Mr. Sarell said, "I'm —— if you ain't d——." I asked why. He said, "They will take you and ruin your character, and then leave you." I said, "What do you mean by leaving me?" He said, "Go to —— if you like." I said, "All right, Mr. Sarell," by way of passing it off and taking no notice of it. I then said, "Good morning," and he left. – Mr. Friend: Just think for a moment, if, before he left, anything else occurred? – Witness: I cannot think of anything else at present. – Q. Did he say anything about signatures? – A. Oh, yes; he asked me if I had sworn to anything, or kissed the book to anything, and I said I had; then said Mr. Sarell. "Don't you say anything to hurt little Ford," and he held up his finger in a warning manner. I said, "I shall not say anything more than the truth, and what I know, and which I've got to prove." I also said, "I'm coming to Exeter on Friday;" and he said, "Don't you come. If you do, I'm —— if you come back again." I said, "All right," and left him. – A. Had you applied for a situation in Exeter? A. I had. – Q. Did any conversation happen between you and Mr. Sarell about it at that time? A. Yes, sir; I believe he has the management of the Exeter Reform Club, and he said, "They won't take you at the Exeter and County Club." I said, "I know that; I have just received a letter from the steward." He then said, "I'm —— if ever you get another situation in Exeter." I believe that was all that occurred in the morning. The same day, about half-past 1 o'clock, if I rightly remember, Mr. Friend's clerk gave me a subpoena.
          Mr. Friend: It is a Crown Office subpoena – and I put in the original as evidence – to appear on Friday, the 27th of September, at the Tuildhall, as a witness for the Crown against Mr. Henry Ford on a charge of misdemeanour. Later in the same day did you against see Mr. Sarell?
          Witness: I did, sir. – Q. Where? A. At a quarter to seven o'clock in the evening, at the house where I was residing. He came to the back door; a servant called me, and I went to the door to him. He said, "I have come down by train; I suppose you didn't expect to see me again." I said I did not. He asked me if I would ask my mistress if she would let me have half-an-hour with a gentleman on business. I said, "No, I will not; it is not the slightest good thinking of such things; you know how I am situated." He asked if I thought she would let me come out to-morrow morning at ten o'lock to see a gentleman." I said, "What gentleman?" He said, "Mr. White, from Castle-street." I said, "What does he want to see me about?" He said, "If you see him, he will mlake it straight with you, so that you will not go to gaol till March – (laughter); – if you see him it shall not cost you a halfpenny, and you shall be well paid." I said, "No, I shall not do any such thing; I msut go now, becasue master dines at 7 o'clock." That is the whole of it, I think, except that I bade him good night; and as Mr. Sarell was leaving me he said, "I'm —— if you haven't got your enemies in Exeter." – Q. When you came to Exeter, when was the first time that you had a conversation about this? – A. Yesterday. – Q. And, when you came, did you the first thing come to this Court to lay information against this man? – A. Yes. – Q. Do you come here to-day, or did you come here yesterday, from any feeling of unkindness or malice towards Mr. Sarell? – A. Yes, sir. (Languter.) – Q. You don't understand me. Do you come from any vicious feeling to Mr. Sarell? You don't owe him any grudge? – Q. Except that unless he is bound over, he or his friends will do me some bodily harm. – Q. And do you ask their Worships to bind him over for the protection of yourself? – A. Yes.
          Cross-examined by Mr. Floud: I don't known any of Mr. Sarell's friends, but I believe that Mr Sarell or his friends will do me some bodily harm. – Q. We have heard a great deal about Mr. Sarell coming down to you. May I ask who came to you first? – A. No one came to me. – Q. Did not Capt. Bent come down to you at Sidmouth? – A. No, sir. – Q. Where did you first give any information with regard to Mr. Ford? – A. I first gave inforamtion to Mr. Friend's office. – Q. What made you go there? – A. I was informed that Mr. Ford was taken into custody, and that they had some suspicion of me; and I said I would go and made my complaint, and speak the truth. I went directly to the office and made a statement to Mr. Friend's clark. – Be kind enough to tell me who was the first person you spoke to about it before going to Mr. Friend? – A. It was a young fellow; I don't know his name or address; he spoke to me in the street. – Q. Are you in the habit of communicating wiht people in the street you known nothing about? – A. It was a young fellow introduced to me by a fellow-servant at the Club. – Q. Did he go with you to Mr. Friend's office? &150; A. No, he did not.
          Mr. Floud: I believe the first charge you made agaisnt Mr. Ford occurred more than twelve months ago?
          Mr. Friend: How can that affect this inquiry?
          Mr. Floud: Because we say that all this man is swearing to is a tissue of lies.
          The Chairman: I don't think you can go on with that line of cross-exmaination.
          Mr. Floud: I should be veriy sorry to go into it at all, but that I wish to tell whethere this man is a creditable witness or not.
          Mr. Friend: You cannot do that in that manner.
          The Chairman: We will not confinedyou too strictly.
          Mr. Floud: After I have shown the conduct of this man, it will be for the Bench to judge whether he is worthy of belief.
          Mr. Friend: With all possible respect, I must object to that evidence.
          The Chairman (after consultation): The Bench are all agreed that it is not admissible.
          . . .
          Cross-exmaination resumed – Q. Was Mr. Sarell very much excited when he saw you the first time? A. I didn't see that he was much excited; he only wanted to frighten me out of the truth. (Laughter.) Q. Didn't he ask you how you came to say he had seen you and Mr. Ford on the sofa? A. I did say so. – But did he say that to you? A. Ask me the question again, if you please. – Q. Didn't Sarell charge you with having said that you had stated he saw you and Mr. Ford on the sofa? A. It was him or his wife. – Q. Did you say so? A. I did.
          Mr. Drake: Say what?
          Witness: That Sarell or his wife saw me through the billiard-room door.
          Mr. Drake: He doesn't understand Mr. Floud's question, I think.
          Mr. Friend: He is going to the fact, not to whether Sarell asked him about it.
          . . .
          Mr. Floud: Didn't Mr. Sarell ask how you could say such a thing? A. No, he said nothing to me about the matter. – Q. Will you swear that he never said to you in great anger that you dared bring his name in question? A. No, sir. – . . . Q. Did you know that Mr. Sarell was going to appear as a witness for Mr. Ford? A. Mr. Sarell said to me, "I'm —— if I shan't be in the witness-box." – Q. Why did you not say that just now? A. I was not asked, that was nothing hurting me. – . . . Mr. Floud said . . . Mr. Sarell had nothing whatever to do with Mr. Ford in any shape or form, and was not mixed up in his case at all. He was perfectly independent of it. Mr. Sarell had, however, received information that statements had been made by this man (Seldon) which reflected on his respectability, and he went to Sidnouth to see him on the matter. He admitted that Mr. Sarell had said to him, "Mind, I shall be in the witness-box," and if that was said there must have been some previous remarks that had not come out to-day. He had intended to have made some lengthy remarks respecting the witness, but, as the Bench had stopped him in his cross-examination, he must bow to their deicison, and under these circumstances his observations would be very brief indeed. All he could say was this, that Mr. Sarell having nothing whatever to do with Mr. Ford's case, it was a great improbability that a man in his position would have made use of the language imputed to him by the witness in reference to his coming to Exeter. It was ridiculous, and almost incredible, that persons in their right minds could think so. He wished to state that he considered it a very unfair thing that Mr. Sarell should have been confined in the manner he was without bail being accepted. (Applause.) They walked him off to prison so that he should not give evidence . . .
          The magistrates retired, and on returning into Court the Chairman said they had unanimously decided that this was a case to be tried by a jury. It was a painful duty to them, the majority of whom had known Mr. Sarell for a long period, but they had no alternative. He would therefore be committed for trial at the Winter Assize. The Bench would accept bail – defendant in 1100 and two sureties of 50 each.
          On the application of Mr. Friend, Mr. Sarell was also bound over to keep the peace towards Seldom – himself in 25 and two sureties of 10 each – for six months. (Exeter and Plymouth Gazette)

30 September 1878

We hear that application will be made, in the interest of the accused, for the transference of the trial of Mr. Henry Ford from the Devon Assizes to the Central Criminal Court. (Exeter and Plymouth Gazette)

1 October 1878

THE EXETER SCANDAL. – The appointment to the clerkship of the peace to the county of Devon, vacant by the resignation of Mr. Henry Ford, is in the gift of the Duke of Somerset. It is, I believe, worth 1000, and will, it is thought in Devonshire, fall to the Michelmores of Totner. (Bristol Mercury)

5 October 1878

Yesterday the Exeter City Magistrates resumed the hearing of the charges brought against Mr. Henry Ford, the Clerk of the Peace for Devon. The cases before this Bench were one in which a driver of the Royal Horse Artillery, named Davis, charged Mr. Ford with indecently assaulting him between 10.30 and 11.30 on the night of Wednesday, 28th of August; and in the other Sydney Seldon, who was a billiard-marker at the Devon and Exeter Club, charged Mr. Ford with similar assaults between March and August of 1877. . . . At the last hearing Mr. G. Lewis, junr., of London, who appeared for the defence, stated that he should show by most positive evidence that the party who assaulted the soldier was not Mr. Ford, but most be some other person . . . and that the mistake must be due to some unfortunate resemblance between Mr. Ford and the person who was really the guilty party in the affair. It will be seen below that evidence of the most perfect character was produced showing that the soldier Davis was mistaken in identifying Mr. Ford as his assailant. There were again a large number of persons in Court. . . .
          . . . Mr. FRIEND – I have asked you, Capt. Bent, whether some circumstances did not come under your own eye and personal knowledge previous to your seeing the boy [Selden] – circumstances between himself and Mr. Ford. . . . A – I did see certain things. Q. – When did these circumstances first come under you eye? A – In the early part of 1877. Where was it you saw that? – It was in the Devon and Exeter Club in this city. At what time? – Nearly eleven o'clock at night. In what room? – In the upper billiard-room of the Club. Were they alone? – Alone. What did you see or do? – I went to the upper billiard-room to see if any one was there to have a game of billiards with. I looked through the small peep-hole, and saw that the room was very dark – dim; the gas was low, and I saw two people standing at the far end of the billiard-room with their backs against the billiard-table. They were standing close together, and the one on his left had his arm probably round the one on the right. I opened the door and went in, and immediately I entered they separated. The one on the left was Mr. Ford, and the other was Seldon. Mr. Ford then took up a cue, and the boy went over and turned up the light. I looked at the mark-board, and saw that the score was 79 and 83, and I then said "I will have a game with you, Mr. Ford, if you are not playing." He declined to play with me, saying "I am only knocking the balls about, and learning a stroke or two of the marker." A few nights after that I went into the lower billiard-room; it was late in the night, and on entering the room I saw Mr. Ford and Seldon there again. The gas was not turned up high enough to play a game by, but Mr. Ford was knocking the balls about. I asked the marker (Seldon) if there was a game on, and Mr. Ford replied, "I am not going to play this evening." As a fact I mentioned these circumstances to one or two members of the Club at the time. When I met Seldon on the beach and asked him a question, he declined to answer first.The question I asked him first was whether there was any truth in the reports that were flying about in connection with Mr. Ford and him. (Mr. Lewis objected to this conversation being repeated, as Mr. Ford was not present. The objection was overruled.) After some hesitation he said he would tell Mr. Friend what he knew, that his name and the soldiers' had been flying about, and that he should like to speak the truth. I said that was all I wanted him to do, and I added that I did not want to hear any evidence, but I would mention the thing to Mr. Friend. . . .
          Mrs. Sarell said I am the wife of Raymond Sarell, and my husgand and I were steward and stewardess of the Devon and Exeter County Club for 15 years. I remember Seldon being a billiard-marker there. It is quite untrue that I ever saw Seldon and Mr. Henry Ford sitting on a bench or sofa together. I never at any time saw such a thing, or did I ever say so. . . .
          John Pearse – I am a lodging-house-keeper, living at Higher Eaton-place. I was in the Devon Constabulary for 14½ years, and then I was in the City Police, but I am now night watchman at Streathem Hall, the residence of Thoston West, Esq. In August last Seldon was footman there and in the early part of that month, that is two months ago, he made a communication to me, saying "When I was at the Club there were some fellows going about the city trying on the other game – you know what." I replied, "I don't know what you mean." He said one night whilst I was out with the post bag, a gentleman fellow followed me on Northernhay, asked me to have a cigar, and whilst I was smoking it tried to indecently assault me. I had the post bag in my hand and I swung it round and gave the fellow such a crack in the head and he ran away. I said to Seldon, "Who was the man, do you know?" He said, "No, I don't." I said, "That is strange conduct, especially for a stranger – were you in livery?" He said "Yes, I saw," and I observed, "Then he saw you were a servant and tried to take the advantage; but haven't you any idea who he was?" He again said, "No, I haven't." I then said "Have you seen him since?" and he said "No, I have not." I read the evidence that Seldon gave to this court, and immediately on reading it and seeing what he then said about the postbag, I went to Mr. Ford's office to state what Seldon had told me. I have no interest in this case except to serve the cause of justice.
          Cross-examined – I left the City Force in April, 1877. I heard of the trial of Harvey and that he was convicted, but I do not remember when it was.
          Mr. Lewis – Your Worships will see that Seldon has attributed this post-bag affair to Mr. Ford.
          Mr. Friend denied this, and would recall Capt. Bent, who would tell them that this had no connection with the occasion when Mr. Ford was struck.
          Mr. Lewis said they had evidence on the last occasion that Mr. Ford attempted to disarrange Seldon's dress, and that he then struck him with the post-bag; now Seldon had, in mentioning this matter to Pearce, stated that it was a perfect stranger who disarranged his dress – a person whom he knew nothing about.
          Mr. Friend and Captain Bent would explain that Seldon struck two men with the post bag – the first was a man named Harvey, who had since been convicted. Capt. Bent would tell them that in consequence of Seldon complaining of being followed by Harvey he, unknown to himself, was watched by the police.
          . . .
          Capt. Bent, re-called, said – in answer to Mr. Friend – that whilst Sarell was steward of the Club he made a communication to him, and in consequence of which he had Seldon watched by a detective for a few nights. That was in February 1877, and the hour he had him watched was when he went to post in the evening, between eight and nine. Nothing came of it so far as Seldon was concerned, but owing to the information that was given me, a man called Harvey was apprehended on March 16th, 1877, at Torquay, and tried and convicted at the County Quarter Sessions in May, and sentenced to seven years penal servitude for an attempt to commit an abominable offence.
[This was 21-year-old Frederick Harvey, convicted of sexual offences against a 16-year-old youth; see reports for 20 March and 14 April in Newspaper Reports for 1877.]
          . . .
The Bench then resumed the hearing of the charge made by Gunner Davis, who alleged that Mr. Ford assaulted him on the Topsham-road on the evening of Wednesday, August 28th.
          The Right Hon Earl Fortescue said – I reside at Castle Hill, North Devon. I remember writing the letter produced on Aug. 23 to Mr. Ford. I remember it perfectly. On Monday, Aug. 26, I was stag-hunting, and by the letter produced I made an appointment with Mr. Ford for Tuesday, the 27th. On Tuesday, the 27th, I met Mr. Ford at the Yeoford Railway Station, and travelled with him to Okehampton in the train, and took him on the with me in a pony chaise from Okehampton to the Duke of Bedford's house at Endsleigh, and called at the house of the High Sheriff on the County on the way. That night Mr. Ford and myself remained as the guests of the Duke of Bedford, and the following morning we started at 10 o'clock and drove to Carnworthy Water, in Cornwall. On the way back I dropped Mr. ford at Milton Abbot School, he preferring to walk back to Endsleigh, and I wishing to see Lamerton Church. I returned to Endsleigh about 7.30, in time to dress for dinner, the Duke dining at 8. Mr. Ford was present at dinner. After dinner Mr. Ford and myself, I think, played at whist with the duchess; but Mr. Ford was, at all events, in the room till half-past 10 or 11 o'clock that night.
          . . . [A footman and an ostler confirm this evidence.]
          Mr. Lewis said this concluded the evidence he proposed to call as an answer to the case of Davis. It showed in what peril Mr. Ford had been placed. The soldier swore that on this night of the 28th of August – which was positively fixed on his memory by surrounding circumstances – Mr. Ford assaulted him, and here was evidence placing it beyond all doubt that Mr. Ford could not have been the man. . . .
          The Mayor (after the Magistrates had been half-an-hour in consultation) said – The Magistrates have very carefully considered the case of Joseph Davis, and they are of opinion that an alibi has been clearly proved. They therefore dismiss that. With regard to the charge by Sydney Seldon, looking at all the circumstances connected with the case, they consider that the Queen v. Robins does not preclude them from sending the case for trial at the Sessions, and it is sent for trial accordingly. (Western Times)

28 October 1878

The Winter Assize for the combined counties of Devon and Cornwall and the city and couty of the city of Exeter was opened on Saturday by Lord Chief Justice Coleridge. . . . The indictments against Mr. Henry Ford, the Clerk of the Peace, will be presented to the Grand Jury, and if a bill should be found, the case will be removed by writ of certiorari to the Central Criminal Court. . . . (Exeter and Plymouth Gazette Daily Telegram)

29 October 1878

The trials of the prisoners of Devon and Cornwall commenced at the Castle of Exeter yesterday. . . .
          On the Court being opened, the Clerk of Assize (Mr. Bovill) informed his Lordship that the Governor of the Gaol (Mr. Kilpatrick) had declined to receive Raymond Sarell into custody, and Mr. Floud, the solicitor to the defendant, as well as the defendant himself and his sureties, were now in attendance to surrender. His Lordship directed tha Sarell should now go into the dock. . . .
          His Lordship – Now, sir, I order you to receive that prisoner under my authority.
          Mr. Kilpatrick – Quite so, my Lord; I do so.
          The prisoner was then removed.
          . . .
          The Grand Jury returned a true bill against Mr. Henry Ford on all counts of the indictment preferred against him – there were ten counts, four with regard to the soldier Hutton, and three each in the names of Lewis and Higgins. The November Sessions of the Central Criminal Court commence on November 18th, but this case will probably be taken specially before a judge on the 20th.
          A true bill for misdemeanour was found against Raymond Sarell.
          The Court then adjourned until ten o'clock this morning. (Western Times)

30 October 1878

The business of this Assize was resumed at the Castle of Exeter yesterday, before Lord Chief Justice Coleridge, who took his seat at 10 o'clock. . . .

Raymond Sarell, the steward of the Castle-street Reform Club, was indicted for having attempted to intimadate a witness for the prosecution in the case of Mr. Henry Ford. . . .
[The evidence was the same as that given in the Magistrates' Court earlier.]
          His Lordship proceeded first to point out the statements made by Seldon as to what took place in the Club with Mr. Ford, and at Sidmouth with the defendant. It was true the statement was uncorroborated, and that Mr. Sarell's mouth was closed. . . . Mr. Collins [for the defence] had suggested . . . that the reason for those interviews was because it had come to Mr. Sarell's knowledge that Seldon had said that he or his wife had seen Mr. Ford sitting on the sofa with him. Hearing this, it was submitted to them [the jury] that Mr Sarell was so indignant that he went twice to Sidmouth to have it out with Seldon, and to caution him against mixing up his or his wife's name in the matter. It would be for the jury to say whether there was such a probability about it as would warrant them in rejecting the evidence of the prosecutor, given, it must be recollected, upon his oath. . . . It was for the jury to say to which of the two accounts given from their own experience of life and good judgment inclined them. . . . It was true the witness gave a very poor account of himself, whilst a good account had been given of Mr. Sarell . . .
          After a short consultation, the Jury returned a verdict of "Not guilty." (Exeter and Plymouth Gazette Daily Telegram)

31 October 1878

On Tuesday, the grand jury for Exeter threw out the bill preferred against Mr. Henry Ford by the city Magistrates, charging him with having indecently assaulted a youth named Seldon while engaged as billiard marked at the Devon and Exeter Club. The announcement was received with applause, and Lord Coleridge threatened to have the Court cleared. (Gloucester Citizen)

20 November 1878

To-day a charge of indecent assaualt was preferred, before Mr. Justice Hawkins, against Mr. Henry Ford, clerk of the peace for the county of Devon. The grand jury of that county at the alst assizes returned a true bill, and the case was removed to the Central Criminal Court by writ of certiorari.
          Mr. Montagu Williams and Mr. Charles Matthews appeared for the prosecution; the defendant was represented by the Attorney-General (Sir J. Holker), Mr. E. Clarke, and Mr. Pitt-Lewis.
          Mr. Montagu Williams said there were three charges against the defendant of a painful and disagreeable character. . . .
[Testimony was taken similar to that given at the Magistrates' court earlier.] (Globe)

21 November 1878

The trial of Mr. Henry Ford on the charges of indecent assault, preferred against him by certain artillerymen, came on yesterday at the Central Criminal Court, before Mr. Justice Hawkins. . . .
          The Court opened at ten o'clock, and the first case taken was that against Mr. Ford, who on being called on immediately surrendered, and was placed in the dock. The Clerk of Arraigns read the indictment, in which the accused was charged with having indecently assaulted Robert Higgins, Thomas Lewis and Samuel Hutton, all belonging to the Royal Horse Artillery. The indictment contained various other counts, one of which charged him with inciting to commit an unnatural offence.
          . . .
[The evidence of the prosecution against Mr Ford in this Assize Court was substantially the same as that given in the Magistrates' Court earlier. The main argument for the defence was that in the case of Lewis and Higgins it was a case of mistaken identity, and in the case of Hutton he was drunk on the occasion and his testimony could not be trusted. All the arguments about whether Hutton were drunk or sober were rehearsed once again. Some evidence was disallowed because the original deposition in writing could not be found and produced.]
          During the afternoon his Lordship asked if there was any chance of the case concluding that day?
          Mr. Williams said he did not think it possible, unless the Court sat very late.
          His Lordship said he did not propose to do that.
          Lord Coleridge, who is one of the witnesses for character to be called in defence, observed that he should be engaged on Thursday, and not able to wait in Court to give evidence, and it was agreed by the Counsel to give him notice when he was required. (Exeter and Plymouth Gazette Daily Telegram)

22 November 1878

The hearing of the charges against Mr. Henry Ford, for having indecently assaulted three artillerymen, was resumed yesterday morning. . . .
[The evidence and arguments continued the same as in the Magistrates Court. Robert Higgins was very severely cross-examined, especially about inconsistencies between his deposition and his current testimony. He was badgered by the defence attorney and appeared confused in his answers.] By Mr. Clarke [for the defence]: [Higgins}: I did not know what he [Ford] wanted me to go up the lane. When he gave me the shilling I thought it was for something improper. I did not know what it was when he gave it to me. When prisoner was interefering with my dress and unbuttoning my jacket, he had the shilling; I had given it back to him. – Q. If I understand, when you gave the shilling back you said if he was not off you would give him in charge? A. Yes, I did. – Q. Do you mean to say that you gave him the shilling back before he unbuttoned your clothes? A. Yes, I do. – Q. But you threatened to give him in charge. Do you mean to say that after that you stood still, and let him unbutton your clothing? A. It is very easily done.
          The deposition of witness before the Magistrates was here read, in which witness stated that the threat to give the charge was made after the un-buttoning. (To Witness). Do you mean to say that he undid your clothes after you returned the shilling? A. I do. . . .
          Q/ Did you not say I think (Mr. Ford) is the same man who spoke to me, but I am d——d if I can swear he is the man? A. No, sir. – Q. Did you say that it was a dark night, and that it was some time ago? A. No, sir. – Q. And that you should not like to swear to it?: A. No, sir. – Q. Nothing of the kind? A. No, sir. – Q. Did you before the Magistrates say, "I thought I could identify him, but was not certain? A. No, sir. – Mr. Clarke: I will read you the whole words – "I thought I could identify him if I saw him again, but I was not certain I could identify him."
          His Lordship: You said just now you did say so. When you were at the Magistrates did you say that?
          A. No, sir.
          His Lordship: Then you say the Magistrates' Clerk took down something you did not say? The evidence was read over to you.
          Witness was further questioned on the point, but answered very stupidly, and said again he did not say so.
          His Lord: Don't go to sleep man; at least not yet.
          Mr. Montagu William said it was evident the man did not understand what he was asked.
          Witness was again questioned, but adhered to his statement that he did not say what was in the deposition.
          . . . His Lordship here called attention to the deposition put in by Mr. Williams, and pointed out that originally one sentence ran:– "The defendant is the man. It was a dark night." The pen had since been put through the words "The defendant is the man." This was not initialled, and there was nothing to show that the erasure was the clerk's. It was a common practice to strike out words in this way, but it was most misleading. . . . The Attorney-General: It was evidently prepared by someone who was determined to say it was the defendant. . . .
          [Other witnesses were cross-examined.] Mr. Montagu Williams said as his learned friend called no witnesses, he would proceed to sum up this discreditable [defence]. . . . From the course the defence had adopted, the line they intended to take was apparent. The charge made by Hutton on the 25th was alleged to be a lying and untrue charge, and it was that, in order, he presumed, to serve their comrade, the other two witnesses, Higggins and Lewis, had come forward deliberately to make these charges for the purpose of supporting their companions, knowing them to be abominable, disgraceful, and false. The issue they had to try was a most important one. Fortunately for them, they had not many opportunities of being conversant with these cases, but if they had been, they would agree with him that witnesses who came into the box to prefer charges of this kind laboured under the greatest possible disadvantage. And he would tell them why. In all these cases the act of indecency was not committed at once. People who had this horrible tendency did not commit these acts all in a moment. There were conversations leading up to the one great act before the act was committed, and those who brought the accusation were bound to admit that either from curiosity or some other reason which he could not understand, that they had allowed matters to go to a certain point before they demanded an explanation. And when they had done that, in the witness-box they acted as if they imagined they were almost on their own trial and in the hands of learned counsel, and such learned counsel could imagine the position when they were asked, "Were you ashamed of it? Did you dislike it? Were you horrified? Why did you not knock the man down?" When this was done the man immediately began to fence with the point put to him, and it was so in this case. Now he was not going to ask them to convict Mr. Ford on the evidence of Hutton alone, of Higgins alone, or of Lewis alone. But he would endeavour presently to show how each one was corroborated and he was going to ask them in weighing the case, not only to weigh the evidence of Hutton, Lewis, and Higgins, but to take the conduct of Mr. Ford himself on the 25th of August and the 26th of August. What took place on the 25th was not controverted in the main facts by the Attorney-General. What took place on the morning of the 26th was not controverted, because no human ingenuity could have done it. Mr. Ford was there on the night of the 25th, on the road to the Barracks. He (the learned counsel) did not care whether Hutton was sober or not. If, as Mr. Ford said, the man was beastly drunk and stupidly drunk, what was Mr. Ford dong talking to a drunken soldier between eleven and twelve o'clock at night on the high road? This was a fact that was not controverted, and to him it appeared that the drunker they made the man the worse it told against Mr. Ford. . . . It was suggested that the act of indecency, said to be committed by Mr. Ford bobbing against Hutton could not have taken place, because Walsh said that, though he kept them in sight, he did not see it. But these were details, little matters, elicited in cross-examination. He did not ask them to deal with the case on details, but on all the facts. They would remember Walsh said he did not see any motion of the body, but almost in the same breath he said one of the men had a pipe, but he could not say which. If he could not say that he was clearly unable to say whether there was any motion of the body or not. . . . As to the story of the hat, he did not fix his case on trifling details. What matter whether Mr. Ford had on a black hat, or white hat, or grey hat? It was not material what hat he wore, because Mr. Ford was there on the 25th August, and went to the Guildhall. He did not pretend to say it was not material on some other dates. Mr. Ford was a man of position, and if there was any other man who had been assaulting soldiers near the Barracks, it was extraordinary that he had not been found, and that some evidence was not produced of some man having been seen under the same circumstances. The extraordinary fact was that Mr. Ford had been seen three or four times on the road by P.C. Wheeler. . . .
          Lewis pledges his oath that the man who assualted him was Mr Ford, and was he corroborated? He went to Barracks and straight to bed, and there he told Ireland of the facts that had occurred that night. This, it was sought to be shown, he supposed, as part of a conspiracy in order to protect Hutton from punishment. Was it likely to be so? It was clearly a true story which the men told, yet it was said to be a conspiracy. . . . Lewis, no doubt, did not give quite the same account to the Major as to the Magistrates, but to the Major left out a great deal of the indecency of the facts of the case. This was accounted for by the man being in the presence of his commanding-officer, and believing that the Major would have been angry for his not leaving Mr. Ford at once. As to Higgins, he had no doubt given his evidence in a very stupid way. But could such a stupid man have invented such a story as he had told? The jury had seen what sort of a man he was, and could judge whether he was capable of inventing such a story. They would remember that Higgins said that Mr. Ford asked for a lucifer. Mr. Ford, when before the Major, said he had often asked soldiers for lucifers. At the time Higgins made his deposition before the Major he had not identified Mr. Ford, but his statement before the Magistrates was essentially the same. The question had arisen whether the shilling was given to the soldier before, or after, the assault; but the real issue was, did the circumstances take place at all? . . . How was Higgins corroborated? In that case he was corroborated "up to the hilt" by Vickers, unless the story of the 26th of August was believed to be a conspiracy. Vickers was at the gate, and had his hand almost on the bell, when he saw two people in conversation, under the same circumstances as described by Higgins, and Higgins made a communication to him immediately after. . . . The prosecutors were soldiers, men of no culture, ignorant men, and the jury must not deal with the question on details, but as a whole story. Was it true, or was it false? The answer of the defendant would be given by the most eloquent pleader at the bar, who, however, had called no witnesses, and could only aver that it was a conspiracy on the part of these soldiers. He asked the jury to decide the case on the whole of the evidence, and if they believed the case against the defendant, and only in that case, to give their verdict against him. . . .
[The defence argued his case, basically that the accusers' testimony was unreliable and confused about precise times and places and circumstances. As for Hutton: "a man in the possession of full health and strength, who could submit to such indecencies without a murmur, was a man who could not deserve any consideration." He then called witnesses who testified to the good character of Mr. Ford, including the Earl of Devon, the Rev. Treasurer Hawker, Mr. F. W. Dymind, S. C. Hamlyn the High-Sheriff of Devon, and Earl Fortescue.]
          His Lordship observed that at that period (six o'clock), he did not propose to sum up the case that night.
          The Foreman of the Jury intimated that they were agreed, but some of the jury said there were one or two minor points on which they should like to have his Lordship's opinion.
          The case will be resumed at ten o'clock-to-day.
          The general impression in Court last evening was that the verdict will be one of acquittal. (Exeter and Plymouth Gazette)

23 November 1878

The trial of Mr. Henry Ford Clerk of the Peace for the County of Devon, was brought to a conclusion at the Central Criminal Court yesterday, before Mr. Justice Hawkins. . . . From what was dropped by the foreman of the jury on the previous day, the result of their consideration was more than anticipated; and when the verdict of "Not Guilty" was recorded, it was received with some slight applause, which was, however, instantly repressed.
          . . . Mr Ford was at once discharged. (Exeter and Plymouth Gazette Daily Telegram)

28 December 1878

Mr. Henry Ford, Clerk of the Peace for Devonshire, has tendered his resignation of that office. A short time since Mr. Ford was the defendant in a charge which was tried at the Old Bailey, and was acquitted. The Magistrates, however, have since held a meeting to consider the matter, and decided to call on Mr. Ford to resign. The appointment of successor is in the hands of the Lord Lieutenant, the Duke of Somerset. The office is worth 1,200l. a year. (Shipping and Mercantile Gazette)

SOURCE: Various newspapers, dates as given.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "The Exeter Scandal, 1878", Homosexuality in Nineteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 1 July 2019 <>.

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