The Hulme Fancy Dress Ball, 1880

Illustrated Police News, 9 October 1880

12 September 1874

TUTE'S MINSTRELS. – An entertainment, already familiar to Manchester people, is at present given nightly in the Circus, Peter-street, by a company known as Tute's Minstrels. The minstrels adopt the guise of negro melodists, and their musical performances are varied by the inevitable stump oration, the comic “nigger breakdown,” and occasionally by a musical farce. The company has amongst its members some singers of ability, and the nightly programme includes one or two effective chorus performances. (Manchester Times)

27 September 1880

                                                                                          MANCHESTER, Saturday.
An extraordinary raid was made by the Manchester police early this morning upon the persons present at a fancy dress ball in Hulme, and an almost incredible charge of immoral conduct is to be brought against the prisoners, 47 in number. The ball had been announced for some time, and the detective department received information that the proceedings would be of an immoral character. Inquiries were made by the detectives as to the nature of previous gatherings, and sufficient information was gathered to justify them in making arrangements for a raid should anything transpire during the evening tending to confirm the evidence already obtained. The ball was held in the Temperance Hall, Hulme Place, York Street, Chester road, Hulme, the hallhaving been taken under false pretences. A large numberr of police in plain clothes were stationed near thebuilding, and Detective Caminada watched the place. About nine o'clock cabs began to arrive containing young men, most of whom had portmanteaus or boxes or bags with them. A considerable number were in female attire, the costumes being of the most gorgeous description, with bracelets, &c. One man was dressed as Juliet, and others were attired as Henry VIII., Richard III., Sir Walter Raleigh, Romeo, whilst others were in naval costume. The officers saw 47 persons enter the building, 22 being dressed as woman, and at first were supposed to be women. Dancing commenced about ten o'clock to the strains of a harmonium played by a blind man. Caminada saw through a window from the roof of an adjoining building what transpired, adn having seen certain improprieties ordered the raid. A signal was given, and the police followed Caminada to teh door. In answer to his knock some one called, "Who' there?" and on giving the password "Sister" he was admitted. The police were at once set upon, and caminada was thrown back; but after a short scuffle, during which some of the men threw off their female attire and one tried to jump through a window, they were all secured, handcuffed, and removed to the cells at the Town Hall. Subsequently the police fetched from the hall several cab loads of female attire. Forty-seven persons in all were secured, all men, there having not been one woman at the gathering. The prisoners were removed to the Town Hall in batches, the scene creating great excitement. . . .
          The prisoners were conveyed from the police cells at the Town Hall to the Court in Minshull Street in cabs. Eight of them were in femael ball apparel, and several of their companions were attired as historic notabilities. As they filed into the dock, the solicitors' benches, adn the place set apart for witnesses – all these places being required to present them to the view of the justices – the spectators could not suppress an outburst of laughter. The prisoners seemed to be cosiderably ashamed of their position, some of them screening their faces with their arms and hats as they entered and left the Court. . . .
          Detective Caminada – Whilst taking the observation of them, sir, if I might be allowed to explain their conduct in the room, there was a sort of dance to very quick time, which my experience has taught me is called the "can-can." The men in female attire took a very prominent part in the dance. The officer then went on to describe what he saw take place, mentioning that the men dressed as women were so well disguised that at first he failed to recognise them. There was not a single woman there, and the proceedings were too beastly to describe. He made that observation because, in society, there exists a class of men, almost unknown to many gentlemen, who prowl about the streets almost to the same extent as unfortunate women, adn some of the prisoners belong to that class, as he could prove. . . .
          The prisoners were then remanded to Thursday. (Dundee Advertiser)

30 September 1880

Contrary to expectation all the forty-seven persons arrested at a fancy ball by the Manchester police on Saturday morning surrendered this morning. The case against them was opened. They were charged with soliciting and inciting each other to commit sodomy, and with conspiring to assemble for that purpose. Evidence of gross indecencies was given by the police. The case is expected to last the greater part of the day. (Staffordshire Sentinel)

30 September 1880

This morning, the 47 men who were captured on Saturday morning last, at a fancy dress ball, in the Temperance Hall, Hulme Place, Chester Road, were brought before the magistrates at the City Police Court, and the fact becoming generally known a large crowd assembled outside the building. The capture has been the principal item of conversation during the week, and the absurdly ridiculous figure some of the defendants presented in the dock at the Police Court last Saturday has created immense amusement. The fact that fancy dress balls were being held in Manchester does not appear to have been generally known, and surprise has been expressed that the matter could have been kept so quiet. The idea of a ball, too, without ladies seemed so incongruous and so incomplete that some curiosity was felt to see men who could manage to extract enjoyment out of so tame an entertainment. Last week in the dock they cut a most ridiculous and grotesque figure. Some of them were dressed in female attire, and were excellently got up. Several of them made very good-looking women, and the disguise was almost perfect. Others had relieved themselves of a portion of their apparel, and endeavoured with the discarded garments to hide their features from the public gaze. All seemed relieved when they escaped from the positions of unpleasant prominence in which they were placed, and it could not be said that they made their appearance this morning with feelings of anything like equanimity.
          Outside the building there was an immense crowd, but comparatively few succeeded in getting past the stalwart policemen who guarded the doors. The case was heard in the first sessions court, which was crowded to its utmost capacity. The solicitors occupied the first bench. The next one, the jury box and the left gallery were occupied by the defendants, and the whole of the remaining space was taken up by the general public. Of magistrates there was a large attendance, Mr. Rickards, one of the oldest justices, presiding. Mr. Cobbett appeared to prosecute, and the defence was undertaken by a number of legal gentlemen. Half-past ten was the time fixed for the commencement of the proceedings, but it was not until after eleven o'clock that the defendants were called on. They had been in a lower room changing the attire in which they were captured, so that they might make a more respectable and dignified appearance before the magistrates. Their looks as they filed into court were criticised with freedom. Some of them were of gentlemanly appearance and demeanour, others were very effeminate in appearance, and the hair was presuimably dyed the golden hue so much affected in quasi-fashionable circles. Their stations in life were evidently very different, some being well dressed, while others were not only shabby and unkept, but evidently belonged to the lower classes of society. As their names were called over they stood up and answered, and all of them being present the business then commenced.
          Mr. Cobbett briefly stated the charge that he intended to bring against defendants and quoted the necessary statutes under which he proposed to proceed. The law, he said, was clear, and stated that the punishment imposed by the law was penal servitude for not less than three years. He then referred to the facts of the case and characterised the proceedings which he had to describe as one of the foulest orgies which ever disgraced any town. He acquitted the Temperance Society from any connivance, and said that they took steps to ascertain the respectability of the people to whom they let the hall. He then proceeded to describe the hall, which he said was in a poor but orderly neighbourhood. These people, it appeared, engaged the hall from the custodian, and represented that they required it for the purpose of a ball given by the Manchester Pawnbrokers Association. The hall was obtained and the custodian got rid of, and on the evening named the windows carefully covered up with paper where the blinds did not cover. The company began to arrive about half-past nine, and some of them were in women's clothes. About half-past ten o'clock the custodian of the hall knocked at the door, with a view of seeing what was going on, and he was admitted by a sister of mercy, in whom he recognised one of the persons who engaged the room. Mr. Cobett then described the scene and the facts of the arrest, and recalled the attention of the bench to the charge, which he maintained he should substantiate. He suggested as another way of dealing with the matter, if the bench felt that they would like such a case to be dismissed at once from public notice, that the defendants could be bound over to be of good behaviour for such a time, and under such sureties as the bench might think propler. But that was for the bench to decide, as the prosecution were quite prepared to go through with the case.
          Evidence was then offered, and a plan of the premises which had been prepared was proved. Numerous questions were asked by the legal gentlemen for the defence of the gentlemen who prepared the plan, with a view of showing that the officers could not see into the room from the shop which they selected for their observations. The answers, however, tended to show that a fair view into the room would be obtained from a chimney stack on an adjoining building. After this witness came Caminada, in whom the real interest, as the discoverer of the orgie [sic] and director of the capture, undoubtedly centred.
          The magistrates present were Mr. Rickards (who presided), Mr. Railton, Mr. Ferguson, Mr. D. Bannerman, Mr. R. Hardwick, Mr. W. Aronsberg, Mr. W. Holland, and Mr. Kennedy.
          Mr. W. Cobbett prosecuted on behalf of the police. The names and addresses given by the prisoners are:–

George Broughton, 30, schoolmaster, 62, Wakefield Road, Stalybridge.
John Cartwright, 25, draper, 62, Wakefield Road, Stalybridge. [
Note that these two men share the same address.]
Arthur Henry Garton, 22, bookkeeper, 94, Regent Road, Salford.
Thomas Pitt, single, 22, draper, 102, Union-street, Ashton-under-Lyne.
Edward Pickins, single, 25, bookbinder, 25, Marple-street, Hulme.
Henry Parry, single, 33, painter, 6, Fern-street, Silver-street, Hulme.
Arthur Lomas, married, 29, drawing master/teacher of dancing, No. 8 in 2 Court, Allen-street, Sheffield.
Thomas Whiteman, single, 18, grocer, 33, Little-street, Waterloo-street, Oldham.
Ernest Parkinson, single, 19, singer, Victoria House, Spring-street, Bury.
Charles Alles, single, 21, factory operative, 1, Penny Lane, Stockport.
John Holliday [or Halliday], single, 16, plumber, 7, Ruby-street, Hulme.
Frank Smith, single, 24, dancer, 13, Spittall-street, Oldham Road, Manchester.
Fred Montresser [or Montressier], single, 21, barman, waiter at Farbon's Restaurant, Cannon-street, Manchester.
John Price, single, 20, hawker, 5, Ogden-street, Bedford-street, Hulme.
James Warburton, single, 32, waiter, 10, Wynford-street, Weaste.
Richard Kirby, married, 30, clerk, 36, Godson, street, Oldman.
James Mellor, single, 19, carter, 4, Gibraltar-street, Lees.
Charles Speed, single, 45, silver finisher, 75, Monmouth-street, Shefeield.
James Lythgoe, single, 24, clerk, 11, Windsor Terrace, Windsor Bridge, Salford.
Wm. Rennie, single, 26, mechanic, 14, Heywood-street, Oldham.
Edward Powell, single, 23, gilder, 59, Woodhead Road, Sheffield.
Jas. William Jackson, single, 19, piecer/painter, 15, Ash-street, Oldham.
Robert Fox, single, 28, jeweller's assistant / traveller, 73, Tamworth-street, Hulme.
[Robert Fox had previously been arrested at a similar ball in Salworth in 1874.]
William Oates, 28, porter, 2, Little Hill, Sheffield.
James Dickinson, waiter/barman, 5, Ivy Grove, Chapman-street, Hulme.
Nathaniel Saxton, single, waiter/barman, 23, Grove-street, Sheffield.
Thomas Whitworth, 23, silversmith, 8, Rodney Lane, Sheffield.
Ainsworth Earnshaw, single, 25, stonemason, 35, Alexander-street, Lower Broughton.
Edward Whitehead, single, 20, bottler maker / “bottler,” 11, Huntingdon-street, Oxford-street, Manchester.
Abraham Ogden, baker, 77, great Jackson-street, Hulme.
George Buxton, 26, fustian cutter, 87, Port-street, Manchester.
John H. Coors, single, shopkeeper / shopman, 110, Slater-street, Oldham Boad, Manchester.
William Southern, single, 27, chemist, Stand Avenue, Cheetwood.
Alfred Buckmaster, single, 26, clerk, 4, Albion Place, Halliwell Lane, Cheetham Hill.
William Johnson, single, 22, salesman, 19, Baker-street, Everton Road, Manchester.
George Bingham, single, 36, metal dresser, 43, Penistone Road, Sheffield.
Thomas Monaghan, single, 33, billposter, 37, Bird-street, Hulme.
William Ingham, single, 31, butler,12, Weaste Lane, Eccles.
Frederick Richardson, single, 28, confectioner, 3, Dronfield Road, Sheffield.
Isaac Haslam, single, 36, shopkeeper, 53, South-street Park, Sheffield.
John Leonard Crook, married, 34, publican, 17, May-street, Thurlow-street, Eccles New Road.
William Frund [or Frudd], single, carriage-trimmer, 62, Johnson-street, Wicker Sheffield.
Arthur Shawcross, single, 48, mechanic, 11, Elisabeth-street, West Gorton.
Abraham Shufflebottom, married, 38, hawker, 26, Hulton-street, Ordsal Lane.
Richard Walker, single, 40, waiter / barman, 31, Lower Chatham-street, Chorlton-upon-Medlock.
George Nicholson, 30, shopkeeper, 190, Regent Lane, Salford.
Charles Townley, married, 37, dyer, 117, Albion Terrace, London Oldham Road, Manchester.
. . .

          In opening the case, Mr. Cobbett said he appeared on behalf of the police authorities of the town to present the forty-seven persons who had just answered to their names. They were all of them in custody, and had been arrested by the police without warrants. What he should charge them all with was what was called misdemeanour at common law, that was to say, it was not an order which was itself a subject of any particular statute but an offence, according to the authorities on the common law of the country, which, if committed, constituted a misdemeanour, and it was prosecutable in a particular way by statute. The offence with which he proposed to charge them was that the whole of them solicited and incited each other to commit an unnameable offence, and he also proposed to charge them with conspiring together to assemble in a certain place and there soliciting and inciting each other to commit that offence. There was another method of dealing with the case, to which he should afterwards allude; but for the present that was the charge against the prisoners. The authorities on the subject laid it down as settled law that where one or more persons solicited another person or persons to commit that which was a felony, the fact of their soliciting and inciting was itself a misdemeanour, and the latest edition of “Russell on Crimes,” first [?]reference page 188, stated that an attempt to commit a felony was in any case a misdemeanour, and that the mere soliciting another to commit a felony was a sufficient act to constitute a misdemeanour. In the same book, it was laid down that the mere soliciting of another to commit this abominable crime was an indictable offence, and the 24th and 25th Victoria provided the punishment of the offence. It would be within the recollection of the Bench that within the last year or so a surgeon of a public institution close to this court was prosecuted and convicted at the Liverpool Assize of an offence exactly similar to that now charged against the prisoners, and he was sentenced to four years imprisonment, with hard labour. The circumstances of the case were on record, and therefore he (Mr. Cobbett) thought that, as regarded the question of law, no hesitation would exist in the minds of the Bench, the only question for them now being whethere a clear priima facie case had been made out against the men now before the court. It was now his duty to lay the facts of the case before their worships and he proposed to do so as shortly as possible for he did not desire to go more into detail than he could help.
          Mr. Richards: I am sure you will not.
          Mr. Cobbett said there was another reason – because he had the misfortune of having to describe one of the foulest and most disgraceful orgies that ever reproached a town. From information that had reached the ears of the police it was thought desirable to watch a certain building situated in Hulme Place, York-street, Hulme. That building, he believed, was rented by some temperance society, who were in the habit of holding their meetings weekly or monthly, and in order to make money, they also let the place from time to time for different entertainments. He must do that society the justice to say that it was their practice to take certain measures in ascertaining that the purpose for which the room was required were orderly and proper. The building in question was not in a main thoroughfare but was at the end of Hulme Place, a cul de sac opening from York-street. The building, as would be seen from the plan he now handed to the bench (plan provided) consisted merely of one large room, which had three windows looking into Hulme Place, and two on the other side, looking over blank walls and roofs. There was also an ante-room, to which access was gained only by going into a small backyard and then ascending a pair of wooden steps. The yard, being partially roofed over, was not at the best of times well lighted, and the large room, ante-room, and yard were the whole of the premises comprised in the Temperance Hall. Some time previous to the 24th September (Friday last) three men two of whom were identified as two of the defendants were in negotiation with the custodian of the hall for engagement on that particular night, stating they wanted it for a ball to be given by an association called the Pawnbrokers' Assistants' Association. There was such an association in this city, and it held an annual ball which gave an air of plausibility to their tale. But it was afterwards found that no authority had been given by that association to the men to engage the rooms, and that their whole statement was a deliberate falsehood. Being satisfied with their statement, the man in charge let them the rooms, and early on the evening of the 24th September went, with another person to assist in getting the room ready. Two of the same three men were there, and after arranging the rooms, they hurried the custodian and his friend away as soon as possible. Subsequently it was found that they had carefully covered all the spaces between the window blinds and the walls with paper or calico. This was the case in Hulme Place, whence observations could be made into the interior of the hall, but in the wall where no windows could be occupied by sightseers, no such precautions had been made. Proceeding to describe the general character of the assembly, Mr. Cobbett said that 22 out of the 47 prisoners were dressed as women, and they began to arrive at the hall about half-past nine o'clock, some of them being at that time dressed in feminine attire. They continued to arrive until a late hour. About half-past ten o'clock the custodian of the hall presented himself at the door and saw a number of persons some of whom he at first took to be women. The person who opened the door was one of the men who engaged the rooms. This man, who was dressed as a Sister of Mercy, said they were only amusing themselves, and that they wore their proper clothing underneath – which, by the way, was not the fact. In the course of the three hours that the proceedings were watched the prisoners indulged in some strange kind of dances, the people who took part in them being a number of men dressed as women and an equal number of men dressed as men. (Mr. Cobbett gave a description of the practices in which the parties indulged. The details cannot be published.) From time to time persons left the public room and passed through the yard into an ante-room; and the officers would describe the cries they heard and what they saw. A strict watch was kept upon the place during the whole of this time, and no person was allowed to escape, so that the whole of the persons who took part in the proceedings were before the bench. It seemed to him that the legitimate examination of the case, so far as the bench was concerned, would be to send the prisoners for trial, but he was aware that it was sometimes thought to be a proper thing, as a matter of public policy, to dispose of these kinds of proceedings as quickly as possible, and it was his duty to call attention to the fact that the bench had the power where people assembled to carry on indecent, disorderly, and noisy, and filthy proceedings of this kind, to bind the offenders over, and impose such sureties as they might think fit.
          Evidence was then called.
          Mr. Gibbons, of the Surveyor's Department, County Hall, produced the plan of the hall and neighbourhood which he had made, and proved its accuracy. The dancing room was 28 feet long by 24½ feet wide. Witness had been on the roof where the officers were hiding, and could see up the room to the bottom of the platform at the further end. The whole area of the room he could see was about 11ft. long. The ante-room was lighted by two windows, one overlooking the yard and other Hulme Place.
          Detective-Sergeant Caminada said: In consequence of instructions received I went to the neighbourhood of the Temperance Hall, Hulme Place, on the evening of Friday last, the 24th September, arriving there about ten minutes to seven o'clock. About half-past nine I saw a number of persons arriving at the entrance in cabs, and they went into the hall, and about a quarter to ten the room doors were closed. They were afterwrds re-opened the admit some more of the persons who went into the room, and the doors were finally closed at ten minutes past eleven. At that time the two windows in Hulme Place had only the blinds down, but afterwards some calico or paper was used to cover the upper portion of the windows, and the spaces between the blinds and the wall. The third window was left partially uncovered. The window of the ante-room facing into Hulme Place had a blind which was down. After the doors were finally closed a strict watch was kept on it, Hulme Place being cleared of the people. Constables Webster and Standring watched the door when I was away. I went into a passage at the back of the Temperance Hall, and got on to the roof of an outhouse, getting from there on to the roof of a house, from which I could see one of the windows of the Temperance Hall and a window of the ante-room. The latter was covered over, but I could see through the other into the hall. I saw a number of the occupants dancing, dressed as both men and women. They were dancing the “can-can,” being in couples. (The officer proceeded to describe in detail the disgusting scene he witnessed.) After watching from the roof for nearly an hour, he left two constables in the same place, and they remained about an hour and a half. Having got a number of other officers, Caminada proceeded: I went to the door of the hall in Hulme Place. We could hear the persons “squealing,” and talking loudly in feminine voices, which they all affected. I knocked at the door, and giving the password “Sister,” the door was instantly opened. We went in, and after a struggle we took the whole of the persons except the blind musician into custody. They were removed to different stations, and I was present ultimately when they were searched. Twenty-two of them were dressed in women's clothes, and a quantity of women's apparel was strewed about the floor of the room. Parry, Lomas, Whiteman, Oates, Parkinson, Allse, Montressor, Sexton, Halliday, Haslam, Dickinson, Ainsworth, Price, Warburton, Pickins, Broughton, Smith, and Pitt were dressed as women, and three others had fancy dresses. Only two of the men had men's drawers under their women's clothes, but all the others were fully got up as females.
          After the adjournment, the examination of sergeant Caminada was resumed. He said that since the apprehension of the prisoners, Coore had been to him and said that he was thoroughly disgusted that he had ever been connected with the other men, and that he had been drawn to the ball by an invitation from Garton and Whitehead. Witness told him he had better write out a statement, which he did.
          (The statement was then read by the assistant clerk to the Court.) It described the way in which he had become connected with Shawcross, Whitehead, and other of the prisoners. He was generally introduced in a formal manner, and was let to know that they were “trade” men. With reference to the fancy dress ball, he was in a public-house a month ago when Garton came in and told him they were going to have a ball. Subsequently he asked him (Coore) to go to the ball. He replied that he had no inclination, but Garton gave him a ticket, and pressed him to go. He afterwads saw Whitehead, who persuaded him to attend the ball. The noise at the ball was bad enough, and the antics were most disgusting.
          Cross-examined by Mr. Nash: Did you see anything at the ball “calculated to inflame the passions?” Witness: Everything they did was calculated to inflame the passions.
          Cross-examined by Mr. Nash, Caminada said that a number of people “scrambled up” from Hulme Place to see through the windows, and it was after that that the windows were sealed with calico. Witness got the “password” at a ball which took place about four or five years ago, and that word admitted the police the police into a similar gathering, when some persons were taken into custody.
          By Mr. M'Keand: I have seen the Dancing Quackers and the Gerards, but never saw any dance like this. I know that Parkinson (who was in woman's clothes) is a “female impersonator,” and belonged to Tute's Minstrels. I have heard him address men in a female voice in the streets.
          In further cross-examination, the witness said he saw no person pay an admission fee on entering the hall. About eight or ten couple, as far as witness saw, took part in the indecent dances. The prisoner [?], against whose character witness knew nothing, said he had been induiced to go to the ball by a man named Pitt, and that had he known anything of the character of the affair, he would never have been [?]ed with it. He was thoroughly ashamed of being mixed up with such a lot. Witness knew everything in [?]'s favour, and nothing against him.
          At the close of Caminada's evidence, some conversation took place in regard to the probable length of the case and the probability of calling further witnesses. Mr. Nash made the remark, which was assented to by the other of the counsel and solicitors that he was quite prepared to accept Detective Caminada's statement as substantilly true.
          Corroborative evidence was then given by George Webster, police-constable, who on the night in question, accompanied the last officer. He had taken observation [?] when Caminada was not present, and more than confirmed that officer's evidence.
          [?]Christian Standen, police constable, gave corroboration in evidence of the last witness.
          Samuel Crawford, printer, York-street, Hulme, who had the letting of the Temperance Hall where the assembly took place, stated that on the 1st September three men – Gorton being one of them – asked [?]that he let them have the hall for a private party. They said that they were panbrokers' assistants. On the 3rd September he again saw them, having in the meantime put the matter before the comittee, and told them they could have the room subject to the usual conditions, which [?]... intoxicating drinks were to be sold, and “that everything was to be of a moral character.” On the [?].. night of the ball – witness was in the room about half-past seven o'clock, and was paid 15s. by Gorton, who told him that he could leave and that his services would not be required that night. About half-past ten o'clock the same evening he went to the door of the hall and could hear music and screams, the latter apparently from female voices. He knocked at the door, and the person who was standing there said to the people inside, in a loud voice, “The manager of the hall wants to look in the room.” The man passed then. He saw Gorton dressed as a sister of mercy, standing near the door. He told him there was a noise going on, and they must try to get the people shifted from the front, where they were trying to see through the doors and windows. Witness remarked that he was dressed rather queerly, and Gorton said that he had his own clothes underneath.
          Mr. Nash: The refreshments were apple-pie and lemonade, I believe? (Laughter.)
          Witness: There were all kinds.
          Mr. Charles Stringer, secretary to the Pawnbrokers' Assistants' Association, stated that the society had no connection with the hiring of the hall in York-street, or with the ball that there took place.
          Mr. Cobbett stated that that was the whole of the evidence with regard to the two charges that were indictable offences.
          Mr. Nash, addressing the court for the defence, said that the police would have deserved the thanks of the community if they had been content to bring these men before the court for the offence which they had really committed – that, namely, of assembling together in a manner calculated to be a nuisance to the people residing on the street, and also of taking part in an exhibition that it would be impossible to describe otherwise than as indecent. But when the police went beyond that, and asked them to say that in this city – not in Turkey or in Bulgaria or some places where these odious practices were common – but that in Manchester this vice – a vice so hateful that it was unnameable among Christians – was practised or solicited, he submitted that the charge was wholly exaggerated and baseless, and one which it would require overwhelming evidence to prove. His friend had quoted one case, and he would quote another. Some six years ago, two miserable men were indicted before Mr. Justice Bramwell for this shamefull crime at the Mayfield Baths, and although the clearest evidence was given against them, his lordship, knowing the impossibility of persuading a jury to believe the evidence, himself ordered a nolle prosequi to be entered in this case. He submitted that the words “inciting and soliciting” must be construed into an express invitation to, and naming of, the crime. Granted, too, here and there in the ball there were the acts of gross indecency described, the police had not fixed those acts upon any particular defendant, because most of them were, at worst, onlookers. Mr. Cobbett had brought a charge of conspiracy against the defendants, but not a scrap of evidence had been given which would connect any of them together at any period previous the night in question, and therefore it could not be said that they had conspired. The prosecution had offered to the bench an alternative course, and he (Mr. Nash) on behalf of the ten men he appeared for, and also, he believed, with the concurrence of his friends, would gladly, without any legal quibbles or niceties, accept that course of having the defendants bound over in some guarantees that they would not repeat this exhibition, which could not be called other than indecent. Everyone for the defence would be glad to put an end to this miserable matter at once, that this dirt should not be stirred up any longer. That course was adequate, was just; it was the one his friend foresaw on opening; it met every exigency of the case.

On returning into court, after an absence of twenty minutes, the Chairman said that after consultation they had come to the conclusion that each prisoner would have to find two sureties of 25 each to be of good behaviour for twelve months, or in default, three months' imprisonment. (Manchester Evening News)

1 October 1880

The Manchester City Police court was crowded to excess yesterday morning by persons anxious to see the forty-seven men arrested at the fancy dress ball held in Hulme on Saturday morning. All the prisoners surrendered to their bail, and there was a full bench of magistrates. The prosecuting solicitor, in detailing the case so far as it could be described in public, said it was his misfortune to have to describe one of the foulest orgies that ever disgraced a country. Some of the proceedings at the ball were seen by Detective Caminada and the police were too gross for description in open Court. It was shown that the hall was engaged under a false pretence, and that every window except one was covered with paper or calico, so that nobody from the outside could see what was going on. But one window was opened for ventilating purposes, and through it Detective Caminada and two police officers saw what was going on. The prisoners were charged with soliciting and inciting each other to commit sodomy, and with conspiring to assemble for the purpose of committing this offence. Evidence of the most disgusting nature was given in support of the charge, and the Counsel for the defence substantially admitted that the statements of Caminada as to what he saw were true, but they contended that the serious charge had not been proved, and suggested that the magistrates should deal with the prisoners as having committed a nuisance simply. Several of the prisoners denied that they knew the nature of the gathering before they went. The prosecuting solicitor reminded the magistrates that they had power, if they wished, at once to get rid of a public scandal, and to bind over the prisoners in heavy sureties to be of good behaviour. This course was ultimately taken, and the prisoners were all bound over in two sureties of 25 each, and themselves in 50, to be of good behaviour for twelve months, with three months' imprisonment in default. As, however, they have to give 24 hours' notice of their sureties, they will be imprisoned at all events for two days. (Aberdeen Free Press)

1 October 1880

. . . [The police constables] displaced a piece of mortar while watching, which led one of the prisoners to mount the roof. They heard him afterwards say to one of the others that he was sure no one was watching, but if there was some one he could see nothing. . . .
          . . . The 47 persons yesterday convicted of taking part in a disorderly entertainment in Hulme spent last night in the City Gaol, Belle Vue. A considerable number, who tendered bail last evening, or who have since offered it, will be liberated in the course of to-day, but it is believed that in several cases the required security will not be forthcoming, and these prisoners will have to undergo the full term of incarceration – three months. Seven of the prisoners were unable to find a surety of 10 for their appearance at the adjourned hearing of the case; it is not likely, therefore, that these men will easily obtain two sureties of 25 for their good behaviour during the next twelve months. (Manchester Evening News)

1 October 1880

. . . It was now known from the circumstances of the arrest that there were no women at all in the building. There was a musician, who was blind, and this fact seemed strongly consistent with the precautions which were taken to prevent observation. The blind man was placed on a kind of raised platform at one end of the room, and was playing a harmonium, there being intervals between the dance. . . . (Morning Post)

1 October 1880

. . . (Detective-Sergeant Caminada then described the abominable performances which took place, and as he gave this part of his evidence some of the defendants hid their faces in their pocket handkerchiefs and laughed, while others blushed and seemed thoroughly ashamed.) He also watched the ante-room window for ten minutes. He got close to the ante-room and in it he heard talk. Some were assuming female voices, and some of the defendants were addressing others by female names, such as “Polly” and “Alice.” He saw the shadows of those in the ante-room on the blind, and observed what was being done. He became “sick of it” and left that part. . . .
. . . The following were dressed as women:– Oates, Whiteman, Montressor, Saxton, Parkinson, Dickinson, Lomas, Whitworth, Price, Warburton, Picking, Parry, Broughton, Hollis, Smith, Pitt, Haslam, Holliday. Since these men have been in custody the defendant Coare came to witness and stated that he had to support an aged mother, that he was thoroughly disgusted that he had ever become connected with these men, that he had been drawn into this ball by an invitation given by Garton and Whtiehead. . . .
          Cross-examined by Mr. Nash: He got the pass-word about four or five years ago. A ball took place at that time, and it was entered by the police, who used the same pass-word.
          By Mr. M'Keand: He knew that Parkinson was a female impersonator about the streets. He knew that he was associated with men who had been prosecuted in Manchester for loathsome offences. He understood that Parkinson was a female impersonator in Tute's troupe of minstrels, and he produced a photograph of Parkinson taken by a Manchester firm. When the room was cleared he went up to the musician and said “Look here old boy, why don't you get up?” The old man then felt with his hands, and witness saw that he was blind. The old man wanted 12s. for playing but he had no money to give him. The musician then groped about, and finding a few pies on a plate went away with them. Monaghan's face was painted and his hair powdered. Lythgoe had informed him that he did not know what kind of an affair it was to be or he would not have identified himself with it. He was thoroughly ashamed of being mixed up with such a lot. . . .

. . . Twenty two were dressed in women's costume. . . . One or two had dresses on that only came down below their knees. I saw one man slipping his things off in the cell. I told him to put them on.
          What was he slipping off? – white petticoats. . . .
          Now, you saw saw Lomas was dressed as a woman. – Yes. . . . I can satisfy you that he had not tights on. . . . I saw him with a fan in his hand. . . . I also know he laid claim to some clothing in my possession. When he came to my desk I asked him if he was man or a woman, because I did not know. . . . Haslam ran out, but I caught him by the hair and dragged him back. He had a pair of trousers on and a shirt. He afterwards claimed some women's clothing at the detective office.
          Did he not tell you he had a costume to take the character of Henry VIII.? – He may have said something about it. . . .
          Did any of the men from Sheffield make an explanationa as to why they were there? – I heard one do so in court; and one of them said something to me – that one at the end with the spectacles. . . .
          Did not one say he got a letter, and in consequience of that he came here? – No. . . .
          Mr. Binns, on behalf of the ten defendants from Sheffield, said he had been informed by his clients that they had received letters from two or three persons in Manchester inviting them to come over to a ball to be held in that city. Ten came over without the slightest intention of going into an exhibition of this nature. They saw Scotch reels and quadrilles, but they did not see the “can-can.” That was their explanation to him. He had several persons from Sheffield who could give his clients a good character as to honesty. They regretted that they had been in such company. . . .
          The defendant Smith said he was engaged by Garton and Pitt.
          Mr. Rickards: Were you paid?
          Smith: Yes, sir. I am a characteristic dancer. The “can-can” was not danced that night at all.
          . . . The Court rose at 5.15, and the large crowd which had loitered about during the day gradually dispersed.
          A considerable portion of the evidence was of a nature not only unfit for publication, but too bad even to be indicated in general terms. (Derby Daily Telegraph and Reports)

1 October 1880

[Caminada] Witness described the other actions of the persons in the room, and also spoke to watching the ante-room. He could hear through the window of the room voices as of females. Female christian names were used. Witness could hear when anyone went up the staircase. He could see the figure of the persons on the blind. From the shadows on the blind the men appeared in positions which he did not care to describe. (Witness was requested, however, to enter into details.) . . . Witness said, “Sister,” on which the door was immediately opened. Then a struggle followed between those in the room and the officers, but eventually all were taken into custody except the musician, who was nearly blind. A quantity of clothing (women's) was subsequently found thrown about in the hall. . . . Under the female clothing of two of the 19 was found men's clothing. . . . He got the password “Sister” at a ball which took place four or five years ago. .. . In the boxes which some of the prisoners took to the ball were found paints, puffs, &c. . . .
          Mr. Binns: but if you had been minding your own business instead of other people's these men would not have been here.
          Witness: It was my own business. It is my business to mind other people's. (Loud laughter.)
          . . . Mr. Smith said that hs client (Whitehead) went to the ball in the costume of a sailor, but he had no idea that there would be any misconduct in the proceedings.
          The defendant Smith, who was not defended, said that he was engaged by Gorton and Pitt to appear at the ball, and sing and dance for the night.
          . . . (Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser)

2 October 1880

. . . The gathering had partaken of the nature of a fancy dress ball, and additional itnerest was caused by the appearance of eight of the defendants in female attire. The great majority of the men were in fancy costume, and the “make up” of the quasi women was in some cases an excellent imitation of the original. Many of the defendants, had however, when captured, hastily divested themselves of their gaudy costumes, and now appeared thinly clad in skirts and bodices, with an occasional shawl wrapped around the wearer's head and shoulders. Some costumes were of the “Troubadour” type, two men in particular figuiring very prominently in “trunk-hose and slashed doublet,” with the usual three-cornered cloak appended to their backs. . . . He called out “Sister,” which was the password, and the door was opened. He rushed into the room, and immediatley received several violent blows, and the people tried to push him out. Several persons tried to escape by the window, but were taken into custody by policemen stationed there before hand. When the constables gained admission a free fight took place between the prisoners and the police. Handcuffs were placed on as many as possible, in order to prevent any further violence, and they were taken to the station. . . . (Gloucester Journal)

Saturday 2 October 1880

. . . The building is rented by the Perseverance Total Abstinence Society, and it will seat about one hundred and twenty people. . . . Private information had been sent to Mr. Charles Malcolm Wood, the acting chief constable of the city, and by his direction Detective-sergeant Caminada had commenced inquiries relative to the proceedings. . . . About nine o'clock cabs began to arrive at the hall, the occupants being young men, who in most instances brought portmanteaus or tin boxes with them. A considerable number were in female attire, and among the costumes were several low-bodied dresses. In all forty-seven persons entered the building, and of these twenty-two were dressed as women. Dancing commenced at ten o'clock, the orchestra consisting of a harmonium, at which a blind man, named Mark Letcha, of Manchester, presided. . . . Detective Caminada ascended the roof of an adjacent building, from which he could obtain a view of the proceedings in the hall, and remained there for a considerable time, concealing himself from observation behind a chimney stack. The company were engaged chiefly in grotesque dances, such as are familiar to low-class music-halls. . . . More than a dozen constables were called to the spot by signal when all was ready, and they were drawn up in file alongside the building without their movements being heard. Caminada then knocked gently at the door, but received no answer. He knocked in all seven times, and then some person inside said – “Who's there?” The officer had learned that the password adopted among the company was “Sister,” and, imitating a female's voice, he gave the word. The door was at once opened, and the police rushed into the building. Several of the dancers attacked the police with the object of forcibly ejecting them, and Caminada was hurled back into the doorway. Quickly recovering himself, he seized two men, who were nearest him, and in a few moments every person present was in custody. Some of them succeeded in throwing off portions of the female dress which they had assumed, and others were in the act of doing so when they were seized. One man, who was in the ante-room when the police entered the building, threw up a window overlooking Hulme-place, and was about to jump out, when he saw P.s. Brown prepared to receive him. The police were assisted by a number of working-men, whom Caminada had called upon. After being handcuffed the prisoners were taken in batches to the Park-place and Knott-mill Police-stations, and subsequently to the Town Hall, where they were lodged in the cells connected with the detective department. Several cab loads of apparel were brought away and lodged at the Town Hall. Later in the morning the men arrested were brought up at the City Police-court. . . . A considerable crowd of people assembled at the Manchester Police-court and its immediate vicinitiy on Monday, in anticipation of seeing the men again brought up in order to be bailed out. All of the culprits, however, had had fresh clothes supplied to them by their friends: they consequently appeared in their ordinary attire, thus disappointing the spectators. A large number of them had been bailed out on Saturday afternoon, and the remainder of those who could get bail were bailed out on Monday morning. – The men were brought up on remand on Thursday, charged with misdemeanour. . . . (Grantham Journal)

2 October 1880

Caminada: . . . There was not a single woman there, and the proceedings were too coarse to describe. He made that observation because, in society, there existed a class of men, almost unknown to many gentlemen, who prowl about the streets almost to the same extent as unfortunate women, and some of the prisoners belong to that class, as he could prove. . . . Addressing the prisoners, the Chairman said: We have heard the charge that the officer has preferred against you, and we shall remand you. We are prepared to take bail for each of you in two sureties of 10. each for your appearance here on Thursday next. We are very glad to learn that the great majority of you are strangers to Manchester.
          One of the men, named Bingham, said: I do not see why I should be charged at all. I was asked if I would come to a fancy dress ball. I replied, “Well, I don't know; I'll see.” I went late, and as regards what the officer says about misconduct, I did not see much of it. I was in the room sitting down. I never danced once.
          The Chairman: That may be, but you were in the society of the others evidently, and, if we are to believe the officer, very disgusting practices were being carried on. You were there, and, being there, you are liable.
          Another of the defendants said there were ten of them from Sheffield. . . . They left the Court as quickly as possible, and several of them raised their garments to conceal their faces from the gaze of the spectators in the gallery.
          Yesterday (Thursday) thousands of persons congregated to see the defendants enter the police building. When one of the defendants was recognised he was subjected to a storm of indignant hooting and hissing, from which he was glad to escape by entering the building as quickly as possible. The prisoners were mostly from twenty to thirty years of age; all were of an effeminate physique, and several of them had very feminine features. Some had their hair dyed of a gold colour. They came solely from Sheffield, Oldham, and Manchester, and occupy very different positions in society, some being well connected and others exceedingly dirty and unkempt. . . . Detective Caminada . . . said .. . They frequently left the large room in which the ball was held, and went up into an attic, and the men addressed those of their vis-a-vis who were clothed as women by affectionate female names and epithets. . . . Lomas, who is described as a teacher of dancing at Sheffield, was dressed as a woman with a fan in her hand, and a remarkably good “get up” it was. It was so well arranged that the witness was himself deceived. . . . (Worcestershire Chronicle)

8 October 1880

On Thursday forty-seven men arrested at a fancy dress ball in Manchester on the previous Saturday were brought up on remand at the Manchester City Police-court. The court was crowded, and many hundreds of people were unable to obtain admission. The prisoners were in their ordinary dresses, and many of them appeared to feel deeply their position. Mr. Cobbet prosecuted on behalf of the police. The charge against the prisoners was that they had assembled for an immoral purpose.
          The names of the prisoners were – . . .
          Mr. Cobbett, in opening the case, said he appeared on behalf of the police authorities of that town to prosecute forty-seven prisoners, who were all in custody, and had been arrested without warrants. What he proposed to charge them with was an offence at common law; an offence which according to the common law of the country constitutes a misdemeanour. Their offence was one which was unnameable. There was another charge against them which he should deal with later. . . . It seemed from information that had reached the police it was thought desirable to keep watch upon a building situated in Hulme-place, York-street, Hulme. . . . The neighbourhood in which the building was situated was a poor neighbourhood, but was not a bad neighbourhood, the houses being small, more of the character of cottages than anything else. York-street was a public street leading from one thoroughfare to another. . . . The people seemed to have begun to arrive at this hall about nine o-clock, and some of the men at that time appear to have been dressed as women. There was a musician, who was blind, and this fact seemed strongly consistent with the precautions which were taken to prevent observation. The blind man was placed on a kind of raised platform at one end of the room, and was playing a harmonium, there being intervals between the dance – a strange kind of dance – in which they kicked their legs about a great deal. This fact might not be very material. What was material, however, was the fact that in these dances there were an equal number of men dressed as women, and men dressed in male attire. Mr. Cobbett described the nature of the dance that was participated in by the company, and which he submitted justified the charge which he preferred. . . . There was another course which was open to the magistrates, but it was not the desire of the police that this course should be taken, and he (Mr. Cobbett) said nothing on that point one way or the other, but it was his duty to mention that on a question of public policy it was open to the justices to dispose of the case and get rid of it, even if the offenders met with less punishment. They could, if they thought fit, bind the defendants over on their good behaviour in such sureties as they might deem adequate.
          After the close of the case for the prosecution, the counsel for the prisoners urged that no case of such a serious nature as would warrant a commitment had been made out. The justices, after consultation, decided to bind them over in two sureties of 25 each, to be of good behaviour for twelve months, or, in default, they would have to go to prison for three months. (Reynolds's Newspaper)

SOURCE: Various newspapers, dates as given.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "Hulme Fancy Dress Ball, 1880", Homosexuality in Nineteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 1 December 2018, updated 5 December 2018 <>.

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