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Newspaper Reports, 1881

18 February 1881

KESTEVEN POLICE, LINCOLN, Feb. 12, before R. C. Bergne-Coupland, Esq. – . . . John Cunliff, an old man, on remand charged with an unnatural offence at a lodging-house at Navenby on the 8th inst., was brought before N. Clayton and J. Shuttleworth, Esqs., on Friday last. The case was fully gone into, and as it appeared that the prosecutor, a man names Hewitt, who had slept at the same lodging-house, was not a person of good character, Cunliff was discharged, though the Magistrates considered the case one of great suspicion. (Stamford Mercury)

7 March 1881

At the Wandsworth Police Court, last week, John Hilder, a plumber living at Eltham, was charged with being in the unlawful possession of female wearing apparel. – Inspector Darling said on Thursday night the prisoner, who was dressed in female attire, was brought into Battersea Police Station by a constable. He was fully dressed as a female, and had his own clothes in a bundle, which also contained other articles of female dress. The prisoner claimed the clothes as his own property, and it appeared that he had a mania for dressing himself at home in female attire, supposing that he was a woman. – The Prisoner said it was only a freak which he sometimes indulged in at home. – Mr. Paget remarked that the prisoner was wearing a beard, and said it was a gross indecency to go about in a woman's dress in a public place. He treated him as a wandering lunatic, and remanded him for examination by a doctor. (Liverpool Daily Post)

9 March 1881

At the Wandsworth police court John Hilder, a plumber, living at Eltham, was brought up on remand charged with being in the unlawful possession of female wearing apparel. The prisoner was found in Battersea fully dressed as a woman, and with a buindle which contained his own clothing. He claied the clothes he was wearing as his own property, and in consequence of his wife stating that he had a mania for dressing himself in woman's attire when at home the Magistrate ordered him to be remanded for a doctor to examine him. Mr W. H. Kempster, a surgeon on Battersea, said he had examined the prisoner, and found him rational. He asked him why he wore the clothes. He said it was a mere freak. In reply to the Magistrate, the prisoner said it was only a fancy he had for putting on the clothes. Mr Paget pointed out to him that he was liable to be tried for the offence. If he chose to dress himself in that fantastic way in his house he could not interfere. The prisoner said he should never do it again. Mr Paget said if he did it would be his duty to send him for trial, as it was an act of gross indecency. The prisoner was then discharged. (Dundee Evening Telegraph)

12 May 1881

William Joyce, 20, seaman in the Royal Navy, was indicted for an unnatural offence at East Stonehouse on the 16th of April. – Mr. Clark prosecuted. – The offence was proved by George Chilcot, a private in the Royal Marines, whom prisoner accused of being actuated by spite towards hiim. – Prisoner denied the charge, but, being found guilty, he was sentenced to ten years' penal servitude. He sobbed loudly as he left the dock.
          Mark Rowland, 43, labourer, was indicted for a similar offence at Uffculme on the 7th of February. – Mr. Clark prosecuted. – Evidence was given buy P.C. Dart, stationed at Uffculme. – Prisoner, who strongly declared that he was innocent, was found guilty of the lesser offence. – The learned Judge, telling prisoner that he had committed a crime that must be put down and stamped out, was sentenced to five years' penal servitude. (Exter and Plymouth Gazette Daily Telegram)

22 October 1881

ALLEGED UNNATURAL OFFENCE. – In the afternoon a special sitting of the magistrates was held for the purpose of investigating a charge of the above nature preferred by P.c. Cartledge agaisnt John Oliver Woollatt, of Aslim-terrace, Pease Hill-rise. The Town Clerk prosecuted, and the prisoner was defended by Mr. Black, solicitor. The facts are of course not fit for publication. The charge was denied, but the Bench committed him for trial at the Assizes, admitting him to bail in 100 and two sureties of 100 each. (Nottingham Journal)

8 November 1881

Mr. Justice Mathew commenced the business of these Assizes at Nottingham this morning by delivering the charge to the Town Grand Jury at the Town Hall. . . . The only two cases to which he thought it necessary to call attention were those in which a man named Woollatt asnd another named May were charged. Both, he regretted to say, were charges of crimes of a most abominable character. The first was a charge of an unnatural offence of a specific kind
[probably bestiality rather than male-male sex], fortunately rare, though he regretted to say that unnatural crimes formed a large proportion of those with which the judges had to deal at assizes. He could not help thinking that a change in the law was urgently required with reference to such offences. They were now punished with great severity, and in a case where the full offence was proved the judge was allowed no discretion, the minimum punishment being ten years' penal servitude. Where the attempt alone was proved he had the ordinary descretion [sic] of dealing with the cases according to circumstances. Therefore, they saw that the offences in question were put in the same position with the most serious charges of crime against property or life. Now the grounds upon which society was interested in checking such things were wholly different, and it appeared to him that it would be a wise change to make the punishment in these cases imprisonment and flogging. The subject was a most unsavoury and repulsive one, and they need not be astonished that the judges were slow to deal with it, but among the changes in the law which they might anticipate would take place before long he hoped the subject would be dealt with, for a degrading punishment was a fitting one for a degraded man who acted in that way. The other case to which he referred was that in which a man was charged with committing an offence upon a child twelve years of age. He pointed out that in this case no plea of consent could hold, the girl not having reached that period of life when this was recognised. (Nottingham Evening Post)

SOURCE: Various newspapers, dates as given.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "Newspaper Reports, 1881", Homosexuality in Nineteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 17 July 2019 <>.

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