Homosexuality in Nineteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook compiled by Rictor Norton

Newspaper Reports, 1883

15 June 1883

Roderick Fraze [sic], a native of Scotland, engaged in the Ordnance Survey, ws charged on remand, with attempting to commit suicide, at Meare, on the 22nd May.
          George Cusein, a chainman in the Ordnance Survey, said that on the morning in question he was engaged with prisoner in the parish of Meare until a quarter to twelve. Prisoner then returned to his house. He had been talking of a rumour that he had committed an unnatural offence, and witness asked if it was true. He replied that there was no truth in it whatever. Witness adevised him to go to the constable and stop the talking if that was the case. They went together and afterwards returned to work. When they left work he complained of feeling unwell, and seemed much annoyed about the rumour. Prisoner sent him to Glastonbury to the Superintendent about twelve o'clock. He next saw the prisoner after his return from Glastonbury about two or half-past. He was then lying on his back on the floor with a cloth round his throat, and he went for a doctor. He afterwards returned to the prisoner's house with the policeman. There was something written on the floor. There were two lots, but one was indistinct, and they could not make it out. The other was, "May God punish my murderers."
          Charles Gooding, farmer, of Meare, stated that about two or half-past he was near his house, and in consequence of what he heard, he went to Fraser's house, and found him lying on his face on the floor bleeding from his throat. He turned him over on his back. Mrs. Fraser put a wet cloth round his neck. He got up on his elbow, and witness laid him back again. He asked why he did it, and prisoner replied, because they gave him such a bad character. He found a knife on the table, but there was no blood on it. There was a quantity of blood on the floor.
          P.C. Cantle stated that on the morning of May 22nd, prisoner and the first witness came to him about the rumour. About three o'clock in the afternoon, he went to prisoner's house. He there found prisoner lying on his back on the floor in the kitchen with his throat cut. He couldn't find anything that could have caused the wound. Prisoner saw him searching and said, "Its underneath the wood," pointing with his finger to the wainscotting. He searched in the place indicated and found the razor produced covered with blood, and with the blade and handle strapped together to keep it firm. There was some writing on the floor which prisoner admitted was his, and he also [said], "You'll find a letter in the other room." He produced two lettes which he had found. Prisoner had been in his charge up till Tuesday last, when he received a ceretificate that he was fit to be moved. He then charged prisoner with atttempting to commit suicide, and he made no reply.
          Mr. Arthur Blackiston, surgeon, residing at Glastonbury, proved being fetched to the prisoner's house at Meare. He found prisoner lying on the floor, his head supported by a pillow and a wet cloth round his neck. On removing the cloth from prisoner's throat, he found a large straight cut across the throat just above the thyroid gland. He passed his finger into the wound and found it reached to the back of the mouth just above the wind-pipe. There were several arteries bleeding at the edge of the cut, and those he tied. He then stitched each end of the wound and left the middle open. He gave prisoner some brandy, as he was slightly collapsed, and got him into bed. He had since made an uninterrupted recovery. Such a wound would be produced by a razor, and could have been inflicted by prisoner himself.
          Prisoner, who pleaded guilty, was committed for trial at the Quarter Session. (Shepton Mallet Journal)

6 July 1883

ATTEMPTED SUICIDE AT MEARE. Roderick Fraser (32), surveyor, was indicted for cutting and wounding himself with a razor, with intent to kill and murder himself, at Meare, on the 22nd May. The prisoner assured the court that he would not again make an attempt upon his life. The Chairman said upon that assurance the court would be satisfied by the prisoner being bound over in his own recognisances. (Shepton Mallet Journal)

23 July 1883

His Lordship next alluded to the charge against Thomas Hill of having committed an unnatural offence, and pointed out the advisability of dealing with such cases privately. If they thought when the heard the eivdence that there was any probability of the prisoner being acquitted it would be well if they threw out the bill. Alluding to the proposition in the Judicial Reform Bill to try such cases with closed doors, he said he was convinced that the itnerests of the public would be consulted in the suppression of prurient or disgusting details, while there would always be some officials or jurors present who would see that justice was faithfully and fully carried out. (Nottingham Evening Post)

16 August 1883

THE BRISTOL WORKHOUSE. – At Gloucester Assizes, on Thursday, William Glass (26), tailor, was charged with an unnatural offence. He was deputy-assistant in the receiving ward of Bristol Workhouse, and was alleged to have assaulted a boy named O'Rourke on April 27th. Prisoner, who offered no defence, was acquitted. He was further charged with a similar offence on another boy and convicted. A third charge was not proceeded with. – Supt. Matthewws said prisoner had been committed to the sessions for indecently assaulting a child, but the bill was ignored. – The judge said prisoner had been five times convicted of disordelry conduct and wilful damaged in the Bristol Workhouse, and yet he was entrusted with the care of children of tender age in the same Union. This appeared monstrous unless some satisfactory explanation could be given on the part of the Workhouse authorities, and there was no one present to give that explanation. He told prisoner he had been convicted of an infamous offence, and sentenced him to ten years' penal servitude. (Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette)

2 November 1883

Frederick Woodward, aged 25, plumber, was indicted for an unnatural offence at Clipsham, Rutland, on th 12th July. – Mr. Loyd appeared to prosecute. – His Lordship said he was sorry to see a large number of people in Court who seemed purposely to be present to listen to such a loathesome case. It was a disgusting thing for people to come into Court for such a purpose. If the jury felt that they could not rely on the evidence of the only witness who would be called, he thought the best course would be to give the prisoner the benefit of the doubt. – The foreman of the jury agreed with his Lordship, and Mr. Loyd withdrew the prosecution. – The jury found a verdict of not guilty by direction of his Lordship, and prisoner was acquitted. (Leicester Journal)

SOURCE: Various newspapers, dates as given.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "Newspaper Reports, 1883", Homosexuality in Nineteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 22 July 2019 <http://rictornorton.co.uk/eighteen/1883news.htm>.

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