Image of two men kissing

Love-Letter Gone Astray, 1885

7 March 1885

A special meeting of the magistrates of the Ashby-de-la-Zouch division was held on Monday morning at Ashby, when the Rev. Samuel Ingle (45), clerk in holy orders, of Breedon-on-the-Hill, was summoned for that he "at Ashby-de-la-Zouch unlawfully, wickedly, and indecently did write and send to Geo Needham, of Burton-on-Trent, a letter dated 'Breedon, Saturday afternoon,' and signed "S. I.,' thereby to move and incite the said George Needham to commit and perpetrate with you, the said Samuel Ingle, an abominable offence." The magistrates present were Major Mowbray (in the chair) and the Rev. W. B. Beaumont. – Mr. Macaulay, solicitor, of Leicester, prosecuted on behalf of the public director of criminal prosecutions, and Mr. Montagu Williams (instructed by Messrs. Fisher, Jesson, and Wilkins, solicitors, Ashby) defended.
          Mr. Macaulay said that he was instructed by the Public Prosecutor to appear there on his behalf and he wished to say that in the course of his professional career he never had undertaken a more painful case. It was painful regarding the nature of the case, regarding the social position of the defendant, and above all from the fact that the defendant was at present a beneficed clergyman of the Church of England. The Public Prosecutor wished it to be understood that the case was undertaken by direction of the Home Office after great consideration and on the advice of eminent counsel, and with a strict sense of duty and in the interest of public morality. Apart from the painful nature of the case the facts were very simple. The defendant is the vicar of Breedon-on-the-Hill, and had been so for some seven or eight years. He lodged for a time with a person named Samuel Needham, who was employed at the Breedon Lime Works. That man had a son, a young man about 20 years of age, named George Needham, who resided with his brother, a married man, at 7, Edward-street, Burton-on-Trent. He had been in the habit of going over to Breedon to visit his father, and spent Sunday there from time to time. On one of those visits he made the acquaintance of the defendant, and a short time after that the defendant wrote to him a letter from Breedon to Burton, and had been in the habit of writing to him periodically from that time up to a recent date. The letters had been destroyed at the express desire and by the direction of the defendant, who told the young man to burn them, and on one occasion asked him if he had done so. The actual subject of the present charge was that on November 29 last year defendant wrote and sent a letter to the young man. It was misdirected, and after some time found its way to the dead-letter office. When opened it was found to contain the letter which was the foundation of the charge, two newspaper wrappers on which were the printed name and address of the defendant, and seven postage stamps. Mr. Macaulay then read the letter in extenso. He (Mr. Macaulay) would make no comment on the letter. He would prove the handwriting, and leave it to the Bench to say what construction could be put upon such a letter. For himself he thought there could be but one construction put on it. With regard to the law of the case the charge was one of attempting to incite, and although the letter never got into the hands of Needham that would not materially lessen the charge of attempting, in support of which he quoted a case.
          Mr. Williams said he admitted that an attempt was a misdemeanour.
          Mr. Macaulay added that since the issue of the summons a statement had been made by the youth, and upon that it was thought proper to make another charge. They would give evidence of gross acts of indecency, and upon that he was instructed to prefer a charge against defendant of soliciting and inciting Needham upon certain days to the commission of an abominable and destable crime.
          Mr. William Alcock, postmaster of Ashby, gave formal evidence of the despatch of the letter produced.
          Mr. Supt. Holmes said that he made inquiries for a G. H. Needham at 7, Edward-street, Derby, and ascertained that no such person was known there.
          Mr. Robert Meek, a letter-sorter at the General Post-office, London, gave evidence of the receipt of the envelope produced, with its contents, at the returned letter office.
          Mr. J. Spencer, bookseller, Leicester; Superintendent Holloway, Ashby; and Mr. Frank Taylor, schoolmaster, of Breedon-on-the-Hill, were called to identify defendant's handwriting for comparison with that in the letter.
          George Henry Needham said that he had just turned 20 years of age, and was apprenticed to a joiner at Burton. He first made defendant's acquaintance at the end of September or beginning of October last, when he visited his parents at Breedon. Shortly afterwars he received a letter from Mr. Ingle, and burned it. At the botttom it was said, "Burn this letter." he did not think he replied to it. He saw defendant again about a month later, but did not remember anything he said then except something about some work which he wanted done. Four or five weeks afterwards – at the end of November or begining of December – witness was again at Breedon, and saw defendant in his father's kitchen. At defendant's wish witness slept with him that night.
          The Chairman here cautioned the witness that he was not bound to answer any question that would incriminate himself.
          Witness continued that defendant on that occasion said "I love you." He went back to Burton next day, and was home for Christmas on Wednesday, Dec. 24. He again slept with defendant. Mr. Ingle conducted service in church on Christmas-day, and witness slept with him that night. He did so several times afterwards, and on one subsequent occasion, in January, defendant again talked to him of love. He had a letter from the defendant nearly every month, but burnt them all as he got them, as he was told to in two or three of them. Witness replied to some of the letters, defendant supplying him with envelopes with a printed address. The letters generally related to the writer's health and that of witness's mother, and hoped to see him again for his own good. The letters began sometimes "My very dear George," and generally ended "Your affectionate brother," or something like that. Witness replied to "My very dear brother," and subscribed his letters "Your ever loving brother."
          Cross-examined. – Witness sometimes slept with his father, as there was no separate bedroom for him, and defendant knew that. He had told the magistrates everything that took place between them.
          Superintendent Holmes, recalled, said that he served the summons on defendant last Saturday week, and read it to him. Defendant asked, "Who has done this?" Witness informed him that any remarks he made respecting the charge it would be his (the superintendent's) duty to give in evidence when the case was heard, and he wished him to remember that before he said anything. Defendant replied, "I think I ought to know how the charge originated. It is like a stab in the dark Is it the result of some secret conspiracy here?" Witness said no, but the letter he was charged in the summons with writing miscarried in the post, and in that way ultimately reached the hands of the Public Prosecutor, who instituted those proceedings. Defendant said, "Oh, I see then; it became public property. I have written several letters to this young man. His parents have been very kind to me during the time I have been here, and I take a great interest in him. I may have been very warm in my expressions of friendship, but I never thought of or hinted at anything wrong. I don't mind it for myself, but it is for my church." Defendant repeated that he had no wrong thought or intention in his mind in writing the letter, and added that if the letter was in his handwriting he should admit it.
          Mr. Moantagu Williams said that he should address himself principally to the legal aspects of the matter. He quite agreed with Mr. Macaulay as to the painful nature of the case, but there was another matter, and the Bench would agree that it was to the highest degree undesirable to send a case of that kind for trial unless there was some reasonable probability of a conviction; and he thought he should show them that whatever wrongdoing there might have been, legally the offence charged in the summons had not been proved. On the contrary, all the evidence went to negative it. The charge was that defendant "attempted to incite" a person to commit a certain crime, and anything short of that would not do. The case referred to earlier by Mr. Macaulay was decided upon these grounds – that where a letter had been sent inciting a person to commit such an offence, and that letter miscarried and was never received, the person who broke the law by sending the letter should not be protected, although it was never received, as he would be indictable for misdemeanour for sending the letter. But it must be a letter "attempting to incite," and he had the highest possible authority, namely, that of the late Lord Chief Justice, as to what was necessary to prove that that was the object of the letter. The case he relied upon was that of Bolton and Park, during the hearing of which Lord Chief Justice Cockburn said: "Upon the present indictment, unless you are quite satisfied of the conspiracy and purpose to commit the felony, then, however offensive and repulsive the conduct of the parties may have been, you cannot commit them upon this indictment." That meant that unless there was distinct proof that there was an inciting to commit the act itself, whatever practices the parties may have entered into between themselves, that was no legal offence, and he submitted that the very facts which had been proved upon the charges preferred that day – of not only attempting to incite but of the actual inciting – utterly negatives any inciting at all. If there was any intenton to commit such a crime why was it not done in the opportunities which were presented? If the defendant was sent for trial, upon the quoting of the case to which he had referred and on a reasonable commonsense view of the letter, the judge would say, however morally speaking the offence might have been committed, legally speaking there had been no offence, and defendant could not be convicted. In the interest of public morality and on the direction of the judge in the case quoted he submitted that this case should not be sent for trial.
          The Bench retired, and on returning the Chairman said the magistrates did not think it was a case which they would be justified in withdrawing altogether from inquiry. At the same time it was one involving a certain amoung of legal difficulty, and they would therefore send it to the assizes instead of to the sessions.
          Defendant was admitted to bail, himself in 200 and one surety int he same amount – Mr. Joyce, surgeon, accepting bail on his behalf. (Leicester Chronicle)

25 April 1885

SAMUEL INGLE (on bail) clerk in holy orders, of middle age, and vicar of Breedon-on-the-Hill, Ashby-de-la-Zouch, was indicted for having on the 29th November, 1884, at Ashby-de-la-Zouch, written to Geo. Henry Needham, of Burton-on-Trent, a letter, dated Breedon, Saturday afternoon, and signed "S.I." with intent thereby to incite Needham to perpetrate with him an unnatural offence. Other indictments charged the prisoner with soliciting and inciting Needham to attempt and perpetrate with him such a crime on the 24th, 25th, and 27th December, 1884, and on the 7th February, 1885, at Breedon-on-the-Hill. – Mr. Sills and Mr Loyd prosecuted, and prisoenr was defended by Mr. Mellor, Q.C., M.P., with whom was Mr. Hextall.
          Mr. Sills, in opening the case, said he very much regretted that the jury would have to listen to one of the most disgusting and painful cases that it had ever been his lot to lay before any tribunal. The prisoner, whose garb denoted what he was, had for some years been vicar of Breedon-on-the-Hill, in the county of Leicester. He had for some time past lodged at the house of one of his parishioners, named Samuel Needham, who had a son named George Henry Needham, a young man, 20 years of age, who for some time past had lived at Burton-on-Trent, and who occasionally – once a month – had gone home to see his parents. During one of those visits the prisoner made the acquaintance of young Needham, and from that time seemed to have laid himself out, as it were, to incite this young man to join in his own unnatural and filthy lusts. This never would have been found out – for although the prisoner wrote letters to this young man he always told him to burn them, and they were burnt – but for one of those extraordinary slips of the pen that sometimes happens in the course of business to most persons. The prisoner wrote a letter to Needham, dated Nov. 29, 1884, but instead of directing it to Burton-on-Trenmt accidentally directed it to Derby. The result was that the letter never got to Needham. It was sent to the dead letter office in the ordinary course, and when the authorities saw the nature of it they sent it to the Home Office, and from the Home Office it was sent to the Public Prosecutor, with the result that the prisoner now stood before them to take his trial on this most serious charge. Counsel then read the letter to the jury, and commented oncertain of its passages. He pointed out that it commenced "My own very dear George" – the words "own" and "dear" being doubly underlined. After some observations of no importance to the present inquiry, the prisoner in his letter went on to say he hoped Needham had read a tract he had sent him, which he told him to send to him back again, and to take care that no one saw it but himself or his male friends. The tract, counsel said, was not such an one as a clergyman might be expected to distribute but was in reality a pamphlet written by a physician. The letter went on to say, "We can talk more freely about it when you come here now we have broken the ice. You can have no longer any doubt how fond I am of you, and though perhaps my endearments and affections surprised you, I poured them all forth that you might have no doubt." This passage, counsel submitted, indicated that prior to this date there had been improper relations between the prisoner and needham, and the latter would say that a week before this letter was written he, at the suggestion of the prisoner, slept with him at his parents' house, upon which occasion the prisoner assaulted him. The letter went on, "I was pleased to find you so shy," which counsel submitted, showed that Needham was not a consenting party to the assault practised upon him. The writer went on, "but you will not be so again, and when there is true and earnest love I cannot think there can be any harm or wrong in any endearments we may exchange together. We can talk of all this, but I should like you to write me when you think of this letter and your last visit. Would you really like me to come to Burton, and if I did could I sleep with you?" Mr. Sills went on to say that last Christmas the defendant visited his parents, and the prisoner asked him to sleep with him. He did so on the 24th, 25th, and 27th December, and on these occasions indecencies were practised by the prisoner towards Needham. On the 24th January of the present year similar things occurred; and it was for the jury to form their own conclusion of what was the intention of the prisoner by these familiarities – whether the prisoner did not practice them in the hope that when Needham's love of decency had been enti4rely taken away he might yield to the full offence.
          Evidence was then given in support of the counsel'f statement by a number of witnesses, among whom was George Henry Needham, who spoke of the different occasions on which he, at the request of the prisoner, had slept with him and what had transpired. He explained that he slept with the prisoner because there was not sufficient sleeping accommodation at his parent's house to allow of his (Needham) occupying a separate bed. The witness, however, did not state so fully what had occurred between the prisoner and himself as the prosecuting counsel wished the jury to understand had been the case. Mr. Sills said Needham had made a statement to the police which had been taken down in writing and signed by him, in which he had said a great deal more than he had either stated before the magistrtes or in the Court that day. Mr. Sills was desirous of asking Needham whether hs statement that day or that which he had made to the police was the correct one, but
          Mr. Mellor objected. The document, he said, had been sprung upon him, and that was the first he had heard of it. He submitted that under the circumstances it could not be used as evidence against the prisoner.
          His Lordship upheld the objection, and refused to allow Mr. Sills to treat Needham as a hostile witness and cross-examine him on the point.
          Supt. Holmes, deputy chief constable of Leicestere, proved serving the warrant on the prisoner, who said, "I should like to know how this charge has originated. It is like a stab in the dark. Is it the result of some conspiracy here?" Witness explained that the prosecution had resulted through the miscarriage of the letter addressed by the prisoner to Needham, when prisoner said, "I have written a great many letters to this young man, whose parents have been very kind to me, and in whom I take a great interest I may have been very warm in my expressions of friendship, but I never thought or hinted at anything wrong. I had no wrong thought or intention in writing the letter," which, witness added, was in his handwriting.
          This being the case for the prosecution,
          Mr. Mellor submitted that there was no evidence against the prisoner of an attempt to commit the serious offence [i.e. sodomy] with which he was charged, or of an assault with intent.
          His Lordsip concurred, but said he did see evidence on the other counts of an indecent assault and of solicitation.
          Mr. Sills having addressed the jury on behalf of the prosecution,
          Mr. Mellor, for the prisoner, pointed out to the jury that the evidence against the prisoner of an assault rested solely on the uncorroborated testimony of Needham, who, he maintained, was a consenting party to what occurred. Therefore, according to law, no offence could be proved against the prisoner of indecent assault. Dealing with the letter which the prisoner had written to Needham, he asked the jury to treat it as the outcome of a mind confused and weak. He admitted that the expressions contained in the letter were most improper and unreasonable, but maintained that the jury could not consider them as used in order to incite the young man Needham to participate in the crime with which the prisoner was charged.
          Evidence was called of the prisoner's previous good character, and among those who testified to that were the Rev. R. Luck, vicar of Blackfordby; the Rev. Canon Rolleston, vicar of Tewkesbury; Mr. J. Thompson, and Mr. R. Hodgkinson, churchwardens of Breedon-on-the-Hill.
          His Lordship, in summing up the case to the jury said they had only to determine wheether the prisoner was guilty on two counts of the indictment, viz., that of committing an indecent assault and that of writing a letter to induce Needham to commit an unantural offence. He went carefully through the evidence which had been submitted, and also called the jury's particular attention to certain passages of the letter which the prisoner had written to Needham.
          The jury retired to consider their verdict, and after about a quarter of an hour's absence returned into court with a verdict of guilty against the prisoner on the counts of the indictment of indecent assault and solicitation.
          The Judge: Samuel Ingle, you stand convicted of an offence which speaks for itself. It will be and it is my duty to say that I entirely agree with the verdict of the jury, and I think that must be the feeling of all honourable men who had heard your trial. The letter and the testimony of that lad whom you assaulted fit together in such a way that it is impossible for any man to doubt that he told the truth when he told the shameful story which we have all heard. The sentence which I must pass upon you must be on of great severity, although you don't stand convicted of the graver charge, or of attempting to commit it, but an indecent assault upon a male person is in itself a very bad business. I feel that the sentence which it is my duty to pass upon you is the less severe part of your punishment, because for the rest of your life you are most utterly and hopelessly disgraced, and it is to be hoped that your ecclesiastical superiors may by proper measures rid the Church of England, to which you belong, of the shame of having you to remain among her ministers. I think also that the sentence I pass upon you can add little to the sense of shame which you must feel; but I must treat you as I should other persons in similar instances, and the sentence of the Court is that you be imprisoned with hard labour for eighteen months.
          The prisoner, who throughout the yearing of the case had sat with his hands interlocked and his eyes closed, then left the dock, descending the steps with alacrity.
          This concluded the business of the Assizes. (Nottinghamshire Guardian)

25 April 1885

. . . His LORDSHIP, in charging the Grand Jury, remarked that the number of cases to come before them was not large, and most of them were of such a character that they would require very little assistance or advice from him in dealing with them. Of the whole number he need mention only two. One was a charge of wilful murder against a man named Beardsley. . . . The other was a case of an exceedingly painful kind – painful because of its very sad character, and also because of the position of the person implicated – a clergyman. He was indicted for having incited a lad of the name of Needham to commit an unnatural offence. The main question in the case would turn no doubt upon the nature of the letter which he was said to have sent to Needham, which happened to be wrongly addressed, and was opened at the Post Office, and thus brought to light. The Grand Jury would have that letter before them, and they would also hear what Needham would have to say. If they thought that the letter was intended to keep up an improper connection which had already been formed, or to induce the lad to form such a connection – in either of those cases they would have to find a true bill. The letter would have to be shown to be in his handwriting. If the jury thought the prisoner wrote that letter he thought they would treat it as good evidence, and send the matter before the petty jury that they might determine what the nature of the communication was. . . .

SAMUEL INGLE (on bail) was indicted for having attempted to incite a young man named George Henry Needham
[another newspaper reports that Needham was 20 years of age] to commit an unnatural offence, and with other misdemeanours. – There were 16 counts in the indictment, including charges of indecent assault, attempted indecent assault, inciting to commit, attempting to incite, &c. – Prisoner, on being arraigned, pleaded not guilty. – Mr. Sills and Mr. Lloyd (instructed by Mr. Macaulay, Leicester) prosecuted for the Crown; and Mr. Mellor, Q.C., M.P., and Mr. Hextall were instructed for the defence. – Mr. Sills, having remarked on the sad nature of the case, said that the garb of the prisoner showed his social position. He was charged on one count with writing a letter to [a] young man named George Henry Needham, tempting him thereby to the committal of an offence, another charged him with an indecent assault upon Needham, another with having at various times attempted to incite Needham, and there were other counts in the indictment. That a great deal that was improper had taken place between the prisoner and the young man the jury would not have the slightest doubt, and it would be for them to say whether the prisoner had brought himself within the criminal law. The facts, briefly stated, were that Mr. Ingle had for some years past been vicar of Breedon-on-the-Hill, in Leicestershire, and had for some months lodged at the house of one of his parishioners named Samuel Needham. This man had a son named George Henry, who was an apprentice at Burton-on-Trent, and went home about once a month to visit his parents. During one of those visits Mr. Ingle made his acquaintance, and from that date appeared to have laid hiimself out to try and incite him to respond to his own unnatural feelings. This kind of thing would not have been found out but for an accident, because although Mr. Ingle from time to time wrote letters to the young man he always finished by talling the recipient of them to burn them, which was done. But by one of the extraordinary slips of the pen, which sometimes happened in the course of business to all of them, instead of directing the letter in question to Burton-on-Trent he addressed it by mistake to Derby. The result was that the letter miscarried and never reached Needham. It found its way to the Dead Letter Office and was there opened. When the authorities saw the nature of the contents, instead of returning it, as would otherwise have been done, to the sender, it was forwarded to the Home Office and thence to the Public Prosecutor, who instituted these proceedings. The letter would be read to the jury, and they would have to weigh it very carefully and to put their own construction upon what it meant when it was written. Learned counsel then read the letter, which was addressed to "My own very dear George" and signed "S.I." Commenting on its contents Mr. Sills submitted that they tended to show that Needham was not consenting to anything illegal, and further that they would prove that the intention of Mr. Ingle was to get him more and more familiar, so that when hs syness had altogether gone and his love of decency entirely broken away he might hield to the offence which they would suppose Mr. Ingle must have had it in his mind to perpetrate. He thought that the evidence which would be brought before them would leave no doubt on the mind of the jury than an indecent assault also was committed upon Needham, and bearing that in mind they would see how important the letter was as showing the nature of the assault, and also, so far as they could judge, that it was against the will of Needham.
          Forma; evidence was then given to show that the letter was posted at Ashby-de-la-Zouch, and ultimately received at the Dead Letter-Office in London. Witnesses were also called to prove the writing to be that of the prisoner, and there were some newspaper wrappers enclosed bearing Mr. Ingle's printed address.
          George Henry Needham was then called. He said that he had lived at Burton about 14 years, and went home every four or five weeks. In the end of October Mr. Ingle, who had recently come to lodge at his father's house, made some communication to him, but he could not now remember what it was. Witness was home again at the end of November, and had received letters from Mr. Ingle in the interval. He burnt each one as he got it, as Mr. Ingle asked him to do so. When he was at home in November prisoner suggested that they should sleep together, which they did. The next time he went home was on Christmas-eve, and at Mr. Ingle's request they again slept together. They did so on two or three subsequent occasions, and the witness described the conversations and acts which took place. – In cross-examination by Mr. Mellor, witness said there were ony three bedrooms in the house. His father and mother occupied one, his sister another, and Mr. Ingle the other, and the partitions between them were so thin that whatever took place in either one could be heard in that next it. Anything above a whisper could be heard.
          Mr. E. Holmes, deputy chief-constable of the county of Leicester, said that on the 21st February he served a summons on the prisoner, who was sitting with the last witness's father. Having asked to speak to him alone, he told him it was his duty to serve the summons on him. Mr. Ingle asked "Who has done this?" Witness reminded him that anything he said would have to be given in evidence, and prisoner then said, "I think I ought to know how this charge originated. it is like a stab in the dark. Is it the result of a secret conspiracy here?" Witness told him it was not, and explained how it came into the hands of the police, and that the Public Prosecutor directed the proceedings. Prisoner replied that he had written several letters to the young man, as he took much interest in him, but emphatically protested that he had no wrong thoughts or intentions in doing so.
          This being the case,
          Mr. Mellor submitted that there was no evidence in support of the count charging prisoner with committing an assault with intent nor in support of the charge of attempting to commit an assault.
          Mr. Sills replied that the jury must judge of the whole circumstances of the case.
          Mr. Mellor also contended that there was no corroboration.
          His Lordship said he took the letter as corroboration of Needham's statement. He did not see any evidence of an attempt to commit a criminal assault nor of an assault with intent. But there was evidence of an indecent assault and of inciting.
          Mr. Sills then addressed the jury on the evidence, after which
          Mr. Mellor, Q.C., in defence, speaking on the charge of indecent assault, said that if the story of Needham was true he was clearly an accomplice, and ought not to be heard in complaint of it there, because if he consented that put an end to the charge so far as the indecent assault was concerned. He was not a lad but a young man, and was quite capable of taking care of himself, and instead of making any complaint he submitted to a repetition of the conduct alleged. With regard to the letter on which the charge of inciting was founded, learned counsel said that it was not the production of a reasonable or sensible man, but of a man of weak mind. The writer used language of the most flighty description, and terms of the most exaggerated kind. but however foolish the letter, absurd the expressions, or wrong the intention, there were many stages before a man would bring himself to induce another to commit the imputed crime. If the jury thought the letter was written with the intention of trying to commit some indecency, that was not the offence charged against the prisoner, and unless they thought it was written in order to induce Needham to commit a certain specified sin they must acquit the prisoner. The fact that he was careless in addressing the letter, and misdirected it, was in itself sufficient to show that the writer did not fear that the contents could be taken as meaning anything wrong. The letter was an extraordinary composition, written by a man confused in his mind, and with no very clear intentions, but muddled in his understanding. The terms in which it was couched were very exaggerated and improper, but that was not a crime. To suppose that all that dreadful nonsense and those improper expressions, in the sense of being exaggerated, were intended to incite Needham to commit a dreadful offence was pressing the matter a great deal further than it ought to go. He should call testimony as to the general character of Mr. Ingle, and ask the jury to consider the letter in the light of that testimony and with the exercise of commonsense.
          The Rev. Robert Leach (vicar of Blackfordby), Rev. Canon Rodeson (of Tewkesbury), and another clergyman who had known Mr. Ingle for many years gave him a high character for morality, and Messrs, J. thompso and R. Hodgkinson (churchwardens of Breedon) gave simlar evidence so far as their experience of prisoner had gone.
          His Lordship, in summing up the case at some length, said that with regard to the evidence of assault they must consider whether Needham was worthy of belief on that matter. Though his own conduct was not that of a young man whodeserved respet, yet they must decide whether he was telling the shameful truth or a wicked lie. If there was any suggestion that it was an attempt to extort money from the prisoner, he should caution the jury very strongly against believing Needham. But there was nothing of the sort suggested, and the jury must form their own conclusions. Coming to the letter, his lordship said it might possibly mean a number of things, and they wuld have to see if it in any way corroborated Needham's statement of what had taken place before it was written. Was it the letter of a sentimental fool, or of one worse than a fool? Was it a love letter? The hideous secrets of detestble vice were happily unknown to ordinary people; they could only be guessed at. But the jury must say what construction they put on the letter. His lordship then read the composition, and commented upon the various sentences. Was it, they must ask themselves, the laguage of passion or of folly? If it was mere folly, mere idle nonsense, it was very odd that the man writing it should have known it to be nonsense and wished it to be burned. Unless a person wrote in an extremely silly manner he would hardly say "burn this because it is silly," because he would have a chance of burning it himself instead of sending it. Then what was the reason for asking Needham to burn it, and what was the meaning for the request which the letter contained? It was for the jury to say. They would first have to determine if they believed an indecent assault had been committed, and then if they believed the writer of the letter had wrong intentions when he posted it.
          The jury, after a brief deliberation, found prisoner guilty both of indecent assault and of the attempt to incite.
          His Lordship, addressing the prisoner, said: Samuel Ingle, you stand convicted of an offence which speaks for itself, but it is my duty to say that I entirely agree with the verdict of the jury, and I think that must be the feeling of every man who has heard your trial. The letter and the testimony of the lad fit togethere in such a way that it is impossible for any man to doubt that he told the truth when he told that shameful story which we have heard. The sentence which I must pass upon hou must be one of great severity, as you are convicted of a bad offence. I feel, however, that the sentence which it is my duty to pass upon you is the least severe part of your punishment. For the rest of your life you are a man utterly and hopelessly disgraced. It is to be hoped that your ecclesiastical superiors may apply the proper process to purge the Church of England, to which you belong, from the shame of having you reckoned amongst its ministers. I think also the shaem of having discharged funtions which call not only for the purest morality, but also for the strictest sincerity and property of conduct in every way, and of now having to stand convicted of being a base hypocrite where you ought to have set an example, lays a load upon uyou which my sentence cannot add to. However, I shall treat you as I should treat persons in other classes in life and of other professions, and the sentence of the Court is that you be imprisoned and kept to hard labout for 18 months.
          The prisoner, who had been accommodated with a seat in the dock, and appeared to feel his position very acutely, was then removed.
          This concluded the business of the assize. (Leicester Chronicle)

25 April 1885

"A disgrace to your cloth." Such was the complimentary character that the Judge gave to the "Reverend" Samuel Ingle, vicar of Breedon-on-the-Hill, when sentencing that delicious divine to eighteen months' acquaintance with the gay tread-wheel, the festive stone-breaking yard, and the rollicking oakum-picking stool. Men of the world who are acquainted with the noisome nature of the evidence will heartily emphasise this conclusion. It is humiliating to human nature to contemplate such a character and such a case. The only subject open for comment in these columns is the accidental means whereby the pestiferous parson stood convicted. His own careless neglect proved his Nemesis. He addressed a letter to a youth named Needham to Derby, instead of to Buron-on-Trent. the Dead Letter Department of Her Majesty's Post Office opened, in the usual course, the misdirected missive, detected its monstrous character, handed it over to the Home Secretary, who handed it to the Criminal Prosecutor, who handed its sweet and saintly writer to justice and to gaol. (Sheffield Weekly Telegraph)

SOURCE: Various newspapers, dates as given.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "Love-Letter Gone Astray, 1885", Homosexuality in Nineteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 11 July 2019 <>.

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