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

Newspaper Reports, 1889

Some gay news for 1889:
19 Feb.: A 44-year-old soldier in Peterhead pleaded guilty to gross indecency, but asked for leniency: "He said he had known these boys familiarly for some time, and having been brought up in the country, where a good deal of loose play went on, and which was often taken no notice of, it was in no bad spirit so far as he was concerned that these foolish and indecent acts were indulged in. That was not a case of so serious a nature as some that had come recently before the Court." He was given six months in prison.
3 August: A 26-year-old greengrocer and a 50-year-old retired sailor are convicted of gross indecency with one another in Derby. The greengrocer was charged with an "attempt to commit an unnatural offence", and the charge against the sailor was that he "did aid, abet, counsel, and procure the said attempt". They are each imprisoned for 21 months with hard labour.
23 November: A 21-year-old labourer is convicted of committing an unnatural offence with a 10 or 12-year-old boy, who is charged with "feloniously aiding" the commission of the offence. The labourer is sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment, and the boy to 14 days' imprisonment, both with hard labour.

19 February 1889

At a first diet of a Sheriff and Jury Court in Aberdeen to-day – before Sheriff Dove Wilson – William Watson, Peterhead, was charged with having committed acts of gross indecency at Peterhead on 27th January last, contrary to the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1885. Accused pleaded guilty, and Mr John S. Watt, advocate, as agent for the poor, in making a statement on accused's behalf, said it was very difficult to know what to say in a case of the sort, and he would simply state what prisoner had told to him. He said he had known these boys familiarly for some time, and having been brought up in the country, where a good deal of loose play went on, and which was often taken no notice of, it was in no bad spirit so far as he was concerned that these foolish and indecent acts were indulged in. That was not a case of so serious a nature as some that had come recently before the Court. He did not wish, however, to contend that it was not a case for punishment, but he was to point out that the man, who was 44 years of age, had conducted himself with the utmost propriety. He had been in Her Majesty's Service as a soldier, and he now produced a number of certificates of good character from former officers and employers. He also produced a letter from a neighbour in Peterheaad, who had taken a great interest in the case, and who stated that Davidson had never been the same since he had an accident in the Hull and Barnsley Dock, when he fell a distance of 45 feet, and he did not know what effect that might have had on accused's brain. Prisoner was married, and from the letters which he had received from his wife, she appeared to be in a state of great distress. Accused himself now appeared to feel his position keenly, and as the Act of Parliament allowed his Lordship full discretion in dealing with such cases, he trusted he might be able to take a lenient view of the case.
          The Sheriff in consideration that it was the first time accused had been before the Court said he would limit the term of imprisonment to Six Months. (Aberdeen Evening Express)

24 April 1889

GROSS INDECENCY. – Edward Abell, a green-grocer, and George Frederick Clark, a retired sea captain, were committed for trial at the Assizes on a charge of gross indecency, at Derby, on the 14th inst. – Mr. Briggs prosecuted, and Mr. Stone defended the prisoners. (Derby Daily Telegraph, see also reports for 30 July and 3 August)

1 May 1889

A SERIOUS CHARGE. – Wm. Wheatley, on remand, was again brought up on a charge of gross indecency at the public baths, Full-street, a few days ago. The actual charge was aiding and abetting a man, whose name is unknown, in committing the offence. It was mentioned that prisoner's alleged accomplice was a stranger, and had successfully effected his escape. – Prisoner was discharged, and was made liable for re-arrest should further evidence be forthcoming. (Derby Daily Telegraph)

8 May 1889

A SERIOUS CHARGE – William Wheatley, a youth, who was formerly a sailor, was charged on remand with aiding and abetting a man whose name is unknown to commit an unnatural offence in the Full-street Baths. The Bench discharged him as the other man was not in custody, remarking that he might be called upon to answer the charge at any further time. (Derby Mercury)

29 June 1889

James Crosby or Morton or Noden and Alfred Bead, 50, Harding-street, Pendleton, were charged with attempting to commit an unnatural offence on the 22ndi nst. The offence was alleged to have occurred at a lodging-house at 3, Travis-court, Travis-street, Pendleton, where the prisoners had taken lodgings for the night, and evidence was given by Thomas Henry Masterson, Thomas Oddy, and other lodgers. Bead was drunk. – After hearing the evidence, Mr. Makinson thought there was not sufficient evidence against Bead, and discharged him. – Bead was then placed in the witness box and gave evidence against the other prisoner, who was remanded until Wednesday. – On that day, the Stipendiary said the charge was insufficiently proved, and it was then altered to one of indecent assault, and on that day he was committed for trial at the assizes. (Salford City Reporter)

13 July 1889

Abraham Jacobs, 27, a Jew tailor, was charged with having on May 10th, at Stroud, committed an unnatural offence on Thomas Champion. Mr. Cranstoun prosecuted, and said he was not able to produce the prosecutor, and therefore he should only charge prisoner with the attempt. After hearing one or two witnesses the Judge directed an acquittal. (Gloucestershire Chronicle)

19 July 1889

William Arthur Hambrook, 35, clerk, pleaded guilty to an indictment charging him with wilfully committing an act of gross indecency with Joseph Ellis Cook, at the Dover Baths, on some day within the past three months. He was also detained for committing a similar offence within a period of four months past, at the same place, with George Henry Bartley.
          Mr. Gibson appeared for the prosecution and Mr. Dickens for the defence.
          Mr. Dickens pleaded in extentuation, and his lordship passed sentence of three months' hard labour. (Dover Express)

22 July 1889

Thomas Scott (53), labourer, was indicted for committing an unnatural offence upon one Charles Peacock, in Gosford-street, Middlesborough, on the 2nd of June last. Mr. A. Lennard prosecuted. The jury found prisoner guilty of having attempted to commit the offence, and he was sentenced to eighteen months' imprisonment. (York Herald)

27 July 1889

George Mead (on bail), a young man, was indicted for an abominable offence, at Grays Thurrock, on the 11th June.
          Mr. Grubbs appeared for the prosecution; and the prisoner was defended by Mr. H. C. Richards.
          The jury found the prisoner guilty of an attempt, and he was sentenced to twelve months' imprisonment with hard labour. (Essex Newsman)

27 July 1889

UNNATURAL OFFENCE AT OSSETT. – John Manners (58), labourer, was found guilty of having unlawfully attempted to commit an abominable crime with a boy at Ossett, on May 21st. His Lordship said it was deplorable that he should have to punish the prisoner in his old age, as, so far as he knew, the prisoner had hitherto borne a good character. He sentenced the prisoner to nine months' imprisonment, with hard labour. (Leeds Times)

30 July 1889

EDWARD ABELL and GEORGE FREDERICK CLARKE , who were convicted of gross indecency at Derby, were sent to prison for 21 calendar months with hard labour. (Derby Daily Telegraph; see earlier report for 24 April)

3 August 1889

EDWARD ABILL, 26, greengrocer, and GEORGE FREDERICK CLARKE, 50, sailor, were on Friday found guilty of acts of indecency at Derby on the 15th April, being acquitted on a previous indictment of committing an unnatural offence. – Mr. Harris, Q.C., and Mr. Hextall, on behalf of the prisoners, made application to his lordship, to arrest judgment on the ground of an error in the indictment. – Mr. Harris said the men were charged on the first count with an abominable crime, and on the second count they were charged under the 10th section of 48 and 49 Victoria, chap. 59, with acts of indecency. The prisoners being acquitted on the first charge, it was not enough to say that the prisoners had been guilty of the second, without specifying when, where, and how the second took place. The second indictment did not state any of those necessary details. – His Lordship thought it did. – Mr. Harris respectfully submitted that the jury having negatived the acts in the graver charge should have had stated a clear and proper second indictment. Gross indecency was an act of the mind, and could only be proved by the act committed. He would ask his lordship to grant at least that the case might be referred to the Court of Crown Cases reserved. – His Lordship, after hearing Mr. Hextall, decided that he could not alter the judgment. – Subsequently the prisoners were brought up for judgment, and his Lordship observed that he had received a testimonial signed by a number of persons, suggesting that the prisoners were men of honesty, respectability, and morality, and the wonder was that people could be got to sign such documents after men had been found guilty of such an abominable offence. They would each be imprisoned for 21 months with hard labour. (Derbyshire Courier)(A report in the Derbyshire Times for 3 August says "They would each be imprisoned for 21 months with hard labour, the full term allowable, less the time they had already been in prison.") (Accoding to the Calendar of Prisoners Tried at the Summer Assizes, at the Shire Hall, Derby, on Wednesday, 24 July 1889, before Sir Henry Hawkins, "The said Edward Abell, unlawfully did attempt to commit an unnatural offence with George Frederick Clarke, at Derby, on 15th April, 1889, and the said George Fredcerick Clarke, at the place and on the date aforesaid, unlawfully did aid, abet, counsel, and procure the said Edward Abell, to attempt to commit the said misdemeanour." And on the second count, "The said Edward Abell, a male person, unlawfully did commit a certain act of gross indecency, with another male person, named George Frederick Clarke, at Derby, on 15th April, 1889, and the said George Frederick Clarke, a male person, at the place and on the date aforesaid, unlawfully was a party to the commision by the said Edward Abell, of the said act of gross indecency." [HO140, pc 111]) (According to the Return of All Persons Committed, or Bailed to Appear for Trial" on 24 July 1889, they were charged specifically with "Offences under Eleventh Sec. of Criminal Law Amendment Act". [HO27, pc 212[)

10 August 1889

The following cases were heard at the Police-court on Thursday, before Messrs. Goddard, Archer, Martin, and Hanbury, in addition to those reported in our editions of last evening. Albert Gibbs, a little boy of ten summers, living at Tucker's cottages, Gorse Hill, was charged in custody on remand with an unnatural offence with a man who was last week committed for trial, the prisoner then being remanded, the magistrates being uncertain as to the course to be adopted considering the tender age of the accused. The authorities had now communicated to the Bench that the best plan would be to send the lad for trial to the assize, allowing bail, and this course was now pursued by the magistrates. – . . . during the whole course of a langthy sitting the court was crowded, many not obtaining seats. (Gloucester Citizen)

23 November 1889

Matthew Baker (40), shoemaker, was charged with an indescribable crime on the 11th October. Mr. R. H. Amphlett prosecuted; Mr. Vachell defended. The prisoner was found guilty. His Lordship said that before he passed sentence it would be well to read a list of previous convictions, because as the sentence would be a severe one, there might be a wrong impression made on the public. On June 26, 1875, prisoner was convicted and sentenced to 12 months' hard labour for an indecent assault. On May 7, 1878, prisoner was sentenced to five years' penal servitude for an unnatural offence; and on January 18, 1883, he was again sentenced to seven years' penal servitude for an unnatural offence. Prisoner appeared so bent on these filthy practices that the only thing that could be done was to keep him from having his liberty for as long a period as he possibly could. He sentenced the prisoner to 10 years' penal servitude, the heaviest sentence he could inflict. (Worcester Journal)

23 November 1889

WELL-MERITED PUNISHMENT. – Frederick Walker alias Ford, (21), labourer, and Albert Gibbs (12), schoolboy (on bail), were charged with committing an unnatural offence at Rodbourne Cheney. They were further charged with being guilty of gross indecency and to this second count Gibbs pleaded guilty. – Mr Ravenhill, who prosecuted, offered no evidence against Gibbs on the first count, but called him as a witness. – The evidence in the case was very conclusive, and the jury found the prisoner guilty on the first charge and he was sentenced to ten years penal servitude. He had previously been three times convicted of indecent assaults on little girls at Swindon Petty Sessions. – The Judge said the sentence was the only one allowed for such an offence. – Sentence on the boy was deferred until Thursday morning, when the Judge ordered him to be imprisoned for 14 days, with hard labour. (Swindon Advertiser and North Wilts Chronicle) (According to the Calendar of Prisoners Tried at the Assizes, Frederick Walker, labourer, age 21, was charged with "Committing an unnatural offence, with Albert Gibbs, at Rodbourne Cheney, on the 28th July, 1889", and Albert Gibbs, school-boy, age 10 (sic), was charged with "Feloniously aiding the said Frederick Walker to commit the said offence". Walker was found guilty of buggery, and Gibbs was found not guilty of buggery. But on the second count of "Unlawfully committing an act of gross indecency with each other", Gibbs confessed and was found guilty of gross indecency. [HO140, pc 117] Though Walker was sentenced to ten years, he was in fact discharged, from Dartmoor Prison, on 21 September 1895 [Metropolitan Police Habitual Criminals Register, MEP06, pc 7].)

19 December 1889

SERIOUS CHARGE AGAINST A LODGING-HOUSE KEEPER. – At a special police court, on Thursday, before Thomas Owen, Esq., R.N., and Thomas Forcer Evans, Esq., Sergeant M. Toohill charged James Hughes, lodging-house keeper, Church-lane, with committing an unnatural offence with James Martin, a light infantry marine belonging to H.M.S. "Neptune." After hearing the evidence of the prosecution, the case was adjourned. – Mr. T. R. Evans, who defended, asked if the accused could be let out on bail, which was refused. (Llandudno Register and Herald)

24 December 1889

"Chas. Allen Grover," an elderly and respectably dressed man, with a piece of blue ribbon in his coat, was indicted for attempting to procure the commission by himself of an act of gross indecency with another male person, to wit, one William John Clark, at Brighton, on the 30th Sept. 1889. – A second count in the indictment charged him with committing an indecent assault. – Mr Marshall Hall prosecuted, and Mr Boxall defended. – Mr Hall said that as a technical objection might be made to the first count of the indictment, he would only ask them to deal with the second. – The prisoner was put into the box and sworn, and gave a total denial to the allegations.. – The jury returned a verdict of not guilty. (Surrey Gazette)

SOURCE: Various newspapers, dates as given.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "Newspaper Reports, 1889", Homosexuality in Nineteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 14 May 2020, updated 10 Feb. 2023 <http://rictornorton.co.uk/eighteen/1889news.htm>.

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