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

The Story of Two Hairdressers, 1890

Summary: The story of two hairdressers, William Barber (29) and Harry Bates (19), sent to prison in 1890 "for committing certain acts of gross indecency with each other". Barber had recently married, and his wife created a scene in court, threatening to punch the police constable who made the arrest. Bates had a history of petty larceny, and once stole a bottle of Brilliantine from another hairdresser he had been apprenticed to.

16 July 1890

A SERIOUS CHARGE. – William Atkin Barber, hairdresser, of Tenant-street, and Harry Bates, a youth, of Bath street, were charged by Police-constable Fielding with being guilty of gross indecency in a court in Becket Well-lane late last night. – They were each committed for trial at the ensuing Assizes, bail being declined. (Derby Mercury)

18 July 1890

A SERIOUS CHARGE. – William Atkin Barber, of Tenant-street, and Harry Bates, of Bath-street, were charged with gross indecency in a court in Becket Well-lane, on Friday night. – The prisoners denied the charge, but the Bench after hearing the evidence committed both of them for trial at the assizes. (Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal)

28 July 1890

WILLIAM ATKIN BARBER, aged 29, hairdresser, and HARRY BATES, aged 19, groom, were found guilty of gross indecency at Derby on July 11th. – Sentence deferred. (Nottingham Journal)

30 July 1890

WILLIAM ATKIN BARBER and HARRY BATES were sentenced to twelve months' imprisonment for indecency at Derby. When this sentence was passed Barber's wife cried loudly and bitterly in the precincts of the court. She was heard to exclaim – "Nobody knows what he has been to me. What shall I do without him? Oh, if I could only get hold of that policeman." It was with difficulty she could be removed in a cab. (Sheffield Daily Telegraph)

1 August 1890

Wm. Atkin Barber and Harry Bates, found guilty of gross indecency, at Derby, were each sentenced to twelve months' imprisonment, with hard labour. (Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal)

2 August 1890

DERBY – GROSS INDECENCY. – William Atkin Barber, (29), hairdresser, and Harry Bates, (19), groom, were indicted for committing certain acts of gross indecency with each other in a court in Becket Well-Lane, Derby, on July 11th, 1890. . . . The prisoners were found guilty, and his Lordship deferred sentence. (Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald)

2 August 1890

In sentencing Barber and Bates [on 25 July] for gross indecency at Derby, to 12 months' imprisonment each, his Lordship commented on the gross and abominable filthiness of their offence. (Long Eaton Advertiser)

[William Atkin Barber at the time of the 1881 Census was living in Leeds, working as a hairdresser, and unmarried. He married Jane Flynn sometime between January–March 1887 (Record of Marriages for Derbyshire, Vol. 7B, p. 622). He is listed as a Hairdresser in Kelly's Derbyshire Trade Directories for 1891 and for 1895, so he continued with his occupation after his release from prison. In the Probate Calendar Barber is listed as having died on 31 August 1897; probate was given on 14 September to Jane Barber his widow with effects of £65. The cause of death is not given; he would have been only 37 years old.
          In the legal records Harry Bates is also described as a hairdresser, so he perhaps was Barber's assistant, or at least a professional acquaintance of his. The newspapers described him as a "groom" in 1890, so perhaps he was no longer working as a hairdresser. He was only 19 in 1890, but had already had four previous convictions for petty larceny (Prison Records, HO140, pc. no. 117): In May 1884 he was convicted of stealing a pipe and sentenced to twelve strokes with the birch, and also given a summary conviction for a minor offence; in August 1888 he was convicted of stealing walking sticks and other items and sentenced to two months in prison; on 31 October 1889 he was convicted of stealing a tricycle and sentenced to three months' hard labour. Prison Records (Habitual Criminals Register, MEPO6, pc. no. 2) describe him as a barber, formerly living at 1, Bath Street, Derby, with fair complexion, brown hair, hazel eyes, 5'3½" tall, thick-set, with a cut on the left buttock; he was released from Devizes Prison on 19 February 1890. Then, on 25 July 1890 (Prison Registers, HO27, pc. no. 215), he was convicted of "Committing acts of gross Indecency" with William Atkin Barber, and both were sentenced to twelve months' imprisonment. See below for reports of some of Bates's first convictions, as a boy. One of these involved theft from another hairdresser, for whom he acted as an apprentice:]

8 May 1884

A SUSPICIOUS CASE. – Harry Bates, a boy, was charged with stealing a pipe and tobacco pouch, the property of John Cartwright, an assistant at the shop of Mr. Holbrook, Queen-street. – It appeared that the prisoner has been employed in Mr. Holbrook's shop as an errand boy. On the previous day Cartwright missed his pipe and pouch from the pocket of a coat he had hung behind one of the shop doors. He asked the prisoner if he had seen anything of it, and the boy produced it. He said he found it in one of the rooms upstairs. Witness had missed tobacco and money from his pockets on several previous occasions. – Police-constable Foley received the prisoner into custody, and when charged with the offence the boy again declared that he found the pipe and pouch on a floor in the upper rooms. – He now admitted the charge, and the Bench ordered him to receive twelve strokes of the birch rod. (Derby Daily Telegraph)

3 August 1888

At the Derby Borough Police Court, on Monday, before J. BAILEY, Esq., and other magistrates, Edwin McCarthy and Henry Bates, two big boys, were charged with stealing two walking sticks, a bottle of "brilliantine," and a tooth brush, of the value together of £1 15s. 6d., the property of Wm. Wheldon, haircutter, St. James's-street, and they were further charged that at 12.50 on Sunday morning, July 29th, being in the night time, they had in their possession various instruments for housebreaking, to wit a crowbar and a diamond (for cutting glass). – Col. Delacombe, Chief Constable, said McCarthy was a striker out of work, and the other boy (Bates) was employed at a shop in St. James's-street. For the last three minths the police had received complaints of certain shops in the central thoroughfares of the town being broken into at night. These included Mr. New's shop, in St. James's-street; Mr. Eaton's, in the Corn-market; Mr. Husband's, St. James-street; and Messrs. Simpson and Rickard's, St.James's-street. The police had a suspicion, and these boys had been watched. Ultimately, they were found by police-constable Walker loitering about in a suspicious manner near the premises of Mr. Brooks, Babington House, on Saturday night – or, rather, Sunday morning – and taken to the lock-up, when the large "jimmy" (or crowbar) and the diamond (for cutting glass) produced were found on McCarthy. Afterwards the officer went to McCarthy's house in St.Mary's-gate, and found one of the sticks, the bottle of "brilliantine," and the tooth brush produced, and, at Bates' house in Bath-street, he found the other stick. All these articles would be identified by Mr. Wheldon, whose premises had been broken into, as his property. The lads admitted participation in the robbery, which they said was effected on the same night as Mr. Husband's. – The Bench, after hearing the evidence of police-constable Walker in support of this statement, remanded the prisoners until Wednesday.
          On Wednesday, the prisoners were again broiught before the Mayor and other magistrates, and were charged with stealing four walking-sticks, a brush, and a bottle of brilliantine, valued at £2, the property of Mr. William Wheldon, hair-dresser, of St. James's-street. – The prosecutor said that Bates had been an apprentice under him for two years, but had not been to work since last Tuesday. He identified all the articles mentioned in the charge, and said that one of the sticks was valued at 30s., but he did not miss any of them until he saw them at the police station. They had not been sold to Bates. – Joseph Raylor, an apprentice with Mr. Booth, Nottingham-road, and Frederick Devine, butcher, St. Mary's Gate, stated that they had each purchased a stick from Bates, and they had since handed them to the police. – Plice-constable Walker said that on Sunday morning he went to McCarthur's house in St. Mary's-gate, and in the cellar found the stick which was valued at 30s. In a room upstairs he also found the brilliantine, and in another room the tooth-brush, in a hat box. At Bates's house he found another stick. At the lock-up McCarthy said that on Monday or Tuesday night, he and Bates went into St. James's-street, and he got into Mr. Wheldon's shop, by passing through the cellar, and stole two sticks, the brilliantine and a tooth-brush. Bates had one stick and he had the other. While he was in the shop Bates was watching for the police. The prisoners were then put together, and Bates said, "It's all right if he says so. It was the same night we tried Husband's." They were then charged, and they said "All right." They were again charged that (Wednesday) morning with stealing the other two sticks, and they again replied "It's all right." Bates said, "The stick that I had from Mr. Wheldon's I threw in the Derwent, near St.Mary's Bridge." – The prisoners now pleaded guilty, and neither had anything to say in defence. – They were then charged with being in the unlawful possession of a diamond and "jimmy." – Police-constable Walker said that on Sunday morning he saw the prisoners standing at the corner of Babington-lane and St. Peter's-street. When they saw him they ran away and concealed themselves. Witness went up St. Peter's street, and also hid himself. After a while Bates came down the lane, and in a short time signalled to McCarthy by waving his hands. McCarthy then went into East-street, and Bates remaned against the shop of Mr. Smith, jeweller. Witness then went to Bates and asked him what he was doing. He said "Nothing." He told him that it was a strange time to be out doing nothing. They went toegher a short distance down the street, and then Bates whistled, being answered by McCarthy from East-street. McCarthy then came up. He took them to the lock-up, where they were searched.McCarthy was found to have a diamkond and a crowbar in his possession. Bates said he meant to commit a burglary, and in reply to a further question he said "Anywhere we could." Witness had seen the prisoners loitering about the streets earlier in the night. McCarthy said he bought the diamond about twelve months. ago. – Bates had been twice before the Bench for robbing his employer, but nothing was known against McCarthy. – The Bench sentenced the prisoners to two months imprisonment, with hard labour, on the first charge; and on the second charge, that of being in unlawful possession of burglars implements, they were each sent to gaol of three months, with hard labour. – The Bench told Devine and Raylor that they ought to be more cautious from whom they bought anything in future. They also commended the police officer (Walker) for the sagacity he had shown in bringing the prisoners before the Bench. (Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal)

21 November 1889

William Andrews, 23, porter, and Harry Bates, 19, hairdresser, both imperfectly educated, pleaded guilty to fraudulently converting a tricycle to their own use, at Swindon, on the 31st October, 1889. – . . . Sentence deferred. (Bristol Mercury)

23 November 1889

William Andrews, 23, porter, and Harry Bates, 19, hairdresser, pleaded guilty to fraudulently converting a tricycle to their own use, at Swindon, on the 31st October. – Sentenced to three months' hard labour each. (Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard)

SOURCE: Various newspapers and archive records, dates as given.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "The Story of Two Hairdressers, 1890", Homosexuality in Nineteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 2 September 2020 <http://rictornorton.co.uk/eighteen/1890hair.htm>.

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