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

The Southsea Scandal, 1890

SUMMARY: A 42-year-old married hairdresser is accused of gross indecency with a 15 or 16 year old waiter. The hairdresser is refused bail because he threatens to commit suicide out of humiliation. But it transpires that the boy was egged on by others to encourage the drunken older man's passes. Though this was not the first time the hairdresser had solicited youths, the defence argues this is a case of entrapment. The jury can't agree on a verdict, and the case has to be re-tried. The new jury acquits the hairdresser.

27 September 1890

At the Portsmouth Police-court, this afternoon, James Young, 42, married, a hairdresser, living at 49, Marmion-road, Southsea, was charged before the Mayor (Alderman Sir William King), Aldermen E. M. Wells and Jl. Moody, and Mr. J. J. Sapp, with having, on the 23rd inst., committed an act of gross indecency with George Young, in Merton-road, Southsea. As usual in such cases, women and boys were ordered out of Court while the evidence was being taken.
          Mr. G. H. King appeared for the prosecution, and Mr. M. Hude for the defence. On the application of Mr. Hyde the witnesses were ordered out of Court, being called in one by one to give evidence.
          Mr. King, in opening the case, said the proceedings were taken under the 11th Section of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1885, which provided that any person convicted of an offence such as that charged against the prisoner should be imprisoned for any term not exceeding two years, with or without hard labour. It appeared that on the night of Tuesday, the 23rd inst., a man named Frederick White was with another named Westland, near St. Jude's Church, and they there saw prisoner stop the boy George Young, who was an errand boy employed at Southsea. Afterwards they spoke to the boy, who, in consequence of what they said, then went away and passed the prisoner again. He was accosted by the accused a second time, and the two went off together, followed by White and Westland, who would tell the Court what they afterwards saw. Constable Smith would also give evidence to the effect that he was spoken to, and would describe the condition of prisoner and the boy when he arrived upon the scene. The offence charged against the accused was very serious indeed, and it was always said by prisoners to be an allegation very easily made, but very difficult to disprove. He thought no one would ask Magistrates to commit a prisoner upon a charge of this kind unless there was very strong evidence indeed to justify them in doing so; but in this case the evidence was very cear, and unless that of the constable and others could be satisfactorily explained away, it would be difficult to come to any other conclusion that that the charge was prima facie borne out.
          Frederick White, architect, of Avington Villa, Yarborough-road, was the first witness. He gave evidence in support of Mr. King's opening statement, and said that after speaking to the boy he and his friend, Mr. Westland, followed out of curiosity to see what would happen. They followed the prisoner and the boy, who walked arm-in-arm for a time, from Palmerston-road into Stanley-lane, and thence into Lennox-road, Marmion-road, Wilton-place, Grove-road South, and finally Merton-road. Then witness and his friend separated, Mr. Westland going into Nelson-road and witness into Merton-road, where he spoke to the boy and the prisoner. Just then Constable Smith came up, and, seeing the condition of the prisner's clothes, arrested him and took him to the Southsea Police-station. – Mr. Hyde obtained the permission of the Beach to defer his cross-examination of the witnesses. He said he was only instructed this morning, prisoner having been arrested but last night, for he was not detained at the Southsea Police-station after being originally charged.
          Alexander John Westland, ironmonger's assistant, of 92, Marmion-road, gave corroborative evidence, and said that on the following morning prisoner called at his house to see him before he was up. When witness went down to the door prisoner said he had come to apologise for the affair the night before, adding that he had never felt so humiliated in his life, and that it would not have occurred if he had not been drunk. He implored witness not to mention what had occurred to anyone.
          Mr. King then called Constable Smith, intimating, in reply to the Bench, that he proposed to ask for a remand, and that he did not intend to place the boy in the witness box until the adjourned hearing. This course he adopted, despite Mr Hyde's appeal, made on the score of fair play, that he would call the boy now. The constable proved making the arrest, after the boy had accused the prisoner of the offence, which he denied, although admitting that his intention had been improper. The accused was detained at the Police-station about an hour and a half. Prisoner had been drinking, but was not under the influence of liquor.
          Chief-Inspector Bidgood proved arresting the prisoner on a warrant at his residence yesterday afternoon. When he explained his errand to the prisoner the latter said, "Has it come to this?" Witness read the warrant and cautioned prisoner against incriminating himself, but on his way to the Southsea Police-station the accused said, "Had I known you had been coming for me you wouldn't have got me, for I would have jumped into the sea this morning. How can I face such a charge as this?" Afterwards he said he was very drunk on the night in question, or nothing would have happened. Several times on his way to the station he said he wished he was struck dead.
          Mr. Hyde asked who laid the information against the accused, and Mr. Fisk replied that it was laid by Frederick White.
          The boy George Young was then called, and after being cautioned he said he was 15 years of age just December, and resided in Brighton-street, Landport. – Mr. Fisk put it to Mr. King whether it was necessary, in the ineterests of justice, that the boy should give evidence, and Mr. King replied in the affirmative. – Witness spoke of acts of indecency on prisoner's part on Tuesday night, while they were making their circuitous way from Palmerston-road to Merton-road, as spoken of by the first two witnesses. Prisoner did not give witness money or any other gift, nor did he promise him anything.
          Mr. King asked for a week's remand in order to complete the case. – Mr. Hyde said he did not oppose the application, but applied that prisoner might be admitted to bail in the meantime. Prisoner had been carrying on business in Marmion-road for about seven years, and he was a married man with a family, in fact, his wife was confined only about three weeks ago. – Mr. King opposed the granting of bail, and the Chairman said the Magistrates were loth to allow it after the violent expressions which prisoner made to Inspector Bidgood. – Mr. Hyde said that was only when he was excited. He put it that this was not a police prosecution but a private one, the prosecutor being Mr. White. – Mr. White repudiated this idea, and Mr. Fisk said this was really a Crown prosecution. – Eventually the Magistrates refused bail, the Chairman saying he would feel morally guilty if it was granted and prisoner should commit suicide. – The accused was then remanded in custody. (Hampshire Telegraph)

4 October 1890

At the Portsmouth Police-court yesterday, James Young, 42, hairdresser, of Marmion-road, Southsea, was brought up on remand, charged with committing an act of gross indecency with George Young, a boy of fifteen, employed as a waiter at Southsea.
          Mr. G. H. King prosecuted, and prisoner was defended by Mr. Hyde. The witnesses called in support of the prosecution and examined last week gave particulars of certain acts on the part of the prisoner, and this afternoon Mr. Hyde commenced his cross-examination of them. In answer to the solicitor's questions witness White said that he had known prisoner six or seven years, and had heard that he was a married man, but was not present at the wedding, and could not, therefore, be sure of the matter. He met witness Westland at the Portland Hotel that night, and had been in his company about half-an-hour when they saw the boy Young in conversation with accused. It was then about a quarter-past eleven o'clock, and witnesses were standing near St. Jude's Church, being about to wish each other "Good night." About five or six minutes had elapsed when they saw prisoner and the boy turning the corner of Stanley-lane. – Q. And that time was occupied by the boy walking backwards and forwards between prisoner and yourself? A. He only went back once. – Q. You heard him give evidence last week; did you hear him say that he went back twice? A. I heard him say so, but at the time I was under the impression that he did not quite understand the qustion.
          Witness was sure that not more than twenty mnutes elapsed before he spoke to prisoner in Merton-road, but could not fix the time more definitely. Witness and Westland walked form St. Jude's Churh to Stanley-lane without stopping. They walked at an ordinary pace, and stopped a few minutes in the lane, whence they passed into Wilton-place. There they stood close to the hotel and watched prisoner. The latter and the boy passed them, and entered a porch in Marmion-road. Subsequently they went into Merton-road, where witness spoke to prisoner, and a pliceman came on the scene.
          Mr. Hyde did not trouble the witness Westland, but called the boy Young, who stated that he went from Stl. Jude's to the place where the prisoner accosted him twice, and that he did so in consequence of what White and Westland said to him. Subsequently, however, witness said that he misunderstood one of the questions put to him, and admitted that they spoke to him once only at the church. One or both of them said to him, "Did old Young want you to go with him?" and he answered "Yes." They said "Go on, go back with him, and we will give him a good hiding." Witness was instructed to go with the man until they jumped out upon him. – Mr. Hyde: And then your work was done? A Yes. He was not told where to take the man, who was the worse for drink, and was obliged to catch hold of his arm to stagger round the corner. – Mr. Cousins: You went back twice. Was that entirely in consequence of what White and Westland said to you? A. Yes. – In further reply to Mr. Cousins, witness said that he did not tell prisoner that White and Westland were watching and waiting to jump out upon him. – Mr. Hyde: That would have spoilt the trap, would it not? A. Yes. – Q. There was a trap laid for him by White and Westland? A. Yes. – Mr. Cousins: They laid the trap, and you carried it out? – Witness: Yes. – Mr. Hyde: What was the trap laid to catch this half-drunken an in? – No answer. – Question repeated. – Still no answer. – Mr. Cousins: Something indecent? A. Yes. – Q. What? – No answer. – Mr. Cousins: Do you refuse to answer? – Witness: Yes. – Q. Did you resist? A. Yes. – Mr. Cousins: But you might have run away at any moment, might you not? – A. Yes. – Mr. Hyde: Why did you take the trouble to do all this? – No answer. – Q. Was it becasue White and Westland asked you? – A. Yes, sir. – Q. And no other motive? A. No.
          P.S. Dibden stated that he was in charge of the Southsea Police-station on the night of prisoner's arrest, and saw him in the reserve room when he returned from his rounds. Prisoner was released at 2.40 a.m., in accordance wth istructions witness received from the Central Police-station at Landport. He returned later on and said: "Look here, sergeant, I want to know if there is to be a prosecution in this case." Witness said he could not answer that question, and prisoner then observed, "I never felt so humiliated in my life as I was this morning. I feel thoroughly ashamed of myself, I cannot sleep. It was the —— drink that did it. I shan't be able to stop in Southsea, but must sell my business and leave. I would not mind a £5 note if this could be kept out of Court." During their convesation prisoner admitted having acted indecently.
          Constable Taylor said that when prisoner was remanded on the previous Friday, witness took charge of him, and was with him in a cab, when he said "It is a good job they did not give me bail, or they would not have seen me again."
          Prisoner, who reserved his defence, and said he had not witnesses to call before the Magistrates, was committed for trial at the next Assizes. – His solicitor applied for bail. – Mr. Cousins drew attention to his remark to Constable Taylor, but Mr. Hyde said his client was calm now. He uttered the expression in the heat of excitement. – The Magistrates granted bail, the accused being released on his own recognisances of £100 and those of two sureties for £50 each. Two of his brothers, from Southampton, one a printer and the other a Post Office clerk, offered themselves, and were accepted, and prisoner stepped from the dock, amid the applause of the occupants of the gallery. (Hampshire Telegraph)

18 December 1890

At Winchester Assizes to-day, James Young, 42, hairdresser, recently carrying on business in Marmion-road, Southsea, was indicted for having unlawfully committed an act of gross indecency with George Young, in a public place at Portsmoiuth, on the 23rd of September.
          Mr. Tickell (instructed by Mr. G. H. King) was counsel for the prosecution, and the Hon. Barnard Coleridge (instructed by Mr. M. Hyde) defended the prisoner.
          In opening the case, Mr. Tickell remarked that about twenty minutes after eleven at night two witnesses, named White and Westland, were standing near St. Jude's Church, when they saw the prisoner in his slippers near the premises of Messrs. Knight and Lee, and the boy Young was coming from his direction. They induced the boy to return to the prisoner, who took him by the arm and led him through Stanley-lane into Wilton-place, where they remained about eight minutes. Subsequently the prisoner and the boy were watched into Merton-road, and when a constable came upon the scene the clothing of both the prisoner and the boy was found to be disarranged. The prisoner was subsequently taken to the Police-station, and on the following morning he remarked that he had never felt so humiliated in his life, the —— drink being at the bottom of it all.
          Frederick White, architect, of Yarborough-road, Southsea, proved the former part of the counsel's statement. On the night in question he saw the prisoner go in his slippers from Marmion-road to Palmerston-road, and when he reached the premises of Messrs. Knight and Lee, boy Young crossed over to him from his place of business, and they remained in conversation about five minutes. The boy then came towards witness, and in consequence of something he said to the boy the latter went back to the prisoner, who took him by the arm and turned into Stanley-lane, a dark place. They remained there about eight minutes, after which they passed into Lennox and Marmion-roads and into Wilton-place, where they stopped six minutes. After that they came through Marmion-road and into Grove-road, where in the doorway of the Star Boot Company they remained three minutes, and then they passed on into Merton-road, when he came upon them under a wall a few feet from the roadway. The boy was questioned, and at once admitted that the prisoner had attempted to take an advantage of him, but the prisoner said it was a lie. Just at that time Constable Smith came along, and on being told what had occurred, the boy repeated his statement.
          In cross-examination, the witness denied that the boy was passed by the prisoner near Haydon's shop. Two other boys were not with Young. – Mr. Coleridge: Why did you send the boy back to where the prisoner was? – Witness: It was a horrible charge which the boy had named, and it was in the cause of justice that I sent him back. – The boy could come to no harm where you were, and yet you sent him back? – I cannot see the harm. – Is it true that you and Westland laid a trap for the prisoner? – No. – Did you hear the boy say so before the Magistrates? – Yes, because the words were put into his mouth. – Then that is not true? – Certainly not. – Were you watching? – I was standing under the lamp. – The question was repeated several times, but the same answer only was given, the witness remarking that he did not know the sense in which the counsel meant the question. – His Lordship. Well, were you looking? – Witness: Yes. – Mr. Coleridge: You were within a few feet of the prisoner when he was in Wilton-place? – Twenty yards, I say. – Could you be seen? – No, as I was in a dark place. – You heard the boy Young say that you could be seen? – Yes. – Did you see anything? – No indecency. – Why were you there? – To protect the boy. – By throwing him into harm's way? – No. – Had Westland the same motive as yourself? – I don't know, but we had a suspicion; there was no written contract between us. – Mr. Coleridge: Oh, I don't say that; was your object a philanthropic one? – I don't say so.
          Re-examined, the witness said that when the boy first came upon him he was laughing, and said that the prisoner wanted him to go for a walk with him, and that he believed he was up to some game as he was with his brother and another boy a fortnight ago, when he proposed some indecency to them, but they would not allow it, and he gave them a shilling to say nothing about it.
          Alexander John Westland corroborated as to what took place, and added that the prisoner was at his house as early as seven o'clock on the following morning, but he did not see him. When, however, he did see him later on the prisoner said that [he] felt very much humiliated at what had taken place overnight, and that it would not have happened but for the drink. The prisoner asked him not to take any notice of what had occurred, and not to prosecute him, but he told him that the matter was out of his hands, and that he had better go to the police. – Mr. Coleridge: Did you think the boy was coming to harm? – No. – Then why were you following into Nelson-road? – To protect the boy. – Don't you feel ashamed at following the man about as you did? – Witness: No. – Was it a preconcerted trap? – No. – Then why were you there? – To protect the boy. – How near were you to the prisoner? – Seventeen yards off when they were in Wilton-place. – Did you see anything? – Nothing indecent. – Did you and White talk together? – We spoke together. – And your following them into Merton-road was a part of the trap? – There was no trap. – Was your object a philanthropic one? – Yes, and to defend the morals of society. – Was the prisoner drunk? – No, but he might have had a glass or two.
          The witness White was re-called, and said that he did not remember saying before the Magistrates that he did not know why the boy went back. – Mr. Coleridge: You hear it now, when I tell you of it? Yes, but I never said it. – Mr. Coleride directed his attention to the deposition. – Mr. Tickiell: But that doesn't prove that he said so; the Magistrates' Clerk is not infallible. – Mr. Coleridge: But you don't suggest that he invented this? – Mr. Tickell: But, at all events, you never said so? – Witness: No. – And you have no interest in this prosecution? – No.
          George Young, a lad of 16, living at 38, Brighton-street, a waiter at the Victoria Arms, Palmerston-road, said that the prisoner first asked him to go round the corner, but he passed on. When, however Mr. White asked him to go back, he did so, when the prisoner took hold of him and led him into Stanley-lane. The prisoner behaved there indecently to him, as he also did in Wilton-place, where he asked him how old he was, and that he wished he could take him indoors. They were together a quarter of an hour in Stanley-lane, ten minutes in Wilton-place and a few minutes in Merton-road, where he repeated his indecency. They were a very short time in the doorway of the Star Boot Company, but no indecency was committed there. In Merton-road White and the constable came up, and on telling them what had occurred, the prisoner went away with them. – Mr. Coleridge: When you were sent back to the prisoner first was he walking away? – Yes. – You said at your first examination that you went back to White twice; had you seen White and Westland before the second examination? – Yes. – And on the second time you said it was not true that you had gone back twice? – I don't remember that. – Should have have gone back but for White and Westland? – No. – You knew they were following you? – Yes. – Were you to give them warning if anything happened? – I don't remember. – You say these indecencies commenced in Stanley-lane? – Yes. – Did you give them any warning? – The witness did not answer. – Were White and Westland only a few feet off in Wilton-place? – Yes. – Did you give any warning? – No. – Why not? – No answer. – Did you give any warning in Merton-road? – No. – Why not? – No answer. – Did you say from first to last anything about the exposure of the prisoner? No. – Your waistcoat had but one button? Yes. – Have you said that it was a trap by White and Westland, and that you should not have acted as you did but for them? Yes.
          Constable Smith, who corroborated, said that when he came upon the prisoner and the boy the clothing of both was undone. The prisoner said that he had done nothing. He gave him any amount of abuse on the road to the station.
          On the conclusion of the evidence the Jury retired, and were a long time absent. They were sent for at three o'clock, and the Foreman having stated that the prospect of their agreeing was hopeless, the Judge discharged them, and empanelled another Jury from the town of Winchester, when the evidence was again all gone through. (Portsmouth Evening News)

19 December 1890

At Winchester Assizes on Thursday, James Young, 42, hairdresser, recently carrying on business in Marmion-road, Southsea, was indicted for having unlawfully committed an act of gross indecency with George Young, in a public place at Portsmouth, on the 23rd of September.
          The evidence against the accused was fully detailed in yesterday's issue, the Jury being discharged because of their inability to agree. A second Jury was then empanelled, and the whole case gone through again.
          Additional testimony was given by Constable Taylor, who stated that after the prisoner was remanded he told him (witness) that it was "a –– good job they didn't give him bail, or they would never have seen him again."
          The prisoner then availed himself of his privilege to give evidence upon oath. He said that he was drunk at the time of the alleged offence, but he denied altogether the truth of the boy's story. He admitted that he had said he had never felt more humiliated, but he had not told the constable that he was guilty. There was a conspiracy between the boy, the constable Smith, and the two men to trap him when he was drunk. – Mr. Coleridge: That, you know, is a matter of comment for me. – Mr. Tickell: Were you so drunk that you did not know what you were doing? I wasn't so drunk but what I know that I did not commit such an offence as this. – Is this the first time that such a charge as this has been made against you? – Yes, the first time publicly. Five or six years ago a neighbour of mine made a similar charge, but I never was tried, admitted it, or said that it should never happen again if I were then let off. I told the father that if I knew a man who had acted like that I would put a bullet through him. – The prisoner first said that a part of the police evidence was false and a part true, and that the two men were old enemies of his over a dentistry dispute.
          William Haigh, dentist, of 49, Marmion-road, said that the prisoner had been his partner for three years formerly, that he was a married man, and that lately he had taken to drink. – Mr. Tickell: You live in the same house? – Yes. – And is it his custom to go about without slippers at night? – I think he came to the door to look after me, as I was rather late.
          Herbert Thorn, a dentist's assistant, said that between ten and eleven o'clock on the night in question the prisoner was very intoxicated, and had no waistcoat on.
          Richard Henry Gee, a brewer's agent, said that the prisoner had been very affectionate to his wife, and his general reputation was good. – Mr. Tickell: What is his reputation among his neighbours? – Very good as far as I know. – Did you ever hear of the previous charge? – No.
          Charles James Young, post-office clerk at Southampton, had known the domestic side of his brother's life, and it had always been most affectionate, while his reputation had been good.
          The witness White was recalled, and said he had never had a wry word with the prisoner. – Mr. Coleridge: You are an upholder of public morality? – I am not an upholder of public morality.
          The witness Westland also denied being an enemy of the prisoenr as alleged.
          The addresses of the counsel were telling on both sides, but Mr. Tickell greatly complained of what he termed the unwarrantable attacks which Mr. Coleridge had made upon his witnesses.
          After twenty minutes private deliberation the Jury acquitted the prisoner. (Portsmouth Evening News)

SOURCE: Various newspapers, dates as given.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "The Southsea Scandal, 1890", Homosexuality in Nineteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 19 August 2020 <http://rictornorton.co.uk/eighteen/1890sout.htm>.

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