The Cleveland Street Scandal
HISTORICAL NOTES: In 1889, the year in which this scandal takes place, it is legal for girls aged 12 and boys aged 14 to marry (with parental consent). Most people started work at the age of 6 (or younger) to help support their families and men had a life expectancy of just 40-45 years of age. Male homosexuality was illegal and punishable, if convicted of buggery, to penal servitude for life or for any term of not less than ten years. The death penalty for buggery had only recently been abolished in 1861.
Towards the end of the nineteenth century a gentleman by the name of Charles Hammond ran a male brothel located at No 19 Cleveland Street in London, just north of Oxford Street near Tottenham Court Road.
Hammond catered for a largely aristocratic clientele and for a number of years the existence of his establishment remained unknown to the authorities.
This all changed on 4th July 1889 when a 15 year old telegraph boy called Charles Swinscow was searched as part of an ongoing investigation into money theft at his employers, the General Post Office.
It was a telegraph boys job to cycle around London delivering telegrams and urgent messages to homes and businesses. His wage would have been about eleven shillings per week, however when he was searched, eighteen shillings were found in his pockets, more than a weeks salary to such a young man. Swinscow was taken in for questioning as part of the police operation.
When asked how he came to have such a large sum of money in his possession, Swinscow panicked and confessed he'd been recruited by Charles Hammond to work at a house in Cleveland Street where, for the sum of four shillings a time, he would permit the brothel's clients to "have a go between my legs" and "put their persons into me".
He then identified a number of other young telegraph boys who were also renting themselves out in this manner at the Cleveland Street establishment, leading to the apprehension and questioning of Henry Newlove, Algernon Allies and Charles Thickbroom.
Who Was Involved:
|Henry Horace Newlove||16 yrs||Telegraph Boy - GPO 'Recruiter' for Hammond|
|Charles Thomas Swinscow||15 yrs||Telegraph Boy - First boy arrested for 'theft'|
|George Alma Wright||17 yrs||Telegraph Boy - 'Performed' with Newlove for voyeurs|
|Charles Ernest Thickbroom||17 yrs||Telegraph Boy|
|William Meech Perkins||16 yrs||Telegraph Boy - ID's Lord Alfred Somerset as a 'client'|
|Algernon Edward Allies||19 yrs||Houseboy - The Marlborough Club, used by Lord Somerset|
|George Barber||17 yrs||George Veck's 'Private Secretary' and boyfriend|
|John Saul||37 yrs||Infamous London rent boy - Possibly aka Jack Saul|
|Charles Hammond||35 yrs||Brothel keeper of 19 Cleveland Street, London|
George Daniel Veck
|40 yrs||Ex General Post Office (GPO) employee, sacked for indecency with Telegraph boys. Lives at 19 Cleveland Street. Kept a coffee house in Gravesend, Kent. Has an 18 year old 'son' that travels with him.|
|PC Luke Hanks||Police officer attached to the General Post Office|
|Mr Phillips||Snr postal official who questions Swinscow with Hanks|
|Mr C H Raikes||The Postmaster General|
|Mr James Monro||Metropolitan Police Commissioner|
|Frederick Abberline||46 yrs||Police Chief Inspector, infamous for the 'Jack the Ripper' investigations in 1888, London's Whitechapel district|
|PC Richard Sladden||Police officer who carried out observations on the Cleveland Street brothel following Swinscow's arrest|
|Arthur Newton||Lord Arthur Somerset's solicitor. Later to defend Oscar Wilde at his trial in 1895 and notorious murderer Dr Crippen|
|Prince Albert Victor, the Duke of Clarence||25 yrs||Rumoured to be a 'Brothel Client' - Went on a seven month tour of British India in Sept 1889 to avoid the press & trials|
Colonel Jervois of the
|'Brothel Client' - Winchester Army Barracks|
|Lord Arthur Somerset
aka Mr Brown
|37 yrs||'Brothel Client' - Named in Allies letters as 'Mr Brown'|
Henry James Fitzroy
|39 yrs||Accused of being a 'Brothel Client' - Earl of Euston|
|Sir Augustus Stephenson||Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP)|
|Hon Hamilton Cuffe||Assistant DPP - Six years later he would prosecute Oscar Wilde at his trial in 1895 as the Director of Public Prosecutions|
|Ernest Parke||Journalist - North London Press|
After The Arrests
The officer in charge of the case was Chief Inspector Frederick Abberline, famous for being in charge of the detectives investigating the Jack-The_Ripper murders a year earlier in 1888
Abberline procured a warrant to arrest Charles Hammond on a charge of conspiracy to "to commit the abominable crime of buggery", but when officers went to Cleveland Street, they found that Hammond had already absconded.
The police made arrangements to observe the comings and goings at No 19 Cleveland Street in case Hammond returned. They noted that a 'Mr Brown' called at the address on the 9th and 13th July 1889, later identified by both Swinscow and Thickbroom on the 25th July as one of the their clients.
Police followed Mr Brown back to army barracks in Knightsbridge where he was formally identified as Lord Arthur Somerset, younger son of Henry Charles Somerset, the 8th Duke of Beaufort. Lord Arthur was a Major in the Royal Horse Guards and equerry to Edward, Prince of Wales, who later became King Edward VII.
Papers were sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions with a view to prosecuting Lord Arthur on a charge of gross indecency. The Prince of Wales was incredulous when he heard of it
"I won't believe it, any more than I should if they accused the Archbishop of Canterbury" he said.
Despite this gesture of support, Lord Somerset placed the matter in the hands of his solicitor Arthur Newton.
Newton contacted the DPP and mentioned that if his client were to be prosecuted, he might have to name Prince Albert Victor, the Duke of Clarence, as another brothel client whilst giving his evidence in court.
Given that Prince Albert Victor was the eldest son of the Prince of Wales and second in line to the throne, it was clear that the government would not want his name associated with the homosexual brothel at Cleveland Street.
The authorities appeared to drag their heels over the matter, delaying the court case, which allowed Lord Arthur Somerset the opportunity to flee abroad. By the 18th October 1889 he was safely in Boulogne, France. He remained in exile for the remainder of his life and eventually died on the French Riviera in 1926.
But whilst Somerset escaped prosecution, the same could not be said of the unfortunate 'rent boys' caught up in the investigation. Swinscow together with Henry Newlove, Algernon Allies and Charles Thickbroom were brought before the Old Bailey in September 1889 and charged with gross indecency. All were convicted. Newlove received a sentence of four months with hard labour whilst the others each got nine months.
This might have been the end of the story had it not been for a journalist named Ernest Parke, who ran a story on 28th September 1889 in the 'North London Press', claiming that the "heir to a duke and the younger son of a duke" had frequented Cleveland Street.
Again, on the 16th November 1889 Parke went so far as to name both Arthur Somerset and Henry James Fitzroy, the Earl of Euston, as the men in question and dropped a broad hint to his readers that a member of the royal family was also involved, referring to a gentleman "more distinguished and more highly placed".
Ernest Parke believed that it was safe to name the two young aristocrats as they had both fled the country. He was correct as far as Lord Arthur Somerset was concerned, but the Earl of Euston was not in Peru as Parke thought, but still in England. In order to defend his reputation, Henry James Fitzroy felt obliged to bring a charge for criminal libel against Edward Parke.
The trial was heard at the Old Bailey on the 19th January 1890. Whilst Henry James Fitzroy admitted that he had been to 19 Cleveland Street, he claimed that it was all a mistake. According to his own testimony, he had only gone there after being given a card touting a 'tableaux plastique' (nude women) at the address, and that once he realised the true nature of the establishment, had made his excuses and left.
Ernest Parke however produced a witness named John Saul (AKA Jack Saul), who went into some detail describing the kind of services that he had provided for Henry James Fitzroy at the Cleveland Street brothel. Being a self-confessed prostitute, Saul's evidence was easily 'discredited' and Ernest Parke was found guilty of libel without justification and sentenced to one year's imprisonment with hard labour.
One more trial was to arise as a result of the Cleveland Street scandal in respect of the activities of Arthur Newton, defence solicitor to the aforementioned Arthur Somerset who, it was believed, had helped Somerset evade justice. Newton was brought before the court on the 12th December 1889 and charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice for allegedly interfering with witnesses and arranging their disappearance to France.
He was convicted but received the relatively mild punishment of six weeks in prison. He was even allowed to resume his legal practice, representing the author and playwright Oscar Wilde in own trial for gross indecency with other men five years later in 1895.
This was still not quite the end of the matter as the MP Henry Labouchère, a noted campaigner against 'homosexual vice', who had earlier been responsible for including the offence of 'gross indecency' within the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885, became convinced that some kind of 'cover-up' had been launched by the authorities.
On the 28th February 1890 he tried to persuade Parliament to establish a committee to investigate the whole affair, but his motion was defeated by a vote of 204 to 66. Henry felt so strongly on the matter that he became over animated during the debate on his motion and he was suspended from Parliament for a week.
Thus the Cleveland Street Scandal passed into history and ceased to be a matter of contemporary significance, however, from evidence that has since become available, it now appears that the Duke of Clarence was indeed a likely client of the Cleveland Street brothel. If indeed it were true, it would be very likely that some kind of damage limitation exercise was carried out at the highest levels of the British Government to protect him.
I grateful acknowledge the following works used in my research:
The Cleveland Street Affair - Colin Simpson, Lewis Chester & David Leitch
The Cleveland Street Scandal - H Montgomery Hyde
Cleveland Street 'The Musical' - Glenn Chandler & Matt Devereaux