The Cleveland Street Scandal
The Cleveland Street Scandal
The Cleveland Street scandal occurred in 1889, when a homosexual male brothel in Cleveland Street, Fitzrovia, London, was discovered by police. At the time, sexual acts between men were illegal in Britain, and the brothel’s clients faced possible prosecution and certain social ostracism if discovered. It was rumoured that one client was Prince Albert Victor, who was the eldest son of the Prince of Wales and second-in-line to the British throne, though this rumour has never been substantiated. The government was accused of covering up the scandal to protect the names of any aristocratic patrons.
Another client was said to be Lord Arthur Somerset, an equerry to the Prince of Wales. Both he and the brothel keeper, Charles Hammond, managed to flee abroad before a prosecution could be brought. The male prostitutes, who also worked as telegraph messenger boys for the Post Office, were given light sentences and no clients were prosecuted. After Henry James FitzRoy, Earl of Euston, was named in the press as a client, he successfully sued for libel. The British press never named Prince Albert Victor, and there is no evidence he ever visited the brothel, but his inclusion in the rumours has coloured biographers’ perceptions of him since.
The scandal fuelled the attitude that male homosexuality was an aristocratic vice that corrupted lower-class youths. Such perceptions were still prevalent in 1895 when the Marquess of Queensberry accused Oscar Wilde of being an active homosexual.
Illustration of Inspector Frederick Abberline from a contemporary newspaper
In July 1889, Police Constable Luke Hanks was investigating a theft from the London Central Telegraph Office. During the investigation, a fifteen-year-old telegraph boy named Charles Thomas Swinscow was discovered to be in possession of fourteen shillings, equivalent to several weeks of his wages. At the time, messenger boys were not permitted to carry any personal cash in the course of their duties, to prevent their own money being mixed with that of the customers. Suspecting the boy’s involvement in the theft, Constable Hanks brought him in for questioning. After hesitating, Swinscow admitted that he earned the money working as a prostitute for a man named Charles Hammond, who operated a male brothel at 19 Cleveland Street. According to Swinscow, he was introduced to Hammond by a General Post Office clerk, eighteen-year-old Henry Newlove. In addition, he named two seventeen-year-old telegraph boys who also worked for Hammond: George Alma Wright and Charles Ernest Thickbroom. Constable Hanks obtained corroborating statements from Wright and Thickbroom and, armed with these, a confession from Newlove.
Constable Hanks reported the matter to his superiors and the case was given to Detective Inspector Frederick Abberline. Inspector Abberline went to the brothel on 6 July with a warrant to arrest Hammond and Newlove for violation of Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885. The Act made all homosexual acts between men, as well as procurement or attempted procurement of such acts, punishable by up to two years’ imprisonment with or without hard labour. He found the house locked and Hammond gone, but Abberline was able to apprehend Newlove at his mother’s house in Camden Town. In the time between his statement to Hanks and his arrest, Newlove had gone to Cleveland Street and warned Hammond, who had consequently escaped to his brother’s house in Gravesend.
Caricature of Lord Arthur Somerset, 1887
On the way to the police station, Newlove named Lord Arthur Somerset and Henry FitzRoy, Earl of Euston, as well as an army colonel by the name of Jervois, as visitors to Cleveland Street. Somerset was the head of the Prince of Wales’s stables. Although Somerset was interviewed by police, no immediate action was taken against him, and the authorities were slow to act on the allegations of Somerset’s involvement. A watch was placed on the now-empty house and details of the case shuffled between government departments.
On 19 August, an arrest warrant was issued in the name of George Veck, an acquaintance of Hammond’s who pretended to be a clergyman. Veck had actually worked at the Telegraph Office, but had been sacked for “improper conduct” with the messenger boys. A seventeen-year-old youth found in Veck’s London lodgings revealed to the police that Veck had gone to Portsmouth and was returning shortly by train. The police arrested Veck at London Waterloo railway station. In his pockets they discovered letters from Algernon Allies. Abberline sent Constable Hanks to interview Allies at his parents’ home in Sudbury, Suffolk. Allies admitted to receiving money from Somerset, having a sexual relationship with him, and working at Cleveland Street for Hammond. On 22 August, police interviewed Somerset for a second time, after which Somerset left for Bad Homburg, where the Prince of Wales was taking his summer holiday.
On 11 September, Newlove and Veck were committed for trial. Their defence was handled by Somerset’s solicitor, Arthur Newton, with Willie Mathews appearing for Newlove, and Charles Gill for Veck. Somerset paid the legal fees. By this time, Somerset had moved on to Hanover, to inspect some horses for the Prince of Wales, and the press was referring to “noble lords” implicated in the trial. Newlove and Veck pleaded guilty to indecency on 18 September and the judge, Sir Thomas Chambers, a former Liberal Member of Parliament who had a reputation for leniency, sentenced them to four and nine months’ hard labour respectively. The boys were also given sentences that were considered at the time to be very lenient. Hammond escaped to France, but the French authorities expelled him after pressure from the British. Hammond moved on to Belgium from where he emigrated to the United States. Newton, acting for Somerset, paid for Hammond’s passage. On the advice of the Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury, no extradition proceedings were attempted, and the case against Hammond was quietly dropped.
Somerset returned to Britain in late September to attend horse sales at Newmarket but suddenly left for Dieppe on 26 September, probably after being told by Newton that he was in danger of being arrested. He returned again on 30 September. A few days later, his grandmother, Emily Somerset, Dowager Duchess of Beaufort, died and he attended her funeral. The Hon. Hamilton Cuffe, Assistant Treasury Solicitor, and James Monro, Commissioner of Police, pressed for action to be taken against Somerset, but the Lord Chancellor, Lord Halsbury, blocked any prosecution. Rumours of Somerset’s involvement were circulating, and on 19 October Somerset fled back to France. Lord Salisbury was later accused of warning Somerset through Sir Dighton Probyn, who had met Lord Salisbury the evening before, that a warrant for his arrest was imminent. This was denied by Lord Salisbury and the Attorney General, Sir Richard Webster. The Prince of Wales wrote to Lord Salisbury, expressing satisfaction that Somerset had been allowed to leave the country and asking that if Somerset should “ever dare to show his face in England again”, he would remain unmolested by the authorities, but Lord Salisbury was also being pressured by the police to prosecute Somerset. On 12 November, a warrant for Somerset’s arrest was finally issued. By this time, Somerset was already safely abroad, and the warrant caught little public attention. After an unsuccessful search for employment in Turkey and Austria-Hungary, Somerset lived the rest of his life in self-imposed and comfortable exile in the south of France.
American newspapers claimed that Prince Albert Victor was “mixed up” in the scandal.
Because the press barely covered the story, the affair would have faded quickly from public memory if not for journalist Ernest Parke. The editor of the obscure politically radical weekly The North London Press, Parke got wind of the affair when one of his reporters brought him the story of Newlove’s conviction. Parke began to question why the prostitutes had been given such light sentences relative to their offence (the usual penalty for “gross indecency” was two years) and how Hammond had been able to evade arrest. His curiosity aroused, Parke found out that the boys had named prominent aristocrats. He subsequently ran a story on 28 September hinting at their involvement but without detailing specific names. It was only on 16 November that he published a follow up story specifically naming Henry Fitzroy, Earl of Euston, in “an indescribably loathsome scandal in Cleveland Street”. He further alleged that Euston may have gone to Peru and that he had been allowed to escape to cover up the involvement of a more highly placed person, who was not named but was believed by some to be Prince Albert Victor, the son of the Prince of Wales.
Euston was in fact still in England and immediately filed a case against Parke for libel. At the trial, Euston admitted that when walking along Piccadilly a tout had given him a card which read “Poses plastiques. C. Hammond, 19 Cleveland Street”. Euston testified that he went to the house believing Poses plastiques meant a display of female nudes. He paid a sovereign to get in but upon entering Euston said he was appalled to discover the “improper” nature of the place and immediately left. The defence witnesses contradicted each other, and could not describe Euston accurately. The final defence witness, John Saul, was a male prostitute who had earlier been involved in a homosexual scandal at Dublin Castle, and featured in a clandestinely published erotic novel The Sins of the Cities of the Plain which was cast as his autobiography. Delivering his testimony in a manner described as “brazen effrontery”, Saul admitted to earning his living by leading an “immoral life” and “practising criminality”, and detailed his alleged sexual encounters with Euston at the house. The defence did not call either Newlove or Veck as witnesses, and could not produce any evidence that Euston had left the country. On 16 January 1890, the jury found Parke guilty and the judge sentenced him to twelve months in prison. One historian considers Euston was telling the truth and only visited Cleveland Street once because he was misled by the card. However, another has alleged Euston was a well-known figure in the homosexual underworld, and was extorted so often by the notorious blackmailer Robert Clifford, that Oscar Wilde had quipped Clifford deserved the Victoria Cross for his tenacity. Saul stated that he told the police his story in August, which provoked the judge to rhetorically enquire why the authorities had not taken action.
The judge, Sir Henry Hawkins, had a distinguished career, as did the other lawyers employed in the case. The prosecuting counsels, Charles Russell and Willie Mathews, went on to become Lord Chief Justice and Director of Public Prosecutions, respectively. The defence counsel, Frank Lockwood, later became Solicitor General for England and Wales, and he was assisted by H. H. Asquith, who became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom twenty years later.
Henry Labouchère accused the government of conspiring to hush up the scandal.
While Parke’s conviction cleared Euston, another trial began on 16 December 1889 when Newlove’s and Somerset’s solicitor, Arthur Newton, was charged with obstruction of justice. It was alleged that he conspired to prevent Hammond and the boys from testifying by offering or giving them passage and money to go abroad. Newton was defended by Charles Russell, who had prosecuted Ernest Parke, and the prosecutor was Sir Richard Webster, the Attorney General. Newton pleaded guilty to one of the six charges against him, claiming that he had assisted Hammond to flee merely to protect his clients, who were not at that time charged with any offence or under arrest, from potential blackmail. The Attorney General accepted Newton’s pleas and did not present any evidence on the other five charges. On 20 May, the judge, Sir Lewis Cave, sentenced Newton to six weeks in prison, which was widely considered by members of the legal profession to be harsh. A petition signed by 250 London law firms was sent to the Home Secretary, Henry Matthews, protesting at Newton’s treatment.[41
During Newton’s trial, a motion in Parliament sought to investigate Parke’s allegations of a cover-up. Henry Labouchère, a Member of Parliament from the Radical wing of the Liberal Party, was staunchly against homosexuality and had campaigned successfully to add the “gross indecency” amendment (known as the “Labouchère Amendment”) to the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885. He was convinced that the conspiracy to cover up the scandal went further up the government than assumed. Labouchère made his suspicions known in Parliament on 28 February 1890. He denied that “a gentleman of very high position”—presumably Prince Albert Victor—was in any way involved with the scandal, but accused the government of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice by hampering the investigation, allowing Somerset and Hammond to escape, delaying the trials and failing to prosecute the case with vigour. Labouchère’s accusations were rebutted by the Attorney General, Sir Richard Webster, who was also the prosecutor in the Newton case. Charles Russell, who had prosecuted Parke and was defending Newton, sat on the Liberal benches with Labouchère but refused to be drawn into the debate. After an often passionate debate over seven hours, during which Labouchère was expelled from Parliament after saying “I do not believe Lord Salisbury” and refusing to withdraw his remark, the motion was defeated by a wide margin, 206–66.
Public interest in the scandal eventually faded. Nevertheless, newspaper coverage reinforced negative attitudes about male homosexuality as an aristocratic vice, presenting the telegraph boys as corrupted and exploited by members of the upper class. This attitude reached its climax a few years later when Oscar Wilde was tried for gross indecency as the result of his affair with Lord Alfred Douglas.
Oscar Wilde alluded to the scandal in The Picture of Dorian Gray, first published in 1890. Reviews of the novel were hostile; in a clear reference to the Cleveland Street scandal, one reviewer called it suitable for “none but outlawed noblemen and perverted telegraph boys”. Wilde’s 1891 revision of the novel omitted certain key passages, which were considered too homoerotic. In 1895, Wilde unsuccessfully sued Lord Alfred’s father, the Marquess of Queensberry, for libel. Sir Edward Carson, Lord Queensberry’s counsel, used quotes from the novel against Wilde and questioned him about his associations with young working men. After the failure of his suit, Wilde was charged with gross indecency, found guilty and subsequently sentenced to two years’ hard labour. He was prosecuted by Charles Gill, who had defended Veck in the Cleveland Street case.[
Prince Albert Victor of Wales was created Duke of Clarence and Avondale the year after the scandal.
Prince Albert Victor died in 1892, but society gossip about his sex life continued. Sixty years after the scandal the official biographer of King George V, Harold Nicolson, was told by Lord Goddard, who was a twelve-year-old schoolboy at the time of the scandal, that Prince Albert Victor “had been involved in a male brothel scene, and that a solicitor had to commit perjury to clear him. The solicitor was struck off the rolls for his offence, but was thereafter reinstated.” In fact, none of the lawyers involved in the case was convicted of perjury or struck off at the time, indeed most had very distinguished careers. However, Arthur Newton was struck off for 12 months for professional misconduct in 1910 after falsifying letters from another of his clients—the notorious murderer Harvey Crippen. In 1913, he was struck off indefinitely and sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for obtaining money by false pretences. Newton may have invented and spread the rumours about Prince Albert Victor in an attempt to protect his clients from prosecution by forcing a cover-up. State papers on the case in the Public Record Office, released to the public in the 1970s, provide no information on the prince’s involvement other than Newton’s threat to implicate him. Hamilton Cuffe wrote to the Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Augustus Stephenson, “I am told that Newton has boasted that if we go on a very distinguished person will be involved (PAV). I don’t mean to say that I for one instant credit it—but in such circumstances as this one never knows what may be said, be concocted or be true.” Surviving private letters from Somerset to his friend Lord Esher, confirm that Somerset knew of the rumours but did not know if they were true. He writes, “I can quite understand the Prince of Wales being much annoyed at his son’s name being coupled with the thing … we were both accused of going to this place but not together … I wonder if it is really a fact or only an invention.” In his correspondence, Sir Dighton Probyn refers to “cruel and unjust rumours with regard to PAV” and “false reports dragging PAV’s name into the sad story”. When Prince Albert Victor’s name appeared in the American press, the New York Herald published an anonymous letter, almost certainly written by Charles Hall, saying “there is not, and never was, the slightest excuse for mentioning the name of Prince Albert Victor.” Biographers who believe the rumours suppose that Prince Albert Victor was bisexual, but this is strongly contested by others who refer to him as “ardently heterosexual” and his involvement in the rumours as “somewhat unfair”.
Notes & Sources
Aronson, pp. 8–10 and Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp. 20–23
Aronson, pp. 11, 16–17 and Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp. 23–24
Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, p. 23
Aronson, p. 11 and Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, p. 25
Aronson, p. 135
Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp. 26–33
Aronson, pp. 11, 133 and Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, p. 25
Aronson, pp. 134–135 and Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp. 34–35
Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, p. 35
Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, p. 38
Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp. 35, 45, 47
Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp. 42, 46
Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp. 47–53
Aronson, p. 137
Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp. 74–77
Aronson, p. 136 and Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp. 27, 34
Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, p. 61
Aronson, p. 140 and Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp. 80–81
Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp. 82–86
Aronson, p. 142
Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, p. 93
Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, p. 94
Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, p. 97
Aronson, p. 144 and Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp. 98–99
Aronson, p. 150
Aronson, p. 175
Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp. 106–107
North London Press, 16 November 1889, quoted in Hyde, The Other Love, p. 125
Aronson, p. 150 and Hyde, The Other Love, p. 125
Hyde, The Other Love, p. 123
Aronson, pp. 151–159 and Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp. 113–116, 139–143
Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, p. 108
Saul quoted in Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp. 146–147
Aronson, pp. 151–159 and Hyde, The Other Love, pp. 125–127
Hyde, The Other Love, p. 127
Aronson, p. 160
Lord Euston’s Libel Case, South Australian Register, 18 February 1890, p. 5
Aronson, p. 153 and Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, p. 135
Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp. 162–207
Aronson, p. 173
Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp. 208–212
Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp. 215–231
In chapter 12 of the original 1890 version, one of the characters, Basil Hallward, refers to “Sir Henry Ashton, who had to leave England, with a tarnished name”.
“Reviews and Magazines”. Scots Observer, 5 July 1890, p. 181
Bristow, Joseph (2006). “Introduction” In: Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray. Oxford World’s Classic, Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-280729-8. p. xxi
Ackroyd, Peter (1985). “Appendix 2: Introduction to the First Penguin Classics Edition” In: Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray. Penguin Classics, Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-14-043784-3. pp. 224–225
Mighall, Robert (2000). “Introduction” In: Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray. Penguin Classics, Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-14-043784-3. p. xvi
Kaplan, Morris B. (2004). “Literature in the Dock: The Trials of Oscar Wilde”. Journal of Law and Society 31: (No. 1) 113–130
Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, p. 45
Lees-Milne, p. 231
Cook, pp. 284–285
Cook, pp. 285–286 and Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, p. 253
Prince Eddy: The King We Never Had. Channel 4. Accessed 1 May 2010.
Cook, pp. 172–173
Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, p. 55
Lord Arthur Somerset to Reginald Brett, 2nd Viscount Esher, 10 December 1889, quoted in Cook, p. 197
Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, p. 127
Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, p. 129
Aronson, pp. 116–120, 170, 217
Bradford, p. 10
Aronson, Theo (1994). Prince Eddy and the Homosexual Underworld. London: John Murray. ISBN 0-7195-5278-8
Bradford, Sarah (1989). King George VI. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 0-297-79667-4
Cook, Andrew (2006). Prince Eddy: The King Britain Never Had. Stroud, Gloucestershire: Tempus Publishing Ltd. ISBN 0-7524-3410-1
Hyde, H. Montgomery (1970). The Other Love: An Historical and Contemporary Survey of Homosexuality in Britain. London: Heinemann. ISBN 0-434-35902-5
Hyde, H. Montgomery (1976). The Cleveland Street Scandal. London: W. H. Allen. ISBN 0-491-01995-5
Lees-Milne, James (1981). Harold Nicolson: A Biography. Volume 2: 1930–1968 London: Chatto & Windus. ISBN 0-7011-2602-7
Lord Henry Arthur George Somerset
Major Lord Henry Arthur George Somerset DL (17 November 1851 – 26 May 1926) was the third son of the 8th Duke of Beaufort and his wife, the former Lady Georgiana Curzon. He was head of the stables of the future King Edward VII (then Prince of Wales) and a Major in the Royal Horse Guards.
He was linked with the Cleveland Street scandal, wherein he was identified and named by several male prostitutes as a customer of their services. He was interviewed by police on 7 August 1889; although the record of the interview has not survived, it resulted in a report being made by the Attorney-General, Solicitor-General and Director of Prosecutions urging that proceedings should be taken against him under section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885. A piece of paper was pasted over Somerset’s name in the report, as it was deemed so sensitive. However, the Director was told that the Home Secretary wished him to take no action for the moment. The police obtained a further statement implicating Somerset, while Somerset arranged for his solicitor to act in the defence of the boys arrested over the scandal. After the police saw him for a second time on 22 August, Somerset obtained leave from his regiment and permission to go abroad.
Lord Arthur went to Homburg, although he returned to England. When tipped off in September that charges were imminent, he fled to France to avoid them. From there he travelled through Constantinople, Budapest, Vienna, and then back to France, where he settled and died in 1926, aged 74.[3
H. Montgomery Hyde, “The Cleveland Street Scandal” (W.H. Allen Ltd, 1976), p. 32-3.
H. Montgomery Hyde, “The Cleveland Street Scandal” (W.H. Allen Ltd, 1976), p. 35.
Kaplan, Morris B. (2005), Sodom on the Thames: Sex, Love, And Scandal in Wilde Times, Cornell University Press, ISBN 0-8014-3678-8
Henry James FitzRoy, Earl of Euston
Euston in Masonic attire
Henry James FitzRoy, Earl of Euston DL (28 November 1848 – 10 May 1912) was the eldest son and heir apparent of Augustus FitzRoy, 7th Duke of Grafton.
Euston married Kate Walsh, daughter of John Walsh, on 29 May 1871 at St. Michael’s Church, Worcester. His wife died in 1903, nine years before him. They had no children. Euston was appointed a deputy lieutenant of Northamptonshire in 1907. He died at Wakefield Lodge, Potterspury, Northamptonshire, six years before his father, and so never inherited his father’s lands and titles. His younger brother, Alfred, became the 8th Duke of Grafton.
Euston was embroiled in the Cleveland Street scandal when he was accused of visiting a male brothel at 19 Cleveland Street in London by The North London Press, an obscure radical weekly newspaper. Euston sued for libel. At the trial Euston admitted that when walking along Piccadilly he had been given a card by a tout which read “Poses plastiques. C. Hammond, 19 Cleveland Street”. Euston testified that he went along to the house, believing Poses plastiques to mean a display of female nudes. He paid a sovereign to get in. On entry, Euston said he was appalled to discover the “improper” nature of the place and immediately left. The defence witnesses contradicted each other, and could not describe Euston accurately. The final defence witness, John Saul, was a male prostitute who admitted to earning his living by leading an “immoral life” and “practising criminality”. The jury did not believe the defence witnesses and found in favour of Euston. H. Montgomery Hyde, an eminent historian of homosexuality, later wrote that there was little doubt that Euston was telling the truth and only visited 19 Cleveland Street once because he was misled by the card.
Robert Cliburn, a young man who specialized in blackmailing older homosexual men, told Oscar Wilde that Euston was one of his victims 
The London Gazette: no. 28054. p. 5868. 27 August 1907.
Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp.113–116, 139–143
Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp.146–147
Hyde, The Other Love, p.125–127
Hyde, The Other Love, p.127
Hyde, H. Montgomery (1970). The Other Love: An Historical and Contemporary Survey of Homosexuality in Britain. London: Heinemann. ISBN 0-434-35902-5
Hyde, H. Montgomery (1976). The Cleveland Street Scandal. London: W. H. Allen. ISBN 0-491-01995-5
McKenna, Neil (2005). The Secret Life of Oscar Wilde. New York: Basic Books.
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 aka Rev George Veck aka Rev George Barber40 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 2nd Life Guards ‘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:
Gay History: The Cleveland Street Scandal
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