The Linlithgowshire Rogue’s Gallery held by Edinburgh City Archives contains some fascinating and unusual photographs and snippets about 19th century crimes and criminals. One entry contains photos of suspects who would not be brought before today’s courts. In the 1870s, men appearing in public wearing women’s clothing were considered a public mischief while same sex relationships were considered a felony.
This entry in the gallery features a set of pictures under the title ‘The Female Personators’. The photos, probably taken sometime between 1868 and 1870, feature an image of Lord Arthur Pelham Clinton, MP and third son of the Duke of Newcastle, Ernest Boulton an amateur singer and actor, and William Park, a law student. The trio (pictured to the far right) frequently socialised together, attending the theatre and social events, mostly in London. Park and Boulton would often dress elaborately and in the centre of the above photo, they are pictured separately wearing lavish dresses with all of the trimmings. The identity of the person to the far left is unknown.
Boulton had an association with Edinburgh through Louis John Hurt, a Post Officer surveyor living in the Capital. In the late 1860s, childhood friends Boulton and Hurt shared lodgings in Edinburgh. Boulton had also been introduced to John Safford Fiske, a young American consul at Leith. Hurt, Boulton and Fiske were all friends and frequently exchanged letters. These letters would implicate Hurt and Fiske in an 1870 trial which also involved Boulton, Park and Lord Clinton. This association may explain why these photographs appear in the Linlithgowshire Rogue’s Gallery. Perhaps London police were sharing information with their Northern neighbours?
On 28 April 1870, after attending the theatre dressed in women’s clothing, Ernest Boulton and William Park were arrested by London police. The police searched their residences in London, finding large numbers of dresses, accessories and incriminating letters. Their arrest led to the launch of a sensational trial where both the Attorney and Solicitor General appeared for the prosecution. Boulton, Park, Clinton and others were charged with conspiring to commit an ‘unnatural offence’. Ultimately, there was not enough evidence to support the felony and misdemeanour charges and the accused were acquitted.
If you’re interested in reading more about the trial, a full transcript is available online by clicking on this link. If you are interested in browsing other entries in the Rogue’s Gallery, click here.