All around us, historic buildings have tales to tell but sometimes even buildings which have long since disappeared have a legacy which exists beyond bricks and mortar. This post will focus on the Temperance Hall which stood in Hulme, a district of Manchester. In 1880 an event took place here which shocked the nation.
Temperance Hall, Hulme Place (off York Street)
Throughout the 19th and well into the 20th century, Hulme was a largely working class district in the city of Manchester. It bordered the suburb of Chorlton-upon-Medlock and even today it is only a few minutes walk from the heart of the city.
As is evident from the map above, Hulme was made up mainly of cheap terraced houses, shops, pubs and a few places of industry. Hulme Place, where the Temperance Hall was located was a small street, or a court, built off York Street. The Hall was the main building in Hulme Place, as it was built in the shadows of other buildings. Its adjacent neighbour was York Place which consisted mainly of residential properties. The photograph below shows York Place in 1922 and gives us an idea of the topography of the area.
The street format was certainly laid out this way by the time of the 1845-49 Ordnance Survey Map and in the 1850s the building is recorded as being a private school. However, as early as 1826 there was a Unitarian Chapel recorded at Hulme Place, the building used as a Temperance Hall could have replaced this earlier structure, or indeed it could have been the same building but with a new purpose.
By the 1860s the building was firmly established in the community as a Temperance Hall. The Temperance movement has its origins in the early 19th century in both Europe and North America. Campaigners fought avidly against the ‘evils’ of alcohol and the negative affect it had on society, with particular attention being paid to working class men. Quite often the movement was linked to religion, for example the work of the Salvation Army. The presence of a Temperance Hall in the middle of working class Hulme shows the transition of a campaign into a national movement.
“The Drag Ball” – 24th September 1880
As well as being used for Temperance meetings, the Hall could also be hired out by individuals and groups for events. On Friday 24th September 1880 the Temperance Hall was hired by the “Pawn Brokers’ Assistants’ Association” for their annual ball. Three of the men attending that evening had previously been to the Temperance Hall three times to view the premises and conducted an interview with the caretaker about hiring the venue. The ball started around 9:30pm and the blinds of the windows looking into the large hall were drawn, as were the blinds in the ante-room behind. These windows were headed by a semi-circular window which the blinds did not cover, however they were carefully covered with paper and calico (a type of cloth). The only windows left unconcealed were those which could not directly been seen into from the street or neighbouring windows – this was to prove critical to the events of the night.
There were around 47 men attending the Hall that evening and music could be heard from inside. However the guests were not the only people congregating at Hulme Place, Detective-Sergeant Jerome Caminada and two policemen were watching the Temperance Hall. Caminada had an elevated position from the roof of an outhouse which allowed him to see into the hall through the windows which had been left uncovered.
From this position he watched through the windows into the Hall, he saw the large group of men, however about half of them were now dressed in women’s clothing, some in historical themed costumes. They were dancing Scotch Reels and quadrille ‘can-can’ style dances with each other. He could hear chatting, screaming and feminine voices and women’s forenames used. Caminada could also see into the ante-room and through the shadows of the blind he saw two men “in positions which he did not care to describe.”
Around 2am, Caminada attempted to enter the Temperance Hall. He knocked on the door which was not opened and he was asked who was there. To this he replied “sister” (which he knew was a code word from a previous similar incident some years earlier), the doors were supposedly opened by a man wearing a nun’s habit and the police rushed in.
The men inside attempted to resist arrest but it was futile. Women’s clothing was strewn around the room as some had attempted to shed their costumes. Despite this around 19 of the men were still in female attire and only two had men’s clothing underneath suggesting the majority had got changed whilst at the ball. All 47 men were arrested, the only exception being the musician who had been hired to play the harmonium as he was blind and therefore had no idea what had occurred that evening.
The 47 men were arrested and taken to prison, they were charged the next day with having “solicited and incited each other to commit an unnameable offense”. The trial was a mixture of social outrage, curiosity and humour (at the expense of the prisoners). For example when the prisoners were led into court, some were still in their female costumes which incited laughter in the courtroom. Another comment which caused laughter was when Caminada admitted he did not raid the ball earlier as he heard that guests were expected from Liverpool and he wanted to give them more time to arrive to catch them all together.
In the end the men were ordered to find two sureties of £25 each (about £2,244 in today’s currency) for good behaviour for the next 12 months. If they defaulted then they faced imprisonment for 3 months. This verdict was reached after one magistrate stated “we have had to sit and listen to this filth and obscenity” and when asked if the prisoners would remain in police custody that night rather than go back to prison, the same man stated ” I shall not entertain any proposition of that kind. These men have behaved so disgraceful that we have no power to do otherwise.”
The 47 Men: Victims?
Given the location of the Temperance Hall, the events that night caused a great sensational locally and within days the story had made it into the national press and the events were reported in newspapers right across the United Kingdom and even in Ireland. What is worse, from the perspective of the 47 men involved, was that their names, ages, occupations, full addresses and even a list of which men had been found in women’s clothing were also printed with each article, the information was given by the police. Therefore, the men involved at ‘the fancy dress ball’ or ‘the drag ball’ (as it was later known in the 20th century), could not escape the events of that night and their friends, family, co-workers and even strangers knew exactly what they had been up to.
From an historians view, publishing so many details about the men involved provides us with a unique insight into their lives and their suspected sexual orientation or at least their ideas of escapism (via dressing up in female clothing). Fortunately, the event occurred in September 1880 and the next census of the United Kingdom was taken in April 1881, so I have tried to trace what became of some of the men just seven months after their private lives became very public. I have then used other census and archival records to try and trace them further throughout their lives.
|George Broughton||30||Not Recorded||Schoolmaster||Stalybridge||Found in women’s clothing|
|John Cartwright||25||Not Recorded||Draper||Stalybridge
(same house as George Broughton)
|Arthur Henry Gorton||22||Not Recorded||Bookkeeper||Salford|
|Thomas Pitt||22||Single||Draper||Ashton-Under-Lyne||Found in women’s clothing|
|Edward Pickins||25||Single||Book Binder||Hulme||Found in women’s clothing|
|Henry Parry||33||Single||Painter||Hulme||Found in women’s clothing|
|Arthur Lomas||29||Married||Dancing Master||Sheffield||Found in women’s clothing (police originally thought he was an actual woman)|
|Thomas Whiteman||18||Single||Grocer||Oldham||Found in women’s clothing|
|Ernest Parkinson||19||Single||Singer||Bury||Found in women’s clothing|
|Charles Allse||21||Single||Factory Operative||Stockport||Found in women’s clothing|
|John Holliday||16||Single||Plumber||Manchester||Found in women’s clothing
(real name Nathan Holliday)
|Frank Smith||24||Single||Dancer||Manchester||Found in women’s clothing|
|Frederick Montrasser||21||Single||Waiter at Farbon’s||Manchester||Found in women’s clothing|
|John Price||20||Single||Hawker||Hulme||Found in women’s clothing|
|James Warburton||32||Single||Waiter||Salford||Found in women’s clothing|
|James William Jackson||19||Single||Piecer||Oldham|
|Robert Fox||28||Single||Jewellers Assistant||Hulme|
|William Oates||28||Single||Porter||Sheffield||Found in women’s clothing|
|James Dickinson||?||Not Recorded||Waiter||Hulme||Found in women’s clothing|
|Nathaniel Saxton||25||Single||Waiter||Sheffield||Found in women’s clothing|
|Thomas Whitworth||23||Not Recorded||Silversmith||Sheffield|
|Ainsworth Earnshaw||25||Single||Stone Mason||Lower Broughton||First Name is John|
|Edward Whitbread||20||Single||Bottle Maker||Manchester|
|George Buxton||26||Not Recorded||Fustian Cutter||Manchester|
|John Henry Coore||?||Single||Shopkeeper||Manchester|
|George Bingham||36||Single||Metal Worker||Sheffield|
|Thomas Monaghan||32||Single||Bill Poster||Hulme|
|Isaac Haslam||36||Single||Shopkeeper||Sheffield||Found in women’s clothing|
|John Leonard Crook||34||Married||Publican||Weaste|
|William Frudd||?||Single||Carriage Trimmer||Sheffield|
|George Nicholson||30||Not Recorded||Shopkeeper||Salford|
|Charles Towney||37||Married||Dyer||Miles Platting|
Of the 47 men, there were ten from Sheffield and one from Leeds, the rest lived in Manchester or in the boroughs and towns that surrounded it. The majority of the men were in their twenties, the youngest was 16 year old Nathan Holliday (who gave his name as John) and the oldest was 48 year old Arthur Shawcross. There was a large range of occupations, mainly working class but some skilled roles and other occupations that are more lower middle class. This shows that the Ball was an event which must have been known about and planned for some time, to encompass so many different backgrounds. A lot of the roles were also public-facing roles, such as shopkeepers, bakers and a publican. Again this would have caused a huge amount of shock and gossip when their local communities found out. Almost all of the men were single, with the exception of six who’s marital status was not recorded and five who are actually married- we can only imagine what their wives must have thought about the incident.
Some of the men, such as Coore, Lythgoe and Crook who attended the Ball pleaded their innocence and stated they had been coaxed into going. Indeed it could be true that some men had no idea what they were getting themselves into but the majority must have known or realised this was no ordinary gathering.
What became of the men after September 1880? Some of the men have proved impossible to trace, such as Frederick Monstrasser. Unsurprisingly, by April 1881 a lot of the men have moved on from the addresses they gave in September 1880. Here is what I’ve been able to trace about a few of the individuals listed above:
- Nathan “John” Holliday – Still living at home in the 1881 census with his widowed mother Hannah and his siblings. Imprisoned for 15 months hard labour in 1888 and in 1894 spent 8 months at HMP Wakefield for stealing 18 shillings and 4 pence. Died 1937.
- Ernest John Parkinson – A famous female impersonator who had toured with Tutes Minstrels. He is living at home with his parents and servants in the 1881 census, his occupation is recorded as “comedian”. In 1891 his occupation is recorded as an actor.
- John Ainsworth Earnshaw – Living at home with his parents in the 1881 census.
- Nathaniel Saxton – Married Ellen Jane Robinson in 1890, no children. Died 1924.
- William Frudd – In the 1881 census he is living with his cousins, the Callaghan family. In 1891 he is a lodger and he died unmarried in 1904.
- Richard Kirby -In the 1881 census he is unemployed (perhaps a result of his conviction?) but living with his wife Isabella and their two sons 9 year old James and 6 year old Richard. His wife is recorded as a widow in 1901.
- Isaac Haslam – In the 1881 census he is living with his elderly father and sister at the family home in Sheffield. By 1901 he runs a lodging house for other single and widowed men. He died unmarried in 1912, his niece Clara paid for memorial pieces to be printed in the local newspaper on the anniversary of his death in subsequent years.
- Abraham Shufflebottom – By the 1881 census Abraham is a widower, his wife Hannah having passed away weeks before. He is living as a lodger with the Dawson family. He died in 1887.
- Frederick Richardson – He married Fanny Eliza about 1882 and their daughter Louie Ada Richardson was born in Tower Hamlets in 1883. By 1891 Frederick is a widower and living back in Yorkshire with his daughter and two servants.
- Edward Pickins (Pickens) – In the 1881 census the Pickens family are still at the address Edward gave in 1880, 25 Marple Street Hulme. Unfortunately Edward is not recorded here with his parents or siblings.
- Thomas Whitworth – Although his marital status was unrecorded on the police report, the 1881 census reveals his wife is called Maud and they have two young children together, Tom aged 3 and Ernest aged 1. He died in 1891 aged 35.
- James Warburton – In 1891 James is still living in Chorlton-upon-Medlock working as a painter. He is single and living as a lodger.
- William Rennie – In the 1881 census he continues to live at home with his parents and siblings. He stays at home with his elderly mother, he died unmarried in 1920.
- James Lythgoe – In the 1881 census he is still living at home with his parents. In 1913 he married Harriet MacDonald and he died in 1933.
- George Bingham – Never married, in 1891 he is living with his widowed sister and her family. He died in 1896.
- James William Jackson – In the 1881 census he is living with uncle’s family. He died in 1905.
- Abraham Ogden – In the 1881 census he is living with his uncle, aunt, cousins, grandmother and brother.
- Charles Townley – In the 1881 census he is living with his wife Ellen and their two daughters Elizabeth aged 14 and Ada aged 8.
However, the repercussions for attending the Ball seem to vary from individual, most of the married men stayed married and carried on. A lot of the younger men continued to live at home with their parents, although a few are missing from the household groups. One seemingly sad outcome is that of George Broughton and John Cartwright. They both lived at 62 Wakefield Road, Stalybridge and Broughton was one of those found in women’s clothing. Therefore, it is clear these two men had a friendship and went to the ball together. However, I cannot find them in any following censuses or certainly no two men of the same name together. Therefore, it seems that these two men were cast apart afterwards and they obviously lost a special connection which must have been so hard to find like-minded people in Victorian Britain.
Many of the men who attended the Ball may not have seen any harm in their actions and they may not have labelled themselves based on their sexual orientation. Indeed the word ‘homosexual’ did not appear in English until the translation of a German document in 1892. However, the story caught the attention of the British population who had already been shocked by a series of sex scandals. In 1885 the Criminal Law Amendment Act featured the Labouchere Amendment which criminalised any act of “gross indecency” between two males in public or private. Prior to this, the Buggery Act was the only law against homosexual activity and proof was needed the act had taken place. Although until 1861 being caught was punishable by death, after by life imprisonment. The vagueness of the new 1885 amendment meant it was now easier to punish suspected homosexuals, both Oscar Wilde and Alan Turing would be convicted because of this Act. Had it been implemented a few years earlier, the men at the Temperance Hall in Hulme could have faced very different futures.
As for the Temperance Hall itself, it continued to be used right up until the 1960s, when it was demolished along with much of 19th century Hulme as part of the slum clearance programme. Today the site of the Hall is underneath a busy section of motorway where the A5067 joins the roundabout.
At the time, the Magistrates were in utter disbelief that their Manchester was involved in these events: “That in this city – not in Turkey or Bulgaria or some places where these odious practices were common – but in Manchester this vice – a vice so hateful it was unnameable among Christians – was practised or solicited.” Once the sensationalism in the press had died down, the event was quickly forgotten, Caminada even omitted any mention of it from his memoirs.
In a twist of irony, today Manchester is prouder than ever of this hidden event in history, both historians and the LGBTQ community have a renewed interest in the drag ball. George House Trust even link their modern annual drag ball to this historic event to raise funds for charity.
Researched and Written by Thomas McGrath
In June 2016, the worst mass shooting in American history occurred at Pulse nightclub in Orlando. There 49 innocent men and women were murdered, targeted purely because of their sexual orientation. This post is dedicated to their memory.
- The Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, Friday 1 October 1880, p.6
- H.G. Cocks, Namless Offenses: Homosexual Desire in the 19th Century (London: I.B.Tarus, 2003) p.72
- Old Maps – http://digimap.edina.ac.uk
- Old Photographs of Manchester – http://images.manchester.gov.uk/index.php?session=pass
- Illustrated Police News – Copyright British Newspaper Archive https://historicengland.org.uk/research/inclusive-heritage/lgbtq-heritage-project/through-the-generations/
- Google Maps – https://www.google.co.uk/maps
- Census and other archival records – www. ancestry.co.uk
- Criminal Amendment Act 1885 – http://www.bl.uk/collection-items/the-criminal-law-amendment-act-1885
- Old Money Converter – https://www.measuringworth.com/m/calculators/ukcompare/relativevalue.php