Victorian Manchester


Much of the history of the gay community is hidden in official records and it takes time and patience to ferret out the information. Earlier this year Jeff Evans was researching Manchester’s gay history in official documents like court records.

“He has spent the last two years sifting through 70,000 criminal records to shed light on sexual orientation. “It is a very new area of history. There are very few regional studies. You could be forgiven for thinking same-sex relationships didn’t happen outside of London. But there were very few prosecutions before the 19th century because people’s sexual choices were seen as being a private matter. In the Victorian period the state started policing people’s bedrooms so the only area where there are any real records is the courtroom.””

There were records of hundreds of prosecutions against men under the 1885 Criminal Amendment Act and among the most prominent cases was a police raid on a drag ball in Hulme in 1880, which caused a national outrage. More than 38 men wearing women’s clothes were arrested.

Two 17-year-old servicemen were arrested in 1946 and were sent to Wythenshawe for a year’s mental assessment and teaching. One was released after two years but no record has been found of the other being released.



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