Charles Record was a 35 year old labourer who was committed to to Birmingham Borough Lunatic Asylum, later called All Saints Hospital, on 18 May 1861. This is the third page of his committal document.
The papers state the reason for his committal was that he was talking incoherently and that he was “affected with unnatural desires” and had been seen “in the act of sodomy”.
Many early references to homosexuality reflect the state’s attempts to control sexual behaviour and gay men frequently appear in the archives of crime and punishment. Although already prohibited by the church, “buggery” was made a criminal offence by the state in 1553. This was extended by later laws including the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885 which made any act of “gross indecency” between men in public or private a crime. In contrast, because sex between women has never been a criminal offence we have fewer early references to lesbians from official documents such as court records, although there are numerous references in other sources of close partnerships and “romantic friendships” between women.
Both men and women were stigmatised as “ill”, in need of “curing” or “treating” and can, as in this case, therefore be found in hospital and health records.
Charles' case records show a number of attempts to abscond and the gradual deterioration of his health. He died in the Asylum on 31 December 1886.
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Birmingham City Archives: MS 344/15/1
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