Sacrilege: Living HIV Outside The Square!

“Sacrilege” may seem like a strange word to use in relationship to ones life. Its religious connotation is “the violation or profanation of anything sacred or held sacred” thus by a very loose expansion of the meaning – a human life, as it is, in many respects, regarded as sacred. Stretching definitions even further – and many would not be surprised that I don’t take it literally – infecting it with HIV could be considered a sacrilege, be it intentional or unintentional. The sacred has been violated! Also, as a HIV+ man, it is expected that I will follow a set of “rules” as dictated by various community groups, doctors and specialists! To totally ignore the expected, and go off down your own path would be considered by many to be sacrilege!

I can’t contemplate continuing to live with HIV without viewing it within the framework of my life! No war is without its battles, without its dark times, yet still seeing the light at the end of the tunnel! If I had to use a word to describe myself, belligerant comes straight to mind – but then I think to myself “That’s a bit harsh!”. Okay…cantankerous is one that has been used by those close to me, so that’s sort of acceptable, and it’s true! Curmudgeonly… a word I love, but I’m not really surly enough! So I’ll just stick with stubborn! I could claim that it’s a Capricornian trait, but it goes deeper than that.

At 12-years-of-age, my stubborn streak was already settling in. Though unrecognised by me at the time, it was a survival mechanism that was to serve me well for most of my life. It is only when I look back to 1965, that I realise what a testing ground it was: my mother left my father; a bitch of a housekeeper who was to forever change our family dynamics; and my father jumping over The Gap with Kevin, my brother – resulting in my brothers death – would have sent a less resilient person into dark depths that they may never have risen from! Considering the lack of psychological & emotional support available at that time, to have come out of that year relatively unscathed had to show a stoicism way beyond that normally expected from one so young. By digging my heels in, ignoring all the negativity around me, and just “getting on with it” – a philosophy I still embrace – I was to set in place a mental tenacity that was to impact my life for decades to come!

There was no love lost between my father & myself! Even prior to Kevin’s death, I had seen – and felt –  a violent streak in his nature; almost a need to punish those who had a life contrary to his. He could be a right royal cunt! The only way I could establish my own independence – which had flowered rapidly after Kev’s death – was open defiance! He told me not to smoke…so I smoked; not to drink…so I drank; to get a trade…I went in every direction but; and to get my hair cut…I left it to grow – despite a threat, after an argument about it, to “knock my block off”! He even denied me a 21st birthday celebration, because he had been at war when his fell due…I organised it myself. My grandmother left me a small inheritance, and just after my 21st, I moved out of home, into my own apartment. After he remarried and moved to Vincentia (on the south coast of NSW), we had little contact. After his suicide via carbon monoxide poisoning in his car in 1978, I never cried a single tear – but just let out a massive sigh of relief! I was free! As the ultimate act of a true prick, he left me nothing in his will – it all went to my step-family! Just to show that they were all tarred with the same brush, directly after his death his sisters indulged themselves in a game of telephone harrassment against my step-mother. I was glad to walk away from them all!

As soon as the old man died, I came out! It is the one time my usual defiance was kept capped. I had seen what he wss capable of with my brother, and my survival instinct whispered to me to be  quiet about this issue. Again, I had witnessed him & his mates yelling “poofter” out of the car window to some poor guy who did nothing more than wear a pink shirt! As I said – they were pricks! Stubbornness does not necessarily equal a death wish! Then, having stepped out of the closet, I megaphoned my life choice to all and sundry, including my employees. No one seemed particularly surprised! There were some in my workplace who were not impressed with my sexual preferences, and made no secret of it! My pure indifference to them was reward enough. My decision to desert the security of a regular job had nothing to do with my detractors…it was based purely on a desire to break free of a life I wanted to leave behind. But the curve balls were to keep coming, with no inkling at that time of the odd parallel path that both being gay, and being HIV+ were going to lead me down!


Even as I was coming out in Melbourne in 1980, snippets about a lethal cancer, that was killing gay men who frequented the saunas in the USA, were appearing in the local press here. I read them, and like many others, though not panicking, was left with a feeling of unease. That unease turned to immense consternation over the next couple of years, as the reports became more alarmist, and HIV crossed the ocean to our shores. By the time they developed a test in 1985, I for one was already stacking the odds – and not in my favour! In retrospect, this may have been a defence mechanism against coming up HIV+…that if I did, I was already prepared for it, and if I didn’t I could just breath a sigh of relief. The former proved to be true!

Back in the day, there was a severe lack of counselling, and given the sheer volume of testing results coming in at that time, was cursory at its best. When I went to get my result – and I don’t know why I made the presumption I did – the positive result was not a shock. These were strange (ethereal?) times, and for those of us admitting to our – then – death sentence, it was almost like belonging to a select club.

There was a two year window given at that time, between diagnosis and the advent of AIDS, leading, so they thought, to an inevitable death. Some didn’t make it to the window period, and my first friend, Andrew Todd, died at the end of 1986. I made it to the two year point…and was still very healthy. By then, the window for those diagnosed in 1985 had been expanded to five years, so the waiting game for many of us continued.  Up to 1990 is a very convoluted journey, and I don’t want to rehash history that has already been covered in many writings, and is really outside the parameters of this article. I decided to make this a useful period, and did a number of trials. It was better than just sitting around and waiting. This was a time when I made my one bad decision regarding my healthcare – I allowed my doctor to – after a najor ethical battle with her – to put me onto AZT! There has been much written about AZT, and its history as a drug…which was not exclusively formulated for use with HIV. I am not a conspiracy theorist, but my thinking on HIV has always been a bit radical, and I, along with others, gravitate to the thinking that HIV and AIDS – despite our use of them as co-joined conditions – are separate illnesses, and HIV doesn’t necessarily lead to AIDS, but AIDS as an independent condition, brought about by the deterioration of the immune system. 

So, I had a diagnosis of HIV, with no related conditions that would have rated a diagnosis of AIDS. Even with a CD4 count on the decline, I still had good health – which admittedly may have been a lot better if I wasn’t knocking myself around by chain-smoking, and chronic abuse of alcohol – until…I started AZT! Many of those still around from that time will acknowledge that the decline in their health status is directly parallel to starting AZT. It wasn’t nicknamed “human Rat-Sac”for nothing. It’s negative affects from then up until now are also well documented. Damaged nerves, liver & kidney problems, the leaching of calcium from bones, and other neurological problems can all be traced back to AZT usage. I wish I had stuck by my guns, and refused to use it! There is no evidence that it saved one single life. I wouldn’t have refused trestment with other drugs that came along shortly after – I didn’t have a suicide wish – but I have no doubt that if I had refused AZT, some ongoing problems I have now would not have happened. I have an undisguised hate of Big Pharma, and its tactics, and lack of ethics where it comes to flogging a drug, and how they went about flogging this incredibly toxic drug to a desperate and unsuspecting demographic is truly horrifying – more on this shortly.

So, dispite heavy smoking, alcohol abuse, long work hours, and a shit diet…I made it to 1990, and with my health still okay. I won’t say I was unscathed, as the relentless list of those who died over this time, with many more to come, was physically, mentally, and emotionally destructive. I am by nature – and experience – a stoic in the face of death. I accept the reality, and inevitability of it – but any sign of the existance of God in this obliteration was missing – no just, loving God would ever allow this! My conversion to Atheism was complete. However, the combination of all that was happening was starting to wear me down, and encountering on-the-job bullying by an Area Manager brought about my decision to leave the workforce in 1993, and go onto disability, and get a housing subsidy. It was a forgone conclusion back then that this was the road to take because – after all – none of us would survive for all that long. At this stage, under the most positive of thinking, I gave myself two more years. 

I actually got to mid-1996 before it all started to come undone. I have written about the circumstances surrounding all the events that happened at this stage, so won’t repeat them here, but will give you an intimate insight into my thinking on my situation when I was finally admitted to Prince Henry Hospital in June, 1996. Given that I was already close to death when admitted, with a plethora of conditions that really should have killed me earlier, and that I really thought I would never leave there any other way than via a wooden box gives a good indication of how serious things were. It was in Mark’s Pavilion there that my stoicism, my acceptance of reality, possibly should have been tested, but instead gave me a calmness, an acceptance of my own potential death that I had pondered about prior to this. I was chronically ill, I was tired and in some respects, if other factors hadn’t intervened, death just seemed like such a pleasant, restful reality, leaving all that was happening behind, joining all those that I had loved and lost over the last 10 years. It was an acceptance of death that I wasn’t expecting to be quite so complete, so easy, so without fear. 

But I picked my moment, didn’t I! Big changes were happening in the treatment of AIDS, and shortly after being admitted, not going down the road of death, that I expected to go down, I walked – well, taxied – out of Prince Henry. I exited that taxi into a world that was in no way prepared for the living dead of HIV. If I ever thought my battles were behind me, I could not have been more wrong. The next couple of years – a long period of recuperation – were intense. There was a seemingly neverending period of specialists, doctors, clinics, pharmacy, counselling, peer support groups, drug compliance groups, massive – and I mean massive – amounts of medication, side effects, dental work, anxiety and panic attacks, and drug trials. It was a time where one wanted to initiate great change in the direction of ones life  – with no one there to assist. Change had to be fought for, had to be forced. All these community groups gathering money and prestige, sitting in meetings and forums, listening to the likes of me yelling about what we needed…and just turning deaf ears! It was a frusteating period where everything was years behind where it needed to be, and if you wanted to get on with your life without being trapped in the system, you had to do it under your own steam! So I did!

Some volunterr work, some work in the community sector, a flowering writing career that demanded and exposed…when I eas “allowed” as one didn’t question the system – led to a brief period of full-time work – that didn’t help my health at all – then onto university & TAFE to experience at last that which gad been denied me in my youth. This led to an interesting period of experiences, from spending 12 years talking about the HIV experience through the Posituve Speakers Bureau, to 15 years writing for “Taljabout” magazine and various other publications, starting several businesses – the most recent of which was destroyed by the GFC, to where I am now – happy, balanced, and reasonably fulfilled.

However, the last few years haven’t been without its challenges, and my mental tenacity, combined with a fairly laud-back approach to life, have seen me get through things without any apparent negativity. I do health care on my own terms these days, because if one just relies on mrdico’s, one would rattle like a pill bottle. I want less pills, not more! About 15 years ago, I halved my HIV medications. I have been waiting for some red-faced, fuming doctor to lecture me about it (has no one realised how rarely I get scripts?) but no one ever has. In the interim, my blood readings get better and better, with CD4s on the rise, and an ongoing undetectable viral load. Okay, I no longer smoke – gave that up in ‘96, drink bugger all, have turned vegetarian, and exercise daily, but nothing else. Big Pharma be fucked! Your drug resistance tests – a farce! You just don’t want people on old drugs! Over-prescribing? You bet you do…big time! I wouldn’t trust you as far as ai could kick you! 

Have I mentioned my shit vision? Whoops…overlooked that. Blind in one eye thanks to CMV (also covered in articles on my blog), and almost blind in the other. The most major decision over the last couple of years? Having my blind eye removed voluntarily, and replaced with a prosthetic. Does it stop me getting around? Not fucking likely! I might be slow, but I get there! I have a white cane (laughingly called my whacking stick), but rarely use it. I walk the dogs, do the shopping, get to gym! It might be done with a slight feeling of nervousness, but it gets done.

I don’t hold any grudges. What has been, has been! In a way, I thank my father for the rough younger years. It gave me a set of survival tools that have served ne well – and still do – throughout my life. Maybe I was born in an auspicious astrological period, or maybe my natural survival instincts are genetic, endowing me with stoicism and mental tenacity! Whatever it is, it has seen me through nicely! Life is to be enjoyed, and despite the occasional downs, it should be lived to its fullest. Just step outside that square, and do it on your own terms!

Tim Alderman (©2017)

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Gay History: The Wall & Green Park, Darlinghurst, NSW.

Historical information

Graffiti on The Wall.

This is a wall. It is also “The Wall”.

The Wall is the most infamous gay pickup strip in Sydney. There are probably others – but this 100m of convinct built sandstone wall has a unique synergy. It runs along the eastern boundary of the old Darlinghurst Gaol commencing at the rear of the Supreme Court of NSW. Street prostitution is illegal in Sydney, whether it be same sex or mixed.
The wall (all four legs of it) was designed and constructed under the aegis of Francis Greenway from 1820 to 1822 but he, being a convict, was removed from the project, no matter his architectural gifts to the colony under Governor Macquarie. Convict markings can be seen in the sandstone blocks all along The Wall. They were used to ensure that each man did his fair share and did not slack off. Progress was painfully slow, however, in 1841, existing prisoners were marched from the original Sydney Gaol near the corner of George & Alfred Streets (the site of the current Four Seasons Hotel) to the partially erected Darlinghurst Gaol on a hill overlooking the colony from the SE.
So, what is the graffiti? It is not actually on The Wall but just around the corner in Burton Street. It is tempting to see it as man and boy – but that is my flight of fancy. And note that the graffiti is on concrete “implants”. Maybe the man with the spray can valued the sandstone more than the government who contracted out repairs to this historic structure.

A Sad Story From The Wall

Arron Light … confirmed dead.

“Chapter closes on the sad story of a missing teenage prostitute

By Les Kennedy, Chief Police Reporter

April 16 2002”

Arron James Light ran away from his inner Sydney home when he was barely 15.

To support himself on the streets and have what police described as a “fun time”, he became a teenage prostitute working the infamous Wall at Darlinghurst.
But in 1997, aged 17, he disappeared without trace after turning key witness to a special police task force investigating pedophile rings in Sydney. The task force also went on to hunt down and extradite infamous pederast Robert “Dolly” Dunn from South America for successful prosecution.
For seven years, Arron’s disappearance remained a mystery. Then, four weeks ago, workmen clearing a bush-covered vacant block at Sydenham for use as a park unearthed skeletal remains in a shallow grave bordering the Alexandria canal.
Arron had been stabbed at least six times in the chest. His killer wrapped his body in a tarpaulin before burying it. Police who viewed the scene believe his body would never have been found had it not been for the workmen.
DNA tests yesterday confirmed Arron’s identity to Newtown detectives, who informed his parents of their worst fears since they reported their son missing in December 1997.

Detectives have reopened old case files from the now defunct Task Force Shad, which between 1995 and 1997 charged and prosecuted 30 alleged pedophiles operating in several child porn and sex networks in Sydney.
Before its disbandment, the task force uncovered 140 juvenile victims and laid more than 300 charges.

Detective Inspector Ian Lynch said yesterday that Arron was crucial to a prosecution brief being prepared at the time against alleged members of one of the rings and was also an alleged victim of pederasts.

He said charges against four men were dropped as a consequence of his sudden disappearance.
It is understood that Arron’s allegations related to a pedophile ring dubbed “Circle of Friends”. The group is also known to operate in Britain, where juveniles preyed on have also been murdered. Detective Inspector Lynch said that, while police had evidence to suggest that Arron was involved in drugs and that it was possible his lifestyle could have contributed to his death, the firmest lead police still had was that he had turned key witness.
Detective Inspector Lynch said his new investigation, code-named Operation Valley View, had spoken to associates of Arron and former officers involved in Task Force Shad, who were convinced his disappearance related to their investigations.
“Arron was known to frequent the Wall area of Darlinghurst and Darlinghurst Road as well as Kings Cross, Botany, Rosebery and Bourke Street, Darlinghurst, where he shared a place with a group of other people,” Detective Inspector Lynch said.
“Inquiries have revealed that he was last seen alive in August 1997 before he was formally reported missing in December that year by his family, whom he kept in regular touch with despite his lifestyle.”

Detective Inspector Lynch said Arron’s bank account was last used to make a cash withdrawal from a Commonwealth Bank teller machine in Oxford Street, Darlinghurst, during business hours on Friday, September 12, 1997.

Green Park, in Darlinghurst Road, was named after Alderman James Green, who represented the district from 1869 to 1883, although it is often thought that the park was named after Alexander Green, one of Sydney’s most notorious hangmen, who lived in a whitewashed hut outside the eastern wall of nearby Darlinghurst Gaol, in what is now Green Park.

In the 1860s the site was set aside for ‘accommodation for aged and infirm females’ but when these plans fell through, the site was given to the City Council in 1875 for a ‘public recreation ground’. In the centre of the park is an ornate bandstand, erected in 1925 for concerts which were a common feature of the interwar years. A memorial to the surgeon Victor Chang, who performed Australia’s first heart transplant at nearby St Vincent’s Hospital in 1984, and died in a bungled extortion attempt in 1991, stood in the park for some years. It was later moved to the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute nearby.

Green Park, Darlinghurst, early 1930s (Contributed By City of Sydney Archives [035\035059] (SRC8656))

 The park has also had a long significance for Sydney’s gay community. The Gay and Lesbian Holocaust Memorial – a pink triangle with black poles – sits on the western side of the park, commemorating those lesbians and gay men who were killed by the Nazis during World War II. Gay Fair Days have been held there; the AIDS Memorial Candlelight Rally has started there; political demonstrations have been called there; public meetings have been held there to discuss issues of concern for the local gay community. One of Sydney’s best-remembered gay restaurants, on Oxford Street, called itself the Green Park Diner so that it would attract a gay clientele. And one of the most sacred possessions of the Sydney chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence is part of the urinal of the toilet that was located on the beat there, in Darlinghurst Road . Even though the toilet was demolished – and the urinal spirited away in the dark of night – the beat, as they say, goes on.

Constructing of an Air Raid Shelter in Green Park, Darlinghurst, Eastern Sydney in the 40s

Sexual adventures have always been part of Green Park and its history. Part of this unusual history has to do with Green Park’s unique location; part of it has more to do with the social history of gay men’s need in general to ‘subvert’ public space for their own purposes. This is true of where and how gay men could meet, particularly in the period before decriminalisation of homosexual acts in 1984. Denied the possibility of meeting other gay men openly at institutions commonly used by heterosexuals for such purposes – at work, at local churches or social clubs, at the P&C Association, at sporting or bridge clubs, for example – gay men found it necessary to use various public spaces to meet others. Thus parks, beaches, promenades, quiet bush walks, or open woodlands, known as beats in gay parlance, have all been used by gay men at some time or another as discreet places for meeting other gay men. Sexual access has often been an important purpose for such beats, but beats have always played an important role as mere meeting places for gay men, since legitimate commercial venues for meeting other gays have emerged only in the very recent past. And many such places were of dubious legality, and subject to police attention: we perhaps ought not enquire too closely about how they were able to continue to operate.

Gay and Lesbian Holocaust Memorial, Green Park, Darlinghurst c2005 (Curtesy Sydney City Council)

Thus, in Sydney, virtually any park (and in particular those in the inner-city area, where population densities are highest), has served, and in some cases, still does serve, as a beat. Green Park, and ‘The Wall’ – the stretch of Darlinghurst Road from Oxford Street to Burton Street – should be seen in this tradition. The location in Darlinghurst, between Kings Cross and Oxford Street, has meant that there have always been men walking back and forth between these two areas, both known for their nightlife. Indeed, it is this central location of the park, in a residential area with a high transient population, that has meant that Green Park has served as a focal point for men meeting men over much of the twentieth century.
Men’s public toilet, Green Park, Darlinghurst c1934 (Contributed By City of Sydney Archives [020\020299] (NSCA CRS 538/039, Cleansing Department photographs, 1929-1939))


The folliwing review appeared in “Lonely Planet”

Once the residence of Alexander Green, hangman of Darlinghurst Gaol, Green Park is a cheery space during the day, but as the many syringe-disposal bins attest, it’s best avoided nocturnally. At the top of the slope, the inverted pink triangular prism backed by black pillars is the Gay & Lesbian Holocaust Memorial.

The memorial was founded by the late Dr Kitty Fischer, who as a young Jewish girl in Auschwitz was kept alive by food smuggled to her by a gay inmate forced to wear the pink triangle. In a lower corner of the park is the Victor Chang Memorial – before he was murdered in 1991, he was a famed heart surgeon who worked at neighbouring St Vincent’s Hospital.

References

Gay History: Crusing & Doing the Beat In Georgian London.

Molly-houses were often considered as brothels in legal proceedings.[1] A male brothel, illustration by Léon Choubrac (known also as Hope), included in Léo Taxil’s book La prostitution contemporaine, 1884, pg. 384, Plate VII.

Field Lane environs, Holborn

In the vicinity of Margaret “Mother” Clapp’s molly house, not far from St Paul’s, part of Field Lane still exists as the southern end of Saffron Hill, and the smaller branch of Shoe Lane, parallel to Farringdon Road. Directly east was West Smithfield, which has a long history of notoriety. The actual site in West Smithfield where Mother Clap was pilloried was an ancient site of execution. From 1290 the “red light” area had spread from Cripplegate to West Smithfield, mainly Cook’s Lane, near Newgate. The “nightwalkers” were often imprisoned in The Tun in Cornhill, then whipped, then released through the city wall at New Gate, which gave its name to Newgate Prison when it was built nearby. In 1483 King Edward V’s ordinance “For to Eschewe the Stynkynge and Orrible Synne of Lechery” was specifically designed to clean up areas like Farringdon, Cripplegate, Holborn and Finsbury. Pimping became such a problem in the area that in 1622 King James irdained the “Touching on Disorderly Houses in Saffron Hille”, reputed to be overrun with immodest, lascivious, shameless women, generally repured to be common whores. Another ordinance in 1624 listed the areas raided as Cowcross, Cock’s Lane, Smithfield, St John Street Clerkenwell, Norton Folgate, Shoreditch, Wapping, Whitechapel, Petticoat Lane, Charterhouse, Bloomsbury and Ratcliffe. By 1680 the red light srea was moving towards King’s Ctoss, Holborn, and Lincoln’s Inn. 

By the late 1800s, Field Lane, Chick Lane, Black Boy Alley, Turnmill Street, Cow Cross and other back alleys was collectively known as Jack Ketches Warren. “Jack Ketch”, named after a famous public hangman. 

The area became known for its molly houses. During the Gordon Riots of 1780, and suffered severely from the fire which started in the houses in Fleet St, west of Farringdin Rd, and fed by burning spirits from Langdale’s Distillery. And raged by Holbirn Hill, its advance only checjed by the Fleet Ditch (River).

London

Two other molly districts existed in London, Lincoln’s Inn Fields and Covent Garden to the west in Westminster, and St Paul’s and the Royal Exchange to the east in the City. The London molly houses would have provided one outlet for the homosexuals, and one could assume that a reasonable amount of discreet “cruising” probably went on in their environs. One could create an outline of the subversive underground by wandering the streets where the molly houses were established, from West Smithfield and then go south along Little Britain Street, we could turn left into Cox’s Court, and then right into a very small mews called Cross Key Court. then if we turn right and go down St Martin’s Le Grand we come to St Paul’s Cathedral, not listed as a Market in the London Journal editorial, but nevertheless attended by the mollies for more than religious purposes. In the curious lottery of 1699 which mentioned Captain Rigby’s fate, it was suggested that mollies picked up the handsome apprentices who frequented St Paul’s on Sunday afternoons. Just off Cheapside, to the north of St Paul’s Cathedral, is Gutter Lane. A bit further, again running off on the north, is Wood Street, and St Paul’s Churchyard. If we continue down Cheapside, and then down Poultry, we arrive at the Royal Exchange, identified as a molly Market in the London Journal, which had not much changed its character since the Swarthy Buggerantoes used to cruise it in 1700. Robert Whale and York Horner once stood in the pillory at the “Stocks Exchange” on 13 January 1727, after being convicted for keeping a molly house – presumably in this area. Then we come to Pope’s Head Alley. 

If we continue our survey to the southeast we will arrive at Tower Hill, an area which also seemed popular with the mollies, particularly if we may draw inferences from the extortion attempts in this area by the likes of John Battle who was led to the Castle tavern in Mark Lane, where John Lewis and John Jones threatened to expose him as a sodomite in 1730. There was a noted molly house near Billingsgate (Market) just off Thames Street, midway between the Royal Exchange &  East Smithfield, Tower Hill. to the east was Swedeland Court (now Swedenborg Gardens), to the north of the Tower,from the Minories to Aldgate where there was a meeting house in Old Gravel Lane used for pick-ups, and another southeast of The Tower at The Hermitage (now Hermitage Wall).  

Moorfields

In the early eighteenth-century, in London, one area was so popular with the mollies that it became virtually synonymous with homosexuality: Moorfields.

Originally, this bog-like moor north of the London City Wall was created when the Roman City dammed up the Walbrook river,  reducing it from a navigable river to a small stream. Eventually the water was drained and Bunhill Fields and Moorfields were developed; the latter was divided into Upper, Middle, and Lower Moorfields. By the late sixteenth century its character was already emerging, though the ground remained too spongy for extensive building; Moorfields also has the distinction of being the focus of the earliest extant map of London, Anthonis van den Wyngaerde’s copper engraving of 1558/9.

map of London, Anthonis van den Wyngaerde’s copper engraving of 1558/9
Nearby North Folgate was the home of gay dramatist Christopher Marlowe in 1589, and he fought a duel, by sword, in Hog Lane…now Worship Street, a few blocks north of Christopher Street, opposire Moorfields. This was to gecome a red light district of hovels, filthy cottages & laystalls. Pepys in his Diary for 24 March 1668, recorded a “Tumult near Moorfields, the “prentices pulling down the brothels . . . which is one of the great grievances of the nation”.

By the early eighteenth century, a path in the Upper-Moorfields, by the side of the Wall that separated the Upper-field from the Middle-field, acquired the name “The Sodomites’ Walk”. This path survives today as the south side of Finsbury Square, the square itself being the only open area left from the original fields, though underneath it is a car park. Moorfields was identified as a molly Market in the London Journal editorial, and was obviously well known to all. Richard Rustead the extortioner was recognised by a serving boy in 1724 as a frequent user of “the Sodomites’ Walk in Moorfields”, and he and his accomplice Goddard were captured by Constable Richard Bailey at the Farthing Pye-House near Moorfields. There were also molly houses on the left side of the field, and the area retained its homosexual and unsavoury reputation from the late seventeenth century right through the early nineteenth century.

Moorfields, from a copperplate map of London.

Lincoln’s Inn.

To the southwest of Westminster, close to Holborn, is Lincoln’s Inn Fields, and Lincoln’s Inn, famous for its “bog-houses”, or public toilets, and referred to as the Markets in the London Journal editorial. The cistern for the bog-houses was built in 169, and the structures to the east of New Square, Lincoln’s Inn were completed in 1692, with the ooen kitchen gardens behind them becoming known as Bog House Court. The occupants of the surrounding law chambers had to pay £3 a year to clean them out. The area later gecame referred to just as The Bogs, and today it is still a garden. Streets and areas mentioned in legal precedents include Task Street, Gray’s Inn Lane, north of Lincoln’s Inn; Butcher’s Row, Temple Bar south of Lincoln’s Inn; the Golden Ball alehouse in Bond’s Stables running between Chancery & Fetter Lanes to the east of Lincoln’s Inn. Bloomsbury Market was to the northwest, with its Yorkshire Gray alehouse. Running from north to south, west of Lincoln’s Inn was Drury Lane. Though kniwn for its ladies, in 1720 a molly house was established there at Mr Jone’s tavern – the Three Tobacco Rolls.

Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1889 from Charles Booth, Life and Labour of the People in London: red areas are “middle-class, well-to-do”; blue areas are “Intermittent or casual earnings”, and black areas are the “lowest class…occasional labourers, street sellers, loafers, criminals and semi-criminals”.
 We then have Covent Garden Markets and its Piazza’s, rampant with use by the mollies.  The arcades would have provided useful cover for making assignations. The area running along the Strand, south of Covent Garden, past Temple Bar, and up Chancery Lane or Fetter Lane, east of Lincoln’s Inn, was probably a popular molly cruising ground. In some ways the church of St Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square is a lasting memorial of the molly subculture. Its foundation stone was laid in 1721, and it was fully completed in 1726, at the time of the hangings as the result of the raid upon Mother Clap’s in that year. Criminals hanged at Tyburn – for example, Jack Shepherd in 1724 – were sometimes buried in its churchyard and the vaults of its Crypt, so it may have been the resting place for the bones of those mollies whose bodies were not unfortunate enough to be taken to Surgeon’s Hall.


The Strand

Where the alehouses were conducive tontheir molly clientele. The major criminal areas at that time – survivors of the old “Sanctuaries” of the medieval monasteries, even after their closure by Henry VIII – were The Mint, Southwark; Whitefriars; Shoe and Fetter Lanes; Holborn, especially Saffron Hill leading into Field Lane; Cripplegate; Smithfield; Whitechapel; Bankside; Thieving Lane around Westminster Abbey; The Savoy and Covent Garden up to St Giles in Westminster. These areas held a quarter of the entire population of London, and consisted mainly of paupers. The following businesses were thought to at least have some molly customers; Masey’s Coffee House, Old Change; Mear’s Coffee House, St Paul’s House Court; Hatton’s, Basinghall Street; Woolpack alehouse, Foster Lane; Cross Keys, Holborn; King’s Head, Ivy Lane; the Clerkenwell Workhouse; and the Three Tuns and the Black Horse, both in Moorfields. 

This 1593 map shows “The Strande” as the principal route – parallel to the River, from the City in the east, to Whitehall in the west.

St. James

Just west of Charing Cross we come to St James’s Square and Pall Mall, site of the Royal Oak molly house kept by George Whittle.(see Margaret Clap’s molly house). Keep walking and you get to the Mall and the Roan. Near Whitehall. If you go to the end of the Mall you’ll find Buckingham House. The south side if the parkmis cited as a molly Market in the London Journal, and several molly incudents are recorded as happening in St, james Park, frequented by obliging soldiers. An incudent is recorded involving a certain Arrowsmith accosted a sentinel and offered to give him “a Green Gown upon the Grass”, that is, to have sex with him, leaving grass stains upon his clothing., and Parliament St was still known as a cruising ground as late as the 19th century. There was a pillorynin New Palace Yard. The notoriety of the area, even much later, is well attested to by the chapter on “the unnaturalists” in The Fruit Shop, 1766, tellingly subtitled “A Companion to St. James’s Street”.


There were also reports of molly parties outside London, such as Bowling Green at Marylebone, to the northwest beyong Tyburn; the Borough (Southwark) to the south across the Thames; and The Mint in Southwar; Islington; Stepney Church Pirch p; Ratcliffe Gardens (which had a pillory). 

By the early nineteenth century Moorfields seems no longer to have been a molly area, though many of the other districts remained unchanged. Holloway in the Phoenix of Sodom (1813) notes that “there are many [molly houses] about town”, specifically “one in the Strand”, one in Blackman Street in The Borough, one near the Obelisk, St George’s Fields, one in the neighbourhood of Bishopsgate Street, and of course the most infamous one, The Swan in Vere Street. He adds further that “breeches-clad bawds” are to be found strolling in the Inns of Court, “the Temple not excepted”. Holloway, a lawyer himself, was quite surprised, for the Temple was noted for heterosexual prostitution. Joke Number 153 in Joe Miller’s Jestbook (1739) makes this clear: “A gentleman said of a young wench, who constantly ply’d about the Temple, that if she had as much law in her head, as she had in her tail, she would be one of the ablest counsel in all England”.

St James’s Square circa 1752.
Caught In A Bog-House, 1738

Trial of Samuel Taylor & John Berry

Samuel Taylor and John Berry were indicted; Taylor for assaulting John Berry, and committing with him the horrid and detestable Crime of Buggery. And Berry for wickedly consenting with Taylor the said unnatural Crime to commit and do, Jan. 31.
Mr. Windham: For the Conveniency of the People that live in Old Round-Court in the Strand, there is a common necessary House; which, tho’ most of the Neighbours have a Key to, yet is often left unlock’d. On the 31st of Jan. my Servant told me, about 7 o’Clock at Night when he was shutting up Shop, that 2 Fellows had been in the Vault about three quarters of an Hour. I thought they might be Thieves, so I took a Candle, and my Servant following me, I bolted (went hastily) into the Place, and found Taylor sitting, not upon the open Seat, but upon the close Part of it, and Berry sitting in his Lap; both their Breeches being down. I call’d them Names, and left them; but a Mob rose upon them, and would have knock’d them on the Head, had not a Constable in the Neighbourhood seiz’d them to carry them before a Magistrate. When they were carried away, some Gentlemen came to me, and told me, it would be a Shame such Rascals should escape, and perswaded me to go to the Justices. When I came there, (to Mr. Justice Hilder’s) the 2 Prisoners were each of them endeavouring to make a Confession before the other. Berry made his Confession first, and sign’d it; but Taylor confessed the whole Matter too.
Mr. Hilder prov’d Berry’s Confession.
The Information and Confession of John Berry of St. Olave’s-street, Southwark.

“Who saith, that Samuel Taylor asked him if he would go out with him? Upon which this Informant told him he would. That he went with him to Joy Bridge, but a Light coming, they went from thence to a necessary House in Round-Court, where Taylor asked him to let him lie with him, upon which they pulled down their Breeches, and Taylor committed the Act of Sodomy with him twice, and that Mr. Windham the 2d Time caught them in the Fact.”
Mr. Windham: Taylor confessed it full as plain, or plainer than Berry; he said (several Times) he was guilty of the same Crime with Berry, but would not allow that he had enticed him to it. He own’d he had lain with Berry twice, and made use of the Word Sodomy. After Berry had made his Confession, Taylor said he had acted Sodomy with him. Their Breeches were not put up when they were before the Justice.

Mr. John Fridenburgh confirm’d the former Evidence very exactly; and added, that as the two Prisoners were carrying to Goal, Berry own’d they had been from one part of the Town to another, to find a convenient Place, and at last they thought of the Place where they were taken.

The Prisoners in their Defence, pleaded their being in Liquor, but it appeared from the Witnesses that they were perfectly sober. Guilty, D E A T H.

Newspaper Reports

25 February 1738
Yesterday 26 Prisoners were tried at the Old Baily, 3 whereof were capitally Convicted, viz. Nathaniel Hillyard, for the Murder of Robert Milligan, a Marshals Court Officer in St. James’s Haymarket, in May 1734; Samuel Taylor and John Berry, for Sodomy. William Clarke was tried for the Murder of Mary Humphreys, by driving a Cart over her, and found Guilty of Manslaughter. Nine were cast for Transportation, and 13 Acquitted. (Daily Gazetteer)
27 February 1738
On Saturday last the Sessions ended at the Old Baily, when three Persons were tried and Acquitted.

         The 6 mentioned in our former to have been capitally convicted, received Sentence of Death. Two were burnt in the Hand, and 3 ordered to be Whipt. (Daily Gazetteer)
3 March 1738
Yesterday was held a General Council at St. James’s, when Mr. Serjeant Urling, Deputy Recorder of this City attended, and made his Report of the 16 Malefactors under Sentence of Death in Newgate, viz. …

         Samuel Taylor and John Berry, for committing the detestable Sin of Sodomy. …

         When his Majesty was most graciously pleased … to extend his most gracious Pardon to John Waterman, Nathaniel Hillyard, Samuel Taylor, and John Berry. (Daily Gazetteer)
Saturday 11 March 1738
On Thursday Mr. Serjeant Urling, Deputy-Recorder of this City, made his Report to his Majesty of the sixteen Malefactors now under Sentence of Death in Newgate, viz. . . . Samuel Tauylor and John Berry, for Sodomy; . . . When his Majesty was graciously pleased to grant his most gracious Pardon to John Waterman; and to order Nathaniel Hillyard, Thomas Jenkins, James Cope, Mary Cook, and the two Sodomites, to be transported for 14 Years . . . (Newcastle Courant)
Thursday 25 March 1738
On Monday last died, in Newgate, John Berry, one of the Persons who was capitally convicted for Sodomy last Sessions, but pardon’d. (Newcastle Courant)
Saturday 1 April 1738
Last Week Samuel Taylor, condemn’d (but since repriev’d) last Sessions for committing Sodomy with John Berry, died in Newgate; as did also his Accomplice on the 13th of this Month. – It is happy for the Nation that such Wretches are cut off. (Newcastle Courant)

A Cruising Alley, 1761

NOTE: The main interest of this trial is that it documents the existence of a gay cruising ground in London in 1761, in an alley near Leadenhall Market. A secondary interest is that it demonstrates that society had a clear perception that sodomites were exclusively homosexual – that is, the man defends himself against the charge of sodomy by claiming that he has a strong love for women. However, the jury did not quite believe him, and he was convicted despite many women testifying on his behalf.

William Bailey, was indicted, for that Robert Stimpson, not taken, unlawfully and wickedly did lay hands on the prisoner Bailey, in order to commit the detestable crime of sodomy; and that he, the said Bailey, was consenting and yielding to the said Stimpson, in order for him to commit the said detestable crime. 

          Giles Cooper. I keep a house in Ball alley, Lombard-street. 

          Q. What are you? 

          Cooper. I am a butcher, my shop is in Leadenhall-market: as I come home from Leadenhall-market, I come thro’ the Cross-keys inn, there is a very dark passage, I have frequently run against men there, and I never could tell the reason of it. 

          Q. How often have you run against men there? 

         Cooper. Twenty different times I am sure. On the 28th of July I ran against a couple of men there, which I thought stood still; I took hold of one of them by the neck, and drove him before me, till he went out into the alley, close to the fencing-school, where is a lamp over the door; he had a flapt hat on; there I stopt him; I looked under his hat, and said, What the Devil do you stand lurking about here for? They passed by me into the alley; I turned my head over my shoulder, and saw them stop at the passage, which is very narrow; then I went, and rang at my own door, and was there about a couple of minutes before I was let in; while I was standing at my own door, I thought I heard those two men in the passage again; I heard them whisper; I went into my house, and shut the door after me, but did not fasten it: my man was just going to bed; I said, Do not go to bed John, follow me down; I took the candle in my hand, and said to him, I believe there are a couple of very bad fellows in the alley. I hid the candle with my fingers, and jumped across the way into this dark passage, that goes into the Cross-keys-inn; there I saw two bad men, in a very indecent posture: my man followed me down close behind me. 

         Q. Who were the two men? 

         Cooper. They were the prisoner and a footman, named Stimpson, there is a yard-door opens in the passage; the prisoner leant down behind that door, his breeches were down, with his back towards the footman, and the footman’s breeches down, very near together; the footman had hold of him. I laid hold of the prisoner immediately, and my man the other. The footman said, I think, he lived at Mr. Page’s in Queen-street, I saw both their private parts: I said, John, hold him, while I well drub this; I never designed to do any otherwise, if my neighbours had not perswaded me to it: they made no resistance in the world, but begg’d and pray’d I would let them go, for it would be the ruin of them; they were both taken to the watch-house; the prisoner said he knew a gentleman in Grace-church-street, that would see him forth-coming the next day before my lord mayor: then the man in livery said, Why should you be so hard upon me, to confine me, and not him, who was more to blame than I was? The people perswaded me to have him committed: they were the next day brought to Guildhall, and examined before Sir Robert Ladbroke: they made no defence at all, no otherwise than this, which is a very trifling excuse; the man in livery seemed to give an account that he was going to the Post-office, and was going home, and obliged to go thro’ that passage, and he lived in Queen-street: the prisoner said he lived in Bishopsgate-street, and going thro’ the Cross-keys inn, he told the clock eleven; and while he was telling the clock, he saw me lay hold of the other young man, as he was making water; but that was not so, for I laid hold of him, and my man laid hold of the footman: the Post-office was shut up at that time.
Cross Examination.

         Q. Is this passage a thorough-fare? 

         Cooper. It is, and very likely known to all here. 

         Q. How long have you lived in that place? 

         Cooper. I have lived there going on better than half a year. 

         Q. Where have you carried on business before? 

         Cooper. I lived in Leadenhall market, all my life time. I now live within 100 yards of the place where I served my time. 

         Q. Did you see them touch one another at all? 

         Cooper. I did, I saw them extreamly close together; and the footman’s hands were upon this man. I never shall vary from the truth, cross examine me a thousand times; I have no reward, but a great deal of trouble in bringing such villains as these to justice. 

         Q. Have you brought many such as these to justice? 

         Cooper. I never attempted to detect any man living before. 

         Q. Did you never ask the constable whether you could make this matter up with the prisoner? 

         Cooper. No. never in my life. 

         Q. Did you ever see the prisoner before? 

         Cooper. No, not to my knowledge; I saw the footman the week before, in a laced hat. 

         John Leek. I am servant to Mr. Cooper. On the 28th of July, about 11 at night, I had just eat my supper, and was going to bed. I heard a ringing at the door; who should come in, but my master. He staid a little while, and said, John, follow me; here is a couple of very bad fellows I believe, in the passage. He took a candle, and held it in one hand, with the other over it; he pushed into the passage, and I followed him immediately; he lifted his hand from the candle, there was the prisoner at the bar, with his yard drawn, and the other withdrawn a little, with his back against the wall, pulling up his breeches; I did not see the other’s yard, my master had got hold of him; the prisoner’s back was towards the other man, and my master was before me. I secured the other man with his breeches down, I let him put up his breeches; he said, For God’s sake, let me go young man, it will be the ruin of me. 

         Q. What said the prisoner? 

         Leek. I know not what he said, for my master had got him, and was going to lick him; but I said, I will not touch mine at all. 

         Q. Whose back was against the wall? 

         Leek. Stimson’s back was, he had withdrawn a little, and was putting up his breeches, both their breeches were down. At first coming to them, my master said, He was willing to let them go, if any-body would pass their word, they should be forth-coming, to go before the alderman to-morrow. The prisoner said, He had got a friend at Mr. Rigby’s Manchester-warehouse, which would see him forth-coming; his name I think was Clifton. I went for him, and he came; he said, The prisoner was no such person; then my master was advised to commit them. Then Stimpson said, Why will you be so hard upon me, to let him go, when he is more in fault than I be.
Cross Examination.

         Q. At the time you and your master went out of the house, what posture was the prisoner in? 

         Leek. My master had got him by the collar. 

         Q. Where was Stimpson? 

         Leek. He was with-drawn, about as far as from here to the wall; (pointing to a place about four yards distance.) 

         Q. Will you say you saw the prisoner’s yard? 

         Leek. That I will take my sacrament of. 

         John Mansfield. I am a watchman, I saw the prisoner, and the other man, after they were brought in; Cooper said, he brought them there for sodomy, and that before their faces. 

         Q. What answers did they give to that? 

         Mansfield. They pretended they were not guilty; they said, They were not in the action. 

         Q. Which of them said so? 

         Mansfield. I do not know which of them it was. 

         Stephen Dreseal. I am a watchman; when they were brought into the watchhouse, one of them sent for a friend to talk in his behalf; the gentleman came and offered 10 guineas for his appearance the next morning. 

         Q. Which of them was that? 

         Dreseal. That was the man not in livery 

         David Wilson. I living at the corner of this yard, heard a noise; I ran to see what was the matter, I was told they had catched two men in the act of sodomy, or something of that kind. I said, I was very glad of it, for I had heard of people being catch’d in that alley before. 

         Q. What sort of a noise did you hear? 

         Wilson. It was a bustling, confused noise; I saw they had hold of the men, but I do not know that the prisoner was one of them; the men begg’d for God’s sake they would not take them away, for it would be the ruin of them. 

         Q. Which of them begg’d, as you have said? 

         Wilson. I do not know which of them; when they came to the watch-house, they made use of words to the same purport; I believe the prosecutor would have let them go, if it had not been for me; the prosecutor seemed to be in a great fluster, and was sadly affrighted, and said, It would bring him into trouble.
Cross Examination.

         Q. Do you know any thing of the matter of fact, or posture they were in? 

         Wilson. No, – I do not. 

         The prisoner said nothing in his defence, but called the following witnesses. 

          William Pool. I have known Gyles Cooper 12 or 14 years ago, I am a porter, he always lived at Leadenhall-market. About a fortnight before he charg’d this man, as I attend the waggons that come out of the country, which do not come in till about 10 o’clock, a man said, Come, I will go with you, to help you pull out the packs; we went, my wife was along with us; I bid her go into the publick-house, and I went behind the pump, in Leadenhall-market, and Samuel Sweeper, the other man, sat upon some leather; I went to ease myself, and just as I was putting up my breeches, the prisoner came with a stinking leg of ham in his hand, he said, Halloo, halloo, halloo, he looked in my face, and said, I was informed there were two sodomites here? Said I, What do you mean by that, all the world that knows me, knows I love a woman too well, to be a sodomite; this was in the public leather-market, about 10 at night. 

         Court. And for that filthy behaviour of yours, in a public market-place in this city, you ought to be punished. 

         Samuel Sweeper. I went to help Mr. Pool unload a waggon, and after we had done, who should come up, but Gyles Cooper, out of the market, my master went to ease himself behind the pump. Mr. Pool said, What are there two sodomites here? When he saw it was Mr. Cooper, he said, I ask your pardon Mr. Cooper, and said, He was told there were such. Mr. Cooper asked him, who were his authors, he would not tell him. If he had not known Mr. Pool, doubtless he might have knocked us both on the head. 

         Q. When was this? 

         Sweeper. To the best of my remembrance, it was the 13th of July, at about 10 o’clock at night. 

         Jelse Lamb. I have known Gyles Cooper, about 12 years, or better; I was coming home one night from the other end of the town, I saw him stop a man and a woman, and detain them some time, and ask them where they were going; and said, What business have you here? I am constable of the night, and I will take you both to the Compter. I stood behind him some time, and heard him talk to them; he took the woman by the arm; I said, Who is that, Cooper? He turned round, and said, Yes. I said, What are you doing here? Only a bit of fun, said he. 

         Q. What is his character among people acquainted with him? 

         Lamb. It is but a very indifferent character. 

         Q. Where do you live? 

         Lamb. I keep a house in Leadenhall-market, I am a butcher, and Green-grocer. 

         Q. Have you or any of your friends had any quarrel with him? 

         Lamb. No. 

         Q. Has he such a character in the world, that you believe he would take a false oath? 

         Lamb. I know he will say, and do things that are not right; it is hard speaking against a man’s oath. 

         Q. Would you believe him upon his oath? 

         Lamb. No, I would not; and that from the badness of his character. 

         Q. Do you know his man? 

         Lamb. I know very little of him, I never had any conversation with him. 

         Q. Do you know any thing of these fellows, that make such dunghills in your market? 

         Lamb. No, I never take notice of them; I have a necessary very near me.

         John Rigby. The prisoner was my servant till July last. 

         Q. Where do you live? 

         Rigby. I live in Grace-church-street, he has lived with me six years three quarters; during that time, I never discovered any unnatural inclinations in him; if I had, I should not have kept him in my house; he always behaved well, and is a very sober fellow. I discharged him on the 11th of July last, I do not know that he has been in any service since. I have no sort of suspicion, he was any ways addicted to this vice; all my servants that lived with him, are here to be examined on his behalf 

         Thomas Clifton. I am head warehouse-man to Mr. Rigby, I have known the prisoner ever since he lived at our house; during which time he behaved himself extremely well; I had no manner of suspicion of him of this kind, he was always amongst the women, when he had any time. I never saw any circumstances, that shewed him inclined to any unnatural vice; I was the person that offered 10 l. or 10 guineas, for his forth-coming, and was before the sitting alderman with him. I remember Mr. Cooper owned he had been in trouble, under misforfortunes; and said, He did not bear the best of characters. There was another person, that offered that sum first, and I afterwards, for his appearing the next morning. 

         Q. to Leek. Did you go for this evidence? 

         Leek. I did; my master said to him, Will you give your word for this man’s forth-coming tomorrow. Then he began to make some quibbles, and said, The man was not guilty of the fact. Then some people, that were in the watch-house, said, Mr. Cooper, charge him, and then you will be safe. 

         John Lewis. I have been in Mr. Rigby’s service, ever since the prisoner was there; during that time, he behaved as a man that loved women’s company. I never saw any thing like any unnatural inclination by him; he seemed to never be easy, but when he was in women’s company. 

         Samuel Bevar. I have known the prisoner four years, I never heard any thing, but what was very good of him; I never look’d upon him in any suspicious way, for having unnatural vices. I look upon him to have a natural passion for women, and none for his own sex. Mr. Cooper’s man came to me, about half an hour past 11 o’clock; the asked for Mr. Clifton, I told him he was gone home; I went with him, fearing he should not find out the bell, to call him down; this was on the 28th of July. I went with him to the watch house; in our way there, he told me they had detected one of Mr. Rigby’s men, in a very unseemly manner. When I came there, I saw the prisoner; Mr. Cooper very readily knew me; he asked me if I knew Mr. Clifton, I said, I did; upon that, he was for letting the prisoner go, upon his passing his word for his appearing before my lord-mayor, on the morrow; there was a thinish man came up to Mr. Cooper, and said, You will come to no harm by giving charge. I then offered 10 l. for his appearance on the morrow, before my lord-mayor; there was not a word said, but immediately they were hurried out of the watch-house, and away they went; for my part, I had no fear of his appearing. 

         John Lee. I have known him seven years, I have been in company with him often, I thought him a great admirer of women; I never apprehended him any way inclined to any filthy vice with his own sex. I never was so much surprized in all my life, as when I heard of this; I wished it was in my power to do him service, for I was sure he was innocent of it. I was before Sir Robert Landbroke, who asked Cooper several particular questions. Cooper said he did not chuse to say any more, because he would not have the man suffer upon his account; because the world had been very severe upon him, that he had been in trouble, and did not care to ingage in any more. 

         Rebecca Timmings. I have known the prisoner nine years, I lived in Mr. Rigby’s house all the time he did, he has an extraordinary character, he seemed to have the best regard for women that ever I saw; that decent behaviour to young women in the family, and others that he was acquainted with, I never saw he had any tendency towards his own sex; no, far from it. 

         Ann Redford. I have known the prisoner [more] than two years; during that time, he seemed to be a young man that had a great respect for young women, I never saw to the contrary; he never took any delight, but when with the women whenever he had any time, he never went out, but some of them went with him. I never can, or shall believe he is guilty of the crime laid to his charge; I lived fellow-servant with him in the house. 

         Martha Trimmings. I have known him between eight and nine years, he always seemed to be a person that had an affection for women, he never liked to spend an evening without women along with him. He never behaved with any effeminacy, that shewed him to have a liking to his own sex; I spent the evening with him, that very night, before he was accused with this. 

         Elizabeth Newman. I have known him nine years, I lived servant with him at Mr. Vandival’s at Greenwich, he bears an extream good character, in every action in life, his character will bear the strictest examination; he behaved always extreamly well, in regards to women; he would be the last person I should have thought guilty of what he is charged with. 

         Mr. Molbey. I have known the prisoner ever since he lived in my brother Rigbey’s service; I never heard but he bore a good character, I never observed any tendency in him to any unnatural vice. 

         Mary Jones. I have known him between 10 and 11 years, I never heard any ill of him; it is my opinion he loves the company of women a thousand times more than men. I never heard a mouth opened against him in my life. 

         John Dyer. I have known the prisoner four or five years, I never heard any thing of this kind in my life. 

         Edward Lee. I lived with Mr. Molbey, I have known the prisoner almost five years, he called upon me the 28th of July, and told me he had got a place, to live in Crutched Fryers, he came between eight and nine, and I parted with him a few minutes before 11, he lodg’d at Mr. Rigby’s, this was in his way home. I never observed, he had any inclination towards his own sex, I believe he has a regard for women. I have travelled with him, and laid with him, and never knew him guilty of an indecent action in my life; he always behaved as a man ought to do. 

         Elizabeth Lee. I am sister to a young woman that has been examined, I have known him about seven years, he lived with Mr. Molbey, he always behaved as one that had an affection to women, so far as I was able to judge. 

         John Pinkney. I have known him between six and seven years, he behaved as a man that had a regard for women, I always looked upon him as such. I have known him frequently in women’s company, when he might have been out of it; he has went a dancing with them, I never in the least suspected him guilty of any indecencies with his own sex. 

         Thomas Brown. I have known him about six years, I never saw, or knew any thing by him, tending to this kind he is now charged with; I have seen him with his fellow-servants, the woman; his general character was good, as far as ever I heard. 

         Elisha Ward. I know Gyles Cooper, he has a bad character, he used me ill. 

         Q. Would you believe him upon his oath? 

         Ward. Upon my oath I would not. 

         William Turton. I have not known the prisoner a great while, but I have laid with him; he never offered any indecency to me, nor do I think him capable of it. I have taken a great deal of pains to inquire into his character, it is a good one, and the prosecutor Cooper has a very bad one, I have reason to believe he would take a false oath, I really would not take his oath for a pin, on any account, in any thing he says. 

         Q. Where do you live? 

         Turton. I live almost by the Asylum. 

         Q. Did you ever hear he forswore himself? 

         Turton. No. 

         John Shackle. I have kno wn the prisoner between six and seven years; during that time, his character has been very good, and upright. I never looked upon him, that he would be guilty of indecencies with his own sex, quite the reverse.
To Cooper’s Character.

         Thomas Curtise. I am a barber and perriwig-maker, and live in Grocers-alley. I have known Cooper a great many years, the best part of 20. I never heard he had a bad character, or that he behaved amiss. I have laid out a great many pounds with him, he always behaved like a very honest worthy tradesman; to be sure he has had misfortunes in trade, I never heard he behaved amiss, he did know that I was in court. 

         William Hickling. I have known Cooper 10 years and longer, I have had dealings with him, and never found him any otherwise than just. He is reckoned an honest man, and I belive him to be a very honest man. 

         Q. Do you think he would forswear himself, in order to charge an innocent men? 

         Hickling. I do not think he would be guilty of such a thing. 

         Mr. Atkins. I have arrested Cooper, and taken his word afterwards, and he always took care to make an end of things; he has been at my house more than one, two, or three days, and I have had some worth about me, and I never missed any thing. 

         Q. Is it customary to take people’s words, after you have arrested them? 

         Atkins. It is, he never gave me no other security than his word; he has said, I will bring such a person, and we will come and make an end of it, and so he has. If I thought he was a bad man, I would not have taken his word. 

         Q. I suppose he was a man that could not leave his business. 

         Atkins. He might lock himself up, and fix me with the debt. I have this opinion of him, that was I to arrest him for five or 10 l. he would come and pay me. 

         Q. Do not you know he has been cleared by the Compulsive Clause? [That is, he had been discharged under the Insolvent Debtors Act, i.e. he was a bankrupt.] 

        Atkins. Yes, I do.

Guilty.

Summary:

 . . William Bailey, to stand on the pillory, and to be confined six months in Newgate, and pay a fine of 40 s.

Bailey stood on the pillory near the Cross-key-inn in Bishopsgate street, on Wednesday the 4th of November.

Suck Prick! February 1789

February 1789

The Information of Matthew Laws of Maudlings Rents in the Parish of Saint Botolph Aldgate in the said County [Middlesex], Cordwainer, and Fredrick Alberman, No 22 Red Cross Street in the said Parish and County, Watchman. Taken on Oath this Seventh day of February 1789 Before me Robert Smith Esqr. one of his Majesty’s Justices of the peace in and for the said County.
Matthew Laws saith about half an hour past Eleven o’Clock on Tuesday night last he heard Mr Prowce’s Dog Bark; he opened his Door and went up to a Cart where he saw the Prisoner present (who says his Name is Alexander Leith) standing up against Mr. Prowce’s Window, that he heard him Speak to some person, that he went nearer to them and heard him say “Have you had Enough?” The other made some Answer but [he] does not know what, then Alexander Leith said “Shall I fuck you again?” This Deponent [i.e. Laws] called to the Watchman and desired him to look at them people. When the other prisoner (who says his Name is John Drew ) got [up] from off the Ground, took his basket under his Arm and was going away when this Deponent [i.. Laws] said to him “You old Raseal I know you, I will have you to Morrow”; says Alexander Leith ran away, that he and the Watchman pursued and heard him call out “Suck Prick”, that they Apprehended him near Saint Catherine’s Bridge which is distant from the place he first saw them in about 200 Yards, that he made Great resistance but they secured him and took him to the Watch house, says he is positive that the Prisoners are the Men he saw together against Mr. Prowce’s Window and that he Verily believes the said two Men had been Committing the crime of Sodomy.
And the said Fredrick Alberman says when the other deponent Matthew Laws Spoke to him he went up toward the Prisoners, when he saw Drew leaning forwards with his Breeches down and Leith Standing with his Belly against Drew’s fundament, that Leith’s Trowsers was down and this Deponent [i.e. Alberman] saw his private parts directed towards the fundament of Drew. He said “You Rascals, what are you doing here?”; that he parted them, when one of them went one way and the other the otherway, that they pursued Leith and took him into Custody. Drew was Apprehended about Eleven o’Clock on Wednesday Night. [Alberman] is positive that the prisoners present are the same Men he saw under Mr. Prowce’s Window in the Situation as above stated and verily believes they had been committing the crime of Sodomy.
(Signed)
Matthew Laws

F. Alberman

Taken and Sworn the day
and Year first above Written

Before me

Robt. Smith
NOTE Alexander Leith and John Drew were tried at the Old Bailey at the Sessions beginning on 25 February 1789, on the charge of committing sodomy with one another. The evidence given by the two witnesses (Laws and Alberman, as above) contradicted one another, and the two defendants were declared Not Guilty. The evidence itself was judged (by the publisher of the Proceedings) to be not fit for the public eye, and therefore was not published. Hence we don’t know anything about Leith or Drew, their ages or occupations etc. (Source: Online Proceedings of the Old Bailey, Reference Number: t17890225-40)

This is a fairly typical case of two men being overseen (rather than being entrapped) while enjoying sex in a public place at night. The most interesting feature is that one of the men, John Drew, seems to have been recognized as a regular sodomite, moreover one who specifically enjoyed being fucked. Drew also, by calling out “Suck prick!”, seems to have been conversant with the practice of oral intercourse – something which historians claim to have been rare until modern times. “Suck prick!” may actually be a noun, exactly equivalent to the modern abusive epithet “Cocksucker!” – in which case the epithet must have been widely enough known to be effective, which again suggests that oral intercourse wasn’t a great rarity.


References

  • Rictor Norton (Ed.), “A Cruising Alley, 1761”, Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 7 January 2011 http://rictornorton.co.uk/eighteen/1761bail.htm
  • Trial No. 318, The Proceedings on the King’s Commission of the Peace, Oyer and Terminer, and Gaol Delivery for the City of London; And also the Gaol Delivery for the County of Middlesex, Held at Justice-Hall in the Old-Bailey, On Wednesday the 21st, Thursday the 22d, Friday the 23d, Saturday the 24th, and Monday the 26th of October. In the first and second Years of His Majesty’s Reign. Being the Eighth Session in the Mayoralty of The Right Honble Sir Matthew Blakiston, Knt. Lord-Mayor of the City of London. Number VIII. Part II. for the Year 1761. London: Printed, and sold by J. Scott, at the Black-Swan, in Pater-noster Row, 1761.
  • Rictor Norton (Ed.), “Caught in a Bog-House, 1738”, Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 25 July 2004, expanded 12 December 2014 http://rictornorton.co.uk/eighteen/1738tayl.htm
  • SOURCE: The Proceedings at the Sessions of Peace … on Wednesday the 22d, Thursday the 23d, Friday the 24th, and Saturday the 25th of February, Number III, London: Printed for J. Roberts, at the Oxford-Arms in Warwick-Lane, M.DCC.XXXVII [1738 New Style], p. 46.
  • Rictor Norton, “The Sodomites’ Walk in Moorfields”, The Gay Subculture in Georgian England, 11 August 2009 http://rictornorton.co.uk/eighteen/moorfiel.htm
  • Old Bailey Sessions Papers, Justices’ Working Documents, 15 December 1788 – 27 April 1789, LL ref: LMOBPS450370189. I have slightly edited this, adding punctuation to improve its readability.]
  • Rictor Norton (Ed.), “Suck Prick!, 1789,” Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. 21 February 2013 http://rictornorton.co.uk/eighteen/1789suck.htm

Gay History: Princess Seraphina; A 1732 Georgian Drag Queen Extraordinaire.


Introduction

Below is the complete transcript of a trial in 1732 in which John Cooper (also known as Princess Seraphina) prosecuted Tom Gordon for stealing his clothes. (NB: Cooper/Seraphina was not the person on trial: he was the accuser.) The transcript is rather long — but every bit of the testimony is full of human interest. Princess Seraphina was a gentleman’s servant, and a kind of messenger for mollies (gay men), and a bit of a hustler. More to the point, she was the first recognizable drag queen in English history, that is…the first gay man for whom dragging it up was an integral part of his identity, and who was well known by all his neighbours as a drag queen or transvestite “princess”: everyone called him Princess Seraphina even when he was not wearing women’s clothes. And he does not seem to have had any enemies except for his cousin, a distiller who thought that his behaviour was scandalous.

Gordon (the alleged robber) was acquitted of the charge of robbing Seraphina. Seraphina herself was not on trial — nor was she ever brought to trial for anything afterwards as a result of losing her prosecution.

To set the context: Masquerades flourished in London from the 1720s onward, and took place in assembly rooms, theatres, brothels, public gardens, and molly houses. The commercial masquerades were quasi- carnivals first organized by the impresario John James Heidegger at the Haymarket Theatre from 1717 onwards. His “Midnight Masquerades” were tremendously successful, and drew 800 people a week. They provided many people with the opportunity to explore fetishism and transvestism. Men disguised themselves as witches, bawds, nursing maids and shepherdesses, while women dressed as hussars, sailors, cardinals and boys from Mozart’s operas. In the early days of the fashion, Richard Steele went to one where a parson called him a pretty fellow and tried to pick him up, and Horace Walpole passed for an old woman at a masquerade in 1742. The opportunities for illicit assignations provoked a host of anti-masquerade satires, and many tracts were mainly devoted to attacking the mollies who attended them, allegedly imitating infamous homosexual cross-dressers such as Sporus, Caligula, and Heliogabalus. Seraphina went to the very first Ridotto al Fresco held at Vauxhall Gardens, in June 1732, where he was not the only man disguised as a woman.

Molly houses — pubs and clubs where gay men met, especially on Sunday nights — were very popular in the 1720s in London. On special “Festival Nights” many of the men would wear drag, and sing and dance together, and engage in camp behaviour. For example, on 28 December 1725 a group of 25 men were apprehended in a molly house in Hart Street near Covent Garden and were arrested for dancing and misbehaving themselves, “and obstructing and opposing the Peace-Officers in the Execution of their Duty.” They were dressed in “Masquerade Habits” and were suspected of being sodomites because several of them had previously stood in the pillory on that account; but they were dressed in a range of costumes, not all of which were female, and the date suggests a special holiday event rather than a familiar practice. It is interesting to note that they did not submit sheepishly to their arrest, but put up a show of resistance. None were prosecuted.

For another example, at one molly house in the Mint (in the City of London), according to a contemporary witness: “The Stewards are Miss Fanny Knight, and Aunt England; and pretty Mrs. Anne Page officiates as Clark. One of the Beauties of this Place is Mrs. Girl of Redriff, and with her, (or rather him) dip Candle-Mary a Tallow Chandler in the Burrough, and Aunt May an Upholsterer in the same place, are deeply in Love: Nurse Mitchell is a Barber of this Society.” James Dalton the highwaymay was a witness to molly Festival Nights, which he described in his dying confession published just before he was hanged in 1728, and he briefly mentions John Cooper (Princess Seraphina), who at that time Dalton implied was a butcher. So Seraphina was “on the drag scene” for at least four years before the trial at which she comes dramatically to public notice.
Rictor Norton 

Complete Trial Transcript

July 1732
The Proceedings at the Sessions of the Peace, and Oyer and Terminer, for the City of London, and County of Middlesex; on Wednesday the 5th, Thursday the 6th, Friday the 7th, and Saturday the 8th of July 1732, in the Sixth Year of His MAJESTY’s Reign. Being the Sixth Sessions in the Mayoralty of the Right Honourable Francis Child, Esq; Lord Mayor of the City of London, in the Year 1732.

Before the Right Honourable Francis Child, Esq; Lord Mayor of the City of London; the Right Honourable the Lord Chief Baron Reynolds; the Honourable Mr. Justice Probyn; the Honourable Mr. Justice Fortescue; Mr Serjeant Urlin, Deputy Recorder of the City of London; and others of His Majestys Justices of Oyer and Terminer for the City of London, and Justices of Gaol-Delivery of Newgate, holden for the said City and County of Middlesex.

Thomas Gordon was indicted for assaulting John Cooper in a Field in Chelsea Parish, putting him in fear, and taking from him a Coat, a Waistcoat, a pair of Breeches, a pair of Shoes, a pair of Silver Shoe-buckles, a Shirt, a Stock, a Silver Stock- buckle, and 4½d. in Money, May 30.

Trial Testimony

John Cooper. On Whit-Monday, May 29, I dress’d myself and went abroad, and returning between 1 and 2 next Morning to my Lodging at Numb. 11 in Eagle-Court, in the Strand, I knock’d once, but finding no Body answer’d, I went to a Night-Cellar hard by, I call’d for a Pint of Beer, and sitting down on a Bench, the Prisoner came and sat by me; he ask’d me if I did not know Mr. Price, and some other Persons, and so we fell into Discourse; we drank 3 hot Pints together, I paid the Reckoning 9½d. and went up; I was got about 15 or 20 Yards off when the Prisoner came up to me, said it was a fine Morning, and ask’d me to take a Walk; I agreed, and we went into Chelsea Fields, and turning up to a private Place among some Trees, he clap’d his left Hand to the right Side of my Coat, and trip’d up my Heels, and holding a Knife to me, “God damn ye,” says he, “if you offer to speak or stir I’ll kill ye; give me your Ring.” I gave it him, and he put it on his own Finger; then he made me pull off my Coat and Waitcoat, and Breeches; I begg’d that he would not kill me, nor leave me naked; “No,” says he, “I’ll only change wi’ye; come pull off your Shirt, and put on mine”; so he stript, and drest hiimself in my Cloaths, and I put on his; there was 4½d. in my Breeches, and I found 3 ha’pence in his. He ask’d me where I liv’d, and I told him. “I suppose,” says he, “you intend to charge me with a Robbery by and by, but if you do, I’ll swear you’re a Sodomite, and gave me the Cloaths to let you B[ugge]r me.”
While we were dressing, a Man pass’d by at a little Distance, if there had been 2 Men I should have ventur’d to have call’d to them for Help, but as there was but one I was afraid. Then the Prisoner bid me come along, and I follow’d him to Piccadilly, and so to Little Windmill- street, and there I call’d to 2 Men, who took him into an Alehouse; I told them he had robb’d me, and he said that I had given him the Cloaths to let me B[ugge]r him. The Men said they expected to be paid for their Day’s Work, if they lost their Time about my Business; I promis’d them they should be satisfied.
When we came to Justice Mercer’s, he was not up, so we went to the Coach and Horses by St. Giles’s Church, and waited an Hour and an half; while we were there the Prisoner wrote a Letter to his Mother (as he said) and directed it to Numb. 20. in Colston’s-Court in Drury-lane. I had charg’d a Constable with the Prisoner, I told him so; “Go and do it then,” says the Justice, “and swear to the Things, and I’ll commit him.” So we went toward Tyburn-Road, into Marybone- Fields, and there the Men let the Prisoner go; “What do ye do?” says I. “Why what would you have us do,” said they, “he charges you with Sodomy, and says you gave him the Cloaths on that Account.” Another Man coming by at the same time, I desir’d his Assistance; but they telling him that I was a Molly, he said I ought to be hang’d, and he’d have nothing to do with me; then the Prisoner began to run, and I after him; but one of the two Men, who expected to be paid for their Day’s Work, kick’d up my Heels, and as I was rising, he struck me down again; I was very much hurt, and spit Blood, so that I could not follow them, and so they all got over a Ditch and escaped; I went to my Lodgings in Eagle-Court.
They were surprised to see me come home in such a shabby Dress; I told ’em what had happen’d, and describ’d the Man, and said that he sent a Letter to his Mother in Colston’s Court; “O,” says one, “I know him, his Name is Tom. Gordon, and his Mother’s Name is Abbot.” So I got Justice Giffard’s Warrant the same Day, and finding the Prisoner at a Brandy shop Door in Drury-Lane, we seized him, and carried him to Brogdon Poplet’s [a public house], and I set for Mr. Levit, and Mr. Sydney, who lodg’d in the same House as I lodg’d in; so the Prisoner was sent to the Round-house, and carry’d before the Justice next Day. He told the Justice that I put my Yard into his Hand twice; and says the Justice, “You had a long Knife, it seems, why did you not cut it off? I would have done so.” The Prisoner said that he was not willing to expose me so much. He are certain Ladies that belong to Brogdon Poplet, who, I suppose, have abundance to say for the Prisoner.

Court. What Business do you follow?

Cooper. I am a Gentleman’s Servant, but am out of Place at present; the last Place I liv’d in was Capt. Brebolt’s at Greenwich.

Prisoner [i.e. Gordon]. Did we go out of the Night Cellar together?

Cooper. No, you follow’d me.

Christopher Sandford, Taylor [tailor]. On the 29th of May, in the Evening, I was drinking with Mr. Mead at the King’s-Arms by Leicester-Fields when the Prosecutor came in, dress’d in a black Coat, a white Waistcoat, and black Breeches; he sat down and drank, and then paid his Reckoning, and went away. Next Morning I saw Mr. Mead again, he said he had met the Prosecutor in a dirty ragged Suit of Cloaths, and a speckled Shirt, and never set his Eyes on a Man so metamorphos’d. “But how came he in that Condition?” says I, “Why it seems he has been robb’d this Morning,” says he, “by one Gordon, a Leather-breeches Maker.”
I passed with Mr. Mead as I was going by Turnstile in Holbourn, the Prisoner pull’d me by the Coat, and said, “How d’ye do? what don’t ye know me?” and indeed I hardly did know him in that Dress. “What is it to you, Mr. Gordon?” says I, “why I heard you was dead.” “Dead!” says he, “who told you so?” “Why Cooper,” says I, “he drank with me last Night.” “Cooper is a great Rogue,” says he; “What has he done?” says I; “He gave me these Cloaths this Morning,” says he; “And is he a Rogue for that?” says I; “No,” says he, “but he pretends to get ’em again by Force.” “Hark ye, Tom,” says I, “as you have a Soul to be sav’d, I fancy you’ll come to be hang’d; for he has sworn a Robbery against you.” “Has he really done it?” says he; “for God’s Sake help me to make it up, I’ll go and get 3 Guineas of my Uncle in the Temple, and meet you at the Bell and Horse-shoe in Holborn.” I told the Prosecutor [i.e. Cooper] of this, and he went with me, but we could find no such Sign as the Bell and Horse-shoe.

John Sanders. Between 9 and 10 on Tuesday Night I was sent for to the Two Suger-Loaves in Drury-Lane; the Prosecutor gave me a Warrant against the Prisoner; we went before Justice Newton; the Justice having heard the Prosecutor’s Charge, ask’d the Prisoner what he had to say for himself? “Why,” says the Prisoner, “he laid his privy Parts in my Hand, and offer’d to B[ugger] me.” Then says Mr. Newton, “You had better take him before Justice Giffard to-Morrow, he knows more of the Matter, for I see it is his Warrant.” So the Prisoner was sent to the Round- house [a prison in St Giles].

The Prisoner’s Defence.

Thomas Gordon: I was lock’d out, and went to Mrs. Holder’s Night-Cellar; the Prosecutor came and sat by me, and ask’d me to drink, I thought I had seen him before; we fell into Discourse, and had 3 hot Pints of Gin and Ale between us; about 4 in the Morning he ask’d me to take a Walk; we went into Chelsea Fields, and coming among some Trees and Hedges, he kiss’d me, and put his privy Parts into my Hand; I ask’d him what he meant by that, and told him I would expose him; he begg’d me not to do it, and said he would make me amends. I ask’d him what amends? He said he would give me all his Cloaths, if I would accept of them, and so we agreed, and chang’d Cloaths.
After this, I ask’d him to go into the White Horse by Hyde-Park, but he said he would not, for he had Relations there, and did not care to expose himself in that Dress. We went farther, and I would have gone into another House, but he made the same Excuse: then we came to Little Windmill-street, where we found a Man knocking at an Alehouse Door; we thought to have gone in there, but it being early the People would not get up, and so we went to the White-Hart in Knaves-Acre; there he charg’d me with a Robbery, and I charg’d him with a Attempt to commit Sodomy. We went before Justice Mercer, who order’d us to get a Constable, and in going along, the Prosecutor raised a Mob, and squall’d as I had been murdering him, so that I was glad to get away. He afterwards met me again as I was talking with my Master in Drury- Lane, and carry’d me to Mr. Poplet’s.

Margaret Holder. I keep the Night- Cellar, the Prisoner came in about 10 at Night, and staid till 2 in the morning, and then the Prosecutor came in, and sat down by him, and said, “Your Servant, Sir; have you any Company belonging to you, for I don’t love much Company?” Then they had 3 Pints of Huckle and Buff, as we call it, that’s Gin and Ale made hot; and so about 4 o’Clock the Prisoner said he would go home, for his Mother would be up, and he might get in without his Father’s Knowledge; and the Prosecutor said, “If you go, I’ll go too”; so the Prisoner went up first, and the Prosecutor staid to change a Shilling, and went out after him. I believe the Prisoner is an honest Man; but the Prosecutor and Kitt Sandford too, use to come to my Cellar with such sort of People.

Court. What sort of People?

Holder. Why, to tell you the Truth, he’s one of the Runners that carries Messages between Gentlemen in that way.

Court. In what way?

Holder. Why he’s one of them as you call Molly Culls, he gets his Bread that way; to my certain Knowledge he has got many a Crown under some Gentlemen, for going of sodomiting Errands.

Robert Shaw. The Prisoner and Prosecutor, and four more came to my House, the White-Hart in Knaves- Acre, about 6 o-Clock on Tuesday Morning; says the Prisoner, “this Fellow charges me with a Robbery.” “How so?” says I; “Why,” says he, “we have been in Chelsea Fields, and he gave me his Cloaths to let him commit Sodomy with me, and now he wants them again.” After the second Pot, they disputed who should pay; says the Prosecutor, “You know I have but 3 ha’pence, for when I gave you my Breeches there was 4½d. in ’em, and when I took yours, I found but 3 ha’pence in the Pocket.” Then the Prosecutor desir’d to go to his Cousin Smith, a Distiller hard by, to borrow a Shilling; a Man went with him, he brought back a Shilling, and paid his Reckoning.

Court. Did the Prosecutor contradict what the Prisoner said about changing Cloaths?

Shaw. No, not in my hearing.

Edward Pocock. About 5 o’Clock o’ Tuesday Morning, as I was coming along Chelsea-Fields, I saw 2 Men a stripping among some Trees; I thought they were going to fight, but I soon found there was no Quarrel; for when they had put their Cloaths on, they went away lovingly, and the Prisoner smil’d; they look’d as if they had not been a-bed all Night, no more than I had; for you must know, being Holiday time, I got drunk, and fell asleep with my Cloaths on.

Court. How far off was you when you saw them?

Pocock. Within 20 or 30 Yards.

Court. How came the Prisoner to find you out?

Pocock. I happen’d to go to Holder’s Cellar, and there I heard talk of this Robbery; and says I, “I’ll be hang’d if these were not the 2 Men that I thought were going to fight”; so I went to Newgate to see the Prisoner, and knew him to be one of ’em; and he afterwards sent me a Subpoena.

John Thorp. It being Holiday time, I and another Stocking-maker, and 2 Shoe-makers, had been out a merry making, and in the Morning we can to the Two Brewers in Little Windmill-street; the People were not up, and while I stood knocking at the Door, the Prisoner and the Prosecutor came along close together; says the Prosecutor, “this Man has got my Cloaths on his Back”; and says the Prisoner, “He gave them me to commit Sodomy.” We told them it was a scandalous business, and advised them to make it up between themselves, and change Cloaths again. The Prosecutor said he desir’d nothing more than to have his Cloaths again; but the Prisoner would not consent, “For nothing is freer than Gift”, says he, “and I’ll see you out.”
We could not get in at the Two Brewers, and so went to Mr. Shaw’s in Knaves-Acre, and not agreeing there, we went to the Coach and Horses by St Giles’s Church; and there the Prisoner wrote a Letter to his Mother, it was directed to his Father, a Taylor, at Numb 4. in Colston’s-Court, I found the House according to the Direction, and deliver’d the Letter, but his Father was not up, and when I return’d to the Coach and Horses they were all gone.

Prisoner. Did not you go to the Prosecutor’s Cousin, the Distiller, in Warder-street?

Thorp. Yes; he told his Cousin he was pawn’d for a Shilling; says his Cousin, “As you are in the Neighbourhood, I don’t care to be scandaliz’d by you, there’s a Shilling, but go about your Business, and let me hear no more of you, for you are a vile Fellow, and I’m afraid you’ll come to an ill end.”

The Character of the Princess Seraphina.

Jane Jones. I am a Washer-woman in Drury-Lane, I went into Mr Poplet’s, my next Door Neighbour, for a Pint of Beer, and said “There’s the Princess Seraphina!” So I look’d at her, and the Prisoner was in the same Box; and says he to the Princess, “What a vile Villain was you to ——”

Court. What Princess?

Jones. The Prosecutor; he goes by that Name. “What a Villain was you,” says the Prisoner, “to offer so vile a thing? Did not you do so and so?”

Court. So and so; explain yourself.

Jones. Why in the way of Sodomity, whatever that is; so says the Princess, “If you don’t give me my Cloaths again, I’ll swear a Robbery against you; but if you’ll let me have them, I’ll be easy.” “No, you Villain, you shant,” says the Prisoner. Next Day I went to Mr. Stringer the Pawn-broker’s, facing Vinegar-yard in Drury-Lane; I wash for him, and there I saw the Princess a pawning her Shirt; “O Princess!” says I, “are you there? They will be very fine by and by; you will have no Occasion to pawn your Linen, when you get the Reward for hanging Tom Gordon. But how can you be so cruel to swear his Life away, when you have own’d that you chang’d with him?” What if I did,” says he, “I don’t value that, I shall do nothing but what I have been advised to.”

Mary Poplet. I keep the Two Sugar- Loaves in Drury-Lane, the Prisoner and the Princess came into my House, and the Princess charg’d the Prisoner with taking her Cloaths, and the Prisoner call’d her a Villain, and said she gave ’em to him. I have known her Highness a pretty while, she us’d to come to my House from Mr. Tull, to enquire after some Gentlemen of no very good Character; I have seen her several times in Women’s Cloaths, she commonly us’d to wear a white Gown, and a scarlet Cloak, with her Hair frizzled and curl’d all round her Forehead; and then she would so flutter her Fan, and make such fine Curt’sies, that you would not have known her from a Woman: She takes great Delight in Balls and Masquerades, and always chuses to appear at them in a Female Dress, that she may have the Satisfation of dancing with fine Gentlemen. Her Highness lives with Mr. Tull in Eagle-Court in the Strand, and calls him her Master, because she was Nurse to him and his Wife when they were both in a Salivation; but the Princess is rather Mr. Tull’s Friend, than his domestick Servant. I never heard that she had any other Name than the Princess Seraphina.

Mary Ryler. I was standing at the End of our Court in Drury-Lane, and seeing the Prisoner coming along with a Crowd. “Tom!” says I, “what’s the Matter?” “Why,” says he, pointing to the Princess, “this Man gave me his Cloaths to let him B[ugge]r me, and now he charges me with a Robbery.” I know the Princess very well, she goes a Nursing sometimes: She nurs’d his Master Tull and his Wife in their Salivation, and several others; and I was told that he was dress’d in Woman’s Cloaths at the last Masquerade (Ridotto al Fresco at Vauxhall.) Sometimes we call her Princess, and sometimes Miss.

Mary Robinson. I was trying on a Suit of Red Damask at my Mantua-maker’s in the Strand, when the Princess Seraphina came up, and told me the Suit look’d mighty pretty. “I wish,” says he, “you would len ’em me for a Night, to go to Mrs. Green’s in Nottingham-Court, by the Seven Dials, for I am to meet some fine Gentlemen there.” “Why,” says I, “can’t Mrs. Green furnish you?” “Yes” says he, “she lends me a Velvet Scarf and a Gold Watch sometimes.” He used to be but meanly dress’d, as to Men’s Cloaths, but he came lately to my Mantua- maker’s, in a handsome Black Suit, to invite a Gentlewoman to drink Tea with Mrs. Tull. I ask’d him how he came to be so well Rigg’d? And he told me his Mother had lately sold the Reversion of a House; “And now,” says he, “I’ll go and take a Walk in the Park, and shew my self.” Soon after this, my Maid told me that her Highness was robb’d by a Man in a Sailor’s Habit, who had changed Cloaths with him. And so next Morning I sent for him. “Lord, Princess!” says I “you are vastly alter’d.” “Ay, Madam,” says he, “I have been robb’d, but I shall get the Reward for hanging the Rogue.”
Another Time, he comes to me, and says, “Lord, Madam, I must ask your Pardon, I was at your Mantua-maker’s Yesterday, and dress’d my Head in your Lac’d Pinners, and I would fain have borrow’d them to have gone to the Ridotto at Vauxhall last Night, but I cou’d not persuade her to lend ’em me; but however she lent me your Callimanco Gown and Madam Nuttal’s Mob [cap], and one of her Smocks, and so I went thither to pick up some Gentlemen to Dance.” “And did you make a good Hand of it, Princess?” says I. “No, Madam,” says he, “I pick’d up two Men, who had no Money, but however they proved to be my old Acquaintance, and very good Gentlewomen they were. One of them has been transported for counterfeiting Masquerade Tickets; and t’other went to the Masquerade in a Velvet Domine, and pick’d up an old Gentleman, and went to Bed with him, but as soon as the old Fellow found that he had got a Man by his Side, he cry’d out, `Murder’.”

Eliz. Jones. I saw the Princess Seraphina standing at Mr. Poplet’s Door. “What, have you been robb’d, Princess?” says I, “Has Tom Gordon stripp’d your Highness stark naked? An impudent Rogue! And yet, Ma’m, I think, your Highness had better make it up with him, than expose yourself, for some say it was only an Exchange.” “Why,” says he, “at first I would have made it up, and taken my Cloaths again, but now it’s too late, and I must prosecute, for those that were concerned in taking him up, expect their Share in the Reward, and won’t let me drop the Prosecution.”

Andrew Monford. I heard the Prosecutor say to the Prisoner (at Mr. Poplet’s) “Tom! give me my Cloaths.” And the other answer’d, “No, you Rogue, I won’t: Did you not put your Hand in my Breeches, to pull out what I had?”

Several of the Inhabitants of Drury-Lane gave the Prisoner the Character of an honest working Man, and the Jury acquitted him.

References

  • Rictor Norton (Ed.), “Princess Seraphina, 1732”, Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. 2 January 1999, updated 31 January 2006 http://rictornorton.co.uk/eighteen/seraphin.htm
  • The Proceedings at the Sessions of the Peace, and Oyer and Terminer, for the City of London, and County of Middlesex ((London, 1732), pp. 166-70; Case number 37 out of a total of 67.

Gay History: The History of the London Clubs, or, the Citizens’ Pastime…by Edward Ward, 1667-1731 – Publication date 1896. Extract. “The Mollies Club”.

Note on Edward Ward, by Rictor Norton

Ned Ward was an investigative journalist, who no doubt embellished his facts to make them more sensational than they already were. But he did not wholly invent his material. The most striking part of his description of the molly houses — the mock lying-in ceremony during which a man pretended to be a woman giving birth to a baby — is confirmed by other sources including testimony given at trials, and in fact this gay folk ritual is sporadically described throughout the century. In the 1810s several men were arrested in the act of performing this mock-birth. We should be careful not to conclude that the mollies were habitual transvestites. The cross-dressing and lying-in rituals that Ward describes took place at specific times called “Festival Nights”, which other sources indicate took place towards the end of December. They were virtually always associated with masquerade festivals, and quite possibly represent some kind of survival of folk rituals that still take place today during Mardi Gras carnivals. The Festival Nights in other words were a kind of masquerade ball, with gay trimmings. The camp mimicking of women, however, was a regular feature of molly house gatherings.

Ward’s description of the molly houses was first published in 1709, though no copy of that edition survives. He refers to the trial of 1709 at which nine gay men were arrested at a brandy shop (owned by a gay man) where they met regularly. 

Ned Ward, 1731

THE MOLLIES’ CLUB. 
THERE are a particular Gang of Wretches in 

Town, who call themselves Mollies, & are so 

far degenerated from all Masculine Deportment or 

Manly exercises that they rather fancy themselves 

Women, imitating all the little Vanities that Custom 

has reconcil’d to the Female sex, affecting to speak, 

walk, tattle, curtsy, cry, scold, & mimick all manner 

of Effeminacy. At a certain Tavern in the City, 

whose sign I shall not mention, because I am unwilling 

to fix an Odium on the House, they have a settled & 

constant Meeting. When they are met, together, their 

usual Practice is to mimick a female Gossiping & 

fall into all the impertinent Tittle Tattle that a merry 

Society of good Wives can be subject to. Not long 

since they had cushioned up one of their Brethren, or 

rather Sisters, according to Female Dialect, disguising 

him in a Woman’s Night-Gown, Sarsanet Hood, & 

Night-rail who when the Company were men, was to 

mimick a woman, produce a jointed Baby they had 

provided, which wooden Offspring was to be after- 

wards Christened, whilst one in a High Crown’d Hat, 

I am old Beldam’s Pinner, representing[ed] a Country 

Midwife, & another dizen’d up in a Huswife’s Coif for 

a Nurse & all the rest of an impertinent Decorum of a 

Christening. 
And for the further promotion of their unbecoming 
mirth, every one was to talk of their Husbands & 

Children, one estolling the Virtues of her Husband, 

another the genius & wit of their Children ; whilst a 

Third would express himself sorrowfully under the 

character of a Widow. 
Thus every one in his turn makes scoff of the little 

Effeminacy & Weaknesses, which Women are subject 

to, when gossiping o’er their cups on purpose to extin- 

guish that Natural Affection which is due to the Fair 

Sex & to turn their Juvenile desires towards preter- 

natural polotions. They continued their practices till 

they were happily routed by the conduct of some of 

the under Agents to the Reforming Society, so that 

several of them were brought to open Punishment, 

which happily put a Period to their Scandalous Revels, 

‘Tis strange that in a Country where

Our Ladies are so Kind and Fair,

So Gay, and Lovely, to the Sight,

So full of Beauty and Delight;

That Men should on each other doat,

And quit the charming Petticoat.

Sure the curs’d Father of this Race,

That does both Sexes thus disgrace,

Must be a Monster, Mad, or Drunk,

Who, bedding some prepostrous Punk,

Mistook the downy Seat of Love,

And got them in the Sink above;

So that, at first, a T[oa]d and They

Were born the very self same Way, [i.e. from the anus according to folklore]

From whence they draw this cursed Itch,

Not to the Belly, but the Breech;

Else who could Woman’s Charms refuse,

To such a beastly Practice use?

‘Tis true, that Swine on Dunghills bred,

Nurs’d up in Filth, with Offel fed,

Have oft the Flow’ry Meads forsook,

To wallow Belly deep in Muck;

But Men who chuse this backward Way,

Are fifty Times worse Swine than they:

For the less Savage four-leg’d Creature,

Lives but acording to his Nature:

But the Bug[ge]ranto two leg’d Brute,

Pursues his Lust contary to’t;

The brawny Boar will love his Sow;

The Horse his Mare; the Bull his Cow;

But Sodomites their Wives forsake,

Unmanly Liberties to take,

And fall in Love with one another,

As if no Woman was their Mother:

For he that is of Woman born,

Will to her Arms again return;

And surely never chuse to play

His Lustful Game, the backward Way.

But since it has appear’d too plain,

There are such Brutes that pass for Men;

May he that on the Rump so doats,

Be Damn’d as deep as Doctor Oates,[Titus Oates]

That Scandal unto all black Coats.

References

Gay History: Letter to the Editor of The Weekly Journal: or, The British Gazetteer, 14 May 1726. A Modest Proposal.

The following Proposal is sent to be inserted in this Paper, as an Expedient humbly propos’d to the Legislature, for suppressing a Crime which is the most shocking Debasement of Human Nature.

“It being too notorious, that there are vile Clubs of Miscreants in and about this City, who meet to Practise and Propagate the detestable Sin of Sodomy, a Crime which drew down the flaming Vengeance of God upon the City of Sodom, in a Day when they had not that Light which we are bless’d with now, ’tis humbly propos’d that the following Method may not only destroy the Practice, but blot out the Names of the monstrous Wretches from under Heaven, viz. when any are Detected, Prosecuted and Convicted, that after Sentence Pronounc’d, the Common Hangman tie him Hand and Foot before the Judge’s Face in open Court, that a Skilful Surgeon be provided immediately to take out his Testicles, and that then the Hangman sear up his Scrotum with an hot Iron, as in Cases of burning in the Hand.”
Reference

Gay History: Miss Muff’s Molly House in Whitechapel.

In 1728 Black Lion Yard was the site of the house of one Jonathan Muff, which he ran as a Molly house, a resort for gay men and transvestites (a molly being a term for a gay man). It was raided in that year and some of the clientele charged, as sex between men was then a capital offence.1 Some sources give the current Black Lion House at 45 Whitechapel Road as the site of Black Lion Yard but it was further east, running from Whitechapel Road, at a point under the site of the Whitechapel Technology Centre, through the site of Magenta House to a point on Old Montague Street at the east end of Hopetown, the Salvation Army hostel.

Detail from a parodic cartoon depicting male and female crossdressing, c.1780, after a work by John Collet
20 NOVEMBER 2016 BY SARAH JACKSON 

One of the challenges of uncovering transgender histories is that even where we find stories which hint at trans identities, we can’t go back and ask the individuals in question how they would describe themselves.
Even if we could, concepts of gender identity constantly shift and change throughout history, and the question would probably make very little sense to someone who lived centuries before us.

However, the hints we find show us that in the past, just like today, gender was not a simple binary.

Molly houses

In 18th century London a ‘molly house‘ was a coffeehouse, inn, or tavern at which men could meet in secret to socialise and have sex. ‘Molly’ or ‘moll’ was a slang term for a gay man, and for a lower class woman, or a woman selling sex.

Although at this time in England sex between men was punishable by death, molly houses were part of a thriving gay subculture:

The legal records document investigations into about 30 molly houses during the course of the century. Considering that the population of London was only about 600,000 in the 1720s, having even just a dozen molly houses at that time is a bit like having 200 gay clubs in the 1970s. In some respects, the eighteenth-century molly subculture was as extensive as any modern gay subculture.

One of the main molly districts was on the east of the City, around Moorfields in Shoreditch. What is now the south side of Finsbury Square was a cruising area known as ‘Sodomites’ Walk’.

Cross dressing

Molly houses are a site where gay histories and trans histories intermingle. It was common for men at the molly house to wear women’s clothes and to speak and act in typically ‘feminine’ ways. Most had alternative names such as Plump Nelly, Primrose Mary, Aunt May, Susan Guzzle, Aunt England, and the Duchess of Camomile.

One very famous molly called Princess Seraphina wore her feminine identity beyond these secret meeting places and into her public life. In 1732 she brought a case against a man for stealing her clothes. Her neighbour Mary Poplet described her in her testimony:
“I have known her Highness a pretty while… I have seen her several times in Women’s Cloaths, she commonly us’d to wear a white Gown, and a scarlet Cloak, with her Hair frizzled and curl’d all round her Forehead; and then she would so flutter her Fan, and make such fine Curt’sies, that you would not have known her from a Woman: She takes great Delight in Balls and Masquerades, and always chuses to appear at them in a Female Dress, that she may have the Satisfation of dancing with fine Gentlemen. Her Highness lives with Mr. Tull in Eagle-Court in the Strand, and calls him her Master, because she was Nurse to him and his Wife when they were both in a Salivation (salivation was a mercurial cure for syphilis); but the Princess is rather Mr. Tull’s Friend, than his domestick Servant. I never heard that she had any other Name than the Princess Seraphina.”.

Raids on molly houses

Much of what we know about mollies comes from court proceedings following raids on molly houses, the most well known of which was the raid on Mother Clap’s molly house in 1726, in Holborn. (Incidentally, Mother Clap was a real woman called Margaret Clap.) After the raid several people were tried and three men were hanged at Tyburn for the crime of ‘sodomy’.

One of the best documented examples from east London is a raid on a molly house in Whitechapel.
“Nine male ladies” arrested
The molly house was owned by Miss Muff – also known as Jonathan Muff – and it stood in Black Lion Yard. The yard no longer exists, but Black Lion House now stands on the site at 45 Whitechapel Road.

On 5 October 1728 The Weekly Journal; or, British Gazetteer includes a news item about the raid:

“On Sunday Night last a Constable with proper Assistants, searched the House of Jonathan Muff, alias Miss Muff, in Black-Lyon Yard, near Whitechapel Church, where they apprehended nine male Ladies, including the Man of the House. They were secured that Night in New Prison, and Monday Morning they were examined before Justice Jackson, in Ayliff-streeet; John Bleak Cawlend was committed to Newgate, he being charged on Oath with committing the detestable Sin of Sodomy.”

Of the nine arrested we know that two were whipped, one was fined, two were acquitted, and one – whose name was given as Thomas Mitchell – attempted to end his life in prison:
he attempted, and had near accomplish’d, destroying himself, in cutting the great Artery of his Left Arm almost asunder; but by the immediate Help of some eminent Surgeons he was preserv’d, tho’ at the Point of Death thro’ the great Effusion of Blood.

Trial of John Bleak Cowland

John Bleak Cowland, was indicted for that destableSin of Sodomy, and the Break of the Statute against the said Sin made and provided.
Jonathan Parrey depos’d, That in February last, he first came acquainted with the Prisoner at one Muff’s, in Black-Lion-Yard, White-Chappel. That in May last, the Prisoner went Home with him to his Lodgings, and when they were in Bed, he perswaded him to commit the Sin of Sodomy with him, to which he consented, and that they did then, and there, actually commit the Sin of Sodomy, &c. and afterwards in June last, he did actually commit the said Sin of Sodomy twice more with the Prisoner in the Bar.
This Deponent farther said, That he being weary of this wicked and detestable Practice, took a Resolution to betray the Company which met together, to commit such filthy Actions, and accordingly he gave Information against them, and contrived to be in the Room when the Prisoner and others were apprehended, at the aforesaid Muff’s House, in Black-Lion-Yard, White-Chappel.
The Prisoner said in his Defence, That he only went to Muff’s House, to learn to play on the Violin, and that it was all false which Parrey had swore against him.
The Prisoner’s Brother depos’d, That he knew Parrey to be an idle vagabond Fellow, that would swear a Cow is Horse, and his Oath was therefore not to be taken, but the Jury believing the contrary, found him Guilty. DEATH.

Trial of Richard Challenor

Richard Challenor of St. Mary’s White-Chappel, was indicted for assaulting John Branch Harris, with an Intent to commit that wicked and destestable Sin of Sodomy, with the said John Granch Harris.
He was a second Time indicted for assaulting Jonathan Parrey, with an Intent to commit the said Sin of Sodomy, with him the said Jonathan Parrey.
Jonathan Parrey depos’d, That in February last he first came acquainted with the Prisoner, that they about that Time lay together and equally committed filthy undecent and effeminate Actions; that they likewise did the same at Muff’s Hosue in Black-Lion-Yard White-Chappel, and that the Lodging in an alley near White-Chappel Church, in July last, Richard Challoner and John Branch Harris came to see him, and put their Hands into each other’s Breeches, after which they went out of the House into an Arbour in the Garden, but what they did there he could not tell.
The Jury acquitted him of both Indictments.

Trial of Isaac Milton

Isaac Milton of St. Mary’s White-Chappel, was indicted for assaulting Jonathan Parrey, with an Intent to commit that destable Sin of Sodomy, with the said Jonathan Parrey.
Jonathan Parren depos’d, That in June last, he first became acquainted with the Prisoner, at Muff’s House in White-Chappel. That at the Three-Nuns in White-Chappel, they lay together, when the Prisoner would have had him committed Sodomy with him, but he refused it; that then the Prisoner ofered to act the same Crime of Sodomy with him, but he would not suffer him.
What strengthen’d this Evidence, was the Oath of Mr. Willis, who depos’d, That when Parrey gave Information agianst Muff’s House, he mentioned the Prisoner, as one of the filthy Wretches who resorted there, to committ sodomitical Practices, and accordingly, when they went to search the House, they found the Prisoner amongst the ludicrous Company.

The Jury found him Guilty of the Assault and Misdemeanor.


Newspaper Reports 1728

5 October 1728
On Sunday Night last a Constable with proper Assistants, searched the House of Jonathan Muff, alias Miss Muff, in Black-Lyon Yard, near Whitechapel Church, where they apprehended nine male Ladies, including the Man of the House. They were secured that Night in New Prison, and Monday Morning they were examined before Justice Jackson, in Ayliff-streeet; John Bleak Cawlend was committed to Newgate, he being charged on Oath with committing the detestable Sin of Sodomy. One of them was committed to Bridewell, and Miss Muff, with the other Six were committed to New Prison for Misdemeanors. (The Weekly Journal; or, British Gazetteer)

5 October 1728

Jonathan alias Miss Muff, and nine Male Ladies were all apprehended last Sunday Night at his House in Black Lyon Yard near White Chapel Church, carried to New Prison, and examin’d next Day before a Magistrate, when J. Bleak Cawland charged on Oath with committing the detestable Sin of Sodomy, was committed to Newgate, another to Bridewell, and Miss Muff with the other six to Newgate: Two Persons were also catch’d in that horrid Act last Week at Redding [i.e. Reading, Berkshire]; one of whom was immediately pump’d, thrown into a Bog-House, and then rinsed in stinking Ditches; what will come of the other Beast is not said. (The Flying-Post: or, The Weekly Medley)

19 October 1728
On Thursday … a Bill of Indictment was found at the Old Baily, against one Cowland, for Sodomy.
The same Morning, two Persons were taken in the Act of Sodomy, in the little Cloisters at Westminster-Abbey, and committed to Prison.
And other Bills are found at Hick’s Hall, against divers other Persons, for Sodomitical Practices. (The Weekly Journal; or, British Gazetteer)

26 October 1728
Monday the Sessions ended at the Old Baily, when, with what received Sentence of Death last Saturday, there are 16 Capitally convicted, viz. … John Bleak Cowland for Sodomy …
John Burgess, for Sodomitical Practices, was fin’d five Marks, and order’d to find Sureties for his Good Behaviour for six Months.
Two others indicted for Sodomitical Practices were acquitted. (The Weekly Journal; or, British Gazetteer)
9 November 1728
Saturday last … one John Mitchel stood in the Pillory in Little Britain, pursuant to his Sentence at Guild-Hall, for threatning to swear Sodomy against a Person, in order to extort Money from him; he is also to suffer three Months Imprisonment. (Weekly Journal, or the British Gazetteer) [This was also reported in The Flying-Post: or, The Weekly Medley.]
9 November 1728
Last Wednesday Night the dead Warrant came to Newgate for the Execution of thirteen Malefactors condemned last Sessions at the Old-Bailey, on Monday next at Tyburn, …
But John Bleake Cowland, Samuel Lewis, and John Taylor, are respited ’till his Majesty’s Pleasure, touching them, be further known. (The Weekly Journal; or, British Gazetteer) [The Flying-Post on this day also reported that although John Bleak Cowland was condemned for sodomy, he was reprieved and not executed.]
.

Men arrested at Mrs. Clap’s Molly House and others hung in a public execution at Tyburn in 1726.
Notes

  • : At the end of the Sessions of 16 October 1728, John Bleak Cowland was sentenced to Death. However, he was later reprieved and transported. See News Reports for 1728, 5 October, 19 October, 26 October, 9 November.]

References

Gay History: Margaret “Mother” Clap’s Molly House; Raid & Trial.

  

Margaret Clap (died c. 1726), better known as Mother Clap, ran a coffee house – situated in Field Lane, with an arch on one side, and the Bunch O’ Grapes tavern on the other –  from 1724 to 1726 in Holborn, Middlesex, a short distance from the City of London. Notable for running a molly house, an inn or tavern primarily frequented by homosexual men, she was also heavily involved in the ensuing legal battles after her premises were raided and shut down. While not much is known about her life, she was an important part of the gay subculture of early 18th-century England. At the time sodomy in England was a crime under the Buggery Act 1533, punishable by a fine, imprisonment, time in the pillory, or the death penalty. Despite this, particularly in larger cities, private homosexual activity took place. To service these actions there existed locations where men from all classes could find partners or just socialize, called molly houses, “molly” being slang for a gay man at the time. One of the most famous of these was Clap’s molly house.

At the time of the raid on Mother Clap’s, there were a number of Molly house raids going on. Frequented by homosexual men, more commonly known as Mollies, or those “abominable sodomites” – often cited that way in newspaper reports of the day – very few were actually caught “in the act”, though some evidently had their pants unbuttoned, and were trundled off to Newgate prison, or put in the pillory.

Margaret Clap ran a coffee house that served as a molly house for the underground homosexual community.[1][2] Her house was popular during the two years of its existence (1724–1726[3]), being well known within the homosexual community. She cared for her customers, and catered especially to the homosexual men who frequented it. She was known to have provided “beds in every room of the house” and commonly had “thirty or forty of such Kind of Chaps every Night, but more especially on Sunday Nights.” [4] Clap was present during the vast majority of the molly house’s operational hours, apparently only leaving to run across the street to a local tavern, to buy drinks for her customers. Because Clap had to leave the premises to retrieve alcohol to serve to her customers, it is likely that the molly house was hosted in her own private residence.[5][6] Unlike other molly houses, it was not a brothel.[6] Clap’s intentions may have been based more upon pleasure than profit, judging by her goodwill towards her customers. For example, one man lodged at her house for two years and she later provided false testimony to get a man acquitted of sodomy charges.[1][6] Her actions during the charges later laid against her and many of the homosexual community showed her loyalty to her customers.[1][6]

Margaret Clap on the stocks at Smithfield Market

In February 1726, Margaret Clap’s molly house was raided by the police; around 40 of its occupants were arrested.[2] Primarily targeted by the Society for the Reformation of Manners, the house had been under surveillance for two years.[6][Note 1], in particular by a Constable Samuel Stevens, who onfiltrated the house under the guise of being the “husband” of an informer and insider within Mother Clap’s. In a report made by him after a visit on Sunday, 14th November 1725 he noted “I found between 40 and 50 Men making Love to one another, as they call’d it. Sometimes they would sit on one another’s Laps, kissing in a lewd Manner, and using their Hands indecently. Then they would get up, Dance and make Curtsies, and mimick the voices of Women. O, Fie, Sir! – Pray, Sir. – Dear Sir. Lord, how can you serve me so? – I swear I’ll cry out. – You’re a wicked Devil. – And you’re a bold Face. – Eh ye little dear Toad! Come, buss! – Then they’d hug, and play, and toy, and go out by Couples into another Room on the same Floor, to be marry’d, as they call’d it.” The surveillance seems to have been instigated by a collection of vengeful mollies-turned-informants. A man named Mark Patridge was outed by his lover and was then turned as an informant for the police.[1] He led policemen into molly houses, introducing each of them as his “husband” so that they could investigate more thoroughly.[1][Note 2] Patridge was not tried in court for sodomy. Another notable informant was Thomas Newton, who frequently used entrapment to allow constables to arrest men in the act of instigating sodomy.[3][5]. It was not just the molly houses that were targeted, but also public spaces such as Moorfield Park, referred to as “the Sodomite’s Walk”. Newton’s testimony regarding entrapment of a William Brown ‘I was no stranger to the Methods they used in picking one another up. So I takes a Turn that way, and leans over the Wall. In a little Time a Gentleman passes by, and looks hard at me, and at a small distance from me, stands up against the Wall, as if he was going to make Water. Then by Degrees he sidles nearer and nearer to where I stood, ’till at last he comes close to me. – ’Tis a very fine Night, says he. Aye, says I, and so it is. Then he takes me by the Hand, and after squeezing and playing with it a little (to which I showed no dislike), he conveys it to his Breeches, and puts [his penis] into it. I took fast hold, and call’d out to Willis and Stevenson, who coming up to my Assistance, we carried him to the Watch house.’

The whole raid, and  all the curcumstances surrounding it reads more like something out of a modern gay enclave! That so many homosexuals frequented the molly houses, the goings-on within them, the gossip and innuendo, the pimps and prostitutes, and the undercover work by the local police is quite something that one would not have expected from life in the 18-century London. The main victims, other than Margaret Clap herself, who were arrested, charged and sentenced consist of William Brown – who went to trial after entrapment; William Griffin; George Kedger – who was accused of buggering Edward “Ned” Courtney in 1725; Gabriel Lawrence; Martin MacKintosh; George Whittle (Whitle); and Thomas Wright – who kept a molly house in Beech Lane, and has been covered in another Gay History article on my blog https://timalderman.com/?s=Thomas+wright. Other protagonists involved with charges or trial are Mark Partridge, the  embittered homosexual informer, who quarreled with lover, Mr Harrington. “So by late 1725, Partrdige was leading various constables to all of the London molly houses that he knew of, and introducing one or the other of them as his ‘husband’ so they could be admitted as bona fide members of each group. On Wednesday, 17 November for example, Partridge took constables Joseph Sellers and William Davison to another molly house, one kept by Thomas Wright in Beech Lane, where there was a very big row because the others had heard that they had been informed upon. They called Partridge a ‘Treacherous, blowing-up, mollying-Bitch’, and threatened to kill anyone who would betray them. Partridge, however, was able to mollify them by arguing that it was Harrington who let out the secret in the first place. So they forgave him and kissed him – and kissed the constables too, little suspecting who they were, and little knowing how treacherous Partridge indeed was.”; Edward (Ned) Courtney – hustler & informer‘I was no stranger to the Methods they used in picking one another up. So I takes a Turn that way, and leans over the Wall. In a little Time a Gentleman passes by, and looks hard at me, and at a small distance from me, stands up against the Wall, as if he was going to make Water. Then by Degrees he sidles nearer and nearer to where I stood, ’till at last he comes close to me. – ’Tis a very fine Night, says he. Aye, says I, and so it is. Then he takes me by the Hand, and after squeezing and playing with it a little (to which I showed no dislike), he conveys it to his Breeches, and puts [his penis] into it. I took fast hold, and call’d out to Willis and Stevenson, who coming up to my Assistance, we carried him to the Watch house.’ Prostitute at Yorkshire Grey tavern in Bloomsbury Market. He lived with silk dyer Thomas Orme at Red Lion in Crown Court in Knave’s Acre. By the time of the raids he was a bondservant to George Whittle (or Whitle), who was charged with keeping a molly house at the Royal Oak alehouse at the corner of St James’s Square in Pall Mall. Ned was an habitual rabble-rouser. He had already been sent to Bridewell Prison on three occasions: once for drunkenly hitting an old woman when he was an alehouse boy at the Curdigan’s Head at Charing Cross (he was sacked, since the woman was the tavern-keeper’s mother); a second time for stealing goods from Whittle’s establishment; and a third time for disturbing the peace at an unnamed molly house in Covent Garden. Ned apparently turned informer as a means to spite Whittle, who had caused him to be arrested for theft. The jury’s realisation that this may have been the motive behind his testimony, eventually led to Whittle’s acquittal; and Thomas Newton – hustler & informer. 30yo & employed by Thomas Wright, first at his home in Christopher’s Alley in Moorfields, later at his own molly house in Beech Lane. (See Lawrence’s trial). So, one can see how they were all tied in. There were a number of the Constabulary involved in the raids and arrests, including the already mentioned Samuel Stevens, Joseph Sellers, William Davison, and Constables Willis & Williams.

Margaret Clap’s Old Bailey Trial
Margaret Clap was indicted for keeping a disorderly house in which she procured and encouraged persons to commit sodomy. Her house in the City of London had been under surveillance since 10 December 1725, and was raided in February 1726 (“1725” in the old-style calendar, in which the new year did not begin until March) — an incident which forms the central chapter of my book Mother Clap’s Molly House: The Gay Subculture in England 1700-1830. She can perhaps be characterized as the first “fag hag” to be documented in British history. She seems to have run her molly house more for pleasure than for profit. It was one of the most popular molly houses in London, and had existed at least since autumn 1724. In so far as Mother Clap went out to fetch liquor (probably from the Bunch o’Grapes next door), her house — which bore no specific name — was probably a private residence rather than a public inn or tavern. Hints that it may have been specifically organized as a house of prostitution are very slim, and it is likely that she provided for herself simply by letting out rooms, by taking a percentage on the spirits she procured, and perhaps by accepting the occasional gift from a grateful guest. One man, Thomas Phillips, had lived at her house for two years, and he disappeared after the raid. All in all, Margaret Clap seems to have enjoyed her clientele — who dubbed her “Mother Clap” — and to have taken an active interest in the gay subculture. She was found guilty as charged and was sentenced to stand in the pillory in Smithfield market, to pay a fine of 20 marks, and to two years’ imprisonment. During her punishment, she fell off the pillory once and fainted several times. It is not known what became of her, if indeed she survived prison.

Testimony

SAMUEL STEVENS: On Sunday Night, the 14th of November last, I went to the Prisoner’s House in Field-lane in Holbourn [in the City of London], where I found between 40 and 50 Men making Love to one another, as they call’d it. Sometimes they would sit in one anothers Laps, kissing in a leud Manner, and using their Hand[s] indecently. Then they would get up, Dance and make Curtsies, and mimick the Voices of Women. O, Fire, Sir! — Pray Sir. — Dear Sir. — Lord, how can you serve me so? — I swear I’ll cry out. — Your’re a wicked Devil, — and you’re a bold Face. — Eh ye little dear Toad! Come, buss! — Then they’d hug, and play, and toy, and go out by Couples into another Room on the same Floor, to be marry’d, as they call’d it. The Door of that Room was kept by —— Eccleston, who used to stand pimp for ’em to prevent any Body from disturbing them in their Diversions. When they came out, they used to brag, in plain Terms, of what they had been doing. As for the Prisoner, she was present all the Time, except when she went out to fetch Liquors. There was among them Will Griffin, who has been since hang’d for Sodomy; and —— Derwin, who had been carried before Sir George Mertins* for Sodomitical Practices with a Link-Boy [boy who carries a torch before gentleman to light their way in the streets at night]. Derwin brag’d how he had baffled the Link-boy’s Evidence; and the Prisoner at the same Time boasted that what she had sworn before Sir George in Derwin’s Behalf, was a great Means of bringing him off [i.e. getting him acquitted]. I went to the same House on two or three Sunday Nights following, and found much the same Practices as before. The Company talk’d all manner of gross and vile Obscenity in the Prisoner’s hearing, and she appear’d to be wonderfully pleas’d with it.

[Constable JOSEPH SELLERS confirmed this testimony, and noted that 40 mollies were arrested and imprisoned following the raid on Mother Clap’s.]

MARGARET CLAP: As for Derwin’s being carried before Sir George Mertins,* it was only for a Quarrel. I hope it will be consider’d that I am a Woman, and therefore it cannot be thought that I would ever be concern’d in such Practices.
[ * Sir George Mertins was Lord Mayor in the previous year. On 23 October 1725 Mist’s Weekly Journal reported: “Yesterday the Common-Council voted Sir George Merttins [sic] the Thanks of that Court for his just Administration in the Office of Lord Mayor.” ]

Clap was found guilty as charged and was sentenced to stand in the pillory in Smithfield Market, to pay a fine of 20 marks, and to two years’ imprisonment. During her punishment, she fell off the pillory once and fainted several times. It is not known what became of her, if indeed she survived prison.

Actual trial transcript from the Old Bailey regarding Margaret Clap’s trial.


William Brown’s Old Bailey Trial – July 1726

THOMAS NEWTON: Willis and Stevenson the Constables, having a Warrant to apprehend Sodomites, I went with them to an alehouse in Moore-fields, where we agreed that I should go and pick one up, and that they should wait at a convenient Distance. There’s a walk in the Upper- Moorfields, by the side of the Wall that parts the Upper-field from the Middle-field. I knew that this Walk was frequented by sodomites, and was no stranger to the methods they used in picking one another up. So I takes a Turn that way, and leans over the Wall. In a little Time the Prisoner passes by; and looks hard at me, and at a small Distance from me, stands up against the Wall, as if he was going to make Water. Then by Degrees he sidles nearer and nearer to where I stood, ’till at last he comes close to me. — ‘Tis a very fine Night, says he. Aye, says I, and so it is. Then he takes me by the Hand, and after squeezing and playing with it a little (to which I showed no dislike) he conveys it to his Breeches, and puts —— into it. I took fast hold and call’d out to Willis and Stevenson, who coming up to my assistance, we carried him to the Watch house. I have seen him before at the house of Thomas Wright.

WILLIS: We asked the Prisoner why he took such indecent Liberties with Newton, and he was not ashamed to answer, I did it because I thought I knew him, and I think there is no Crime in making what use I please of my own Body.

William Brown was found guilty of the misdemeanour of an attempt to commit sodomy, and sentenced to stand in the pillory in Moorfields, London, to pay a fine of 10 marks, and to go to prison for two months

William Brown’s Old Bailey trial transcript.

A satirical commentary and poem was sent to a newspaper shortly after Brown stood in the pillory:
SIR,

The other Day passing by Moorfields whilst Brown, the Sodomite, stood in the Pillory, I could not help making some Reflections on the Shower of rotten Eggs, dead Cats and Turnip Tops that the Gentlemen of the Mob were pleas’d to compliment him with on that Occasion: This brought to my Mind Mr. Humphry Wagstaff’s lively Description of A City Shower; and imagining that if a Gentleman of his Genius, who could draw so beautiful an Entertainment from so mean a Subject had ever thought it worth his while to give us the Representation of a Shower at the Pillory, it might have been a Present no less agreeable to the Publick. But as we have not often the Advantage of such Hands to adorn our publick Papers, I hope this faint Resemblance will not be unacceptable from

Yours, &c.

When faithless Men perversely tempt the Gods,

To send a Pill’ry Shower, we see the Odds

Betwixt descending Rains, t’ increase the Seed,

And thundring Storms t’ avenge some filthy Deed.

     The sentence pass’d, the Clouds begin to rise,

And threaten Tempests from the distant Skies.

Black Welkin’s Frown foretells the Storm must light

On perjur’d Villain, Baud, or Sodomite.

The Caitiff rais’d, the Shower comes tumbling down,

Compos’d of Exhalations from the Town.

Shrink in thy Head vile Wretch! hang down thy Chops,

It rains both addled Eggs, and Turnip Tops,

Young Puppies, Kittens, in the Dirt besmear’d,

Must be a Lather for thy wretched Beard.

For thy vile Sins, poor Spot, the Lap-dog, dies,

And Mrs. Evans’s made a Sacrifice.

The storm continues, and the zealous Croud

With their promiscuous Offerings swell the Cloud.

Dirt, Rags, and Stubble, Bunters sh[itte]n Clouts,

Pour on thy Head as fierce as lofty Spouts;

So fast the Tempest on the Wretch is hurl’d,

It apes the Deluge of the former World;

But not so clean nor long, for in an Hour,

As by Decree, the Ministers of Power

Disperse the Croud and dissipate the Shower.

William Griffin’s Old Bailey Trial

WILLIAM GRIFFIN, alias GRIFFITH, was indicted for committing Sodomy with Thomas Newton on May 20, 1725.

THOMAS NEWTON: The Prisoner and Thomas Phillips, who is since absconded, were both Lodgers, near two Years in Clap’s House. I went up Stairs while the Prisoner was a Bed, and there he ——.

SAM. STEVENS: On Sunday, the 14th of November, [1725] I went to Clap’s House, and found about a Dozen Mollies there; but, before I came away, the Number encreased to near Forty. Several of them went out by Pairs into another Room, and, when they came back, they said they had been married together. I went again the next Sunday Night, and then, among others, I found the Prisoner there. He kiss’d all the Company round, and me among the rest. He threw his Arms about my Neck, and hugg’d and squeez’d me, and would have put his Hands into my Breeches. And, afterwards, he went out with one of the Company to be married. — Every Night, when I came from thence, I took Memorandums of what I had observed, that I might not be mistaken in the Dates.
PRISONER [i.e. GRIFFIN]: I lodg’d at Clap’s a Year and three Quarters, but I know nothing of what these Fellows have sworn against me. As for Newton, it’s well known he’s a Rogue, and a Tool to those Informers, Willis and Williams.
The Jury found the Prisoner guilty. Death.
The Ordinary’s Account of William Griffin.
William Griffin, aged forty-three Years, an Upholsterer by Trade, in Southwark; had, as he said, been a Man of good Business, but, haveing squandered away, or lost his Money, was fallen into Poverty. He denied the Fact for which he died, calling Newton, the Evidence, perjured; and saying, that the abominable Sin was always the Aversion of his Soul; for he had lived many Years with a good virtuous Wife, who had several Children, two of which, a Boy and a Girl, are living; and, he said, both of them behave mighty well, and to the Satisfaction of all concerned with them: And he hop’d that the World would not be so unjust, as to upbraid his poor Children with his unfortunate Death.
At the Place of Execution, —— Griffin would not own the Commission of that detestable Sin.

He was hanged at Tyburn, on Monday, May 9, 1726.

William Griffin’s Old Bailey trial transcript.


George Kedger’s Old Bailey Trial

GEORGE KEDGER, alias Keger, was indicted for committing Sodomy with Edward Courtney, aged 18 Years, July 15 [1725].

EDWARD COURTNEY. I have known the Prisoner about a Year. I first became acquainted with him when I lived a Servant at the Yorkshire-Grey in Bloomsbury-market. I went from thence to live at a Cook’s Shop in St. Martin’s-lane, and there the Prisoner follow’d me. One Day in July last, he came there to dine, and sat in a back Room in the Yard. When I went to fetch away the foul [i.e. dirty] Plates, he squeez’d my Hand, and kiss’d me, and took me in his Arms and asked me to let him ——, to which I consented, and he put —— and ——. [i.e. performed anal intercourse]
I went afterwards to live with Thomas Orme, a Silk-Dyer, at the Red-Lyon, in Crown-Court in Knaves-Acre. He kept a Molly-house and sold Drink in private back Rooms to such sort of Company; and there the Prisoner often came after me upon the same Account.
PRISONER [i.e. KEDGER]. Ned Courtney asked me to do it, when he liv’d at the Cooks, but I told him I would not. What, says he, am not I handsome enough for ye? That’s not the Case, says I, but I have got an Injury. That’s only a Pretence, says he, but, if you don’t like me, I have got a pretty younger Brother, and I’ll fetch him to oblige ye. — As for my going to Tom Orme’s, he was my School-fellow, and sold a Pot of good Drink; and there likewise Ned solicited me to do the Story, and would fain have had me to have gone into the Necessary-House [i.e. toilet] with him, for he said, he could not rest till he had enjoy’d me. And afterwards, when he was turn’d out of his Place, I met him by chance in a very poor and ragged Condition, and he told me, that he had nothing to subsist upon, but what he got by such Things. I advised him to leave off that wicked Course of Life; but he said, he wanted Money, and Money he would have, by hook or by crook; and, if I would not help him to some, he would swear my Life away.
FRANCES CROUCH. I always found the Prisoner to be a very civil Man, and I believe he loved a Girl too well to be concern’d in other Affairs.Another Woman deposed to the same Purpose.The Jury found him guilty, and he receiv’d Sentence of Death, but was afterwards reprieved.

George Kedger’s Old Bailey trial transcript.
 

Gabriel Lawrence’s Old Bailey Trial

GABRIEL LAWRENCE was indicted for committing, with Thomas Newton, aged thirty Years, the heinous and detestable Sin of Sodomy, not to be named among Christians, July 20, 1725.

THOMAS NEWTON: About the end of June, or the beginning of July, one Peter Bavidge, who is not yet taken [captured], and —— Eccleston, who died last Week in Newgate, carried me to the House of Margaret Clap, who is now in the Compter, and there I first became acquainted with the Prisoner. Mother Clap’s House bore the publick Character of a Place of Rendezvous for Sodomites. — For the more convenient Entertainment of her Customers she had provided Beds in every Room in the house. She had commonly thirty or forty of such Kind of Chaps every Night, but more especially on Sunday Nights. I was conducted to a Bed up one Pair of Stairs, where, by the Persuasion of Bavidge, who was present all the while, I suffered the Prisoner to ——. He, and one Daniel, have attempted the same since that Time, but I refus’d, though they buss’d [kissed] me, and stroked me over the Face, and said I was a very pretty Fellow. — When Mother Clap was taken up [arrested] in February last, I went to put in Bail for her; at which Time Mr. Williams and Mr. Willis [two Reforming Constables] told me they believed I could give Information; which I promised to do; but at the End of the same Month I was taken up myself.
—— WILLIS. In March, Newton was set at Liberty, but he came the next Day, and made a voluntary Information.
—— WILLIAMS. He [Newton] informed against several of the Sodomites at that Time, but did not discover [inform against] the Prisoner till the 2d of this Month, and then I took his Information at Sir John Fryer’s.
SAMUEL STEVENS. Mother Clap’s House was in Field-lane, in Holbourn. It was next to the Bunch of Grapes on one Side, and join’d to an Arch on the other Side. It was notorious for being a Molly-house. I have been there several Times, in order to detect those who frequented it: I have seen 20 or 30 of them together, kissing and hugging, and making Love (as they called it) in a very indecent Manner. Then they used to go out by Couples into another Room, and when they came back, they would tell what they had been doing, which, in their Dialect, they called Marrying.
JOSEPH SELLERS. I have been twice at that House, and seen the same Practices.
The Prisoner’s Defence.
PRISONER [i.e. LAWRENCE]. I own I have been several Times at Mrs. Clap’s House to drink, as any other Person might do; but I never knew that it was a Resort for People that followed such Sort of Practices.
HENRY YOXAN. I am a Cow-keeper, and the Prisoner is a Milk-man. I have kept him Company, and served him with Milk these eighteen Years. I have been with him at the Oxfordshire-Feast, where we have both got drunk, and then come Home together in a Coach, and yet he never offered any such Indecencies to me.
SAMUEL PULLEN. I am a Cow-keeper too, and have served him with Milk these several Years, but never heard any such Thing of him before.
MARGARET CHAPMAN. I have known him seven Years. He has often been at my House, and, if I had suspected any such Stories of him, he should never have darkened my Doors, I’ll assure ye.
WILLIAM PRESTON. I know him to be a very sober Man, and have often been in his Company when he was drunk, but never found any ill by him.
THOMAS FULLER. Nor I neither. He married my Daughter eighteen Years ago: She has been dead seven Years. He had a Child by her, which is now living, and thirteen Years old.
CHARLES BELL. He marry’d my Wife’s Sister. I never heard the like before of the Prisoner; but, as for the Evidence, Newton, I know that he bears a vile Character.
The Jury found him guilty. Death.
He was a second Time indicted for committing Sodomy with P——, November 10. But, being convicted of the former, he was not tried for this.
The Ordinary’s Account of Gabriel Lawrence.
Gabriel Lawrence, aged 43 Years, was a Papist, and did not make any particular Confessions to me. He kept the Chapel with the rest for the most part; was always very grave,, and made frequent Responces with the rest, and said the Lord’s Prayer and Creed after me. He owned himself of the Romish Communion; but said, that he had a great Liking to the Church of England, and could communicate with them; but this I would not allow, unless he renounced his Error. He said Newton had perjured himself, and that in all his Life he had never been guilty of that detestable Sin; but that he had liv’d many Years with a Wife who had born several Children, and kept a good sober House. ——
At the Place of Execution he said, that a certain Person had injured him when he took him before a Justice of the Peace, who committed him, in swearing or affirming, that fifteen Years ago he had been taken up for that unnatural Sin, and that it cost him Twenty Pounds, to get himself free, which, he said, was utterly false; for, ’till this Time, he was never suspected.He was hanged at Tyburn, on Monday, May 9, 1726.

Gabriel Lawrence’s Old Bailey trial transcript.

Martin Mackintosh’s Old Baily Trial

Joseph Sellers: P—— carried me and others to several Sodomitical Houses, in order to detect some Persons who frequented them. Among the rest he carried us to the House of ——Jones, a Tallow-Chandler, at the Tobacco-Roll and Crown, or Three Tobacco-Rolls (I forget which) in Drury Lane. As soon as we came in, Gabriel Laurence, who has since been hang’d for Sodomy, began to scold at P——, calling him a vile Dog, a blowing-up Bitch, and other vile names, because P—— had blab’d out something about one Harrington’s being concern’d with him in Sodomitical Practices. P—— excus’d himself, by affirming that Harrington first discover’d the Secret, and that what he had said was only to be even with him. Hereupon P—— and Laurence appeared to be pretty well reconciled. It was agreed beforehand, betwixt P—— and I, that I should pass for his Husband, to prevent my being too far attack’d by any of the Company. The Prisoner sold Oranges, and for that Reason he went by the Maiden Name (as they call’d it) of Orange Deb. He and Laurence were mighty fond of one another; they hug’d and kiss’d one another, and employ’d their Hands in a very vile Manner. — After which the Prisoner came to me, thrust his Hand into my Breeches, and his Tongue into my Mouth, swore that he’d go forty Miles to enjoy me, and beg’d of me to go backwards and let him. — But I refusing he pull’d down his Breeches and offer’d to sit bare in my Lap, upon which P—— snatch’d a red hot Poker out of the Fire and threatened to run it into his Arse.

[Samuel Stevens, another undercover officer, repeated Sellers’ testimony. Mackintosh called three men who said they had slept with him and had no reason to suspect such things, and that he had a wife and child. Mackintosh was found guilty and sentenced to stand in the pillory near Bloomsbury Square, to pay a fine of 10 marks, and to suffer one year’s imprisonment.]

Martin Mackintosh’s Old Bailey trial transcript.

George Whittle’s (Whitle) Old Bailey Trial

GEORGE WHITLE, alias Whittle, was indicted for committing Sodomy with Edward Courtney, December 1, 1725.

EDWARD COURTNEY. The Prisoner kept an Alehouse, the Royal-Oak, at the Corner of St. James’s-Square, in Pall Mall. He had a back Room for the Mollies to drink in, and a private Room betwixt that and the Kitchen. There is a Bed in that middle Room, for the Use of the Company when they have a Mind to go there in Couples, and be married; and for that Reason they call that Room, The Chappel. He has help’d me to two or three Husbands there. One Time indeed, he put the Bite upon me; for, Ned, says he, there’s a Country Gentleman of my Acquaintance, just come to Town, and if you’ll give him a Wedding Night, he’ll pay you very handsomely. So I staid ’till Midnight, but no Gentleman came, and then it being too late for me to go Home, the Prisoner said I should lie with him, which I did. He put his Hand upon —— and promised me a great deal of Money, if I would let him —— which I agreed to, and he did. — But in the Morning he gave me no more than Six-pence.
Mr. RIGGS. For two or three Years past it was commonly reported, that the Prisoner kept a Molly-House, and therefore the Neighbours did not care to go and drink there.
DRAKE STONEMAN. I have known the Prisoner’s House for two or three Years. I have seen Men in his back Room behave themselves sodomitically, by exposing to each other’s Sight, what they ought to have conceal’d. I have heard some of them say, Mine is the best. Yours has been Battersea’d. — I don’t know what they meant by the Expression. — There is a little private Room between the back Room and the Kitchen, — they call lit the Chappel, to which they sometimes retired, but I can’t say for what Purpose.
The Prisoner’s Defence.
PRISONER [i.e. WHITTLE]. This Ned Courtney is such a scandalous Fellow that he deserves no Credit. — He has been thrice in Bridewell.
COURTNEY. ‘Tis very true, I have been three Times in Bridewell, but it was for no Harm, as you shall hear. First, when I was a Servant at the Cardigan’s-Head at Charing-Cross, I went to see the Prisoner, and he made me drunk in his Chappel, and when I came Home, I abused my Master’s Mother, for which I was sent to Bridewell, and my Master would not take me in again. Then, Sir, I went to live at a Molly-House; but my Master breaking [breaking into houses], and I helping him to carry off his Goods by Night, a Constable stopt me, and I being saucy, and refusing to tell him where the rest of the Goods were, I was carried before a Justice, and sent to Bridewell a second Time. And the third Time was only for raising a Disturbance about a Mollying-Cull in Covent-Garden.
PRISONER. As to the Report of my being a Sodomite, it was rais’d out of Spight; for I unfortunately let a Barber’s Shop to one Johnson, whose Wife was a cursed Bitch, and had been in Newgate for Perjury. Johnson owed me half a Year’s Rent, and I arrested him, for which his Wife, whenever she got drunk, used to call me Sodomite Dog, and so the Scandal begun, and was spread among my Neighbours. — I had a Wife, but she has been dead these two Years. I had two Children by Her, one of them is dead likewise, but the other is here in the Court, a Girl of 13 Years old. — I was going to marry another Woman, a Widow, just before this Misfortune broke out. — As for what Drake Stoneman says about some Things that he has seen in my back Room, there is nothing in it but this: I was acquainted with several young Surgeons, who used to leave their Injections, and Syringes at my House, and to bring their Patients, who were clapp’d [had venereal disease], in order to examine their Distempers, and apply proper Remedies. I have had them there on that Account eight or ten Times a Week.
PETER GRENAWAY. Ned Courtney was bound to my Master. He told me a Quarter of a Year ago, that one Butler, a Chairman, was the first Man that he had had to do with: And, he has told me since, that the Occasion of his quarreling with the Prisoner was, because the Prisoner refused to let him have a Pint of Beer when it was late. — The Prisoner was a Peace-Maker, he kept a creditable House, and always advised his Customers to go Home betimes to their Wives.
WILL BAYLIS and NICHOLAS CROWARD deposed. That they had lain with the Prisoner several Times when his Wife was living, and had never found any Thing in his Behaviour that might give them the least Ground to suspect him inclinable to sodomitical Practices.
—— STEWARD and ELIZ. STEWARD deposed, That the first News they heard of such a Thing was from the Wife of Johnson, to whom the Prisoner had let a Shop.
ALEXANDER HUNTER and WILLIAM BROCKET deposed, That such a Report was indeed whispered in the Neighbourhood a little before the Prisoner was taken up, but they knew not what Foundation there was for it.
Others of the Prisoner’s Neighbours deposed, That they never heard any Thing like it.
ANN WHITE. I was the Prisoner’s Servant. I know of no Room that was call’d the Chappel. The middle Room, and back Room were publick for any Company, and there was neither Locks nor Bolts to the Doors.
ANN CADLE. I have been the Prisoner’s Servant ever since the 13th of October last. I lay in the House every Night. I don’t so much as know this Ned Courtney. I never saw him at our House: And I think I should have seen him if he had lain there all Night with my Master.

The Jury acquitted the Prisoner.

George Whittle’s (Whitle) Old Bailey trial transcript.

Notes

  1.  Some sources say the house had only been surveilled for a year prior to the raid.
  2. The idea of calling a molly’s lover their husband was based on the faux-marriages that took place at some molly houses, often with a man playing a priest, and others acting as bridesmaids.
  3. Notes on William Brown – In 1726 William Brown was found guilty of the misdemeanour of an attempt to commit sodomy, and sentenced to stand in the pillory in Moorfields, London, to pay a fine of 10 marks, and to go to prison for two months. The case is interesting for revealing a man who, though perhaps not “gay and proud” in the modern sense, nevertheless declared to the authorities that he was not ashamed of his behaviour and that he felt that how he used his body was his own business — a strikingly modern conception. Moorfields was just north of London City Wall. By the early eighteenth century, a path in the Upper- Moorfields, by the side of the Wall that separated the Upper- field from the Middle-field, acquired the name “The Sodomites’ Walk”. The wall itself was torn down in 1752, but the path survives today as the south side of Finsbury Square. John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, notorious as the author of Sodom, or The Quintessence of Debauchery (1684), was called “the Moor-Fields Author, fit for Bawds to quote”. Moorfields was identified as a molly Market (i.e. a gay cruising ground) in an editorial in the London Journal, and was obviously well known to all — Richard Rustead the extortioner was recognized by a serving boy in 1724 as a frequent user of “the Sodomites’ Walk in Moorfields”. On the east side of Moorfields, Thomas Wright kept a molly house at his home in Christopher Alley (now Christopher Street). Thomas Newton was a 30-year-old a hustler in the employment of Thomas Wright, first at his home in Christopher’s Alley in Moorfields, later at his own molly house in Beech Lane. According to Newton, Wright “has often fetch’d me to oblige Company in that way”. Newton had been arrested in 1725, but he agreed to act as an agent provocateur in order to escape prosecution.
  4. Notes on William Griffin – This is one of the series of trials that took place in 1726 following the raid on Mother Clap’s molly house. Although Griffin denied the charges, the jury did not believe him. One would think that Griffin must have been a gay-identified man, since he actually lived at Mother Clap’s molly house for two years; but he had also been married and had two children. He was a 43yo furniture upholsterer.
  5. Notes on George Whittle – This is one of the series of trials in 1726 that followed the raid on Mother Clap’s molly house. The young hustler Ned Courtney gave evidence in return for immunity from prosecution, as in other related trials. The jury evidently did not believe Courtney’s testimony that Whittle himself kept a molly house, and Whittle was acquitted. That verdict was just, because the evidence obviously was not strong enough to convict him of a capital felony. But nevertheless we can still wonder whether or not he was in fact a molly. It seems odd, for example, that no surgeons appeared to support his claim about their frequent use of his back room for merely medical pu

References

  1.  a b c d e Norton, Rictor (Feb 5, 2005). “The Raid on Mother Clap’s Molly House”. Archived from the original on 2010-11-06. Retrieved Feb 11, 2010.
  2. ^a b Bateman, Geoffrey (Aug 18, 2005). “Margaret Clap”. glbtq.com. Archived from the original on 2010-03-04. Retrieved Feb 11, 2010. a b Norton, Rictor (June 20, 2008). “The Trial of Margaret Clap”. Retrieved Feb 11, 2010.
  3. ^Norton, Rictor (June 20, 2008). “The Trial of Gabriel Lawrence”. Retrieved Feb 11, 2010.
  4. ^a b Norton, Rictor (June 20, 2008). “The Trial of Thomas Wright”. Retrieved Feb 11, 2010.
  5. ^a b c d e Aldrich, Robert; Wotherspoon, Garry (2001). Who’s Who in Gay and Lesbian History: From Antiquity to World War II. Routledge. p. 98. ISBN 978-0-415-15982-1.
  6. Rictor Norton (Ed.), “The Trial of Margaret Clap, 1726”, Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. 5 June 2002, updated 20 June 2008 http://www.rictornorton.co.uk/eighteen/clap.htm
  7. CITATION: Rictor Norton (Ed.), “The Trial of William Brown, 1726”, Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. 22 April 2000, updated 20 June 2008 http://rictornorton.co.uk/eighteen/brown.htm
  8.   https://books.google.com.au/books?id=aMoUAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA39&lpg=PA39&dq=william+brown’s+old+bailey+trial+july+1726&source=bl&ots=WdxpsC78s6&sig=Iik0bZ4TDHCZUMriWjfMao6Kh3I&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjyhp-8x7fWAhUIxLwKHRRIALEQ6AEIKDAB#v=onepage&q=william%20brown’s%20old%20bailey%20trial%20july%201726&f=false
  9. The Weekly Journal: or, The British Gazetteer, 1 August 1726.
  10. Rictor Norton, “Mother Clap’s Molly House”, The Gay Subculture in Georgian England, 5 February 2005 http://rictornorton.co.uk/eighteen/mother.htm
  11. Rictor Norton (Ed.), “The Trial of William Griffin, 1726”, Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. 1 Dec. 1999, updated 20 June 2008 http://rictornorton.co.uk/eighteen/1726grif.htm
  12. Rictor Norton (Ed.), “The Trial of George Kedger, 1726”, Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. 1 Dec. 1999, updated 20 June 2008 http://rictornorton.co.uk/eighteen/1726kedg.htm
  13. Rictor Norton (Ed.), “The Trial of Gabriel Lawrence, 1726”, Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. 1 Dec. 1999, updated 20 June 2008 http://rictornorton.co.uk/eighteen/1726lawr.htm
  14. Rictor Norton (Ed.), “The Trial of Martin Macintosh, 1726”, Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. 1 Dec. 1999, updated 20 June 2008 http://rictornorton.co.uk/eighteen/1726mack.htm
  15. Rictor Norton (Ed.), “The Trial of George Whittle, 1726”, Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. 1 Dec. 1999, updated 20 June 2008 http://rictornorton.co.uk/eighteen/1726whit.htm

 Tim Alderman 2017

   

 

 

The History of a Fetish: The Jockstrap

A jockstrap (also known as a jock, jock strap, strap, supporter, or athletic supporter) is an undergarment for supporting the male genitalia during cycling, sports or other vigorous physical activity.

Why are they called jock straps? by Answer Guy, ESPN The Magazine

John Cronce, corporate historian, Jockey International: … As I was saying, now you might ask why they’re called jock straps. I thought I just did. Early bicycles, called penny farthings, had a giant front wheel and a tiny back wheel. People who rode them were called “bicycle jockeys,” a term borrowed from horse racing. 

Answer Guy; Whoa, déjà vu. Riders wore athletic supporters, called “bicycle jockey straps,” later shortened to jock strap. Why did riders need jock straps? I’ve never ridden a penny farthing, but I’ve always imagined that if I did, the answer would become clear. Hmmm.

Annette Thompson, The Bicycle Museum of America: I’m not a man, but my male counterparts who’ve ridden penny farthings assure me that if I were, the answer would become clear. Déjà vu all over again!

Jim Corbett, vice president of marketing and sales, Bike Athletic Company: Bike started in Boston in 1874 when C.F. Bennett, one of our founders, invented the athletic supporter. He was a bicycle jockey. Early bikes had wooden seats and no springs. Combine that with the bumpy cobblestone streets of late-19th century Boston and the need for a jock strap becomes clear. This is too weird. As athletes in other sports began to wear them, “bicycle jockey strap” was shortened to “jock strap.” Now you might ask why athletes are called “jocks.” You know, I just might …

Jim Rader, etymologist, Merriam-Webster, Inc.: It’s short for jock strap, which, like jockey, comes from the name Jock. And as with Dick or Peter, Jock is an example of a proper name that is used as a euphemism for … Then again, I might not.

Jockstrap ad, 1941
Procuring jocksteaps in Australia was next to impossible in the 70s, and early 80s. If you were lucky, you’d find the occasional chemist that had one tucked away amongst all the elastic bandages & supports, and this was how I obtained my first ones while living in Melbourne, a “Futuro” (this company no longer produces jockstraps) and 2 “Bike” No,10 from the 80s, which I still have. With no internet, and none available in sex shops of the period, it was a battle to get them short of a visit to the States, so even the odd “Futuro” or “Champion” find from a chemist was treasured. Some of the larger sportingbgoods chains eventually gecame outlets for “Bike”, “Addidas”, “Puma” and “Under Armour”.

According to Jockstrap Central – a major Canadian jockstrap retailing site: 

“In researching this article we found two different inventors of the jock strap, the first being Parvo Nakacheker of Finland. This gentleman, apparently an athlete from Finland, claims to have done much of the pioneer work in developing the original athletic supporter and “devoted much time to the study of pure anatomy and the special demands of such an item.” The second and seemingly most likely being the BIKE Web Company; who in 1874 invented the athletic supporter, quickly becoming known as the “BIKE Jockey Strap” due to the fact that it was designed originally to support and protect the genitals of the bicycle jockeys who rode the cobbled streets of Boston at that time, over the years it has come to be known more commonly as the jockstrap. Laying claim to the first hard cup supporter is Canadian company Guelph Elastic Hosiery from Guelph, Ontario. Although founded by Joe Cartledge, it was one of his two sons, Jack who being a “jock” developed the hard cup supporter and filed a patent for it in 1927. Interestingly, one versions of the jockstrap, sold in 1900 was the Heidelberg Electric Belt, a sort of low-voltage jockstrap claiming to be a cure for impotence, kidney disorders, insomnia, and many other complaints….. (The mind boggles!). Athletic jockstraps traditionally come in two styles; with a 1 inch waistband (swimmer style) or 3 inch waistband. Our Safe-T-Gard line has a knit elasticized pouch; this helps to control unwanted movement and also to create a snug comfortable fit. Attached to the bottom of the pouch are two straps which pass between the legs, split across the lower buttocks then up the sides to join the waistband, helping to hold the pouch down and in place. There is also now a thong style jockstrap, similar to the athletic type, but only having one strap attached to the bottom of the pouch, this passes under the crotch, up through the centre of the buttocks attaching to the waistband at the middle of the back. Yes men, thong’s are not just for ladies anymore! (To the uninitiated, a thong does take some getting used to). Other types of jockstrap include the slingshot, this doesn’t have any straps attached to the bottom of the pouch, and relies on the testicles to hold it in place…. Not much good in cold climates (think shrinkage), or for active sports as it wouldn’t take too much activity to come uncovered. There are also suspensories, similar to the jockstrap in a lot of ways with one main exception; above the pouch that holds the testicles is a hole which you place your penis through so that it hangs free from the constriction of the pouch, just be careful to control your thoughts and um…actions when in public! This could be quite embarrassing. Fashion jockstraps come in numerous waistband widths, and the pouches made from a variety of fabrics, anything from a fishnet type weave (which does not leave a lot to the imagination…..) to slinky fabrics such as Silk, Rayon and Lycra? It’s also rumored that the Sports Bra for Women was originally conceived by an inventor who joined two Jock straps together.Returning to the basic Jockstrap (if there is such a thing!), they also come in hard and soft cup varieties, a hard cup is to add protection when playing Ball and contact sports. In most cases the hard cup is an insert that sits in a double walled pouch. BIKE has now gone on to sell over 300 million of them, and now has several rivals in the business, including Safe-T-Gard and Champion, who sell the traditional “athletic supporter,” and other Companies such as N2N Bodywear, Go Softwear, J.M. and Zakk, who produce men’s jockstraps as a fashionable and fun clothing.”

Further to their reference of a Canadian connection in the inventing of the jockstrap, we have the following article: (Originally blogged August 4, 2010)

Clinging scene at beach circa 1900
“Okay, so this isn’t exactly fashion… but you wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t interested! The jockstrap is a bit like the brassiere and sewing machine because it was not the invention of one person but rather the result of a series of innovations, patents, and improvements.

As men took up team sports in the 19th century, they adopted knitted cotton and wool jersey garments because the material allowed freer movement. However, when costumes made of these materials were worn for swimming, little was left to the imagination when bathers emerged from the sea in what was essentially a wet T-shirt. Women’s bathing costumes were voluminous and usually made of woven rather than knitted material so they did not cling like men’s bathing costumes. Men sometimes took to wearing bathing girdles underneath their jersey bathing suits. These apparently resembled artist model posing pouches and were worn to minimize bulging even though most beaches were segregated in the 19th century, with women using an adjacent beach.

Weight lifter posing in jockstrap, c. 1950s
More men began adopting the modesty girdles for support beneath their knitted tights and jersey sports uniforms. An American improvement in 1874 resulted in a style specifically designed to avoid chafing for bicycle riders. These were sold as ‘bicycle jockey-straps’ but by the turn of the century were simply known as ‘jock-straps’ or athletic supporters.

However, as every man knows who has ever played sports, even just once, a jockstrap might be fine for keeping things out of the way, but it does not protect anything from a puck or cleated shoe. The Guelph, Ontario company Guelph Elastic Hosiery made an improvement to the jockstrap in 1927 when a hard cup was added for protection. The jock strap was sold for years under the appropriately homophonic name ‘Protex.’ The inventor of the cup and owner of Guelph Elastic Hosiery died in 1957 and the company was sold the following year. Eventually the company ceased making anything but jockstraps and the company was renamed Protexion Products in 1987, but all manufacturing of Protex has since ceased at the Guelph Ontario manufacturing plant.”

With “Bike” being a prominent mover and shaker in the history of jockstraps, and considering the immense popularity of their jockstraps in fetish and sport cirles, it is only fair to give them a voice here: “In 1874, BIKE Athletic Company began operations as the BIKE Web Company and originated the athletic supporter. Designed to provide support for the bicycle jockeys riding the cobblestone streets of Boston, the athletic supporter quickly became known as the “BIKE jockey strap.” Eventually the name was shortened to simply the “jock strap” and, BIKE has now sold well over 300 million of them. 

BIKE’s history, and its present success, has been built on our dedication to the world of athletes through product innovation. Since creating that first jock strap in 1874, BIKE has been the product innovator behind several other key athletic products. BIKE created the AIR POWER football helmet that became the standard by which all other manufacturers designed helmets to be both lightweight and comfortable, but extremely protective. BIKE created the coaches short, now worn on sideline all throughout the world. BIKE was also the first company to introduce compression shorts using uniform compression of specific muscle groups to aid in circulation, reducing fatigue and enhancing performance. BIKE’s two latest innovations, the Aeroskin moisture transport system and the ProFlex2 cups are highlighted in our innovation section.”

The Shock Doctor archives provides the following historical article: 

The “Jock”

Although legend has it that athletes in ancient times competed nude, today’s athletes opt for the comfort and security of supportive clothing. Tracing the origins of the athletic supporter, a.k.a. “jockstrap,” according to the Research Librarian at the Fashion Institute the precursor of today’s “jock” was a rubberized cotton canvas girdle worn more for modesty purposes than for support by bathers (swimmers) at public beaches in the 1860’s. The knitted, worsted wool swimsuits (that covered from neck to knee) worn my men and boys of the era were clingy and revealing when wet and the girdle was designed to constrict, cover and flatten the offending bulge.

As public sporting events grew in popularity, athletes (largely male) now risked charges of “corrupting public morals” and ” public lewdness” and began to wear the apparel under their tights and uniforms when competing in publicly sponsored contests. In 1867 a Chicago sports team refused to take the field while wearing “modesty” girdles and forfeited the competition. A riot ensued. In a newspaper story about the event a Dr. Lamb was quoted as “having recognized a medical benefit to males by the wearing of a protective girdle.”

The jock’s journey into the world of sports continued in 1874 in response to a request by the Boston Athletic Club to design apparel that would provide comfort and support for bicycle jockeys riding the cobblestone streets of Boston.” Traditional undergarments of the day (union suits) were uncomfortable and the rubberized girdle used by some caused chafing and blistering on the bicycle seats. Therefore there was a need for something that accommodated the movements of the sport and yet would contain and control in much the same manner as the girdle. ”

In 1897 the need was met as Charles Bennett, wizard of the sporting-goods manufacturer Sharp and Smith in Chicago designed the first jock strap. The original name was the Bike Jockey Strap, its insignia was a large bicycle wheel, and it was intended first for bicycle riders (who, at that time were called jockeys) and second for horseback riders. The athletic supporter became known as a “bike jockey strap” or “jock strap”. Eventually it became simply a “jock”.

The first consumer mass marketing of the jock strap came in the 1902 edition of the Sears and Roebuck Catalog which claimed the garment, now termed an “athletic supporter” was “medically indicated” for all males that engage in sports or strenuous activity. 

Without doubt that most of today’s competitive sports would never have developed as we know them had it not been for the jock. Serving to provide uplift and comfort, prevent stress, pain, hernia and possibly permanent damage and future sterility, the jock has secured its place in sports history. Up until just recently, the design has remained essentially the same for three-quarters of a century — a knit pouch held up above by a wide elastic waistband and below from two leg straps going upward from the groin across the buttocks and connecting on the side of the waistband.

In 2004, design technology finally revolutionized the standard jock as Shock Doctor unveiled its innovative X-FIT� System featuring a wrap-around cup placement design to keep the cup comfortably and firmly in place. And while the jockstrap still has a role in sports underwear, new alternatives are becoming popular. Athletic supportwear provides precise fit, improved comfort and increased athlete mobility while keeping the genitals close to the body. Shock Doctor’s innovative line of loose-fit and compression shorts combine materials that both support and breathe, in various styles designed to meet the needs of particular sports. To eliminate chafing, Mesh fabric construction provides ventilation while anti-bacterial comfort lining wicks moisture away from the skin to the exterior garment surfaces. Additional design benefits include short panel construction, which concentrates compression around major muscle groups for maximum support and mobility.

About 250,000 American men suffer sports-related groin injuries every year. And ninety-nine per cent of those who engage in active sport wear a jock and some players, like pitcher Tom Seaver of the NY Mets use the security of two straps, plus a pair of jockey shorts, plus a plastic cup fitted inside the second jock. Yet for all its historical significance in the world of sports, the jockstrap alone cannot fully protect the genitals from impact. Rather, it serves as a holder for a plastic cup that specifically serves the purpose. Which brings us to the history of its companion — the athletic cup�.

” The Cup”

The sports world runneth over with cups: Stanley; Ryder; World; Davis; America’s; Winston. And, of course, the good old protective cup. Normally unsung (and always unseen), athletic cups are traditionally uncomfortable, typically made of hard plastic, shaped funny and can be cumbersome. Nevertheless, they have been part of the sports scene since at least the early 1900s. The Cultural Encyclopedia of Baseball credits catcher Claude Berry with introducing the cup to major league baseball in 1904.

As amateur and professional sports developed, the cup became the standard of protection for athletes in contact sports, or those facing hard objects hurtling in their direction at high speed. When an athlete gets “the wind knocked out of him” and lies crumpled on the field in obvious pain, the reaction from spectators more likely is a collective wince. Then, it’s no laughing matter — and one with potentially serious medical consequences.

Early hockey players were among the first athletes to embrace wearing cups — providing protection against pucks are traveling upward of 100 mph. Some goalies were even known to strap on double cups. Soccer goalies also discovered a cup would come in handy — especially when standing in a defensive wall waiting for the opponent to unload a free kick.

A century after they were originally created, the decision whether to cup or not to cup mostly comes down to personal preference.“It’s probably experientially related,” said Don Chu, Stanford’s director of athletic training and rehabilitation. “If you’ve ever been hit there, then you probably wear one. It’s not something you’re going to volunteer for again.”

Today, technology has finally reached the world of athletic cups — offering more comfort along with the age-old advantage of protection. In 2004, Shock Doctor unveiled the most innovative design yet. Featuring Multi-stage Impact Protection technology, this revolutionary cup design combines advanced materials and superior design to provide improved impact protection and comfort, along with increased athlete mobility. This new generation cup dissipates impact in four stages, with an ergonomic design mirroring the shape of the body, and multiple vents offering improved ventilation and moisture transport.

Moments In Cup (or Cupless) History

  • – Former Cincinnati Reds catcher Johnny Bench supposedly broke seven cups during his Hall of Fame career.
  • – Philadelphia center fielder Doug Glanville was at the plate when a pitch glanced off his bat and ricocheted off the ground into his groin. Glanville, who doesn’t wear a cup, later could laugh about the pain, “Tell the kids not to try it at home.”
  • – Every summer in Darryl Sutter’s hometown of Viking, Alberta, the local sports teams have a golf tournament called the Athlete’s Cup. The trophy is an actual bronzed cup.

 


In “Slate” eMagazine,, 22 July 2005′ Daniel Akst posed the following question – “Where Have All the Jockstraps Gone? – the decline and fall of the athletic supporter”: Illustration by Robert Neubecker.

If you’re a guy of a certain age, chances are you wouldn’t think of hitting the gym without a jockstrap. For the uninitiated, the item known more formally as an “athletic supporter”consists of an elasticized waistband and leg straps connected to a pouch that holds the testicles close to the body. You women can think of it as a sports bra for a guy’s balls.
Bike Athletic, the jock’s apparent inventor and primary distributor, claims that it has shipped 350 million supporters in the past 130 years. But in recent years, this great elasticized chain binding men across the generations has snapped. At my local gym, I’ve been horrified to see young guys lifting weights with boxer shorts peeking out from their gym pants. I called Bike to see if my observations reflected a larger truth. “Kids today are not wearing jockstraps,” answered spokesperson Jenny Shulman matter-of-factly.

The collapse of this age-old bond between fathers and sons might speak elegiac volumes, except for one thing: Jocks don’t do much. Bike claims the contraption was invented in 1874 as “support for the bicycle jockeys riding the cobblestone streets of Boston.” The manly wisdom that has prevailed in locker rooms for more than a century is that wearing an athletic supporter protects you from getting a hernia. The doctors I spoke to told me that’s “an old athlete’s tale.”

“They kind of keep the genitalia from flopping around, is the best I could tell you,” says Dr. William O. Roberts, a past president of the American College of Sports Medicine.
Jocks offer no protection against the relatively common inguinal hernia, in which a portion of the gut descends through the canal that contains the spermatic cord. They also won’t protect you from what’s known as a “sports hernia,” a painful tearing or weakness of the muscles or tendons in the pubis area that’s also known as “athletic pubalgia.” (On the other hand, the jockstrap apparently isn’t to blame for my high school bout with jock itch. The itching starts when the warm, wet environment down there allows the fungus Trichophyton rubrum to flourish. That can happen jock or no jockBike doesn’t make any hernia claims. Its position is that athletic supporters somehow “fight fatigue” and “prevent strain.” Indeed, jockstraps do a fine job of holding your balls out of harm’s way and preventing the scrotal sac from getting all (ouch!) tangled up. But while working out in boxer shorts (or stark naked) isn’t a good idea, a decent pair of form-fitting briefs will probably do the job just as well.

The best reason to wear an athletic supporter is so you can wear a protective cup. Once again, for the uninitiated: Jockstraps come in two flavors: plain, and a kind of marsupial version that accepts a removable cup made of hard plastic. A well-placed blow in this region is not only agonizing; it can destroy a testicle.

While most boys and men can get by without athletic supporters, a lot more ought to wear cups. Kids these days have helmets for practically everything—I wouldn’t be surprised to see my sons wearing them for violin practice. But surprisingly few wear cups for sports, as I make my sons do for Little League and roller hockey. (Note to parents: The narrower ones are less irksome.) They consider cups annoying, and apparently other fellows do, too, which would explain why many eschew them even in situations that would seem to call for Kevlar.

I had heard that NFL players don’t wear cups but was still astonished when Joe Skiba, assistant equipment manager of the New York Giants, provided confirmation. “The majority of players feel that less is more, especially padding below the torso,” he explained via e-mail. “They feel that it hinders their speed and performance.”

Skiba says that many football players now sport a garment called compression shorts. Young amateurs like the shorts, too, even though they cost about twice as much as jocks. According to Bike, which has diversified its athletic undergarment portfolio in these jock-unfriendly times, these stretchy shorts provide support and “steady, uniform pressure” to hold the groin, hamstring, abdomen, and quadriceps muscles in place during “the twisting, stretching and pivoting action of a game or strenuous exercise.” They’re also supposed to “fight fatigue by helping prevent vascular pooling.”

When I ran this by Dr. Roberts, he sounded skeptical. “If the short is compressing enough to prevent pooling of blood, will it not also prevent blood flow from below?” he asks. “Would this flow obstruction not lead to calf fatigue and loss of lower muscle function?”
No matter whether they really “fight fatigue,” it’s no surprise that compression shorts are eating into the jock’s market share. The shorts are both more comfortable—I always thought jocks were a pain in the butt—and a lot less embarrassing-looking.

But Bike thinks there’s snap in the old supporter yet. The company is launching a line with new fabrics and designs that they say will hit stores next year. They’re also set to debut the “Boxer Jock” and the “Brief Jock”—products with the support of a jock without the outdated appearance. After all, the Bike athletic supporter hadn’t changed in 30 years—right around the time I started wearing one. Nowadays, I just wear briefs to the gym. All the other stuff is just too much of a stretch.

The Guelph Heritage page from Canada supplies us with the following information (follow the link in “References” for an amusing video on the invention of the jockstrap): One of Guelph’s many famous inventions, the story of the “jock strap” is perhaps our most important contribution to athletic innovation. We cannot lay claim to being the first of its kind. The concept of a protection garment for men in sports was recorded in the 1870s in America, with a knitted tight designed to avoid chafing while riding a bicycle and marketed as a “bicycle jockey-strap’.  

In 1927, the Guelph Elastic Hosiery made a significant improvement to the design by adding a hard cup for added protection. It was sold under the name “Protex”. A contest was held to name this new innovation and “jockstrap” became a household word.  
The owner of the company died in 1957, and Guelph Elastic Hosiery was sold. Today, the company survives as Protexion Products, but no longer makes their most famous product. 

The Trivia Library informs us: 

“About the story behind the invention of the athletic supporter or jockstrap, history and biography of inventor Parvo Nakacheker and his invention.

INVENTION: Athletic Supporter

INVENTOR: Parvo Nakacheker, Fin.
YEAR: Unknown
HOW INVENTED: He was a Finnish athlete “who did much of the pioneer work in developing … the lowly athletic supporter.” To put together an athletic supporter, more commonly called a jockstrap, he “devoted much time to the study of pure anatomy and the special demands of such an item.”

Many sports require the use of an athletic cup. These include cricket, fencing, martial arts, boxing, lacrosse, hockey, baseball, paintball, football and many others. This advice is given to cyclists:

“Exercising requires the right equipment, and for serious cycling, this means more than just a helmet. A jockstrap helps support and protect your most delicate area, allowing you to concentrate on your workout without much fear of injury. A jockstrap isn’t the only supportive option, but it can be a good one for cycling, depending on your preference.

The Need for Support
Bouncing around in your nether region isn’t just uncomfortable — it can be harmful. All cycling involves some amount of bumps and vibrations that transfer through the seat, but mountain biking or riding over rough terrain is worse than sticking to a paved road. The consistent bouncing can lead to problems in your private area including tumors, cysts and infections, according to the BBC website. Strong supportive gear such as a jockstrap helps hold you in place, reducing the chance of embarrassing cycling-related health problems.

Pros and Cons

For generations, fathers have proudly taught their sons to wear jockstraps during sports and fitness activities. They’re durable, easy to clean and provide a convenient way to position a protective cup when necessary, such as when you play contact sports. But jockstraps are falling out of fashion in some areas, including cycling. While some people swear by them, others find the straps uncomfortable during long rides, citing chafing and moisture retention as problems.

Other OptionsIf you try a jockstrap when you’re cycling and don’t like it, try another support option. Most cycling shorts fit tightly, offering different levels of support. These typically offer the additional benefit of a built-in pocket for a chamois pad to help wick away moisture. For stronger support without a jockstrap, use compression shorts, which have replaced the jockstrap for many men, including some professional athletes.”

Fashion jocks often incorporate soft-lined front pouches or they may be designed to bring the male genitalia forwards or upwards. The purpose of these modifications is to enhance the masculine appearance of the wearer. Wearers of fashion jocks may also wear abdominal guards for the same purpose.

With the decline in the use of jockstrap in sports, the use of the necessary abdominal guard has also declined despite the safety implications. Some see wearing a cup as a taboo topic. Typically cups are worn in the pouch of a jockstrap which may be double-lined to hold the cup, or in compression shorts or sport-specific briefs.
Cups for some combat sports (e.g. mixed martial arts, kick boxing) have a waistband and straps attached directly to the cup designed to be worn over a regular jockstrap or briefs. Some sports such as boxing use an oversized cup and jock combined into a single item which has layered foam padding that protects the groin, kidneys and abdomen.

On October 28, 2014 the folliwing article by DoctorGarrett appeared on spankingfit.com, titled “The Jockstrap – Still Man’s Best Friend”:

Don’t Sell Your Jockstrap Short

Despite unproven claims that jockstrap use adversely affects male fertility, the ordinary jockstrap remains one of the best forms of protection a man can use not only for protection of his private parts, but also for preventing serious strain to his groin. It’s true that the invention of certain alternatives such as compression shorts has caused a decline in jockstrap popularity; nevertheless, most serious male athletes still wear a traditional jock, sometimes under or over Spandex compression shorts, for extra protection. I certainly do.

History of The Jockstrap:

The history of the modern jock strap is rather interesting. The Bike Athletic Company of Knoxville, Tennessee is generally credited with its development, as well as the sale of the very first one in 1874 in the city of Boston, Massachusetts. It’s original purpose was the protection of private parts of “bicycle jockeys” who rode over rough cobblestone roads; hence, the name “bike jock strap”. I am sure that the jock strap’s original inventors had little idea that a future alternative use for it would be found in fetish sex, but that is outside the scope of this article (see Spanking FIT’s: “Unsafe Sex Worries? Try Kink, Safest Sex of All“) The same company is credited with having invented more recently compression shorts primarily for purposes of reducing hamstring injuries and groinal strains among football players. Use of compression shorts, however, has widened considerably over a variety of sports and athletic activities. An estimated 65% of all sales for the hugely popular Champion Underwear brand are currently from sales of compression shorts. Surprisingly, no research appears to have been conducted to assess their relative benefits over those of the traditional jock strap. In fact, it appears that little research has been conducted even to assess their benefits as opposed to wearing no protection at all.

Support science:

One often cited study is published in the Journal of Sports Sciences: “Evaluation of lower-body compression garment”, by Doan Brandon et. al.; V. 21 issue 8, 2003. The study is quite serious and well-planned, in my opinion. However, as with all studies, it does have a couple of weaknesses. First, its conclusion that injury may be reduced by wearing compression shorts is based on mechanical impact testing of the shorts material, as opposed to measuring the effect with and without wearing them on a human population over a period of time. Secondly, since the research was supported by a compression shorts manufacturer, an appearance of conflict of interest may exist. I, for one, do believe that compression shorts usage has great potential for prevention of both short and long term injury in athletically active individuals, male and female. Given the essential benefits over a lifetime of regular exercise , further independent research on this topic is definitely warranted, in my opinion.

Every day jockstrap value:

A final note on using a jockstrap to prevent injury during normal, every day non-athletic activity. I, like many others, have decided to put aside the automobile as much as possible in performance of routine tasks such as shopping or going to the post office. The benefits of walking in keeping us fit and controlling our weight are enormous. Nevertheless, walking and carrying items can contribute to strain. At first, I thought of trying compression shorts for extra support during such normal activities. I found them to be too hot and uncomfortable for long term use. (For men, they can be especially awkward whenever nature calls). I personally solved the problem by wearing a traditional jock over soft silk or nylon boxer shorts. That combination provides both the necessary support, ventilation required for comfort, and freedom from chafing. (Believe me, don’t try wearing a jockstrap only for prolonged periods of time. You will definitely regret it.) A word of advice to young men. Don’t be fashion fools. The practice of wearing boxer shorts under “baggies” is unhealthful and is leading to an increase in the number of hernia surgeries performed on youngsters annually.”

Uncyclopedia provides us with a comedic slant – at least…I hope that’s what it is – to the invention of the jockstrap:

Jock Strap (1860 – 1920) 

Jock Strap, Inventor of the athletic supporter

owned a men’s haberdashery where, in fitting male customers for trousers, he developed an interest in designing a supporter for their genitals similar to women’s brassieres, or bras, but without the lace and frills with which the latter frequently are decorated. He experimented with handkerchiefs, and, once satisfied with the design of the article, he sewed a prototype, calling it a “penile-scrotal brassiere” and advocated its use as a means of “reducing, if not eliminating, the unsightly male bulge.”

However, the brassiere proved unpopular. Deciding that the name of his article was the cause of its rejection, he changed it from “penile-scrotal brassiere” to “athletic supporter.” Thereafter, he was able to sell his new undergarment to Sharp & Smith, a sporting goods company which, in turn, sold it to bicycle jockeys, claiming that wearing the supporter would cushion the jarring effect of riding their wheeled mounts over Boston’s cobblestone streets.

To associate the athletic supporter with bicycle riding, Sharp & Smith changed its name to Bike Web Company and, later, simply to Bike Company, becoming the world’s leading manufacturer of athletic supporters.

In honor of its inventor, the athletic supporter is also known as the jockstrap.

Ironically, Jock Strap died from tinea cruris, a phallophiliac fungus.

Electrified Jockstraps

At the turn of the century, when electricity was still of relatively recent use, the athletic supporter was electrified, as it was believed that jolts from the garment could cure kidney disorders, insomnia, erectile dysfunction, and bedwetting. The electrified supporters were also an addition to the instruments and implements in sadomasochists’ collections.

Modern Jockstraps

Rear view of a typical athletic supporter, or “jockstrap“
Front view of an athletic supporter or “Jockstrap”

In more recent times, teenage boys’ first acquaintance with Jock Strap’s invention often occurs when they are required to purchase the undergarment as part of their high school physical education “gym suit.” Worn with a “cup” (a hard plastic insert that fits securely over the testicles to prevent injury to them by a misplaced kick, a thrown ball, or other athletic danger), the athletic supporter was believed to prevent injury to the adolescent’s genitals and reduce male sterility.

Most boys recall their introduction to this item as having been embarrassing or even mortifying, unlike most adolescent girls’ reaction to the idea of wearing a brassiere, which ranges from gratitude to delight. However, high schools and colleges discontinued the requirement that athletic supporters be included in students’ gym suits when boys and young men exhibited a preference for compression shorts (form-fitting spandex garments that are similar to boxer briefs, but without flies). Only after Calvin Klein and Under Armor introduced new lines of athletic supporters did the undergarment regain some popularity among athletes.

Gay Jockstrap

A fashion jockstrap such as the type favored by members of the gay community


Standard business attire among homosexuals in high places, the jockstrap is also the leisure suit of choice on the part of many members of the gay community, and a whole new dimension has been added to the fashion industry with the creation of fashion jockstraps. Many are available in clasic colors that are preferd by gay men such as b;ack and white, along with newer colors such as purple, pink, and lavender, with bows, lace, beads, and pleats, in silk, satin, or velvet. They come with optional hard or padded cups, and are worn as much as a “framing device” to draw attention to the buttocks as they are as a supporter for the genitals. There is a thong supporter for men who want to let it “all hang out.”

Jockstrap “Handkerchief” Codes

Some gay men employ the jockstrap as a means of making known their sexual interests to others of their kind, similar to the way in which homosexuals in previous generations used a handkerchief code to signal to one another what types of sexual activities they enjoyed. According to this code, jockstraps of the following colors indicate interests in these respective sexual activities:

  • Black – heavy sadomasochism
  • Grey – bondage
  • White – masturbation
  • Light blue – fellatio
  • Dark blue – anal sex
  • Charcoal – Latex fetish
  • Leather – leather fetish
  • Red – fisting
  • Orange – anything goes or just looking
  • Yellow – golden showers
  • Hunter green – daddy
  • Robin’s egg blue – light sadomasochism
  • Medium blue – seeking a police officer
  • Sandalwood – seeking a carpenter
  • Olive drab or khaki – seeking a military man
  • Grey flannel – suit and tie fetish
  • Light pink – dildo fetish
  • Goldenrod – seeking a sugar daddy
  • Mauve – navel fetish
  • Brown – feces fetish
  • Dark pink – nipple torture
  • Purple – piercing
  • Lavender – drag queen
  • Gold – threesomes
  • Apricot – chubby chaser
  • Beige – analingus
  • Red or black stripe – bears
  • Camouflage – seeking a rugged outdoorsman
  • Maroon -cutting
  • Fuchsia – spanking.

A jockstrap for women
Other Uses

Boys find that, when attached to sturdy rubber bands, condoms, or elastic bands, jockstraps make excellent pouches for slingshots and are an exceptionally good means of tormenting girls: by jiggling them in a girl’s face and making appropriately inappropriately lewd, crude comments, boys chase girls from classrooms or reduce them to tears. In attempting to reverse this tactic, using their brassieres in lieu of the boys’ jockstraps, girls have found that the ploy fails, as boys seem to delight in having girls’ brassieres dangled in their faces while lewd, crude comments are made concerning the brassieres’ purpose and use.

Janestrap

A jockstrap for women, called the janestrap, was introduced in 1996 and has proved highly unpopular in an age of unisex fashion, gender dysphoria, feminism, and sexual equality. 

 Onto an interesting note, Felix Sarver wrote this  piece for The Herald-News on the Joliet Museum doing historical research on the jockstrap:

LOCAL NEWS

Joliet museum to delve into history of jockstraps

By FELIX SARVER – fsarver@shawmedia.com

Jan. 16, 2017

JOLIET – The history of jockstraps will see the light of day Sunday at the Joliet Area Historical Museum. 

Billed as a “scholarly talk on a ‘jocular’ subject,’ ” public speaker Ellie Carlson, who is also a museum and costume curator, will give an examination of masculine protective equipment that was first designed for bicycle jockeys and has evolved over time to be protective, concealing and healthful. 
“The purpose is to introduce the audience to the protective equipment that has been utilized by gentlemen … to preserve the family jewels so they are not compromised in athletic pursuits,” Carlson said. 
Her talk, called “Cup Check, Please!” will take place 2 p.m. Sunday at the Joliet Area Historical Museum, 204 N. Ottawa St. The cost is $5 for museum members and $7 for nonmembers. 
Carlson has lectured on other topics, such as ladies’ underclothes – that talk is called “Speaking of Unmentionables: The Rise and Fall of Ladies Underwear” – as well as aprons and the history of Valentine’s Day. 
She also does costumed interpretations and has researched cooking techniques, period ingredients and recipes for several eras, according to her website. 
While jockstraps may be an unusual subject, Carlson said they have a regional connection. The jockstrap was invented in Chicago in 1874. 
“It has a Chicago connection and I decided this was the perfect opportunity to expand my repertoire,” she said. 
Her interest in the subject came about through managing a vintage baseball team called the Chicago Salmon, which plays by the rules of 1858 baseball. She noticed there wasn’t masculine protective equipment used in the time period. 
Carlson said Sunday’s talk will be a clean, family event. She stressed there will be no modeling of jockstraps by anyone during the presentation. 
Coaches are invited to come, as they’ll learn useful information.
“Knowing the background of anything is always important. Knowledge is power,” she said.  

Photo from Jockstrap Central

The Death of a Jockstrap Icon?

On Novemger 20, 2016 UNBTim wrote the following article for Underwear News Briefs regarding the demise of the Bike company, titled “Bike Jockstrap – Lost its Support”:

“I never like these kinds of posts. Where we have to bid farewell to icons in the men’s underwear world. We had to say goodbye to UnderGear and now Bike Jockstraps. Bike has been synonymous with jocks since they were released. Up until the 80’s they were the jockstrap. Anytime you needed a jock for sports, Bike was the brand you bought. It was my first jock that I ever wore and bought.

Brief History of Bike Jocks

  • In 1874 Bike created jocks for Boston bicyclists
  • They have sold over 300 Million jocks
  • Bought by 2003 in Russell Corporation
  • Last acquired by Fruit of the Loom and made the decision to end production

Source Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BIKE_Athletic_Company

In the 70’s/80’s the jock took on a new life in the fetish world. Guys into leather would often wear the Bike #10 jock with their gear. This created a whole subculture in the gay world. It remained largely unchanged for most of the 80’s. The main additions were colors (Red, blue and black). You no longer had to get them in just the traditional white. Also, in this time the swimmer jock was around. It wasn’t as popular as the traditional jock, but it had its supporters! Yeah, I had to do it.

Why did the jock take off so much with guys?

First, back in the day they were cheap. I remember paying $7 for one at a major sporting good store. I would regularly pick them up when I was out and found myself in a sporting good store. Which sadly, wasn’t too often. But I made a few special trips to get the black #10 jocks.

Next, they were sexy. The design was made to give support to the wearer in sports. Nothing worse than a groin pull. This made the design more function over form. However, the form showed off everything about a guy. The pouch which was a mesh rather than a solid material followed by the open back. Is it any wonder that the fetish community took to these garments? I think not!

Lastly, they weren’t considered fetish wear. This was one pair of underwear you didn’t have to mail order or go into a “seedy store” to buy. It was at every sporting good store across the country. When you went in to buy them no one even questioned you about the purchase. It didn’t matter if you were buying for you or someone else. Only the purchaser knew the reason for buying. The clerk in the store just rang it up and you were on your way. In this time if you wanted a thong, it was a bit harder to get. They were made but not very widely distributed.

Why did the classic Bike Jock go extinct?

There are a few answers to this question. Each one sort of builds the case on why Bike has ended.

In the 80’s/90’s the sports jock market had more competition. I used to go in the sporting good store and see Bike and maybe one other brand. Then in the late 80’s you would see more and more brands. Bike then raised their prices and the other jocks filled in the lower price levels. However, in my opinion, very few of them had the quality of Bike.

Less guys are wearing jocks for sports. There was a time when it was pretty standard issue for guys in football, baseball, and other sports were issued a jock. It was often a comedy point for movies. In the 90’s we saw the rise of gear from UnderArmour and Nike. They replaced the jock for many athletes. Now they were wearing compression shorts over jocks.

Another reason for the decline is the rise of the fashion jock. In 2009, I named it the year of the jock. This is the time that jocks exploded on the underwear market. It seemed everyone came out with a jock. This included using bright colors and prints in the pouch design. Including using different colors for the waistband and leg straps. Gone also, was the nylon pouch. Jocks are made in every fabric you can think of and in every combination. Cotton, spandex, leather, neoprene and more. Adding on to this is brand reimagined the jock. One of the prime examples is the C-IN2 Grip jock. There are many more who have given their take on the jock.

Bike itself redesigned the classic jock. The #10 jock was a classic. The wide waistband was the standard. The band has thin stripes in the middle. The band paired with the label in the front. 1 inch leg straps and nylon pouch was a classic. In the 90’s they changed the jock from the #10 to a more modern look. The band was a bit smaller and had Bike written into it. It just wasn’t the same. It’s like when Coke made New Coke. But unlike that example, they never went back. This stopped me from buying them as much as I did. I just missed the classic design.

Lastly is the fetish market embraced the jock. Companies started to create jocks specifically for the “fetish” market. One of the first was Nasty Pig. The jocks they made reflected the leather/fetish community. The new designs become in fashion with the fetish community. It could tie into other items they already have in gear or would be from brands. Other brands like Cellblock 13, Slick it Up and more joined the market.

All these things were great things for the underwear market. Especially for jock lovers. It wasn’t one of these things but the combination of events that lead to this decision. It seems more like a financial decision to end the entire line. Russell doesn’t seem like the type of company to embrace the fetish side of the jock. I don’t think it was a market they wanted to be in anymore. How many of us actually bought a Bike brand jock in the last 10 years? I can’t say I did.

So long Bike, you were a pioneer and synonymous with Jockstrap. Thanks for being my first jock. You will be missed in the underwear world! But don’t fret, there are many other brands to fill the void!

In the comments section, jockstrapguy from Jocksteap Central provided the following interesting information “Good article. Thanks Tim. Would also be fitting to mention that Flarico who came on the scene 5 years later with their F110 jock (in the late 1890s) has also closed up shop. I think all your reasons for the demise are all correct but personally I think another factor is simply that it’s not worth the effort to make and sell a jockstrap for under $9. Fruit of the Loom ended taking over the Bike brand and perhaps that was their motivation (or lack thereof) for shutting it down. We (Jockstrap Central) were importing Bike from Europe when North America stopped manufacturing and because of shipping and duties had to charge $15+ and they still sold like hotcakes.”

And this from the “Men and Underwear” blog, dated June 22, 2016:

Is this the end of Bike Jockstraps?

We have been informed from the guys at Jockstraps.com that Russell Athletic, the owner since 2003 of Bike Athletic is going to stop producing underwear and sportswear under the Bike brand name. The quick note said that Russell Athletic have informed the store that the Bike brand is discontinued including, as you can imagine, their renowned jockstraps. It looks like some stores might still be able to get some stock from Germany but even this is going to stop very soon. Is this the end of Bike jockstraps? There have been shortages of stock in the past but the very recent re-release of the classic No10 was thought as a sign of a revival of Bike rather than plans to shut it down…

The photo below is from Jockstraps.com and shows the Throwback edition of the iconic No10 jock by Bike.

Iconic No.10 Bike Jockstrap from jockstraps.com

“The Cultural Encyclopedia Of Baseball” on Google Books.

From the Google book “Cultural Encyclopedia of the Penis”

Cultural Encyclopedia of the Penis edited by Michael Kimmel, Christine Milrod, Amanda Kennedy

Bike Jockstraps in Advertising

The above picture is an early example of a package for the Bike Jockey Strap Suspensory.

In 1927, men could buy either the Bike No. 55 Elastic Supporter, the Bike No. 17 Elastic Supporter, or the Bike Wide Waist Supporter from the Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalog for only 34¢, 48¢ and 62¢ respectively. Notice the “Supporter and Protector for Basket Ball, Football and Baseball” on the left. The “Jersey knit pouch contains a light aluminum guard.” The supporter and protector cost $1.89 in 1927The Bike No. 55 Elastic Support reads “Made of find elastic with attractive woven strip. V seam front allows greater elasticity. Medium sizes, 30 to 38 in. waiste measure, large sizes 40 to 44 in. State size, shipping weight 5 ounces. Cost 34¢.

Another ad for Athletic Elastic Supporters from the 1927 Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalog included the “Improved Chicago Snap Front” and “The Strap Supporter,” both made for Sears by Bike. “The Strap Supporter” cost 39¢ and the ad read “Recommended for athletes and swimmers. Light, cool, and comfortable. Fits well, no buckles or narrow bands to cause discomfort. Made of good quality elastic webbing. The “Athletic elastic supporters improved Chicago Snap Front” cost 79¢ in 1927.

Page from Schmelzer’s Sporting Goods catalog shows the Bike No. 28 Jock Strap Suspensory (50¢); the Open Mesh Supporter (40¢); Schmelzer’s “Athletes” Support (75¢-$1.50); and the Old Point Comfort Suspensory (75¢-$2.25).

“Supporter WILT is Dangerous!” Magazine ad from 1941 showing that the Bike No. 5 and 55 supporters prevent “dangerous supporter wilt.”

Bottom portion of a WWII poster from a Lincoln, NE museum showing the importance of keeping fit for the war effort. Produced by the Bike Web Manufacturing Co., it reminds young men to “Get enough sleep, Eat Balanced Diet, Get Plenty of Fresh Air, Take Regular Excercise…and when you engage in excercise…be safe..wear the proper support.”

These Bike jock ads appeared in the 1948 and 1955 editions of the Boy Scouts of America Handbook.

This 1955 “Coaches and Trainers Handbook” from the Bike Web Company provided information on prevention and care of athletic injuries. It featured famous trainers of the day including Bill Dayton, Pinky Newell, Fred Peterson, Henry Schmidt, and Duke Wyre.

Some manufacturers bulk-pack supporters for school and team sales. This is the Bike No. 10 School Pack. Vintage jockstraps like this can often be found on eBay.

Jockstraps in History

Basketball star Charles “Chuck” Taylor, shown here in a 1921 photo, exhibits a very 21st century attitude toward displaying his jockstrap. Note the waistband of what appears to be a Bike No. 10 supporter protruding above his shorts. Taylor was best known for his association with the Chuck Taylor All-Stars sneaker.

This Bike jockstrap was worn by Boston Red Sox player Wade Boggs during spring training in Florida.

Keep strapped.
Tim Alderman (2017)

Addendum 1 – Jockstrap Patent



Addendum 2

The following question was posted to a Google group on 7/1/2003 by cubjovk73

“I was going through my jockstrap drawer, perusing my collection for a strap to wear under my see-through white shorts for my Step Aerobics class, and I stopp I found a Bike Jockstrap, looks like a #10, but I kinda noticed that the waistband was different than my other Bike straps. This particular jock is slightly off-white in color, and is more bone white leaning to very light creme colored. The waistband only had threecolored bands two navy, and one gray. I compared it to the others and noticed that they’ve got red and blue lines. I was lucky enough that this member of my strap collection, I got while “visiting” one of my university’s locker rooms. It’s amazing how no athletes put a lock on their locker, let alone leave a jockstrap behind. The only thing I’ve surmised is, that this variance in style can be attributed to maybe a style of jock made specifically for university athletics. The pouch is smaller than your run of the mill Bike#10.

Anyone care to shed any light on this?
CubJock73
‘Strap up, dude, let’s jack!”

Thom in DC gave this very informative reply on some Bike jockstrap history

Dear cubjock,

    I can speak from direct experience with BIKE jockstraps, which in my opinion is the archetypal jockstrap known to all us guys who have a jockstrap/athletic cup fetish. As a baby boomer I began wearing jockstraps in the early 1960’s for sports, casual wear, and for sex. In the 1950 and 60’s, BIKE no. 10 jockstraps had the Bike wheel logo on the label of the jockstrap. It had good quality materials of cotton fabric with elastic. The jock was built to last. It had an off color white color.

In the 1970’s, BIKE no. 10 jockstraps still had the same composition o materials in their fabric, but BIKE in Greek lettering appeared on the label of the jockstrap. The jock was the same quality and color fabric as the jocks of the 50’s and 60’s.

Getting into the 1980’s, BIKE no. 10 jockstraps began have more polyest in their fabric. They had a looser feel about them, but still were of goo quality. Also I noticed that in the mid to late 1980’s, BIKE was manufacturing its jocks in places like Jamaica, not necessary at their head quarters in Knoxville, Tennessee. BIKE jocks had more a greyish color with three stripes (black-grey-black) on the waistband.

It was in the 1990’s that the BIKE no. 10 jockstraps began to deteriorate in quality. BIKE Athletic Co. marketed their Proline BIKE no. 10 jock with white color polyester fabric without hardly any sturdy cotton elastic combination. The jock is a very flimsy and not built to last. I don’t think it would last several launderings. Also the weave and design of the joc pouch had changed from the earlier versions. Because of this, I don’t think BIKE Proline jocks offer much firm support.

You mentioned about BIKE University jocks. They are BIKE no. 11 jock which are much better quality and manufactured in bulk for schools, colleges, universities and professional teams. They have a very sturdy polyester fabric. I believe you can get BIKE University jocks at http://www.internationaljock.com and other suppliers.

As regards to colored stripes on the waistbands of BIKE jockstraps, think that they were more a fashion statement by BIKE Athletic through its various versions of the no. 10’s. Though early this evening I had an interesting chat with a jock/cup buddy on IRC on this one topic. He sai that the colored stripes denoted waist size. I told my friend that I was not sure about this but it is a possibility especially if jocks were sold in bulk to teams. My friend hopes to ask Tom, the owner of http://www.allkink.com wha he knows about colored stripes on BIKE jockstraps.

I am not sure about your questions about BIKE athletic cups. That is als a fascinating subject. Being athletic cup fetishist that I am, I researche the origin of cups manufactured by BIKE. I am not sure if BIKE manufactured metal cups, but I remember looking in old issues of Athletic Coach in the late 1940’s. BIKE began manufacturing plastic athletic cups then. I am no sure if they had ABS plastic. The cups came with the jock without the rubber gasket. The athlete had to put the rubber gasket on the edges of the cup himself. It was in the 1950’s, that BIKE began manufacturing traditional BIKE no. 55 flat cups as we know them. They had a distinguished use for at least two generation of athletes until 1985 when BIKE Athletic bega marketing the BIKE no. 85 banana cup which is my favorite athletic cup. BIKE has made a few changes in the banana cup since then but it is still a real good cup, designated by MLB the Official Cup of Major League Baseball 🙂

Hope this all helps.

  Thom. in DC who remember the BIKE Athletic slogan in the early 1990’s:
“When you are ready to play, winners wear BIKE.””

References and Interesting, Informative Links

  1.  “Bike History”. Bike Athletic https://web.archive.org/web/20071124113927/http://www.bikeathletic.com/History.aspx
  2. “A History of the Jockstrap”. Jockstrap Central. http://www.jockstrapcentral.com/history.php
  3.  “Jockstrap and Cup Historical Background”. https://web.archive.org/web/20070821141215/http://www.jockstrappedstuds.com/pages/news/jock_cup_hist.htm
  4. “How to Wear A Jockstrap” 11 Steps with Pictures. http://m.wikihow.com/Wear-a-Jockstrap
  5. “Choose & Wear a Protective Cup for Sports” http://m.wikihow.com/Choose-and-Wear-a-Protective-Cup-for-Sports
  6. “How to Put On An Athletic Cup” http://m.wikihow.com/Put-on-an-Athletic-Cup
  7. Canadian Fashion Connection: The Jockstrap – A Canadian Invention? https://kickshawproductions.com/blog/?p=453
  8. Slate: Where Have All the Jockstraps Gone? http://www.slate.com/articles/sports/sports_nut/2005/07/where_have_all_the_jockstraps_gone.htmlu
  9. “You really don’t need to wear a “Langot” or “Jockstrap” while weight training. Here’s why!” http://www.mensxp.com/health/body-building/34535-you-don-t-really-need-to-wear-a-langot-or-jockstrap-while-weight-training-here-s-why.html
  10. The Guelph Heritage site http://www.guelphheritage.ca/stories/the-invention-of-the-jock-strap
  11. Trivua Library https://www.trivia-library.com/a/history-and-story-behind-inventions-athletic-supporter-or-jockstrap.htm
  12. YouTube – Men Wear Jockstraps for a Day https://youtu.be/_GNWseJFj5Q 
  13. Jock Strap http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/Jock_Strap
  14. The Herald-News 16 January 2017 http://www.theherald-news.com/2017/01/16/joliet-museum-to-delve-into-history-of-jockstraps/aans76m/
  15. Is A Jocksteap Ggod For Cycling? http://www.livestrong.com/article/426307-is-a-jockstrap-good-for-cycling/
  16. Underwear News Briefs http://www.underwearnewsbriefs.com/2016/11/bike-jockstraps-lost-its-support/
  17. Photos of packaging & styles for vintage Bike jockstraps http://www.bikejockstrap.com/vintage-bike-jockstraps.aspx
  18. The Male Boulder Holder – The Jockstrap and All Its Hang-Ups https://prezi.com/m/cyxfjx3vtq9e/copy-of-the-male-boulder-holder-jock-strap-controversy/
  19. “Jocksteap” Project Gutenberg Self-Publishing http://www.gutenberg.us/articles/Jockstrap
  20. “The Jockstrap-Still Man’s Best Friend” http://www.spankingfit.com/the-jockstrap-mans-best-friend/
  21. hometapp.com “Our 7 Favourite Jockstraps – For Guys With Sexy Style https://hornetapp.com/stories/favorite-jockstrap-brands-style-sexy/
  22. YouTube – Best jockstrap Underwear for Men by Bike Athletic https://youtu.be/49GO7hpqcPM
  23. Cultural Encyclopedia of the Penis https://books.google.com.au/books?id=bHytBAAAQBAJ&pg=PA97&lpg=PA97&dq=bike+jockstraps&source=bl&ots=9vpuQrxVnE&sig=3s74fksuMvlyqz_e9q3muDDDBMI&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjJ5tmShI7WAhVmjlQKHbG9AGQ4HhDoAQg3MAI#v=onepage&q=bike%20jockstraps&f=false
  24. How To Buy A Jockstrap http://m.wikihow.com/Buy-a-Jockstrap

Young and Innocent: Childhood Through the Eyes of a Child!

Sylvania – a suburb in the Sutherland Shire, South of Sydney –  in 1954 was, to a child with any perception, an idyllic place to grow up. Betty and Joe, my parents, had bought a huge half-acre property for £100 around the start of 1950. 

The family home at 69 Melrose Ave, Sylvania. Joe purchased the half-acre block of land in the early 1950s for £100, and built the house himself for a cost of around £1,000. The property sold for $18,000 in 1966. The block was subsequently sub-divided into a battleaxe block, and a house now sits on what was our backyard. The new owner did extensive renovating and remodeling to the original house, but paradoxically, Joe’s original brick front fence remains. At one stage, he had a house-name sign made, naming the house “Barronjoey”. The reasoning behind this would seem to be that there is a Barronjoey Road in Ettalong Beach, where Gotdon’s original weekender was – and it is a co-joining of both Betty’s family name “Barron”, and his nickname “Joe(y)”.

Before proceeding with the building of the house – said building to be done mainly by my father – they built a garage. It would eventually house a car, but for beginnings was to house them, and the newly born me.

I was, from the time if my birth, fairly good – at leadt as good as a baby can be. I spent most of my dats asleep, making appearances when visitors arrived by climbing up on my cot and perring at guests through the curtain that divided the garage in half.

Betty and Joe, i think in mum’s backyard at Leichhardt, before they married.

Mum was a Presbyterian, though denying any belief, and dad was, by hus own reckoning, a lapsed Catholic. This could have caused consternation as to which religion I was to be raised in, especially with the Catholic side of the family still being fairly devout.

But dad’s parents were pretty well out of the picture by this stage either having died, or been consigned to a sanatorium, so there was only mum’s family left to be appeased.

On our way to school – in the front yard of the Cook family, opposite us in Melrose Ave. From left Peter Cook, Valerie Cook, myself.

To save trouble, I was Christened in the Presbyterian church,min Gmarion Street, Leichhardt, though that was not to be the church I followed or worshipped in until 12 years of age.

The Sylvania milk run was owned and operated by Eadie and Burt Samways, one of the areas more affluent families, who resided directly across the road from our slowly evolving home.

The Samways lived in a 2-storey abode, with stables for the horses that drew the milk wagons at the rear, and a large semi-circular drive that centred on their front door.

Robert John Pickhills, about 1957.

The front gardens were full of Gardenia’s, and one of my most eagerly recalled recollections of growing up in Sylvania was the perfume of Gardenia’s and Jasmine filling the air in the spring, and  summer heat. 

The dirt road threw dust up into the air as the occasional car sped along it, and it was the duty if my beloved and devoted dog Trixie to ensure my safe crossing of it, to visit the Samways, who were my Godparents.

Myself in the front yard at Sylvania. The Samways house is in the vackground. The fence that is there is soon to be replaced by a brick one. The boys in the background are from the Ball family. The lived in Corea Ave, and had one of those local “shabby” houses, with holes in the fibro walls, and a front yard full of long grass, and rubbish. The kids always look disheveled, and unkempt. The Johnson’s house had not yet been built, directly across the road.

Sylvania was home to 2 churches. There was the obligatory Catholic – though if anyone living here was a member of it, they never admitted to it – and the Sylvanua Heights Congregational Church, of which the Samways were highly regarded members. It is to their honoured memory that they were not pious biddies, just honest, hard working people who believed you were judged by example, not by belief.

Winters in this idyllic suburb were crisp and cold. The frost underfoot leoft playoful footprints as of ghosts – created by walking backwards  in ones own footprints, so that they seemed to disappear into mowhere – and the open fireplace in the lounge room was warm and welcoming, inviting one to cook toast or heat marshmallows in its glow.

Me in my Gwaley Bay Soccer Club outfit. I hated sport, and this was temporarily endured to keep Joe happy, thinking he had a “butch” son. I also had to endure tennis until they finally gave up subjecting me to this. I was also in the Congregational Churches Boys Brigade – though I quite enjoyed that.

It was an invitation to family love and warmth that was to only last a short while. The wireless (valve radio) was the centre of our household, until television took its rapacious hold in the early 60s. It sprouted serials in the morning to get mum’s day started, and a deranged sparrow – Sammy, by name – and a Jiminy-styled grasshopper – called Gerald – saw me off to school in the mornings.

Summers were hot, and I roamed the streets shoeless and shirtless, being tanned the colour if dark brown leather. Trixie roamed the streets with me, and to see either one of us was to see both, as we were, from the very geginning, inseparable. 

Myself and pop (William Barron) probably at Ettalong Beach in the latter half of the 1950s.

The local store, or general grocer as they would now be called, was a recyclers paradise of smells and tastes. Armed with the families shopping list, and a commodious trolley, I would venture there to shop for mum. Old jars were returned, to be refilled with peanut butter, Vegemite, honey or jam. Egg cartons were refilled, and basic commodities such as sugar, flour and tea were weighed out into plastic bags. Cheese and cold meats were cut to order, and for a mere sixpence a young boy could buy a bag of sweets that could put a smile on the face of any dentist.

Saturday was baking day, and I, along with all the other young rogues in the street, went from house to house, tasting each cooks soecialties. Banana pikelets, pumpkin scones, iced cup cakes, Cornflake and Anzac biscuits, lamingtons, jam tarts, vanilla slices, neenish tarts and butterfly cakes were all sampled along the way. On this day, mum would bake pies for the coming week, sometimes steak pue if meat was affordable, but always apple, or apple and rhubarb to go with the Sunday roast. Mum’s father loved coconut tarts, so uf a visit to nana and pop was on the cards, a batch of yhese could be smelt baking in the oven.

Kevin and myself on our adjacent neighbours front porch. The house was owned by Jack & Olive Gill.

Of dad’s family, very little was known. The family roots would eventually be traced back to the 1500s, hrough Yorkshire and Lancashire (mum’s family through Cornwall), with my Great Grandfather Frederick William Pickhills, my Great Grand Uncle George Rickinson Swan, and my Great Grand Aunt Clara all arriving here from the 1860s on.  

Life in “Chiswick”, in Sydney’s northern suburb of Chatswood, was strict, and dad, though opposed to war, took advantage of the call-up to escape the family squabbles and bitching. He fought in Borneo and New Guinea, though in the mechanic’s corp, not as a soldier.He earned himself the two service medals, and managed to depart from the army with an Honourable Dischsrge. He left the world of war behind him, attended TAFE (then known as a trchnical vollege, or atech, for short)  to become a carpenter, then proceeded to spend most if the restIf his life as a grease monkey.

Pop Barron (William Barron), probably at Ettalong Beach where their son, Gordon, owned a weekender before moving to Morrisett.

Mum’s family were later traced, with no thanks to her, as she had no intetest in her families roots. William and Mary Barron lived in the inner-city suburb of Leichhardt. Theybwere a kindly, grandparenty couple, who doted on their grandchildren. Pop’s mother – Emily Rule – was still alive when I was a kid, and my recollections of her are of standing by her bed in a nursing home, and receiving handfuls of tiny shells, pennies and half-pennies from this old, wrinkled woman. The shells were used to add weight to the milk jug covers she crocheted, and were stitched around the edges of the completed items. Mum had ine sister – Gwen, and two brothers – Les, and Gordon.

Where my parents met, and the general course of their romance that eventually led to marriage is a story that was never related to me. The only photographs of them show a happy, smiling couple either in the backyard of mum’s home, or on the steps of the church where they were wed. If they were ever in love, which it is supposed they were, it was never particularly obvious to me as I grew up.

Nana Barron (Mary Collins) probably at Ettalong Beach.

Affection was not easily given by either parent, and the words “I love you!” Cannot be recollected at all. However, it was a reasonably happy childhood, spent in a happy place. That problems existed was vaguely unsettling to me, for as little as mum and dad realised it, they had given life to a sensitive, intelligent child. Being aware of the workd around me, and geing aware of my capabilities, and the potential life held for me was no eady matter. Neither parent encouraged the artistic side of my nature, that was evident from a very young age. In fact, dad seemed in fear of it! This fear and chaining of his own hature wss to have far-reaching effects on my life ss I developed. 

My grandparents owned what was referred to as “the weekender”, at Mortisett, on Lake Macquarie. It was in this quiet,nremote retreat that I found the most happiness, and a side to my nature that was to have a blossoming later in my life. The old weatherboard house had no running water, no electricity or gas, no sewerage. For a child growing up with such modern conveniences always to hand, this was a world of wonder. Water was collected in a huge, corrugated iron rainwater tank, with a layer of kerosene floating on its surface to prevent an explosion of mosquito’s. Lighting came from methylated spirit hurricane lamps, the refrigerator ran on kerosene, and cooking was done on a huge cast-iron fuel stove,mornon a Primus. The stove never went out, and if you wished to gathe, water was boiled in a huge copper vat in the backyard, and carted inside to fill the bath. Bathing was in order of age, from oldest to youngest. The toilet was outdoors, at the end of a fairly long path. You had to take a lantern with you at night, and ieep an eye out for red-back spiders. Simpler nightly ablutions were attended to by using a chamber-pot, kept under the bed.

Nana and pop Barron, with three of their great grandchildren.

Dad and pop would go out fishing in the early hours of the morning, and often returned with catches if flathead, bream or leatherjacket, lobsters, mud crabs or prawns. Nights were spent around the lino-clad kitchen table, playing endless games of dominies or cards, and swatting mosquitoes. These were Elysian days, the memories of them always returning yo me when I was in need of a happy childhood memory. 

My brother, Kevin, was born in 1958. His birth was to facilitate an eventual chain of tragic events whose repetcussions were to forever alter, and rip apart our family. You can read his story here https://timalderman.com/2012/04/23/kevin-pickhills-the-unspoken-name/.

Tim Alderman. First published in 2001 on Too Write (http://www.toowrite.com), and revised in 2017.