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 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.


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:

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.


  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


  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”. 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
  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
  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
  11. Rictor Norton (Ed.), “The Trial of William Griffin, 1726”, Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. 1 Dec. 1999, updated 20 June 2008
  12. Rictor Norton (Ed.), “The Trial of George Kedger, 1726”, Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. 1 Dec. 1999, updated 20 June 2008
  13. Rictor Norton (Ed.), “The Trial of Gabriel Lawrence, 1726”, Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. 1 Dec. 1999, updated 20 June 2008
  14. Rictor Norton (Ed.), “The Trial of Martin Macintosh, 1726”, Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. 1 Dec. 1999, updated 20 June 2008
  15. Rictor Norton (Ed.), “The Trial of George Whittle, 1726”, Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. 1 Dec. 1999, updated 20 June 2008

 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, 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.


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:


Joliet museum to delve into history of jockstraps


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 –

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 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 and shows the Throwback edition of the iconic No10 jock by Bike.

Iconic No.10 Bike Jockstrap from

“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?
‘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 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 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
  2. “A History of the Jockstrap”. Jockstrap Central.
  3.  “Jockstrap and Cup Historical Background”.
  4. “How to Wear A Jockstrap” 11 Steps with Pictures.
  5. “Choose & Wear a Protective Cup for Sports”
  6. “How to Put On An Athletic Cup”
  7. Canadian Fashion Connection: The Jockstrap – A Canadian Invention?
  8. Slate: Where Have All the Jockstraps Gone?
  9. “You really don’t need to wear a “Langot” or “Jockstrap” while weight training. Here’s why!”
  10. The Guelph Heritage site
  11. Trivua Library
  12. YouTube – Men Wear Jockstraps for a Day 
  13. Jock Strap
  14. The Herald-News 16 January 2017
  15. Is A Jocksteap Ggod For Cycling?
  16. Underwear News Briefs
  17. Photos of packaging & styles for vintage Bike jockstraps
  18. The Male Boulder Holder – The Jockstrap and All Its Hang-Ups
  19. “Jocksteap” Project Gutenberg Self-Publishing
  20. “The Jockstrap-Still Man’s Best Friend”
  21. “Our 7 Favourite Jockstraps – For Guys With Sexy Style
  22. YouTube – Best jockstrap Underwear for Men by Bike Athletic
  23. Cultural Encyclopedia of the Penis
  24. How To 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

Tim Alderman. First published in 2001 on Too Write (, and revised in 2017. 

Rickinson & Elizabeth Pickhills: The Original Yorkshire/Lancashire Grey Nomads?

My Great Great Geandparents.

As I’ve noted before, it is difficult to piece together the everyday lives of people from 150 years ago, using a disjointed set of records that covers just sporadic moments in their lives. And so it is with my Great Great Grandparents – Rickinson Pickhills and Elizabeth Appleyard – though what we do have provides an interesting, insightful, and poignant story. The question that I asked myself as I collated the records and miscellany of their lives is – did Elizabeth realise just what was ahead for her when she married Rickinson?

St Peter’s Cathedral, Bradford, Yorkshire

Rickinson was born around November 8, 1811 at Bradford, in Yorkshire, and Christened on the 8th of November in St Peter’s Cathedral in Bradford, inheriting his mother’s maiden name as a Chritian name – something I am eternally thankful for, as it makes name searches easy!. His parents, Joseph Pickhills & Clara (Clarissa) Rickinson – his mother was previously married to a John Brown, with no issue – and his granmother (Margaret Moorsom) and grabddather (Roger Rickinson) were from well-established, and highly respected families from the Robin Hood’s Bay/Whitby/Fylingdales area of Yorkshire. He had one brother (Seth (1808-1859)), and one sister (Priscilla (1804-1873)). Apart from Rickinson, they were not prolific reproducers, with Seth having only one son, Alfred (who was to become a Johnsonian Baptist Minister – see his story here – in Rochdale, Lancashire and Towcester in Northumberland), and Priscilla never marrying, but becoming companion and housekeeper to her nephew for many years until he married. Rickinson’s age also varies in some census: in the 1841 he is noted as 27: In the 1851 as 39; 1861 is difficult yo read but could be 50.

Rickinson’s Christening record. My interpretation of this record is that his father, Joseph, lived in Bowling, Bradford, and his occupation was as a (wool) comber.

Elizabeth Appleyard is a harder story to follow, and research is ongoing. We have what we think is her baptism record, on 22 May, 1825 at Farnley-by-Leeds in Yorkshire, with William Appleyard and Sarah named as her parents. However, gauging from census records, we are deducing that she was born around 1822, and baptised much later – a common practise back then. We know she was underage when she married Rickinson. We certainly know her father’s name was William, from her marriage certificate, but on no actual documents is her mother named. At the moment, we are thinking it may possibly be Sarah Lamby, as the dates and places fit. The census records tell us that she was born in Bradford (1851census), though in the 1861 she gives it as Clayton. There appears to be no census records for her under the name Elizabeth Pickhills in the 1871/81/91 census, though we know she used that name up until her death. The 1901 census lists her birth town also as Clayton. As to age, it is noted as 19 in the 1841 census; on the 1851 as 28; 1861 as 37. We know that in the 1841 census (taken on 7 June) the following instruction was given “The census takers were instructed to give the exact ages of children but to round the ages of those older than 15 down to a lower multiple of 5. For example, a 59-year-old person would be listed as 55. Not all census enumerators followed these instructions. Some recorded the exact age; some even rounded the age up to the nearest multiple of 5”, though seeing as Rickinson is stated as 27, it would seem that rounding down wasn’t done on this form. 

Rickinson and Elizabeth married on the 29 January, 1840 at St James Church, Halifax. 

St James Church, Halifax.
Marriage certificate for Rickinson & Elizabeth
There are a couple of things of note on the marriage certificate – Rickinson is at full-age, but Elizabeth is a minor; his rank or profession is listed as a “Gentleman” from Halifax, and she is listed as being from Northowram; Joseph Pickhills (Rickinson’s father) is also listed as a “Gentleman”, while William Appleyard is listed as being a “Worsted Stuff Manufacturer”. This was considered a good profession (it is possible that William conducted his business from Old Dolphin), and really seems to indicate a marriage between two reasonably well-off families, though otherwise would seem to be the case. There are three very interesting events that indicate that all may not have been as it seems! 

In 1939, their first son, George Rickinson Swan, was born (he emigrated to Australia in the 1858, and died in Bourke, New South wales, on August 13, 1912 from Senile Decay (Dementia or Alzheimer’s), and was buried in Bourke the following day. Unfortunately, all the grave markers in Bourke cemetery were destroyed in a severe bushfire, so their actual burial plots are unknown.. He lived an amazingly interesting life there, and his story is yet to be written). He married Ellen Fanning on February 18, 1862 at Port Eliot in South Australia. He was a steamer captain on the Darling River, resided in Goolwa, South Austealia, and Bourke New South Wales. They had no children.

Captain George Rickinson Swan Pickhills

By the time they married in January 1840, Elizabeth was 2 months pregnant with yheir second son, William Moorsom (given his second name from his great grandmother, Margaret Moorsom, he joined the Royal Navy at 14, and dird from Cholera in Bengal, India in 1866. His story is here Whether this caused any scandal or not, we will never know. The third interesting event for 1840 was that Rickinson declared insolvency on September 11, 1840. For what reasons, we do not know. It would appear that financial difficulties started early on in their married life.

Rickinson’s Insolvency, Birmingham Gazette, September 1840.
By the time of the 1841 census, they are listed as living in the district of Fold, and George and Henry are listed with them. Rickinson appears to be given the profession of “agricultural labourer”. Also, note that in this census, the family name is spelt as “Pickles”.  

We can see from all the following records that the family moved around – a lot! One assumes it was for work purposes, though it is possible that Rickinson was just an unreliable employee.  

Catherine was born on January 13, 1842 in Halifax (she married Jurgen Nickolas Andreas Knoop (1840-1900) on February 16, 1864 in West Derby, Lancashire. They had one daughter, Clara Priscilla Marie (1869-1871). Catherine’s death date is unknown at this time). 

Jane was born on January 1, 1844 in Northowram. She died on August 6, 1844 in Northowram from “Disease of the Liver”. Present at her death in Northowram village is John Appleyard. It is still to be ascertained if this is Elizabeth’s brother, or an uncle.

Edward was born on November 1, 1845 in Halifax. He died on April 30, 1846 in Halifax of “Pneumonia, 7 days certified”. Rickinson is listed as an “Attorney’s Clerk”, and was in attendance at the death.

On the evening of November 5, 1846 a James Greenwood broke into the “lonely house in the neighbourhood of Halifax”, belonging to Rickinson & Eluzabeth, in the absence of the family, and stole 2 pistols, 3 dresses, and other property. He was charged, pleaded guilty, and sentenced to 18 months hard labour.

York Herald, 20 March 1847
Charles Edward was born in 1847, in Halifax. He died on February 15, 1869 on the Murray River, Victoria, Australia. He was visiting his brothers George Rickinson Swan, and Frederick William, when he fell overboard from the steamer “Moira”, at The Devil’s Elbow on the Murray River, and drowned. He was buried at Lake Victoria, Victoria. I am still attempting to ascertain his actual burial place.

Charles Edwards Death, Western Herald, Wednesday 12 March 1890
 In 1848, Rickinson again declared insolvency in Halifax.  The reasons why we will,possibly never know.

Frederick William was born in 1849, in Bradford. He died on April 15, 1850 in Bradford from “Diarrhea 6 Days certified”. Rickinson was in attendance at Bridge St, Bradford, and is an Attorney’s Clerk. 

This brings us to the 1851 census, held on March 30, and has been updated to include more information than the 1841. In 1851, they lived at 12 Duckworth Lane, Manningham, Bradford. Rickinson is a Solicitor’s Managing Clerk, having previously been an Articled Clerk (this is noted on the census form). Along with Elizabeth, George (11), Henry Moorsom (10), Catherine (9), and Charles Edward (4) are listed.

Priscilla (named after her aunt) was born on January 4, 1852 at Thornton. She was married twice, to William Wallace Pratt on September 20, 1869 at Liverpool, in Lancashire. They had no children. It is assumed William died around 1872/73, and she them married William Frederick Stafford (1840-) on February 20, 1873 at Kirkdale in Lancashire. They went on to have 8 children, born in Cheshire, Ireland and Scotland. We do not currently have a death date for her, though we assume in Scotland. It is interesting to note that they named their first child – a girl – Clara Priscilla Marie (a family tilt to her Great grandmother, and great grand aunt), which was the same name her sister Catherine had given to her daughter, who only lived for 18-odd months. I wonder if her sister was still alive, and the daughter was named as a tribute to her lost daughter, or as a tribute because her sister had died?

Frederick William (MY GREAT GRANDFATHER) was born on February 28, 1855 in Everton.  He was Christened 30 August 1862 at St Nicholas parish, Liverpool, Lancashire. He emigrated to Australia, and arrived in Sydney in 1880. He married Ellen McConnell (1854-1935) in Sydney on February 23, 1866 before moving to Bourke, New South Wales. He was a steamer captain, and they had 3 children – George Rickinson, Elizabeth Barwon (middle name from the Barwon River, which ran near Bourke) and my GRANDFATHER Frederick George (1891-1945) – all born in Boyrke. He died on September 13, 1891 at Newtown (Royal Prince Henry Hospital) from chronic Brights Disease (kidney nephritis) and Ascites (accumulation of liquid in the abdominal cavity), and spent 10 days in hospital. He was buried in Rookwood cemetery (Anglican section) on September 16, 1891. It should be noted that the two brothers wives – Ellen Fanning, and Ellen McConnell brought some Irish blood into the family.

Clara was born on April 4, 1857 in Liscard, Cheshire. She emigrated to Australia with her mother in 1871, and ended up in Goolwa, in South Australia, where her brother George resided, as also was her mother, Elizabeth – more on this further on. They returned to Launceston, had one daughter, Hilda Dulcie Elizabeth (1891-1941), and she died in Launceston on July 7, 1921. The newspapers give her age as 56, though she was, in fact, 64.

Walter was born on May 16, 1859 in Everton, Lancashire. He died on November 6, 1862 in Liverpool, Lancashire from Diptheria. He is buried in Toxteth Park cemetery – possibly with his father.

The 1861 census was held on April 7. They lived in Parkfield Road, Toxteth Park, West Derby, Lancashire. Also present were Elizabeth (37), Catherine (19), Charles (14), Priscilla (9), Frederick William (6), Clara (4), and Walter (1). Rickinson is a Solicitor’s General Clerk; Catherine is a Cigar Maker; Charles, Priscilla, Frederick William are Scholars. 

Mary was born on August 16, 1861 in West Derby, Lancashire. She died on February 17, 1863 in Liverpool, Lancashire, from “Dentition Gum Disease Certified”. Henry Moorsom was present at her death. He could possibly have been on shore leave. 

Rickinson died on May 12, 1862 at Toxteth Park, Lancashire. His obituary read “On the 12th instant, of disease of the heart at his office, 30 Castle St, aged 41 years, Mr Rickinson Pickhills”. According to his death certificate, his son Charles Edward was present at his death. He was buried at Toxteth Park Cemetery.

Rickinson “Pickles” Pickhills death certificate. He died at his workplace in Castle Street from a heart attack.

There is a possibility that Elizabeth arrived in Australia in 1871, on the “Orient”. There is a record of a KG Pickhills and daughter arriving in Sydney on the 4th January that year. So, time for a “possible scenario”! The newspapers would have printed the passenger list from a hand-written document, so mistakes are inevitable. We know Elizabeth came out here around this time, and with Clara, who would have been 14 at this time, her only surviving child at home, it is more than likely – and with 2 son’s here already – that they emigrated together. There us no independent emigration record for Clara. They would have made their way to Goolwa, where George had a home. We have records – to follow – that definitely place Elizabeth there in 1876. We know that Clara married William Francis Bomford there in 1889 – thus it is possible she met him there, and moved to Launceston after their marriage.  The marriage announcement also states that the wedding was held “in the residence of the bride”, so Clara was obviously in Goolwa at that time. At this stage, I am accepting the emigration record on the “Orient” as their arrival here. PS Have just discovered a “Thank You” letter to the Captain of the “Orient”, regarding their appreciation to the ship’s doctor for his kindness and care on what appears to be a rough voyage, and published in December 1870. Two of the signatrees are Clara & Elizabeth Pickhills. My assumption was right.

Adelaide Telegraph, Tuesday 20 December 1870, Page 1.
William Feancis Bomford & Clara Pickhills wedding announcement in Goolwa, South Australia

The second actual record we have of her here is in 1876 – and it’s in the form of a police warrant in Goolwa, South Australia. On June 21, 1876, the following motice appeared in the South Australian Police Gazette “A warrant has been issued at Yankalilla for the apprehension of Elizabeth Pickhills, a widow, and mother of Captain Pickills, of the Goolwa, for larceny of 2lbs. of butter from Messrs. Smith & Swan, sheep farmers, Bullapabaringa. Offender is said to be living at Mr. Luffin’s, Goolwa.” . Why she would feel the need to sreal 2lb of butter is anybodies guess, and despite knowing that she is to end up with Alzheimer’s, I feel it is a bit early at this stage for that to be affecting her life or mental condition.

The following then appears in the Police Gazette to say that the original charge had been withdrawn.

We then hear nothing of Elizabeth for quite a few years. I dare say that as time went on, her mental condition would have begun to deteriorate at an ever alarming speed Then, on April 28, 1889 at Goolwa, the following incident occured: A writ appears with the Goolwa police dated 2nd May, 1889 against Elizabeth Pickhills . She appeared before a Justice of the Peace, Thomas Goode, charged with that on the 28th April 1889 she did “unlawfully use abusive words in a certain public place, to wit The Parade in North Goolwa, with intent to invoke a breach of the peace”. She had to pay a fine of £2. This incident received a mention in “A Land Abounding – A History of the Port Elliot and Goolwa Region, South Australia” by Rob Linn, chapter 5. Being a Yorkshire lass, I dare say the language would have been very colourful!

The book “A Land Abounding” mentions Elizabeth’s 1989 public indiscretion.
 November 1892 finds Elizabeth onboard the “Masilia” emigrating back to England. As with so many aspects of her life, assumptions have to be drawn about the reasons behind her actions. I feel there are two scenario’s that could have prompted her return to England: (A) She just didn’t like it here, being a bit more casual, and not as “modern” as England, with a totally different climate, the tyranny of distance, the remoteness, or (B) her dementia was becoming a problem for her son’s, and they were finding her just too difficult to handle. With Clara in Tasmania, Frederick William and Rickinson living in Bourke, Goolwa must have become a very lonely place. Anyway, whatever the reason, it was back to England she went, but not to Yorkshire nor Lancashire.

Passenger & Immigration list for the “Masilia”

The Masilia arrived in London on November 22, 1892. We hear no more of her until the 1901 census, held on March 31 that year. Elizabeth is living in St Pancras, in a house with 4 other people, and “living on her own means”. Her age is 74. Then in 1902, she appears in the St Pancras Workhouse records “St Pancras Workhouse at 64 Belmont Street, Admitted 9-4-02, discharged 25-2-03”. This would indicate that she had fallen on hard times.

St Pancras Workhouse at 64 Belmont Street, Admitted 9-4-02, discharged 25-2-03
St Pancras Workhouse
St Pancras Workhouse

There is no more about her until her death in Tooting Bec Mental Asylum in 1906. It is a bit frightening to contemplate what the path to the asylum could have been. Elizabeth died in the asylum on February 20, 1906. Her official place of death was Wandsworth Common. She died from “Senile Decay”, which can mean dementia, or a progressive, abnormally accelerated deterioration of mental faculties and emotional stability in old age, occurring especially in Alzheimer’s disease. There appears to be no record of her burial.

Elizabeth Pickhills death certificate, Tooting Bec Mental Asylum.
Tooting Bec Mental Asylum.
Ever since I started gathering information on Elizabeth, many years ago, I have had this feeling of great sadness Regarding her life. I get the feeling that life with Rickinson may have been one of erratic employment, not to mention his two instances of insolvency, and being dragged from village to town throughout Yorkshire and Lancashire. She was literally an incubator for children…many of whom had very short lives. Of the 12 children she had over a 22-year period, 5 died in infancy. Two daughters married and moved away, 2 son’s and a daughter moved to Australia and married here, one son died when visiting here, and one son died overseas in the naval service. That is a very sad litany, and after Rivkinson’s death, life in Lancashire must have felt vety lonely indeed. Even the move to Australia, to be closer to her sons, didn’t work out well, with several public arrests, and life in Goolwa must have ended up feeling as lonely as England. A return to England, and the hmbling by life in a workhouse, and the increadingky detrimental affects of Alzheimers, leading to a sad, lonely death in a mental asylum! It just breaks your heart! Yet despite this, her children here went on to live very productive lives, and she would have been proud of them.

Below is a letter concerning senile decay in London.

Tim Alderman © 2017

What’s In A Name?: The Derivation of the Pickhills Surname.

My Great Great Grandmother, Elizabeth Pickhills nee Appleyard, and my Great Great Great Grandmother, Clara Pickhills nee Rickinson both have associations with the Northowram area in Yorkshire, so the below description came as quite a surprise to me. The family also has tie-ins to Halifax. My Great Geeat Grandfather, Rickinson Pickhills cannot trace back far with that surname – Hus father, Joseph Pickhills, we only know about through his marriage record to Clara Brown (Clara Rickinson was first married to John Brown). When I hired Mintwood genealogy researchers to do some tracing of the family in 2011, they could find no records for him, and thought there was a probability of him being an itinerant worker. Likewise, there are difficulties tracing Elizabeth Appleyards parentage, despite Appleyard being a common hame in the Northowram area. We only know her father’s was William (through her marriage record to Rickinson), and a possible sibling or uncle – John Appleyard – present at the Northowram death of Jane Pickhills, the daugter of Rickinson & Elizabeth. Research is ongoing, but it is possible that both families are from that area.

Pickhills is a very old name coming from the medieval period where it was written as ‘Pighills’. I have seen the name on entries in relation to early research in the Shibden valley area. Northowram old Township was a very large area covering the village and skirting the edge of Halifax right up to the other side of Queensbury (Queenshead as it was in earlier times). 

This interesting name is of early medieval English origin, and is from a topographical surname for someone who lived by a small field or paddock. The name derives from the Middle English word “pightel, pighel”, small enclosure, field, or paddock. Topographical names were among the earliest group of surnames to be created in England and other countries in Europe, as they became necessary, since both natural and man-made features in the landscape provided instant and easily recognisable identifying names for the inhabitants of the small communities of the Middle Ages. 

The modern surname can be found as Pickles, Pickless, Pickle and Pighills, and is found recorded mainly in Yorkshire. The marriage of Thomas Pickles and Sarah Tennard was recorded in Bingley, Yorkshire, on January 28th 1649. One R. Pickles, a famine emigrant, sailed from Liverpool aboard the “New World” bound for New York on June 7th 1847. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Richard de Righkeleys, which was dated 1379, in the “Poll Tax Returns of Yorkshire”, during the reign of King Richard 11, known as “Richard of Bordeaux”, 1377 – 1399. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to “develop” often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.

Northowram Primary School
Old Northowram village before the developers moved in
Northowram Village

Sex Tycoon: “Sex4Cast” Agony Aunt Column, Friday 27 June 2003 *Is This Gay?*.

In 2003, after making a witty, sarcastic comment on an article published in an online emagazine called “Sex Tycoon”, I was contacted by them, and asked to be “The Gay Man” commenting on a series of subscriber personal-problem-questions. The panel of “experts” consisted of a “Straight Dude”, “Straight Gal”, ‘The Gay Guy” and “The Lipstick Lesbian”, and each week, under the column title Sex4Cast, we were emailed a “problem” question with a link, which we would then write a reply, offering personal advice on solving the problem. The four panellists had no knowledge, or contact, with each other, so all advice was offered independently. As “The Gay Guy”, I never treated the questions seriously, offering – in my inimitable style – witty (I hoped), sarcastic advice, which, according to feedback from the site owners, was very popular with their subscribers. Sex Tycoon was operated by a group called FocusBlue Media LLC. Unfortunately, as was common in those days on the internet, after 14 columns the owners decided to close the site down, and that was the end of my Agony Aunt career. Sex Tycoon has disappeared into that great cyber-space grave

Sex Tycoon: “Sex4Cast” Agony Aunt Column, Friday 20 June 2003 *Put That Camera Away!*.

In 2003, after making a witty, sarcastic comment on an article published in an online emagazine called “Sex Tycoon”, I was contacted by them, and asked to be “The Gay Man” commenting on a series of subscriber personal-problem-questions. The panel of “experts” consisted of a “Straight Dude”, “Straight Gal”, ‘The Gay Guy” and “The Lipstick Lesbian”, and each week, under the column title Sex4Cast, we were emailed a “problem” question with a link, which we would then write a reply, offering personal advice on solving the problem. The four panellists had no knowledge, or contact, with each other, so all advice was offered independently. As “The Gay Guy”, I never treated the questions seriously, offering – in my inimitable style – witty (I hoped), sarcastic advice, which, according to feedback from the site owners, was very popular with their subscribers. Sex Tycoon was operated by a group called FocusBlue Media LLC. Unfortunately, as was common in those days on the internet, after 14 columns the owners decided to close the site down, and that was the end of my Agony Aunt career. Sex Tycoon has disappeared into that great cyber-space graveyard, but I’ve kept copies of the columns, and publish them here for your amusement.

Sex Tycoon: “Sex4Cast” Agony Aunt Column, Friday 13 June 2003 *Close the Blinds!*.

In 2003, after making a witty, sarcastic comment on an article published in an online emagazine called “Sex Tycoon”, I was contacted by them, and asked to be “The Gay Man” commenting on a series of subscriber personal-problem-questions. The panel of “experts” consisted of a “Straight Dude”, “Straight Gal”, ‘The Gay Guy” and “The Lipstick Lesbian”, and each week, under the column title Sex4Cast, we were emailed a “problem” question with a link, which we would then write a reply, offering personal advice on solving the problem. The four panellists had no knowledge, or contact, with each other, so all advice was offered independently. As “The Gay Guy”, I never treated the questions seriously, offering – in my inimitable style – witty (I hoped), sarcastic advice, which, according to feedback from the site owners, was very popular with their subscribers. Sex Tycoon was operated by a group called FocusBlue Media LLC. Unfortunately, as was common in those days on the internet, after 14 columns the owners decided to close the site down, and that was the end of my Agony Aunt career. Sex Tycoon has disappeared into that great cyber-space graveyard, but I’ve kept copies of the columns, and publish them here for your amusement.

Sex Tycoon: “Sex4Cast” Agony Aunt Column, Friday 6 June 2003 *Oversexed?*.

In 2003, after making a witty, sarcastic comment on an article published in an online emagazine called “Sex Tycoon”, I was contacted by them, and asked to be “The Gay Man” commenting on a series of subscriber personal-problem-questions. The panel of “experts” consisted of a “Straight Dude”, “Straight Gal”, ‘The Gay Guy” and “The Lipstick Lesbian”, and each week, under the column title Sex4Cast, we were emailed a “problem” question with a link, which we would then write a reply, offering personal advice on solving the problem. The four panellists had no knowledge, or contact, with each other, so all advice was offered independently. As “The Gay Guy”, I never treated the questions seriously, offering – in my inimitable style – witty (I hoped), sarcastic advice, which, according to feedback from the site owners, was very popular with their subscribers. Sex Tycoon was operated by a group called FocusBlue Media LLC. Unfortunately, as was common in those days on the internet, after 14 columns the owners decided to close the site down, and that was the end of my Agony Aunt career. Sex Tycoon has disappeared into that great cyber-space graveyard, but I’ve kept copies of the columns, and publish them here for your amusement.

Sex Tycoon: “Sex4Cast” Agony Aunt Column, Friday 30 May 2003 *Tops or Bottoms?*.

In 2003, after making a witty, sarcastic comment on an article published in an online emagazine called “Sex Tycoon”, I was contacted by them, and asked to be “The Gay Man” commenting on a series of subscriber personal-problem-questions. The panel of “experts” consisted of a “Straight Dude”, “Straight Gal”, ‘The Gay Guy” and “The Lipstick Lesbian”, and each week, under the column title Sex4Cast, we were emailed a “problem” question with a link, which we would then write a reply, offering personal advice on solving the problem. The four panellists had no knowledge, or contact, with each other, so all advice was offered independently. As “The Gay Guy”, I never treated the questions seriously, offering – in my inimitable style – witty (I hoped), sarcastic advice, which, according to feedback from the site owners, was very popular with their subscribers. Sex Tycoon was operated by a group called FocusBlue Media LLC. Unfortunately, as was common in those days on the internet, after 14 columns the owners decided to close the site down, and that was the end of my Agony Aunt career. Sex Tycoon has disappeared into that great cyber-space graveyard, but I’ve kept copies of the columns, and publish them here for your amusement.