Field Lane environs, Holborn
In the vicinity of Margaret “Mother” Clapp’s molly house, not far from St Paul’s, part of Field Lane still exists as the southern end of Saffron Hill, and the smaller branch of Shoe Lane, parallel to Farringdon Road. Directly east was West Smithfield, which has a long history of notoriety. The actual site in West Smithfield where Mother Clap was pilloried was an ancient site of execution. From 1290 the “red light” area had spread from Cripplegate to West Smithfield, mainly Cook’s Lane, near Newgate. The “nightwalkers” were often imprisoned in The Tun in Cornhill, then whipped, then released through the city wall at New Gate, which gave its name to Newgate Prison when it was built nearby. In 1483 King Edward V’s ordinance “For to Eschewe the Stynkynge and Orrible Synne of Lechery” was specifically designed to clean up areas like Farringdon, Cripplegate, Holborn and Finsbury. Pimping became such a problem in the area that in 1622 King James irdained the “Touching on Disorderly Houses in Saffron Hille”, reputed to be overrun with immodest, lascivious, shameless women, generally repured to be common whores. Another ordinance in 1624 listed the areas raided as Cowcross, Cock’s Lane, Smithfield, St John Street Clerkenwell, Norton Folgate, Shoreditch, Wapping, Whitechapel, Petticoat Lane, Charterhouse, Bloomsbury and Ratcliffe. By 1680 the red light srea was moving towards King’s Ctoss, Holborn, and Lincoln’s Inn.
By the late 1800s, Field Lane, Chick Lane, Black Boy Alley, Turnmill Street, Cow Cross and other back alleys was collectively known as Jack Ketches Warren. “Jack Ketch”, named after a famous public hangman.
The area became known for its molly houses. During the Gordon Riots of 1780, and suffered severely from the fire which started in the houses in Fleet St, west of Farringdin Rd, and fed by burning spirits from Langdale’s Distillery. And raged by Holbirn Hill, its advance only checjed by the Fleet Ditch (River).
Two other molly districts existed in London, Lincoln’s Inn Fields and Covent Garden to the west in Westminster, and St Paul’s and the Royal Exchange to the east in the City. The London molly houses would have provided one outlet for the homosexuals, and one could assume that a reasonable amount of discreet “cruising” probably went on in their environs. One could create an outline of the subversive underground by wandering the streets where the molly houses were established, from West Smithfield and then go south along Little Britain Street, we could turn left into Cox’s Court, and then right into a very small mews called Cross Key Court. then if we turn right and go down St Martin’s Le Grand we come to St Paul’s Cathedral, not listed as a Market in the London Journal editorial, but nevertheless attended by the mollies for more than religious purposes. In the curious lottery of 1699 which mentioned Captain Rigby’s fate, it was suggested that mollies picked up the handsome apprentices who frequented St Paul’s on Sunday afternoons. Just off Cheapside, to the north of St Paul’s Cathedral, is Gutter Lane. A bit further, again running off on the north, is Wood Street, and St Paul’s Churchyard. If we continue down Cheapside, and then down Poultry, we arrive at the Royal Exchange, identified as a molly Market in the London Journal, which had not much changed its character since the Swarthy Buggerantoes used to cruise it in 1700. Robert Whale and York Horner once stood in the pillory at the “Stocks Exchange” on 13 January 1727, after being convicted for keeping a molly house – presumably in this area. Then we come to Pope’s Head Alley.
If we continue our survey to the southeast we will arrive at Tower Hill, an area which also seemed popular with the mollies, particularly if we may draw inferences from the extortion attempts in this area by the likes of John Battle who was led to the Castle tavern in Mark Lane, where John Lewis and John Jones threatened to expose him as a sodomite in 1730. There was a noted molly house near Billingsgate (Market) just off Thames Street, midway between the Royal Exchange & East Smithfield, Tower Hill. to the east was Swedeland Court (now Swedenborg Gardens), to the north of the Tower,from the Minories to Aldgate where there was a meeting house in Old Gravel Lane used for pick-ups, and another southeast of The Tower at The Hermitage (now Hermitage Wall).
In the early eighteenth-century, in London, one area was so popular with the mollies that it became virtually synonymous with homosexuality: Moorfields.
Originally, this bog-like moor north of the London City Wall was created when the Roman City dammed up the Walbrook river, reducing it from a navigable river to a small stream. Eventually the water was drained and Bunhill Fields and Moorfields were developed; the latter was divided into Upper, Middle, and Lower Moorfields. By the late sixteenth century its character was already emerging, though the ground remained too spongy for extensive building; Moorfields also has the distinction of being the focus of the earliest extant map of London, Anthonis van den Wyngaerde’s copper engraving of 1558/9.
Nearby North Folgate was the home of gay dramatist Christopher Marlowe in 1589, and he fought a duel, by sword, in Hog Lane…now Worship Street, a few blocks north of Christopher Street, opposire Moorfields. This was to gecome a red light district of hovels, filthy cottages & laystalls. Pepys in his Diary for 24 March 1668, recorded a “Tumult near Moorfields, the “prentices pulling down the brothels . . . which is one of the great grievances of the nation”.
By the early eighteenth century, a path in the Upper-Moorfields, by the side of the Wall that separated the Upper-field from the Middle-field, acquired the name “The Sodomites’ Walk”. This path survives today as the south side of Finsbury Square, the square itself being the only open area left from the original fields, though underneath it is a car park. Moorfields was identified as a molly Market in the London Journal editorial, and was obviously well known to all. Richard Rustead the extortioner was recognised by a serving boy in 1724 as a frequent user of “the Sodomites’ Walk in Moorfields”, and he and his accomplice Goddard were captured by Constable Richard Bailey at the Farthing Pye-House near Moorfields. There were also molly houses on the left side of the field, and the area retained its homosexual and unsavoury reputation from the late seventeenth century right through the early nineteenth century.
To the southwest of Westminster, close to Holborn, is Lincoln’s Inn Fields, and Lincoln’s Inn, famous for its “bog-houses”, or public toilets, and referred to as the Markets in the London Journal editorial. The cistern for the bog-houses was built in 169, and the structures to the east of New Square, Lincoln’s Inn were completed in 1692, with the ooen kitchen gardens behind them becoming known as Bog House Court. The occupants of the surrounding law chambers had to pay £3 a year to clean them out. The area later gecame referred to just as The Bogs, and today it is still a garden. Streets and areas mentioned in legal precedents include Task Street, Gray’s Inn Lane, north of Lincoln’s Inn; Butcher’s Row, Temple Bar south of Lincoln’s Inn; the Golden Ball alehouse in Bond’s Stables running between Chancery & Fetter Lanes to the east of Lincoln’s Inn. Bloomsbury Market was to the northwest, with its Yorkshire Gray alehouse. Running from north to south, west of Lincoln’s Inn was Drury Lane. Though kniwn for its ladies, in 1720 a molly house was established there at Mr Jone’s tavern – the Three Tobacco Rolls.
We then have Covent Garden Markets and its Piazza’s, rampant with use by the mollies. The arcades would have provided useful cover for making assignations. The area running along the Strand, south of Covent Garden, past Temple Bar, and up Chancery Lane or Fetter Lane, east of Lincoln’s Inn, was probably a popular molly cruising ground. In some ways the church of St Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square is a lasting memorial of the molly subculture. Its foundation stone was laid in 1721, and it was fully completed in 1726, at the time of the hangings as the result of the raid upon Mother Clap’s in that year. Criminals hanged at Tyburn – for example, Jack Shepherd in 1724 – were sometimes buried in its churchyard and the vaults of its Crypt, so it may have been the resting place for the bones of those mollies whose bodies were not unfortunate enough to be taken to Surgeon’s Hall.
Where the alehouses were conducive tontheir molly clientele. The major criminal areas at that time – survivors of the old “Sanctuaries” of the medieval monasteries, even after their closure by Henry VIII – were The Mint, Southwark; Whitefriars; Shoe and Fetter Lanes; Holborn, especially Saffron Hill leading into Field Lane; Cripplegate; Smithfield; Whitechapel; Bankside; Thieving Lane around Westminster Abbey; The Savoy and Covent Garden up to St Giles in Westminster. These areas held a quarter of the entire population of London, and consisted mainly of paupers. The following businesses were thought to at least have some molly customers; Masey’s Coffee House, Old Change; Mear’s Coffee House, St Paul’s House Court; Hatton’s, Basinghall Street; Woolpack alehouse, Foster Lane; Cross Keys, Holborn; King’s Head, Ivy Lane; the Clerkenwell Workhouse; and the Three Tuns and the Black Horse, both in Moorfields.
Just west of Charing Cross we come to St James’s Square and Pall Mall, site of the Royal Oak molly house kept by George Whittle.(see Margaret Clap’s molly house). Keep walking and you get to the Mall and the Roan. Near Whitehall. If you go to the end of the Mall you’ll find Buckingham House. The south side if the parkmis cited as a molly Market in the London Journal, and several molly incudents are recorded as happening in St, james Park, frequented by obliging soldiers. An incudent is recorded involving a certain Arrowsmith accosted a sentinel and offered to give him “a Green Gown upon the Grass”, that is, to have sex with him, leaving grass stains upon his clothing., and Parliament St was still known as a cruising ground as late as the 19th century. There was a pillorynin New Palace Yard. The notoriety of the area, even much later, is well attested to by the chapter on “the unnaturalists” in The Fruit Shop, 1766, tellingly subtitled “A Companion to St. James’s Street”.
There were also reports of molly parties outside London, such as Bowling Green at Marylebone, to the northwest beyong Tyburn; the Borough (Southwark) to the south across the Thames; and The Mint in Southwar; Islington; Stepney Church Pirch p; Ratcliffe Gardens (which had a pillory).
By the early nineteenth century Moorfields seems no longer to have been a molly area, though many of the other districts remained unchanged. Holloway in the Phoenix of Sodom (1813) notes that “there are many [molly houses] about town”, specifically “one in the Strand”, one in Blackman Street in The Borough, one near the Obelisk, St George’s Fields, one in the neighbourhood of Bishopsgate Street, and of course the most infamous one, The Swan in Vere Street. He adds further that “breeches-clad bawds” are to be found strolling in the Inns of Court, “the Temple not excepted”. Holloway, a lawyer himself, was quite surprised, for the Temple was noted for heterosexual prostitution. Joke Number 153 in Joe Miller’s Jestbook (1739) makes this clear: “A gentleman said of a young wench, who constantly ply’d about the Temple, that if she had as much law in her head, as she had in her tail, she would be one of the ablest counsel in all England”.
Caught In A Bog-House, 1738
Trial of Samuel Taylor & John Berry
Samuel Taylor and John Berry were indicted; Taylor for assaulting John Berry, and committing with him the horrid and detestable Crime of Buggery. And Berry for wickedly consenting with Taylor the said unnatural Crime to commit and do, Jan. 31.
Mr. Windham: For the Conveniency of the People that live in Old Round-Court in the Strand, there is a common necessary House; which, tho’ most of the Neighbours have a Key to, yet is often left unlock’d. On the 31st of Jan. my Servant told me, about 7 o’Clock at Night when he was shutting up Shop, that 2 Fellows had been in the Vault about three quarters of an Hour. I thought they might be Thieves, so I took a Candle, and my Servant following me, I bolted (went hastily) into the Place, and found Taylor sitting, not upon the open Seat, but upon the close Part of it, and Berry sitting in his Lap; both their Breeches being down. I call’d them Names, and left them; but a Mob rose upon them, and would have knock’d them on the Head, had not a Constable in the Neighbourhood seiz’d them to carry them before a Magistrate. When they were carried away, some Gentlemen came to me, and told me, it would be a Shame such Rascals should escape, and perswaded me to go to the Justices. When I came there, (to Mr. Justice Hilder’s) the 2 Prisoners were each of them endeavouring to make a Confession before the other. Berry made his Confession first, and sign’d it; but Taylor confessed the whole Matter too.
Mr. Hilder prov’d Berry’s Confession.
The Information and Confession of John Berry of St. Olave’s-street, Southwark.
“Who saith, that Samuel Taylor asked him if he would go out with him? Upon which this Informant told him he would. That he went with him to Joy Bridge, but a Light coming, they went from thence to a necessary House in Round-Court, where Taylor asked him to let him lie with him, upon which they pulled down their Breeches, and Taylor committed the Act of Sodomy with him twice, and that Mr. Windham the 2d Time caught them in the Fact.”
Mr. Windham: Taylor confessed it full as plain, or plainer than Berry; he said (several Times) he was guilty of the same Crime with Berry, but would not allow that he had enticed him to it. He own’d he had lain with Berry twice, and made use of the Word Sodomy. After Berry had made his Confession, Taylor said he had acted Sodomy with him. Their Breeches were not put up when they were before the Justice.
Mr. John Fridenburgh confirm’d the former Evidence very exactly; and added, that as the two Prisoners were carrying to Goal, Berry own’d they had been from one part of the Town to another, to find a convenient Place, and at last they thought of the Place where they were taken.
The Prisoners in their Defence, pleaded their being in Liquor, but it appeared from the Witnesses that they were perfectly sober. Guilty, D E A T H.
25 February 1738
Yesterday 26 Prisoners were tried at the Old Baily, 3 whereof were capitally Convicted, viz. Nathaniel Hillyard, for the Murder of Robert Milligan, a Marshals Court Officer in St. James’s Haymarket, in May 1734; Samuel Taylor and John Berry, for Sodomy. William Clarke was tried for the Murder of Mary Humphreys, by driving a Cart over her, and found Guilty of Manslaughter. Nine were cast for Transportation, and 13 Acquitted. (Daily Gazetteer)
27 February 1738
On Saturday last the Sessions ended at the Old Baily, when three Persons were tried and Acquitted.
The 6 mentioned in our former to have been capitally convicted, received Sentence of Death. Two were burnt in the Hand, and 3 ordered to be Whipt. (Daily Gazetteer)
3 March 1738
Yesterday was held a General Council at St. James’s, when Mr. Serjeant Urling, Deputy Recorder of this City attended, and made his Report of the 16 Malefactors under Sentence of Death in Newgate, viz. …
Samuel Taylor and John Berry, for committing the detestable Sin of Sodomy. …
When his Majesty was most graciously pleased … to extend his most gracious Pardon to John Waterman, Nathaniel Hillyard, Samuel Taylor, and John Berry. (Daily Gazetteer)
Saturday 11 March 1738
On Thursday Mr. Serjeant Urling, Deputy-Recorder of this City, made his Report to his Majesty of the sixteen Malefactors now under Sentence of Death in Newgate, viz. . . . Samuel Tauylor and John Berry, for Sodomy; . . . When his Majesty was graciously pleased to grant his most gracious Pardon to John Waterman; and to order Nathaniel Hillyard, Thomas Jenkins, James Cope, Mary Cook, and the two Sodomites, to be transported for 14 Years . . . (Newcastle Courant)
Thursday 25 March 1738
On Monday last died, in Newgate, John Berry, one of the Persons who was capitally convicted for Sodomy last Sessions, but pardon’d. (Newcastle Courant)
Saturday 1 April 1738
Last Week Samuel Taylor, condemn’d (but since repriev’d) last Sessions for committing Sodomy with John Berry, died in Newgate; as did also his Accomplice on the 13th of this Month. – It is happy for the Nation that such Wretches are cut off. (Newcastle Courant)
A Cruising Alley, 1761
NOTE: The main interest of this trial is that it documents the existence of a gay cruising ground in London in 1761, in an alley near Leadenhall Market. A secondary interest is that it demonstrates that society had a clear perception that sodomites were exclusively homosexual – that is, the man defends himself against the charge of sodomy by claiming that he has a strong love for women. However, the jury did not quite believe him, and he was convicted despite many women testifying on his behalf.
William Bailey, was indicted, for that Robert Stimpson, not taken, unlawfully and wickedly did lay hands on the prisoner Bailey, in order to commit the detestable crime of sodomy; and that he, the said Bailey, was consenting and yielding to the said Stimpson, in order for him to commit the said detestable crime.
Giles Cooper. I keep a house in Ball alley, Lombard-street.
Q. What are you?
Cooper. I am a butcher, my shop is in Leadenhall-market: as I come home from Leadenhall-market, I come thro’ the Cross-keys inn, there is a very dark passage, I have frequently run against men there, and I never could tell the reason of it.
Q. How often have you run against men there?
Cooper. Twenty different times I am sure. On the 28th of July I ran against a couple of men there, which I thought stood still; I took hold of one of them by the neck, and drove him before me, till he went out into the alley, close to the fencing-school, where is a lamp over the door; he had a flapt hat on; there I stopt him; I looked under his hat, and said, What the Devil do you stand lurking about here for? They passed by me into the alley; I turned my head over my shoulder, and saw them stop at the passage, which is very narrow; then I went, and rang at my own door, and was there about a couple of minutes before I was let in; while I was standing at my own door, I thought I heard those two men in the passage again; I heard them whisper; I went into my house, and shut the door after me, but did not fasten it: my man was just going to bed; I said, Do not go to bed John, follow me down; I took the candle in my hand, and said to him, I believe there are a couple of very bad fellows in the alley. I hid the candle with my fingers, and jumped across the way into this dark passage, that goes into the Cross-keys-inn; there I saw two bad men, in a very indecent posture: my man followed me down close behind me.
Q. Who were the two men?
Cooper. They were the prisoner and a footman, named Stimpson, there is a yard-door opens in the passage; the prisoner leant down behind that door, his breeches were down, with his back towards the footman, and the footman’s breeches down, very near together; the footman had hold of him. I laid hold of the prisoner immediately, and my man the other. The footman said, I think, he lived at Mr. Page’s in Queen-street, I saw both their private parts: I said, John, hold him, while I well drub this; I never designed to do any otherwise, if my neighbours had not perswaded me to it: they made no resistance in the world, but begg’d and pray’d I would let them go, for it would be the ruin of them; they were both taken to the watch-house; the prisoner said he knew a gentleman in Grace-church-street, that would see him forth-coming the next day before my lord mayor: then the man in livery said, Why should you be so hard upon me, to confine me, and not him, who was more to blame than I was? The people perswaded me to have him committed: they were the next day brought to Guildhall, and examined before Sir Robert Ladbroke: they made no defence at all, no otherwise than this, which is a very trifling excuse; the man in livery seemed to give an account that he was going to the Post-office, and was going home, and obliged to go thro’ that passage, and he lived in Queen-street: the prisoner said he lived in Bishopsgate-street, and going thro’ the Cross-keys inn, he told the clock eleven; and while he was telling the clock, he saw me lay hold of the other young man, as he was making water; but that was not so, for I laid hold of him, and my man laid hold of the footman: the Post-office was shut up at that time.
Q. Is this passage a thorough-fare?
Cooper. It is, and very likely known to all here.
Q. How long have you lived in that place?
Cooper. I have lived there going on better than half a year.
Q. Where have you carried on business before?
Cooper. I lived in Leadenhall market, all my life time. I now live within 100 yards of the place where I served my time.
Q. Did you see them touch one another at all?
Cooper. I did, I saw them extreamly close together; and the footman’s hands were upon this man. I never shall vary from the truth, cross examine me a thousand times; I have no reward, but a great deal of trouble in bringing such villains as these to justice.
Q. Have you brought many such as these to justice?
Cooper. I never attempted to detect any man living before.
Q. Did you never ask the constable whether you could make this matter up with the prisoner?
Cooper. No. never in my life.
Q. Did you ever see the prisoner before?
Cooper. No, not to my knowledge; I saw the footman the week before, in a laced hat.
John Leek. I am servant to Mr. Cooper. On the 28th of July, about 11 at night, I had just eat my supper, and was going to bed. I heard a ringing at the door; who should come in, but my master. He staid a little while, and said, John, follow me; here is a couple of very bad fellows I believe, in the passage. He took a candle, and held it in one hand, with the other over it; he pushed into the passage, and I followed him immediately; he lifted his hand from the candle, there was the prisoner at the bar, with his yard drawn, and the other withdrawn a little, with his back against the wall, pulling up his breeches; I did not see the other’s yard, my master had got hold of him; the prisoner’s back was towards the other man, and my master was before me. I secured the other man with his breeches down, I let him put up his breeches; he said, For God’s sake, let me go young man, it will be the ruin of me.
Q. What said the prisoner?
Leek. I know not what he said, for my master had got him, and was going to lick him; but I said, I will not touch mine at all.
Q. Whose back was against the wall?
Leek. Stimson’s back was, he had withdrawn a little, and was putting up his breeches, both their breeches were down. At first coming to them, my master said, He was willing to let them go, if any-body would pass their word, they should be forth-coming, to go before the alderman to-morrow. The prisoner said, He had got a friend at Mr. Rigby’s Manchester-warehouse, which would see him forth-coming; his name I think was Clifton. I went for him, and he came; he said, The prisoner was no such person; then my master was advised to commit them. Then Stimpson said, Why will you be so hard upon me, to let him go, when he is more in fault than I be.
Q. At the time you and your master went out of the house, what posture was the prisoner in?
Leek. My master had got him by the collar.
Q. Where was Stimpson?
Leek. He was with-drawn, about as far as from here to the wall; (pointing to a place about four yards distance.)
Q. Will you say you saw the prisoner’s yard?
Leek. That I will take my sacrament of.
John Mansfield. I am a watchman, I saw the prisoner, and the other man, after they were brought in; Cooper said, he brought them there for sodomy, and that before their faces.
Q. What answers did they give to that?
Mansfield. They pretended they were not guilty; they said, They were not in the action.
Q. Which of them said so?
Mansfield. I do not know which of them it was.
Stephen Dreseal. I am a watchman; when they were brought into the watchhouse, one of them sent for a friend to talk in his behalf; the gentleman came and offered 10 guineas for his appearance the next morning.
Q. Which of them was that?
Dreseal. That was the man not in livery
David Wilson. I living at the corner of this yard, heard a noise; I ran to see what was the matter, I was told they had catched two men in the act of sodomy, or something of that kind. I said, I was very glad of it, for I had heard of people being catch’d in that alley before.
Q. What sort of a noise did you hear?
Wilson. It was a bustling, confused noise; I saw they had hold of the men, but I do not know that the prisoner was one of them; the men begg’d for God’s sake they would not take them away, for it would be the ruin of them.
Q. Which of them begg’d, as you have said?
Wilson. I do not know which of them; when they came to the watch-house, they made use of words to the same purport; I believe the prosecutor would have let them go, if it had not been for me; the prosecutor seemed to be in a great fluster, and was sadly affrighted, and said, It would bring him into trouble.
Q. Do you know any thing of the matter of fact, or posture they were in?
Wilson. No, – I do not.
The prisoner said nothing in his defence, but called the following witnesses.
William Pool. I have known Gyles Cooper 12 or 14 years ago, I am a porter, he always lived at Leadenhall-market. About a fortnight before he charg’d this man, as I attend the waggons that come out of the country, which do not come in till about 10 o’clock, a man said, Come, I will go with you, to help you pull out the packs; we went, my wife was along with us; I bid her go into the publick-house, and I went behind the pump, in Leadenhall-market, and Samuel Sweeper, the other man, sat upon some leather; I went to ease myself, and just as I was putting up my breeches, the prisoner came with a stinking leg of ham in his hand, he said, Halloo, halloo, halloo, he looked in my face, and said, I was informed there were two sodomites here? Said I, What do you mean by that, all the world that knows me, knows I love a woman too well, to be a sodomite; this was in the public leather-market, about 10 at night.
Court. And for that filthy behaviour of yours, in a public market-place in this city, you ought to be punished.
Samuel Sweeper. I went to help Mr. Pool unload a waggon, and after we had done, who should come up, but Gyles Cooper, out of the market, my master went to ease himself behind the pump. Mr. Pool said, What are there two sodomites here? When he saw it was Mr. Cooper, he said, I ask your pardon Mr. Cooper, and said, He was told there were such. Mr. Cooper asked him, who were his authors, he would not tell him. If he had not known Mr. Pool, doubtless he might have knocked us both on the head.
Q. When was this?
Sweeper. To the best of my remembrance, it was the 13th of July, at about 10 o’clock at night.
Jelse Lamb. I have known Gyles Cooper, about 12 years, or better; I was coming home one night from the other end of the town, I saw him stop a man and a woman, and detain them some time, and ask them where they were going; and said, What business have you here? I am constable of the night, and I will take you both to the Compter. I stood behind him some time, and heard him talk to them; he took the woman by the arm; I said, Who is that, Cooper? He turned round, and said, Yes. I said, What are you doing here? Only a bit of fun, said he.
Q. What is his character among people acquainted with him?
Lamb. It is but a very indifferent character.
Q. Where do you live?
Lamb. I keep a house in Leadenhall-market, I am a butcher, and Green-grocer.
Q. Have you or any of your friends had any quarrel with him?
Q. Has he such a character in the world, that you believe he would take a false oath?
Lamb. I know he will say, and do things that are not right; it is hard speaking against a man’s oath.
Q. Would you believe him upon his oath?
Lamb. No, I would not; and that from the badness of his character.
Q. Do you know his man?
Lamb. I know very little of him, I never had any conversation with him.
Q. Do you know any thing of these fellows, that make such dunghills in your market?
Lamb. No, I never take notice of them; I have a necessary very near me.
John Rigby. The prisoner was my servant till July last.
Q. Where do you live?
Rigby. I live in Grace-church-street, he has lived with me six years three quarters; during that time, I never discovered any unnatural inclinations in him; if I had, I should not have kept him in my house; he always behaved well, and is a very sober fellow. I discharged him on the 11th of July last, I do not know that he has been in any service since. I have no sort of suspicion, he was any ways addicted to this vice; all my servants that lived with him, are here to be examined on his behalf
Thomas Clifton. I am head warehouse-man to Mr. Rigby, I have known the prisoner ever since he lived at our house; during which time he behaved himself extremely well; I had no manner of suspicion of him of this kind, he was always amongst the women, when he had any time. I never saw any circumstances, that shewed him inclined to any unnatural vice; I was the person that offered 10 l. or 10 guineas, for his forth-coming, and was before the sitting alderman with him. I remember Mr. Cooper owned he had been in trouble, under misforfortunes; and said, He did not bear the best of characters. There was another person, that offered that sum first, and I afterwards, for his appearing the next morning.
Q. to Leek. Did you go for this evidence?
Leek. I did; my master said to him, Will you give your word for this man’s forth-coming tomorrow. Then he began to make some quibbles, and said, The man was not guilty of the fact. Then some people, that were in the watch-house, said, Mr. Cooper, charge him, and then you will be safe.
John Lewis. I have been in Mr. Rigby’s service, ever since the prisoner was there; during that time, he behaved as a man that loved women’s company. I never saw any thing like any unnatural inclination by him; he seemed to never be easy, but when he was in women’s company.
Samuel Bevar. I have known the prisoner four years, I never heard any thing, but what was very good of him; I never look’d upon him in any suspicious way, for having unnatural vices. I look upon him to have a natural passion for women, and none for his own sex. Mr. Cooper’s man came to me, about half an hour past 11 o’clock; the asked for Mr. Clifton, I told him he was gone home; I went with him, fearing he should not find out the bell, to call him down; this was on the 28th of July. I went with him to the watch house; in our way there, he told me they had detected one of Mr. Rigby’s men, in a very unseemly manner. When I came there, I saw the prisoner; Mr. Cooper very readily knew me; he asked me if I knew Mr. Clifton, I said, I did; upon that, he was for letting the prisoner go, upon his passing his word for his appearing before my lord-mayor, on the morrow; there was a thinish man came up to Mr. Cooper, and said, You will come to no harm by giving charge. I then offered 10 l. for his appearance on the morrow, before my lord-mayor; there was not a word said, but immediately they were hurried out of the watch-house, and away they went; for my part, I had no fear of his appearing.
John Lee. I have known him seven years, I have been in company with him often, I thought him a great admirer of women; I never apprehended him any way inclined to any filthy vice with his own sex. I never was so much surprized in all my life, as when I heard of this; I wished it was in my power to do him service, for I was sure he was innocent of it. I was before Sir Robert Landbroke, who asked Cooper several particular questions. Cooper said he did not chuse to say any more, because he would not have the man suffer upon his account; because the world had been very severe upon him, that he had been in trouble, and did not care to ingage in any more.
Rebecca Timmings. I have known the prisoner nine years, I lived in Mr. Rigby’s house all the time he did, he has an extraordinary character, he seemed to have the best regard for women that ever I saw; that decent behaviour to young women in the family, and others that he was acquainted with, I never saw he had any tendency towards his own sex; no, far from it.
Ann Redford. I have known the prisoner [more] than two years; during that time, he seemed to be a young man that had a great respect for young women, I never saw to the contrary; he never took any delight, but when with the women whenever he had any time, he never went out, but some of them went with him. I never can, or shall believe he is guilty of the crime laid to his charge; I lived fellow-servant with him in the house.
Martha Trimmings. I have known him between eight and nine years, he always seemed to be a person that had an affection for women, he never liked to spend an evening without women along with him. He never behaved with any effeminacy, that shewed him to have a liking to his own sex; I spent the evening with him, that very night, before he was accused with this.
Elizabeth Newman. I have known him nine years, I lived servant with him at Mr. Vandival’s at Greenwich, he bears an extream good character, in every action in life, his character will bear the strictest examination; he behaved always extreamly well, in regards to women; he would be the last person I should have thought guilty of what he is charged with.
Mr. Molbey. I have known the prisoner ever since he lived in my brother Rigbey’s service; I never heard but he bore a good character, I never observed any tendency in him to any unnatural vice.
Mary Jones. I have known him between 10 and 11 years, I never heard any ill of him; it is my opinion he loves the company of women a thousand times more than men. I never heard a mouth opened against him in my life.
John Dyer. I have known the prisoner four or five years, I never heard any thing of this kind in my life.
Edward Lee. I lived with Mr. Molbey, I have known the prisoner almost five years, he called upon me the 28th of July, and told me he had got a place, to live in Crutched Fryers, he came between eight and nine, and I parted with him a few minutes before 11, he lodg’d at Mr. Rigby’s, this was in his way home. I never observed, he had any inclination towards his own sex, I believe he has a regard for women. I have travelled with him, and laid with him, and never knew him guilty of an indecent action in my life; he always behaved as a man ought to do.
Elizabeth Lee. I am sister to a young woman that has been examined, I have known him about seven years, he lived with Mr. Molbey, he always behaved as one that had an affection to women, so far as I was able to judge.
John Pinkney. I have known him between six and seven years, he behaved as a man that had a regard for women, I always looked upon him as such. I have known him frequently in women’s company, when he might have been out of it; he has went a dancing with them, I never in the least suspected him guilty of any indecencies with his own sex.
Thomas Brown. I have known him about six years, I never saw, or knew any thing by him, tending to this kind he is now charged with; I have seen him with his fellow-servants, the woman; his general character was good, as far as ever I heard.
Elisha Ward. I know Gyles Cooper, he has a bad character, he used me ill.
Q. Would you believe him upon his oath?
Ward. Upon my oath I would not.
William Turton. I have not known the prisoner a great while, but I have laid with him; he never offered any indecency to me, nor do I think him capable of it. I have taken a great deal of pains to inquire into his character, it is a good one, and the prosecutor Cooper has a very bad one, I have reason to believe he would take a false oath, I really would not take his oath for a pin, on any account, in any thing he says.
Q. Where do you live?
Turton. I live almost by the Asylum.
Q. Did you ever hear he forswore himself?
John Shackle. I have kno wn the prisoner between six and seven years; during that time, his character has been very good, and upright. I never looked upon him, that he would be guilty of indecencies with his own sex, quite the reverse.
To Cooper’s Character.
Thomas Curtise. I am a barber and perriwig-maker, and live in Grocers-alley. I have known Cooper a great many years, the best part of 20. I never heard he had a bad character, or that he behaved amiss. I have laid out a great many pounds with him, he always behaved like a very honest worthy tradesman; to be sure he has had misfortunes in trade, I never heard he behaved amiss, he did know that I was in court.
William Hickling. I have known Cooper 10 years and longer, I have had dealings with him, and never found him any otherwise than just. He is reckoned an honest man, and I belive him to be a very honest man.
Q. Do you think he would forswear himself, in order to charge an innocent men?
Hickling. I do not think he would be guilty of such a thing.
Mr. Atkins. I have arrested Cooper, and taken his word afterwards, and he always took care to make an end of things; he has been at my house more than one, two, or three days, and I have had some worth about me, and I never missed any thing.
Q. Is it customary to take people’s words, after you have arrested them?
Atkins. It is, he never gave me no other security than his word; he has said, I will bring such a person, and we will come and make an end of it, and so he has. If I thought he was a bad man, I would not have taken his word.
Q. I suppose he was a man that could not leave his business.
Atkins. He might lock himself up, and fix me with the debt. I have this opinion of him, that was I to arrest him for five or 10 l. he would come and pay me.
Q. Do not you know he has been cleared by the Compulsive Clause? [That is, he had been discharged under the Insolvent Debtors Act, i.e. he was a bankrupt.]
Atkins. Yes, I do.
. . William Bailey, to stand on the pillory, and to be confined six months in Newgate, and pay a fine of 40 s.
Bailey stood on the pillory near the Cross-key-inn in Bishopsgate street, on Wednesday the 4th of November.
Suck Prick! February 1789
The Information of Matthew Laws of Maudlings Rents in the Parish of Saint Botolph Aldgate in the said County [Middlesex], Cordwainer, and Fredrick Alberman, No 22 Red Cross Street in the said Parish and County, Watchman. Taken on Oath this Seventh day of February 1789 Before me Robert Smith Esqr. one of his Majesty’s Justices of the peace in and for the said County.
Matthew Laws saith about half an hour past Eleven o’Clock on Tuesday night last he heard Mr Prowce’s Dog Bark; he opened his Door and went up to a Cart where he saw the Prisoner present (who says his Name is Alexander Leith) standing up against Mr. Prowce’s Window, that he heard him Speak to some person, that he went nearer to them and heard him say “Have you had Enough?” The other made some Answer but [he] does not know what, then Alexander Leith said “Shall I fuck you again?” This Deponent [i.e. Laws] called to the Watchman and desired him to look at them people. When the other prisoner (who says his Name is John Drew ) got [up] from off the Ground, took his basket under his Arm and was going away when this Deponent [i.. Laws] said to him “You old Raseal I know you, I will have you to Morrow”; says Alexander Leith ran away, that he and the Watchman pursued and heard him call out “Suck Prick”, that they Apprehended him near Saint Catherine’s Bridge which is distant from the place he first saw them in about 200 Yards, that he made Great resistance but they secured him and took him to the Watch house, says he is positive that the Prisoners are the Men he saw together against Mr. Prowce’s Window and that he Verily believes the said two Men had been Committing the crime of Sodomy.
And the said Fredrick Alberman says when the other deponent Matthew Laws Spoke to him he went up toward the Prisoners, when he saw Drew leaning forwards with his Breeches down and Leith Standing with his Belly against Drew’s fundament, that Leith’s Trowsers was down and this Deponent [i.e. Alberman] saw his private parts directed towards the fundament of Drew. He said “You Rascals, what are you doing here?”; that he parted them, when one of them went one way and the other the otherway, that they pursued Leith and took him into Custody. Drew was Apprehended about Eleven o’Clock on Wednesday Night. [Alberman] is positive that the prisoners present are the same Men he saw under Mr. Prowce’s Window in the Situation as above stated and verily believes they had been committing the crime of Sodomy.
Taken and Sworn the day
and Year first above Written
NOTE Alexander Leith and John Drew were tried at the Old Bailey at the Sessions beginning on 25 February 1789, on the charge of committing sodomy with one another. The evidence given by the two witnesses (Laws and Alberman, as above) contradicted one another, and the two defendants were declared Not Guilty. The evidence itself was judged (by the publisher of the Proceedings) to be not fit for the public eye, and therefore was not published. Hence we don’t know anything about Leith or Drew, their ages or occupations etc. (Source: Online Proceedings of the Old Bailey, Reference Number: t17890225-40)
This is a fairly typical case of two men being overseen (rather than being entrapped) while enjoying sex in a public place at night. The most interesting feature is that one of the men, John Drew, seems to have been recognized as a regular sodomite, moreover one who specifically enjoyed being fucked. Drew also, by calling out “Suck prick!”, seems to have been conversant with the practice of oral intercourse – something which historians claim to have been rare until modern times. “Suck prick!” may actually be a noun, exactly equivalent to the modern abusive epithet “Cocksucker!” – in which case the epithet must have been widely enough known to be effective, which again suggests that oral intercourse wasn’t a great rarity.
- Rictor Norton (Ed.), “A Cruising Alley, 1761”, Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 7 January 2011 http://rictornorton.co.uk/eighteen/1761bail.htm
- Trial No. 318, The Proceedings on the King’s Commission of the Peace, Oyer and Terminer, and Gaol Delivery for the City of London; And also the Gaol Delivery for the County of Middlesex, Held at Justice-Hall in the Old-Bailey, On Wednesday the 21st, Thursday the 22d, Friday the 23d, Saturday the 24th, and Monday the 26th of October. In the first and second Years of His Majesty’s Reign. Being the Eighth Session in the Mayoralty of The Right Honble Sir Matthew Blakiston, Knt. Lord-Mayor of the City of London. Number VIII. Part II. for the Year 1761. London: Printed, and sold by J. Scott, at the Black-Swan, in Pater-noster Row, 1761.
- Rictor Norton (Ed.), “Caught in a Bog-House, 1738”, Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 25 July 2004, expanded 12 December 2014 http://rictornorton.co.uk/eighteen/1738tayl.htm
- SOURCE: The Proceedings at the Sessions of Peace … on Wednesday the 22d, Thursday the 23d, Friday the 24th, and Saturday the 25th of February, Number III, London: Printed for J. Roberts, at the Oxford-Arms in Warwick-Lane, M.DCC.XXXVII [1738 New Style], p. 46.
- Rictor Norton, “The Sodomites’ Walk in Moorfields”, The Gay Subculture in Georgian England, 11 August 2009 http://rictornorton.co.uk/eighteen/moorfiel.htm
- Old Bailey Sessions Papers, Justices’ Working Documents, 15 December 1788 – 27 April 1789, LL ref: LMOBPS450370189. I have slightly edited this, adding punctuation to improve its readability.]
- Rictor Norton (Ed.), “Suck Prick!, 1789,” Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. 21 February 2013 http://rictornorton.co.uk/eighteen/1789suck.htm