The Orchid Pavilion Gathering of 353 CE was a cultural and poetic event during the Six Dynasties era, in China. This event itself has a certain inherent and poetic interest in regard to the development of landscape poetry and the philosophical ideas of Zhuangzi. The gathering at the Orchid Pavilion is also famous for the artistry of the calligraphy of Wang Xizhi who was both one of the participants as well as the author and calligrapher of the Lantingti Xu, or Preface To The Poems Composed At The Orchid Pavilion, not to mention the literary mastery of this introduction.
The Orchid Pavilion Gathering of 42 literati included Xie An and Sun Chuo, and Wang Pin-Chih at the Orchid Pavilion (Lanting) on Mount Kuaiji just south of Kuaiji (present-day Shaoxing in Zhajiang), during the Spring Purification Ceremony on the third day of the third month, to compose poems and enjoy huangjiu. The gentlemen had engaged in a drinking contest: rice-wine cups were floated down a small winding creek as the men sat along its banks; whenever a cup stopped, the man closest to the cup was required to empty it and write a poem. This was known as “floating goblets” (流觴, liúshāng). In the end, twenty-six of the participants composed thirty-seven poems.
Preface to the poems composed at the Orchid Pavilion/ (by Wang Xizhi)/ It is the ninth year of Emperor Mu of Jin‘s Yongheera (20 Feb 353 – 8 Feb 354)/ The year of the Yin Water Ox/ At the beginning of the third lunar month (after April 20, 353),/ We are all gathered at the orchid pavilion in Shanyin County, GuijiCommandery,/ For the Spring Purification Festival./ All of the prominent people have arrived,/ From old to young./ This is an area of high mountains and lofty peaks,/ With an exuberant growth of trees and bamboos,/ It also has clear rushing water,/ Reflecting the sunlight as it flows past either side of the pavilion./ The guests are seated side by side to play the drinking game where a wine cup is floated down the stream and the first person sitting in front of the cup when it stops must drink./ Although we lack the boisterousness of a live orchestra,/ With a cup of wine here and a reciting of poetry there, it is sufficient to allow for a pleasant exchange of cordial conversations./ Today, the sky is bright and the air is clear,/ With a gentle breeze that is blowing freely. When looking up, one can see the vastness of the heavens,/ And when looking down, one can observe the abundance of things. The contentment of allowing one’s eyes to wander,/ Is enough to reach the heights of delight for the sight and sound. What a joy./ Now all people live in this world together,/ Still others will abandon themselves to reckless pursuits./ Even though everyone makes different choices in life, some thoughtful and some rash,/ When a person meets with joy, he will temporarily be pleased,/ And will feel content, but he is not mindful that old age will soon overtake him./ Wait until that person becomes weary, or has a change of heart about something,/ And will thus be filled with regrets./ The happiness of the past, in the blink of an eye,/ Will have already become a distant memory, and this cannot but cause one to sigh./ In any case, the length of a man’s life is determined by the Creator, and we will all turn to dust in the end./ The ancients have said, “Birth and Death are both momentous occasions.”/ Isn’t that sad!/ Every time I consider the reasons for why the people of old had regrets,/ I am always moved to sadness by their writings,/ And I can not explain why I am saddened./ I most certainly know that it is false and absurd to treat life and death as one and the same,/ And it is equally absurd to think of dying at an old age as being the same as dying at a young age./ When future generations look back to my time, it will probably be similar to how I now think of the past./ What a shame! Therefore, when I list out the people that were here,/ And record their musings, even though times and circumstances will change,/ As for the things that we regret, they are the same./ For the people who read this in future generations, perhaps you will likewise be moved by these words.
Lantingji Xu is Wang Xizhi‘s most famous work, which described the beauty of the landscape around the Orchid Pavilion and the get-together of Wang Xizhi and 41 literati friends. The original is lost. Some believed that it was buried with Emperor Taizong of the Tang dynasty in his mausoleum. This Tang era copy by Feng Chengsu (馮承素), dated between 627-650, is considered the best of all the subsequent copies. It is located in the Palace Museum in Beijing. The scroll is meant to read right to left.
The names Wendy & Wayne, and gender terms him and her are all used in this article. The newspapers used the male terminologies, though only ever knowing Wayne as Wendy I felt more comfortable using the female terminologies. Where people have been quoted, the terminologies they used are included.
On the evening of April 30, 1985, well known and popular gay drag entertainer, Wendy Wayne (Wayne Kerry Brennan), 35, was murdered in his small Darlinghurst Road, King’s Cross, bedsitter. He had been knocked unconsciius by a blow to the head, then shot twice in the back. It was thought by police that the killer may have been a client.
I did not personally know Wendy, though had seen her perform at Pete’s Beat in Oxford Street, and had actually met her on 25 February that year, when she attended a party at a friends flat (Barry Costello) on the corner of Oxford & Crown streets in Darlinghurst, then joined us on the awning outside the flat to watch the Mardi Gras parade. She attended the party with Tiny Tina – another performer at Petr’s Beat. Little did we know at that time, that 8 weeks later she would be dead.
Friend’s were distraught and puzzled. Wayne had geen well loved, and was known to many people, both straight and gay. To everyones knowledge, he had no enemies. He was a popular performer at Pete’s Beat, and also at Les Girls, where he put in occasional guest appearances.
An autopsy indicated that the murder was quite brutal, with him being knocked unconscious by a hard blow to the back of his head. The murderer had then shot him with what appeared to be a .45 ecalibre gun with two shots at close rang in his back. One shot had been placed between the shoulder blades, and exited through the neck. He was shot a second time through the base of the skull, with the bullet exiting through the chin. He was then covered within a leopard skin. He was discovered by a friend, Kenneth Beckham, the next morning. The door to the bedsit was open’ and the television & heater were both on. Police were unable to find the killer, the gun, or bullets involved in the murder.
Accoding to Kenneth “Wendy was the nicest person you could ever meet”. “She was loved by her workmates, and all her friends”. “No one knew of any ill-feeling between her, or anyone else. She was just too kind”. Kenneth also informed police that Wayne had grown up in Newcastle, and had geen a performer for some years. He stated that there had been no arguments, either professionally, or romantically. He was well known by many in pubs in Darlinghurst, Moore Park, and Surry Hills.
There were fears among both gays and other transvestites that a sex killer could be on the loose. Police claimed that Wayne was kniwn to other King’s Cross prostitutes, and personalities. Kenneth stated ” I just hope police find this killer, in case he strikes again!”.
Gloria Murphy, friend and colleague of Wayne’s, said “I’d love to lay my hands on the bastard who did it. I’m not scared, just angry and daddened by the whole business!”. Gloria had known Wayne for 20 years, and they both performed together in the Hallelujah Hollywood show at Pete’s Beat. “I knew Wendy when she was just a 16-year-old kid who ran away from home” she said. “She performed around all the old traps such as the Pink Pussycat, and the Pink Panther”.
Wendy’s friends cimed that she had only recently become a prostitute, and may have attracted a “bad” client. Talent co-ordinator of Pete’s Beat, Tina, also appeared in the stage show with Wendy and saud “I’m sure it was no one known to our social circle, we’re a pretty tight knit group and don’t associate with weirdo’s”. Graham King, stage manager of Pes Beat, sobbed as he said “As soon as Wendy stepped on stage it was magic. It will never be the same again”. “Wendy was a real performer who joked, sang, danced, and really drew a crowd. She made over 400 costumes for her acts over the last three years”.
Terry Grimley, lighting technician of Pete’s Beat, agreed. “She was excellent. Really tops”. And as Gloria says “The show must go on!”.
A month after her murder, police still had no leads in finding her killer. On the 13 May, Detective Sgt Smith, of Darlinghurst police, appealed to anyone with information in connection to the murder to contact him.
On Sunday night, 12 May, Kandy Johnson & Simone Troy threw open the doors to the upstairs var and entertainment area in the Oaddington Green Hotel, for a genefit for Wendy. Trixie Lamont and Lirraine Campbell-Craig diverged from their usual Sunday night show to host an evening of fund-raising for Wendy’s family. Both of Wendy’s sisters were present, to receive a total of $2,500 donated by local gay businesses, and attendee’s at the event. The elite of Sydney’s drag community performed on the night, including Kandy, Trixie, Lorraine, the performers from the apet’s Beat show, Beau’s and Les Girls.
The murder of Wendy Wayne has never been solved. Whacky conspiracy theories that she was murdered by a detective, or that Sydney bar owner and personality Dawn O’Donnell was involved have not been taken seriously, and have never been investigated.
Tim Alderman (2017)
Drag queen’s death hunt Pt 1, Daily Mirror, Wednesday 1 May 1985
Drag queens death riddle Pt 2 of above, Daily Mirror, Wednesday 1 May 1985
Killer could strike again (Peter Holder, Steve Brian), The Sun, Wednesday 1 May 1985
Killer could strike again (Peter Holder), The Sun, Wednesday 1May 1985
Police hunt transvestite killer (Mark Forbes), Sydney Morning Herald, Wednesday 1 May 1985
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. St. James
Just west of Charing Cross we come to St James’s Square and Pall Mall, site of the Royal Oak molly house kept by George Whittle.(see Margaret Clap’s molly house). Keep walking and you get to the Mall and the Roan. Near Whitehall. If you go to the end of the Mall you’ll find Buckingham House. The south side if the parkmis cited as a molly Market in the London Journal, and several molly incudents are recorded as happening in St, james Park, frequented by obliging soldiers. An incudent is recorded involving a certain Arrowsmith accosted a sentinel and offered to give him “a Green Gown upon the Grass”, that is, to have sex with him, leaving grass stains upon his clothing., and Parliament St was still known as a cruising ground as late as the 19th century. There was a pillorynin New Palace Yard. The notoriety of the area, even much later, is well attested to by the chapter on “the unnaturalists” in The Fruit Shop, 1766, tellingly subtitled “A Companion to St. James’s Street”.
There were also reports of molly parties outside London, such as Bowling Green at Marylebone, to the northwest beyong Tyburn; the Borough (Southwark) to the south across the Thames; and The Mint in Southwar; Islington; Stepney Church Pirch p; Ratcliffe Gardens (which had a pillory).
By the early nineteenth century Moorfields seems no longer to have been a molly area, though many of the other districts remained unchanged. Holloway in the Phoenix of Sodom (1813) notes that “there are many [molly houses] about town”, specifically “one in the Strand”, one in Blackman Street in The Borough, one near the Obelisk, St George’s Fields, one in the neighbourhood of Bishopsgate Street, and of course the most infamous one, The Swan in Vere Street. He adds further that “breeches-clad bawds” are to be found strolling in the Inns of Court, “the Temple not excepted”. Holloway, a lawyer himself, was quite surprised, for the Temple was noted for heterosexual prostitution. Joke Number 153 in Joe Miller’s Jestbook (1739) makes this clear: “A gentleman said of a young wench, who constantly ply’d about the Temple, that if she had as much law in her head, as she had in her tail, she would be one of the ablest counsel in all England”.
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
Robt. Smith NOTE Alexander Leith and John Drew were tried at the Old Bailey at the Sessions beginning on 25 February 1789, on the charge of committing sodomy with one another. The evidence given by the two witnesses (Laws and Alberman, as above) contradicted one another, and the two defendants were declared Not Guilty. The evidence itself was judged (by the publisher of the Proceedings) to be not fit for the public eye, and therefore was not published. Hence we don’t know anything about Leith or Drew, their ages or occupations etc. (Source: Online Proceedings of the Old Bailey, Reference Number: t17890225-40)
This is a fairly typical case of two men being overseen (rather than being entrapped) while enjoying sex in a public place at night. The most interesting feature is that one of the men, John Drew, seems to have been recognized as a regular sodomite, moreover one who specifically enjoyed being fucked. Drew also, by calling out “Suck prick!”, seems to have been conversant with the practice of oral intercourse – something which historians claim to have been rare until modern times. “Suck prick!” may actually be a noun, exactly equivalent to the modern abusive epithet “Cocksucker!” – in which case the epithet must have been widely enough known to be effective, which again suggests that oral intercourse wasn’t a great rarity.
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.
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.
Below is the complete transcript of a trial in 1732 in which John Cooper (also known as Princess Seraphina) prosecuted Tom Gordon for stealing his clothes. (NB: Cooper/Seraphina was not the person on trial: he was the accuser.) The transcript is rather long — but every bit of the testimony is full of human interest. Princess Seraphina was a gentleman’s servant, and a kind of messenger for mollies (gay men), and a bit of a hustler. More to the point, she was the first recognizable drag queen in English history, that is…the first gay man for whom dragging it up was an integral part of his identity, and who was well known by all his neighbours as a drag queen or transvestite “princess”: everyone called him Princess Seraphina even when he was not wearing women’s clothes. And he does not seem to have had any enemies except for his cousin, a distiller who thought that his behaviour was scandalous.
Gordon (the alleged robber) was acquitted of the charge of robbing Seraphina. Seraphina herself was not on trial — nor was she ever brought to trial for anything afterwards as a result of losing her prosecution.
To set the context: Masquerades flourished in London from the 1720s onward, and took place in assembly rooms, theatres, brothels, public gardens, and molly houses. The commercial masquerades were quasi- carnivals first organized by the impresario John James Heidegger at the Haymarket Theatre from 1717 onwards. His “Midnight Masquerades” were tremendously successful, and drew 800 people a week. They provided many people with the opportunity to explore fetishism and transvestism. Men disguised themselves as witches, bawds, nursing maids and shepherdesses, while women dressed as hussars, sailors, cardinals and boys from Mozart’s operas. In the early days of the fashion, Richard Steele went to one where a parson called him a pretty fellow and tried to pick him up, and Horace Walpole passed for an old woman at a masquerade in 1742. The opportunities for illicit assignations provoked a host of anti-masquerade satires, and many tracts were mainly devoted to attacking the mollies who attended them, allegedly imitating infamous homosexual cross-dressers such as Sporus, Caligula, and Heliogabalus. Seraphina went to the very first Ridotto al Fresco held at Vauxhall Gardens, in June 1732, where he was not the only man disguised as a woman.
Molly houses — pubs and clubs where gay men met, especially on Sunday nights — were very popular in the 1720s in London. On special “Festival Nights” many of the men would wear drag, and sing and dance together, and engage in camp behaviour. For example, on 28 December 1725 a group of 25 men were apprehended in a molly house in Hart Street near Covent Garden and were arrested for dancing and misbehaving themselves, “and obstructing and opposing the Peace-Officers in the Execution of their Duty.” They were dressed in “Masquerade Habits” and were suspected of being sodomites because several of them had previously stood in the pillory on that account; but they were dressed in a range of costumes, not all of which were female, and the date suggests a special holiday event rather than a familiar practice. It is interesting to note that they did not submit sheepishly to their arrest, but put up a show of resistance. None were prosecuted.
For another example, at one molly house in the Mint (in the City of London), according to a contemporary witness: “The Stewards are Miss Fanny Knight, and Aunt England; and pretty Mrs. Anne Page officiates as Clark. One of the Beauties of this Place is Mrs. Girl of Redriff, and with her, (or rather him) dip Candle-Mary a Tallow Chandler in the Burrough, and Aunt May an Upholsterer in the same place, are deeply in Love: Nurse Mitchell is a Barber of this Society.” James Dalton the highwaymay was a witness to molly Festival Nights, which he described in his dying confession published just before he was hanged in 1728, and he briefly mentions John Cooper (Princess Seraphina), who at that time Dalton implied was a butcher. So Seraphina was “on the drag scene” for at least four years before the trial at which she comes dramatically to public notice.
Complete Trial Transcript
The Proceedings at the Sessions of the Peace, and Oyer and Terminer, for the City of London, and County of Middlesex; on Wednesday the 5th, Thursday the 6th, Friday the 7th, and Saturday the 8th of July 1732, in the Sixth Year of His MAJESTY’s Reign. Being the Sixth Sessions in the Mayoralty of the Right Honourable Francis Child, Esq; Lord Mayor of the City of London, in the Year 1732.
Before the Right Honourable Francis Child, Esq; Lord Mayor of the City of London; the Right Honourable the Lord Chief Baron Reynolds; the Honourable Mr. Justice Probyn; the Honourable Mr. Justice Fortescue; Mr Serjeant Urlin, Deputy Recorder of the City of London; and others of His Majestys Justices of Oyer and Terminer for the City of London, and Justices of Gaol-Delivery of Newgate, holden for the said City and County of Middlesex.
Thomas Gordon was indicted for assaulting John Cooper in a Field in Chelsea Parish, putting him in fear, and taking from him a Coat, a Waistcoat, a pair of Breeches, a pair of Shoes, a pair of Silver Shoe-buckles, a Shirt, a Stock, a Silver Stock- buckle, and 4½d. in Money, May 30.
John Cooper. On Whit-Monday, May 29, I dress’d myself and went abroad, and returning between 1 and 2 next Morning to my Lodging at Numb. 11 in Eagle-Court, in the Strand, I knock’d once, but finding no Body answer’d, I went to a Night-Cellar hard by, I call’d for a Pint of Beer, and sitting down on a Bench, the Prisoner came and sat by me; he ask’d me if I did not know Mr. Price, and some other Persons, and so we fell into Discourse; we drank 3 hot Pints together, I paid the Reckoning 9½d. and went up; I was got about 15 or 20 Yards off when the Prisoner came up to me, said it was a fine Morning, and ask’d me to take a Walk; I agreed, and we went into Chelsea Fields, and turning up to a private Place among some Trees, he clap’d his left Hand to the right Side of my Coat, and trip’d up my Heels, and holding a Knife to me, “God damn ye,” says he, “if you offer to speak or stir I’ll kill ye; give me your Ring.” I gave it him, and he put it on his own Finger; then he made me pull off my Coat and Waitcoat, and Breeches; I begg’d that he would not kill me, nor leave me naked; “No,” says he, “I’ll only change wi’ye; come pull off your Shirt, and put on mine”; so he stript, and drest hiimself in my Cloaths, and I put on his; there was 4½d. in my Breeches, and I found 3 ha’pence in his. He ask’d me where I liv’d, and I told him. “I suppose,” says he, “you intend to charge me with a Robbery by and by, but if you do, I’ll swear you’re a Sodomite, and gave me the Cloaths to let you B[ugge]r me.”
While we were dressing, a Man pass’d by at a little Distance, if there had been 2 Men I should have ventur’d to have call’d to them for Help, but as there was but one I was afraid. Then the Prisoner bid me come along, and I follow’d him to Piccadilly, and so to Little Windmill- street, and there I call’d to 2 Men, who took him into an Alehouse; I told them he had robb’d me, and he said that I had given him the Cloaths to let me B[ugge]r him. The Men said they expected to be paid for their Day’s Work, if they lost their Time about my Business; I promis’d them they should be satisfied.
When we came to Justice Mercer’s, he was not up, so we went to the Coach and Horses by St. Giles’s Church, and waited an Hour and an half; while we were there the Prisoner wrote a Letter to his Mother (as he said) and directed it to Numb. 20. in Colston’s-Court in Drury-lane. I had charg’d a Constable with the Prisoner, I told him so; “Go and do it then,” says the Justice, “and swear to the Things, and I’ll commit him.” So we went toward Tyburn-Road, into Marybone- Fields, and there the Men let the Prisoner go; “What do ye do?” says I. “Why what would you have us do,” said they, “he charges you with Sodomy, and says you gave him the Cloaths on that Account.” Another Man coming by at the same time, I desir’d his Assistance; but they telling him that I was a Molly, he said I ought to be hang’d, and he’d have nothing to do with me; then the Prisoner began to run, and I after him; but one of the two Men, who expected to be paid for their Day’s Work, kick’d up my Heels, and as I was rising, he struck me down again; I was very much hurt, and spit Blood, so that I could not follow them, and so they all got over a Ditch and escaped; I went to my Lodgings in Eagle-Court.
They were surprised to see me come home in such a shabby Dress; I told ’em what had happen’d, and describ’d the Man, and said that he sent a Letter to his Mother in Colston’s Court; “O,” says one, “I know him, his Name is Tom. Gordon, and his Mother’s Name is Abbot.” So I got Justice Giffard’s Warrant the same Day, and finding the Prisoner at a Brandy shop Door in Drury-Lane, we seized him, and carried him to Brogdon Poplet’s [a public house], and I set for Mr. Levit, and Mr. Sydney, who lodg’d in the same House as I lodg’d in; so the Prisoner was sent to the Round-house, and carry’d before the Justice next Day. He told the Justice that I put my Yard into his Hand twice; and says the Justice, “You had a long Knife, it seems, why did you not cut it off? I would have done so.” The Prisoner said that he was not willing to expose me so much. He are certain Ladies that belong to Brogdon Poplet, who, I suppose, have abundance to say for the Prisoner.
Court. What Business do you follow?
Cooper. I am a Gentleman’s Servant, but am out of Place at present; the last Place I liv’d in was Capt. Brebolt’s at Greenwich.
Prisoner [i.e. Gordon]. Did we go out of the Night Cellar together?
Cooper. No, you follow’d me.
Christopher Sandford, Taylor [tailor]. On the 29th of May, in the Evening, I was drinking with Mr. Mead at the King’s-Arms by Leicester-Fields when the Prosecutor came in, dress’d in a black Coat, a white Waistcoat, and black Breeches; he sat down and drank, and then paid his Reckoning, and went away. Next Morning I saw Mr. Mead again, he said he had met the Prosecutor in a dirty ragged Suit of Cloaths, and a speckled Shirt, and never set his Eyes on a Man so metamorphos’d. “But how came he in that Condition?” says I, “Why it seems he has been robb’d this Morning,” says he, “by one Gordon, a Leather-breeches Maker.”
I passed with Mr. Mead as I was going by Turnstile in Holbourn, the Prisoner pull’d me by the Coat, and said, “How d’ye do? what don’t ye know me?” and indeed I hardly did know him in that Dress. “What is it to you, Mr. Gordon?” says I, “why I heard you was dead.” “Dead!” says he, “who told you so?” “Why Cooper,” says I, “he drank with me last Night.” “Cooper is a great Rogue,” says he; “What has he done?” says I; “He gave me these Cloaths this Morning,” says he; “And is he a Rogue for that?” says I; “No,” says he, “but he pretends to get ’em again by Force.” “Hark ye, Tom,” says I, “as you have a Soul to be sav’d, I fancy you’ll come to be hang’d; for he has sworn a Robbery against you.” “Has he really done it?” says he; “for God’s Sake help me to make it up, I’ll go and get 3 Guineas of my Uncle in the Temple, and meet you at the Bell and Horse-shoe in Holborn.” I told the Prosecutor [i.e. Cooper] of this, and he went with me, but we could find no such Sign as the Bell and Horse-shoe.
John Sanders. Between 9 and 10 on Tuesday Night I was sent for to the Two Suger-Loaves in Drury-Lane; the Prosecutor gave me a Warrant against the Prisoner; we went before Justice Newton; the Justice having heard the Prosecutor’s Charge, ask’d the Prisoner what he had to say for himself? “Why,” says the Prisoner, “he laid his privy Parts in my Hand, and offer’d to B[ugger] me.” Then says Mr. Newton, “You had better take him before Justice Giffard to-Morrow, he knows more of the Matter, for I see it is his Warrant.” So the Prisoner was sent to the Round- house [a prison in St Giles].
The Prisoner’s Defence.
Thomas Gordon: I was lock’d out, and went to Mrs. Holder’s Night-Cellar; the Prosecutor came and sat by me, and ask’d me to drink, I thought I had seen him before; we fell into Discourse, and had 3 hot Pints of Gin and Ale between us; about 4 in the Morning he ask’d me to take a Walk; we went into Chelsea Fields, and coming among some Trees and Hedges, he kiss’d me, and put his privy Parts into my Hand; I ask’d him what he meant by that, and told him I would expose him; he begg’d me not to do it, and said he would make me amends. I ask’d him what amends? He said he would give me all his Cloaths, if I would accept of them, and so we agreed, and chang’d Cloaths.
After this, I ask’d him to go into the White Horse by Hyde-Park, but he said he would not, for he had Relations there, and did not care to expose himself in that Dress. We went farther, and I would have gone into another House, but he made the same Excuse: then we came to Little Windmill-street, where we found a Man knocking at an Alehouse Door; we thought to have gone in there, but it being early the People would not get up, and so we went to the White-Hart in Knaves-Acre; there he charg’d me with a Robbery, and I charg’d him with a Attempt to commit Sodomy. We went before Justice Mercer, who order’d us to get a Constable, and in going along, the Prosecutor raised a Mob, and squall’d as I had been murdering him, so that I was glad to get away. He afterwards met me again as I was talking with my Master in Drury- Lane, and carry’d me to Mr. Poplet’s.
Margaret Holder. I keep the Night- Cellar, the Prisoner came in about 10 at Night, and staid till 2 in the morning, and then the Prosecutor came in, and sat down by him, and said, “Your Servant, Sir; have you any Company belonging to you, for I don’t love much Company?” Then they had 3 Pints of Huckle and Buff, as we call it, that’s Gin and Ale made hot; and so about 4 o’Clock the Prisoner said he would go home, for his Mother would be up, and he might get in without his Father’s Knowledge; and the Prosecutor said, “If you go, I’ll go too”; so the Prisoner went up first, and the Prosecutor staid to change a Shilling, and went out after him. I believe the Prisoner is an honest Man; but the Prosecutor and Kitt Sandford too, use to come to my Cellar with such sort of People.
Court. What sort of People?
Holder. Why, to tell you the Truth, he’s one of the Runners that carries Messages between Gentlemen in that way.
Court. In what way?
Holder. Why he’s one of them as you call Molly Culls, he gets his Bread that way; to my certain Knowledge he has got many a Crown under some Gentlemen, for going of sodomiting Errands.
Robert Shaw. The Prisoner and Prosecutor, and four more came to my House, the White-Hart in Knaves- Acre, about 6 o-Clock on Tuesday Morning; says the Prisoner, “this Fellow charges me with a Robbery.” “How so?” says I; “Why,” says he, “we have been in Chelsea Fields, and he gave me his Cloaths to let him commit Sodomy with me, and now he wants them again.” After the second Pot, they disputed who should pay; says the Prosecutor, “You know I have but 3 ha’pence, for when I gave you my Breeches there was 4½d. in ’em, and when I took yours, I found but 3 ha’pence in the Pocket.” Then the Prosecutor desir’d to go to his Cousin Smith, a Distiller hard by, to borrow a Shilling; a Man went with him, he brought back a Shilling, and paid his Reckoning.
Court. Did the Prosecutor contradict what the Prisoner said about changing Cloaths?
Shaw. No, not in my hearing.
Edward Pocock. About 5 o’Clock o’ Tuesday Morning, as I was coming along Chelsea-Fields, I saw 2 Men a stripping among some Trees; I thought they were going to fight, but I soon found there was no Quarrel; for when they had put their Cloaths on, they went away lovingly, and the Prisoner smil’d; they look’d as if they had not been a-bed all Night, no more than I had; for you must know, being Holiday time, I got drunk, and fell asleep with my Cloaths on.
Court. How far off was you when you saw them?
Pocock. Within 20 or 30 Yards.
Court. How came the Prisoner to find you out?
Pocock. I happen’d to go to Holder’s Cellar, and there I heard talk of this Robbery; and says I, “I’ll be hang’d if these were not the 2 Men that I thought were going to fight”; so I went to Newgate to see the Prisoner, and knew him to be one of ’em; and he afterwards sent me a Subpoena.
John Thorp. It being Holiday time, I and another Stocking-maker, and 2 Shoe-makers, had been out a merry making, and in the Morning we can to the Two Brewers in Little Windmill-street; the People were not up, and while I stood knocking at the Door, the Prisoner and the Prosecutor came along close together; says the Prosecutor, “this Man has got my Cloaths on his Back”; and says the Prisoner, “He gave them me to commit Sodomy.” We told them it was a scandalous business, and advised them to make it up between themselves, and change Cloaths again. The Prosecutor said he desir’d nothing more than to have his Cloaths again; but the Prisoner would not consent, “For nothing is freer than Gift”, says he, “and I’ll see you out.”
We could not get in at the Two Brewers, and so went to Mr. Shaw’s in Knaves-Acre, and not agreeing there, we went to the Coach and Horses by St Giles’s Church; and there the Prisoner wrote a Letter to his Mother, it was directed to his Father, a Taylor, at Numb 4. in Colston’s-Court, I found the House according to the Direction, and deliver’d the Letter, but his Father was not up, and when I return’d to the Coach and Horses they were all gone.
Prisoner. Did not you go to the Prosecutor’s Cousin, the Distiller, in Warder-street?
Thorp. Yes; he told his Cousin he was pawn’d for a Shilling; says his Cousin, “As you are in the Neighbourhood, I don’t care to be scandaliz’d by you, there’s a Shilling, but go about your Business, and let me hear no more of you, for you are a vile Fellow, and I’m afraid you’ll come to an ill end.”
The Character of the Princess Seraphina.
Jane Jones. I am a Washer-woman in Drury-Lane, I went into Mr Poplet’s, my next Door Neighbour, for a Pint of Beer, and said “There’s the Princess Seraphina!” So I look’d at her, and the Prisoner was in the same Box; and says he to the Princess, “What a vile Villain was you to ——”
Court. What Princess?
Jones. The Prosecutor; he goes by that Name. “What a Villain was you,” says the Prisoner, “to offer so vile a thing? Did not you do so and so?”
Court. So and so; explain yourself.
Jones. Why in the way of Sodomity, whatever that is; so says the Princess, “If you don’t give me my Cloaths again, I’ll swear a Robbery against you; but if you’ll let me have them, I’ll be easy.” “No, you Villain, you shant,” says the Prisoner. Next Day I went to Mr. Stringer the Pawn-broker’s, facing Vinegar-yard in Drury-Lane; I wash for him, and there I saw the Princess a pawning her Shirt; “O Princess!” says I, “are you there? They will be very fine by and by; you will have no Occasion to pawn your Linen, when you get the Reward for hanging Tom Gordon. But how can you be so cruel to swear his Life away, when you have own’d that you chang’d with him?” What if I did,” says he, “I don’t value that, I shall do nothing but what I have been advised to.”
Mary Poplet. I keep the Two Sugar- Loaves in Drury-Lane, the Prisoner and the Princess came into my House, and the Princess charg’d the Prisoner with taking her Cloaths, and the Prisoner call’d her a Villain, and said she gave ’em to him. I have known her Highness a pretty while, she us’d to come to my House from Mr. Tull, to enquire after some Gentlemen of no very good Character; I have seen her several times in Women’s Cloaths, she commonly us’d to wear a white Gown, and a scarlet Cloak, with her Hair frizzled and curl’d all round her Forehead; and then she would so flutter her Fan, and make such fine Curt’sies, that you would not have known her from a Woman: She takes great Delight in Balls and Masquerades, and always chuses to appear at them in a Female Dress, that she may have the Satisfation of dancing with fine Gentlemen. Her Highness lives with Mr. Tull in Eagle-Court in the Strand, and calls him her Master, because she was Nurse to him and his Wife when they were both in a Salivation; but the Princess is rather Mr. Tull’s Friend, than his domestick Servant. I never heard that she had any other Name than the Princess Seraphina.
Mary Ryler. I was standing at the End of our Court in Drury-Lane, and seeing the Prisoner coming along with a Crowd. “Tom!” says I, “what’s the Matter?” “Why,” says he, pointing to the Princess, “this Man gave me his Cloaths to let him B[ugge]r me, and now he charges me with a Robbery.” I know the Princess very well, she goes a Nursing sometimes: She nurs’d his Master Tull and his Wife in their Salivation, and several others; and I was told that he was dress’d in Woman’s Cloaths at the last Masquerade (Ridotto al Fresco at Vauxhall.) Sometimes we call her Princess, and sometimes Miss.
Mary Robinson. I was trying on a Suit of Red Damask at my Mantua-maker’s in the Strand, when the Princess Seraphina came up, and told me the Suit look’d mighty pretty. “I wish,” says he, “you would len ’em me for a Night, to go to Mrs. Green’s in Nottingham-Court, by the Seven Dials, for I am to meet some fine Gentlemen there.” “Why,” says I, “can’t Mrs. Green furnish you?” “Yes” says he, “she lends me a Velvet Scarf and a Gold Watch sometimes.” He used to be but meanly dress’d, as to Men’s Cloaths, but he came lately to my Mantua- maker’s, in a handsome Black Suit, to invite a Gentlewoman to drink Tea with Mrs. Tull. I ask’d him how he came to be so well Rigg’d? And he told me his Mother had lately sold the Reversion of a House; “And now,” says he, “I’ll go and take a Walk in the Park, and shew my self.” Soon after this, my Maid told me that her Highness was robb’d by a Man in a Sailor’s Habit, who had changed Cloaths with him. And so next Morning I sent for him. “Lord, Princess!” says I “you are vastly alter’d.” “Ay, Madam,” says he, “I have been robb’d, but I shall get the Reward for hanging the Rogue.”
Another Time, he comes to me, and says, “Lord, Madam, I must ask your Pardon, I was at your Mantua-maker’s Yesterday, and dress’d my Head in your Lac’d Pinners, and I would fain have borrow’d them to have gone to the Ridotto at Vauxhall last Night, but I cou’d not persuade her to lend ’em me; but however she lent me your Callimanco Gown and Madam Nuttal’s Mob [cap], and one of her Smocks, and so I went thither to pick up some Gentlemen to Dance.” “And did you make a good Hand of it, Princess?” says I. “No, Madam,” says he, “I pick’d up two Men, who had no Money, but however they proved to be my old Acquaintance, and very good Gentlewomen they were. One of them has been transported for counterfeiting Masquerade Tickets; and t’other went to the Masquerade in a Velvet Domine, and pick’d up an old Gentleman, and went to Bed with him, but as soon as the old Fellow found that he had got a Man by his Side, he cry’d out, `Murder’.”
Eliz. Jones. I saw the Princess Seraphina standing at Mr. Poplet’s Door. “What, have you been robb’d, Princess?” says I, “Has Tom Gordon stripp’d your Highness stark naked? An impudent Rogue! And yet, Ma’m, I think, your Highness had better make it up with him, than expose yourself, for some say it was only an Exchange.” “Why,” says he, “at first I would have made it up, and taken my Cloaths again, but now it’s too late, and I must prosecute, for those that were concerned in taking him up, expect their Share in the Reward, and won’t let me drop the Prosecution.”
Andrew Monford. I heard the Prosecutor say to the Prisoner (at Mr. Poplet’s) “Tom! give me my Cloaths.” And the other answer’d, “No, you Rogue, I won’t: Did you not put your Hand in my Breeches, to pull out what I had?”
Several of the Inhabitants of Drury-Lane gave the Prisoner the Character of an honest working Man, and the Jury acquitted him.
Ned Ward was an investigative journalist, who no doubt embellished his facts to make them more sensational than they already were. But he did not wholly invent his material. The most striking part of his description of the molly houses — the mock lying-in ceremony during which a man pretended to be a woman giving birth to a baby — is confirmed by other sources including testimony given at trials, and in fact this gay folk ritual is sporadically described throughout the century. In the 1810s several men were arrested in the act of performing this mock-birth. We should be careful not to conclude that the mollies were habitual transvestites. The cross-dressing and lying-in rituals that Ward describes took place at specific times called “Festival Nights”, which other sources indicate took place towards the end of December. They were virtually always associated with masquerade festivals, and quite possibly represent some kind of survival of folk rituals that still take place today during Mardi Gras carnivals. The Festival Nights in other words were a kind of masquerade ball, with gay trimmings. The camp mimicking of women, however, was a regular feature of molly house gatherings.
Ward’s description of the molly houses was first published in 1709, though no copy of that edition survives. He refers to the trial of 1709 at which nine gay men were arrested at a brandy shop (owned by a gay man) where they met regularly.
THE MOLLIES’ CLUB.
THERE are a particular Gang of Wretches in
Town, who call themselves Mollies, & are so
far degenerated from all Masculine Deportment or
Manly exercises that they rather fancy themselves
Women, imitating all the little Vanities that Custom
has reconcil’d to the Female sex, affecting to speak,
walk, tattle, curtsy, cry, scold, & mimick all manner
of Effeminacy. At a certain Tavern in the City,
whose sign I shall not mention, because I am unwilling
to fix an Odium on the House, they have a settled &
constant Meeting. When they are met, together, their
usual Practice is to mimick a female Gossiping &
fall into all the impertinent Tittle Tattle that a merry
Society of good Wives can be subject to. Not long
since they had cushioned up one of their Brethren, or
rather Sisters, according to Female Dialect, disguising
him in a Woman’s Night-Gown, Sarsanet Hood, &
Night-rail who when the Company were men, was to
mimick a woman, produce a jointed Baby they had
provided, which wooden Offspring was to be after-
wards Christened, whilst one in a High Crown’d Hat,
I am old Beldam’s Pinner, representing[ed] a Country
Midwife, & another dizen’d up in a Huswife’s Coif for
a Nurse & all the rest of an impertinent Decorum of a
And for the further promotion of their unbecoming
mirth, every one was to talk of their Husbands &
Children, one estolling the Virtues of her Husband,
another the genius & wit of their Children ; whilst a
Third would express himself sorrowfully under the
character of a Widow.
Thus every one in his turn makes scoff of the little
Effeminacy & Weaknesses, which Women are subject
to, when gossiping o’er their cups on purpose to extin-
guish that Natural Affection which is due to the Fair
Sex & to turn their Juvenile desires towards preter-
natural polotions. They continued their practices till
they were happily routed by the conduct of some of
the under Agents to the Reforming Society, so that
several of them were brought to open Punishment,
which happily put a Period to their Scandalous Revels,
‘Tis strange that in a Country where
Our Ladies are so Kind and Fair,
So Gay, and Lovely, to the Sight,
So full of Beauty and Delight;
That Men should on each other doat,
And quit the charming Petticoat.
Sure the curs’d Father of this Race,
That does both Sexes thus disgrace,
Must be a Monster, Mad, or Drunk,
Who, bedding some prepostrous Punk,
Mistook the downy Seat of Love,
And got them in the Sink above;
So that, at first, a T[oa]d and They
Were born the very self same Way, [i.e. from the anus according to folklore]
The following Proposal is sent to be inserted in this Paper, as an Expedient humbly propos’d to the Legislature, for suppressing a Crime which is the most shocking Debasement of Human Nature.
“It being too notorious, that there are vile Clubs of Miscreants in and about this City, who meet to Practise and Propagate the detestable Sin of Sodomy, a Crime which drew down the flaming Vengeance of God upon the City of Sodom, in a Day when they had not that Light which we are bless’d with now, ’tis humbly propos’d that the following Method may not only destroy the Practice, but blot out the Names of the monstrous Wretches from under Heaven, viz. when any are Detected, Prosecuted and Convicted, that after Sentence Pronounc’d, the Common Hangman tie him Hand and Foot before the Judge’s Face in open Court, that a Skilful Surgeon be provided immediately to take out his Testicles, and that then the Hangman sear up his Scrotum with an hot Iron, as in Cases of burning in the Hand.”
In 1728 Black Lion Yard was the site of the house of one Jonathan Muff, which he ran as a Molly house, a resort for gay men and transvestites (a molly being a term for a gay man). It was raided in that year and some of the clientele charged, as sex between men was then a capital offence.1 Some sources give the current Black Lion House at 45 Whitechapel Road as the site of Black Lion Yard but it was further east, running from Whitechapel Road, at a point under the site of the Whitechapel Technology Centre, through the site of Magenta House to a point on Old Montague Street at the east end of Hopetown, the Salvation Army hostel.
20 NOVEMBER 2016 BY SARAH JACKSON
One of the challenges of uncovering transgender histories is that even where we find stories which hint at trans identities, we can’t go back and ask the individuals in question how they would describe themselves.
Even if we could, concepts of gender identity constantly shift and change throughout history, and the question would probably make very little sense to someone who lived centuries before us.
However, the hints we find show us that in the past, just like today, gender was not a simple binary.
In 18th century London a ‘molly house‘ was a coffeehouse, inn, or tavern at which men could meet in secret to socialise and have sex. ‘Molly’ or ‘moll’ was a slang term for a gay man, and for a lower class woman, or a woman selling sex.
Although at this time in England sex between men was punishable by death, molly houses were part of a thriving gay subculture:
The legal records document investigations into about 30 molly houses during the course of the century. Considering that the population of London was only about 600,000 in the 1720s, having even just a dozen molly houses at that time is a bit like having 200 gay clubs in the 1970s. In some respects, the eighteenth-century molly subculture was as extensive as any modern gay subculture.
One of the main molly districts was on the east of the City, around Moorfields in Shoreditch. What is now the south side of Finsbury Square was a cruising area known as ‘Sodomites’ Walk’.
Molly houses are a site where gay histories and trans histories intermingle. It was common for men at the molly house to wear women’s clothes and to speak and act in typically ‘feminine’ ways. Most had alternative names such as Plump Nelly, Primrose Mary, Aunt May, Susan Guzzle, Aunt England, and the Duchess of Camomile.
One very famous molly called Princess Seraphina wore her feminine identity beyond these secret meeting places and into her public life. In 1732 she brought a case against a man for stealing her clothes. Her neighbour Mary Poplet described her in her testimony:
“I have known her Highness a pretty while… I have seen her several times in Women’s Cloaths, she commonly us’d to wear a white Gown, and a scarlet Cloak, with her Hair frizzled and curl’d all round her Forehead; and then she would so flutter her Fan, and make such fine Curt’sies, that you would not have known her from a Woman: She takes great Delight in Balls and Masquerades, and always chuses to appear at them in a Female Dress, that she may have the Satisfation of dancing with fine Gentlemen. Her Highness lives with Mr. Tull in Eagle-Court in the Strand, and calls him her Master, because she was Nurse to him and his Wife when they were both in a Salivation (salivation was a mercurial cure for syphilis); but the Princess is rather Mr. Tull’s Friend, than his domestick Servant. I never heard that she had any other Name than the Princess Seraphina.”.
Raids on molly houses
Much of what we know about mollies comes from court proceedings following raids on molly houses, the most well known of which was the raid on Mother Clap’s molly house in 1726, in Holborn. (Incidentally, Mother Clap was a real woman called Margaret Clap.) After the raid several people were tried and three men were hanged at Tyburn for the crime of ‘sodomy’.
One of the best documented examples from east London is a raid on a molly house in Whitechapel.
“Nine male ladies” arrested
The molly house was owned by Miss Muff – also known as Jonathan Muff – and it stood in Black Lion Yard. The yard no longer exists, but Black Lion House now stands on the site at 45 Whitechapel Road.
On 5 October 1728 The Weekly Journal; or, British Gazetteer includes a news item about the raid:
“On Sunday Night last a Constable with proper Assistants, searched the House of Jonathan Muff, alias Miss Muff, in Black-Lyon Yard, near Whitechapel Church, where they apprehended nine male Ladies, including the Man of the House. They were secured that Night in New Prison, and Monday Morning they were examined before Justice Jackson, in Ayliff-streeet; John Bleak Cawlend was committed to Newgate, he being charged on Oath with committing the detestable Sin of Sodomy.”
Of the nine arrested we know that two were whipped, one was fined, two were acquitted, and one – whose name was given as Thomas Mitchell – attempted to end his life in prison:
he attempted, and had near accomplish’d, destroying himself, in cutting the great Artery of his Left Arm almost asunder; but by the immediate Help of some eminent Surgeons he was preserv’d, tho’ at the Point of Death thro’ the great Effusion of Blood.
Trial of John Bleak Cowland
John Bleak Cowland, was indicted for that destableSin of Sodomy, and the Break of the Statute against the said Sin made and provided.
Jonathan Parrey depos’d, That in February last, he first came acquainted with the Prisoner at one Muff’s, in Black-Lion-Yard, White-Chappel. That in May last, the Prisoner went Home with him to his Lodgings, and when they were in Bed, he perswaded him to commit the Sin of Sodomy with him, to which he consented, and that they did then, and there, actually commit the Sin of Sodomy, &c. and afterwards in June last, he did actually commit the said Sin of Sodomy twice more with the Prisoner in the Bar.
This Deponent farther said, That he being weary of this wicked and detestable Practice, took a Resolution to betray the Company which met together, to commit such filthy Actions, and accordingly he gave Information against them, and contrived to be in the Room when the Prisoner and others were apprehended, at the aforesaid Muff’s House, in Black-Lion-Yard, White-Chappel.
The Prisoner said in his Defence, That he only went to Muff’s House, to learn to play on the Violin, and that it was all false which Parrey had swore against him.
The Prisoner’s Brother depos’d, That he knew Parrey to be an idle vagabond Fellow, that would swear a Cow is Horse, and his Oath was therefore not to be taken, but the Jury believing the contrary, found him Guilty. DEATH.
Trial of Richard Challenor
Richard Challenor of St. Mary’s White-Chappel, was indicted for assaulting John Branch Harris, with an Intent to commit that wicked and destestable Sin of Sodomy, with the said John Granch Harris.
He was a second Time indicted for assaulting Jonathan Parrey, with an Intent to commit the said Sin of Sodomy, with him the said Jonathan Parrey.
Jonathan Parrey depos’d, That in February last he first came acquainted with the Prisoner, that they about that Time lay together and equally committed filthy undecent and effeminate Actions; that they likewise did the same at Muff’s Hosue in Black-Lion-Yard White-Chappel, and that the Lodging in an alley near White-Chappel Church, in July last, Richard Challoner and John Branch Harris came to see him, and put their Hands into each other’s Breeches, after which they went out of the House into an Arbour in the Garden, but what they did there he could not tell.
The Jury acquitted him of both Indictments.
Trial of Isaac Milton
Isaac Milton of St. Mary’s White-Chappel, was indicted for assaulting Jonathan Parrey, with an Intent to commit that destable Sin of Sodomy, with the said Jonathan Parrey.
Jonathan Parren depos’d, That in June last, he first became acquainted with the Prisoner, at Muff’s House in White-Chappel. That at the Three-Nuns in White-Chappel, they lay together, when the Prisoner would have had him committed Sodomy with him, but he refused it; that then the Prisoner ofered to act the same Crime of Sodomy with him, but he would not suffer him.
What strengthen’d this Evidence, was the Oath of Mr. Willis, who depos’d, That when Parrey gave Information agianst Muff’s House, he mentioned the Prisoner, as one of the filthy Wretches who resorted there, to committ sodomitical Practices, and accordingly, when they went to search the House, they found the Prisoner amongst the ludicrous Company.
The Jury found him Guilty of the Assault and Misdemeanor.
Newspaper Reports 1728
5 October 1728
On Sunday Night last a Constable with proper Assistants, searched the House of Jonathan Muff, alias Miss Muff, in Black-Lyon Yard, near Whitechapel Church, where they apprehended nine male Ladies, including the Man of the House. They were secured that Night in New Prison, and Monday Morning they were examined before Justice Jackson, in Ayliff-streeet; John Bleak Cawlend was committed to Newgate, he being charged on Oath with committing the detestable Sin of Sodomy. One of them was committed to Bridewell, and Miss Muff, with the other Six were committed to New Prison for Misdemeanors. (The Weekly Journal; or, British Gazetteer)
5 October 1728
Jonathan alias Miss Muff, and nine Male Ladies were all apprehended last Sunday Night at his House in Black Lyon Yard near White Chapel Church, carried to New Prison, and examin’d next Day before a Magistrate, when J. Bleak Cawland charged on Oath with committing the detestable Sin of Sodomy, was committed to Newgate, another to Bridewell, and Miss Muff with the other six to Newgate: Two Persons were also catch’d in that horrid Act last Week at Redding [i.e. Reading, Berkshire]; one of whom was immediately pump’d, thrown into a Bog-House, and then rinsed in stinking Ditches; what will come of the other Beast is not said. (The Flying-Post: or, The Weekly Medley)
19 October 1728
On Thursday … a Bill of Indictment was found at the Old Baily, against one Cowland, for Sodomy.
The same Morning, two Persons were taken in the Act of Sodomy, in the little Cloisters at Westminster-Abbey, and committed to Prison.
And other Bills are found at Hick’s Hall, against divers other Persons, for Sodomitical Practices. (The Weekly Journal; or, British Gazetteer)
26 October 1728
Monday the Sessions ended at the Old Baily, when, with what received Sentence of Death last Saturday, there are 16 Capitally convicted, viz. … John Bleak Cowland for Sodomy …
John Burgess, for Sodomitical Practices, was fin’d five Marks, and order’d to find Sureties for his Good Behaviour for six Months.
Two others indicted for Sodomitical Practices were acquitted. (The Weekly Journal; or, British Gazetteer)
9 November 1728
Saturday last … one John Mitchel stood in the Pillory in Little Britain, pursuant to his Sentence at Guild-Hall, for threatning to swear Sodomy against a Person, in order to extort Money from him; he is also to suffer three Months Imprisonment. (Weekly Journal, or the British Gazetteer) [This was also reported in The Flying-Post: or, The Weekly Medley.]
9 November 1728
Last Wednesday Night the dead Warrant came to Newgate for the Execution of thirteen Malefactors condemned last Sessions at the Old-Bailey, on Monday next at Tyburn, …
But John Bleake Cowland, Samuel Lewis, and John Taylor, are respited ’till his Majesty’s Pleasure, touching them, be further known. (The Weekly Journal; or, British Gazetteer) [The Flying-Post on this day also reported that although John Bleak Cowland was condemned for sodomy, he was reprieved and not executed.]
: At the end of the Sessions of 16 October 1728, John Bleak Cowland was sentenced to Death. However, he was later reprieved and transported. See News Reports for 1728, 5 October, 19 October, 26 October, 9 November.]
The Proceedings at the Sessions of the Peace, and Oyer and Terminer for the City of London, and County of Middlesex. On Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Monday, being the 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, and 21st, of October, 1728, in the Second Year of His Majesty’s Reign. 1728.
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. Her house was popular during the two years of its existence (1724–1726), 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.”  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. Unlike other molly houses, it was not a brothel. 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. Her actions during the charges later laid against her and many of the homosexual community showed her loyalty to her customers.
In February 1726, Margaret Clap’s molly house was raided by the police; around 40 of its occupants were arrested. Primarily targeted by the Society for the Reformation of Manners, the house had been under surveillance for two years.[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. He led policemen into molly houses, introducing each of them as his “husband” so that they could investigate more thoroughly.[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.. It was not just the molly houses that were targeted, but also public spaces such as Moorfield Park, referred to as “the Sodomite’s Walk”. Newton’s testimony regarding entrapment of a William Brown ‘I was no stranger to the Methods they used in picking one another up. So I takes a Turn that way, and leans over the Wall. In a little Time a Gentleman passes by, and looks hard at me, and at a small distance from me, stands up against the Wall, as if he was going to make Water. Then by Degrees he sidles nearer and nearer to where I stood, ’till at last he comes close to me. – ’Tis a very fine Night, says he. Aye, says I, and so it is. Then he takes me by the Hand, and after squeezing and playing with it a little (to which I showed no dislike), he conveys it to his Breeches, and puts [his penis] into it. I took fast hold, and call’d out to Willis and Stevenson, who coming up to my Assistance, we carried him to the Watch house.’
The whole raid, and all the curcumstances surrounding it reads more like something out of a modern gay enclave! That so many homosexuals frequented the molly houses, the goings-on within them, the gossip and innuendo, the pimps and prostitutes, and the undercover work by the local police is quite something that one would not have expected from life in the 18-century London. The main victims, other than Margaret Clap herself, who were arrested, charged and sentenced consist of William Brown – who went to trial after entrapment; William Griffin; George Kedger – who was accused of buggering Edward “Ned” Courtney in 1725; Gabriel Lawrence; Martin MacKintosh; George Whittle (Whitle); and Thomas Wright – who kept a molly house in Beech Lane, and has been covered in another Gay History article on my blog https://timalderman.com/?s=Thomas+wright. Other protagonists involved with charges or trial are Mark Partridge, the embittered homosexual informer, who quarreled with lover, Mr Harrington. “So by late 1725, Partrdige was leading various constables to all of the London molly houses that he knew of, and introducing one or the other of them as his ‘husband’ so they could be admitted as bona fide members of each group. On Wednesday, 17 November for example, Partridge took constables Joseph Sellers and William Davison to another molly house, one kept by Thomas Wright in Beech Lane, where there was a very big row because the others had heard that they had been informed upon. They called Partridge a ‘Treacherous, blowing-up, mollying-Bitch’, and threatened to kill anyone who would betray them. Partridge, however, was able to mollify them by arguing that it was Harrington who let out the secret in the first place. So they forgave him and kissed him – and kissed the constables too, little suspecting who they were, and little knowing how treacherous Partridge indeed was.”; Edward (Ned) Courtney – hustler & informer‘I was no stranger to the Methods they used in picking one another up. So I takes a Turn that way, and leans over the Wall. In a little Time a Gentleman passes by, and looks hard at me, and at a small distance from me, stands up against the Wall, as if he was going to make Water. Then by Degrees he sidles nearer and nearer to where I stood, ’till at last he comes close to me. – ’Tis a very fine Night, says he. Aye, says I, and so it is. Then he takes me by the Hand, and after squeezing and playing with it a little (to which I showed no dislike), he conveys it to his Breeches, and puts [his penis] into it. I took fast hold, and call’d out to Willis and Stevenson, who coming up to my Assistance, we carried him to the Watch house.’ Prostitute at Yorkshire Grey tavern in Bloomsbury Market. He lived with silk dyer Thomas Orme at Red Lion in Crown Court in Knave’s Acre. By the time of the raids he was a bondservant to George Whittle (or Whitle), who was charged with keeping a molly house at the Royal Oak alehouse at the corner of St James’s Square in Pall Mall. Ned was an habitual rabble-rouser. He had already been sent to Bridewell Prison on three occasions: once for drunkenly hitting an old woman when he was an alehouse boy at the Curdigan’s Head at Charing Cross (he was sacked, since the woman was the tavern-keeper’s mother); a second time for stealing goods from Whittle’s establishment; and a third time for disturbing the peace at an unnamed molly house in Covent Garden. Ned apparently turned informer as a means to spite Whittle, who had caused him to be arrested for theft. The jury’s realisation that this may have been the motive behind his testimony, eventually led to Whittle’s acquittal; and Thomas Newton – hustler & informer. 30yo & employed by Thomas Wright, first at his home in Christopher’s Alley in Moorfields, later at his own molly house in Beech Lane. (See Lawrence’s trial). So, one can see how they were all tied in. There were a number of the Constabulary involved in the raids and arrests, including the already mentioned Samuel Stevens, Joseph Sellers, William Davison, and Constables Willis & Williams.
Margaret Clap’s Old Bailey Trial
Margaret Clap was indicted for keeping a disorderly house in which she procured and encouraged persons to commit sodomy. Her house in the City of London had been under surveillance since 10 December 1725, and was raided in February 1726 (“1725” in the old-style calendar, in which the new year did not begin until March) — an incident which forms the central chapter of my book Mother Clap’s Molly House: The Gay Subculture in England 1700-1830. She can perhaps be characterized as the first “fag hag” to be documented in British history. She seems to have run her molly house more for pleasure than for profit. It was one of the most popular molly houses in London, and had existed at least since autumn 1724. In so far as Mother Clap went out to fetch liquor (probably from the Bunch o’Grapes next door), her house — which bore no specific name — was probably a private residence rather than a public inn or tavern. Hints that it may have been specifically organized as a house of prostitution are very slim, and it is likely that she provided for herself simply by letting out rooms, by taking a percentage on the spirits she procured, and perhaps by accepting the occasional gift from a grateful guest. One man, Thomas Phillips, had lived at her house for two years, and he disappeared after the raid. All in all, Margaret Clap seems to have enjoyed her clientele — who dubbed her “Mother Clap” — and to have taken an active interest in the gay subculture. She was found guilty as charged and was sentenced to stand in the pillory in Smithfield market, to pay a fine of 20 marks, and to two years’ imprisonment. During her punishment, she fell off the pillory once and fainted several times. It is not known what became of her, if indeed she survived prison.
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.
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
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
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,  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.
George Kedger’s Old Bailey Trial
GEORGE KEDGER, alias Keger, was indicted for committing Sodomy with Edward Courtney, aged 18 Years, July 15 .
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.
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.
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.]
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. Notes
Some sources say the house had only been surveilled for a year prior to the raid.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
^a b Bateman, Geoffrey (Aug 18, 2005). “Margaret Clap”. glbtq.com. Archived from the original on 2010-03-04. Retrieved Feb 11, 2010. a b Norton, Rictor (June 20, 2008). “The Trial of Margaret Clap”. Retrieved Feb 11, 2010.
^Norton, Rictor (June 20, 2008). “The Trial of Gabriel Lawrence”. Retrieved Feb 11, 2010.
^a b Norton, Rictor (June 20, 2008). “The Trial of Thomas Wright”. Retrieved Feb 11, 2010.
^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.
There appears to be nothing on the internet about the G.O.D Girlgang, not even within the profiles and written accounts of its founders. This makes this article about the gang, solely from my own archived resources, an essential inclusion into the gay history of Sydney. That any groups can come and go, and be undocumented in any way concerns me, as gangs such as G.O.D were integral in the relationships between gay men and lesbians in the late 1980s, early 1990s period, as well as highlighting a movement within the lesbian community, a move away from PC dogmatic women, to a more open, diverse and inclusionist community. Despite its brief existence, it was a watershed moment in mixed relations between the two distinct sectors of the community.
a group of people who associate together or act as an organized body, esp for criminal or illegal purposes”
“Girls of Disgrace, Girls of Dishonour, Girls of Desire; G.O.D. Is limited only to your steamy imagination.
G.O.D. is on a mission to spread the concept of Girlgangs, and its subsequent feelings of power through identification/unification. G.O.D. is not meant to be taken too seriously.
IN SEVEN DAYS following the creation of a name, a patch design is produced depicting a sword with a snake wound about its length. Living on the cutting edge? (Now, don’t take us too seriously).
A group of army green jackets adorned with a variety of badges, bolts, skins, and other sundry odds and ends.
G.O.D. patches grab each shoulder in splashes of red and grey. Underneath, the optional shirt harbours similar coloured emblems.
COMPRISES OF Desert Rangers, the Kiss and Make-up contingent, SM girlies, Vanilla Sluts, hard-core uniform-ists and lingerie fetishists. (But don’t take us too seriously).
ATTITUDE while in walk thirteen G.O.D. members. Watch the heads turn. Will we stop at the number fit for a witches coven?
G.O.D. is not separatist,. Guys of Disgrace have recently gained admittance complete with blue patches and leather.
AND FUN with future G.O.D. sex/bondsge/SM/porn/initiation/dance/parties a possibility? Why not!”
Such was the blurb from “Wicked Women” magazine for the first outing of G.O.D. in the media. Girls/Guys of Disgrace was founded by Francine (Jasper) Laybutt, Lisa Salmon & Jade Moon Kemeny around 1989/90. Francine was a radical lesbian in every sense of the word. She walked the outer limits of the lesbian world, promoting the more butch forms of sexuality, the darker world of BD/SM. She was the founder of “Wicked Women” magazine, and used it as a platform to promote her more radical attitudes to lesbiansm. Often shunned by her own community, and with her partner, Lisa Salmon, often derided and humiliated for holding beliefs and practises contrary to what was considered the norm in that world.
That she founded G.O.D should not be surprising in the face of her views on confrontation, public outrageousness, yet inclusiveness. She advocated non-penetrative sex with gay men (slanted more towards the gay leather, BD/SM community), and after her sex reassignment surgery and becoming Jasper Laybutt, she referred to herself not just as a female-to-male transgender, but as a male lesbian…language that would have sent most mainstream lesbians into a tail spin!
In William Calder’s book “Gay Print Media’s Golden Era: Australian Magazines and Newspapers 1970-2000” he notes:
“Inspired by the American lesbian sex fetish magazine On Our Backs – its title a deliberate riposte to the feminist magazine Off Our Backs – Francine Laybutt and Lisa Salmon published Wicked Women in Sydney at the start of 1988 to fill, as they put it, the “gaping hole” in women’s erotica, and promised “a forum for erotic ideas and … hot, one-handed reading”.(138) They aimed to bring into the open lesbian sexual practices such as sadomasochism for those who silently fantasised about such activities and let their readers see there were other similarly minded women they might meet. From the start, the magazine triggered debate within the lesbian community, and Laybutt says they were “surprised and unprepared for the degree of hostility” directed against them.(139) Sadomasochism, bondage, and even dildos were seen at the time “by the lesbian feminist paradigm … as violent patriarchal constructs”.(140) The pair would get thrown out of dyke clubs for wearing fetish gear and Salmon “who didn’t usually wear much at all would have drinks thrown on her … cigarettes surreptitiously put out on her [and] spat on sometimes”.(141)
Born at the start of the 1960s,(142) Laybutt grew up in the city of Newcastle and watched drag shows at the town’s one gay pub, but soon moved to Sydney where the gay scene was bigger.(143) She worked as an art teacher but “didn’t like teaching unruly teenagers”, and switched to computer design work with a North Shore communications company. Laybutt found her “true vocation” as Dominatrix Natasha in the sex industry,(144) and shared a flat with fellow former Catholic school girl Lisa Salmon,(145) who in her early 20s worked as a performance artist and stripper.(146) The pair started a relationship and decided it would be as a “fetish couple”.(147)
The first issue of Wicked Women was a 28 page A4 black and white with a pictorial cover selling for $4. It included poetry, personal classifieds and features exploring lesbian sexual fetish in an attempt to broaden individual lesbians’ definition of their lifestyle. To produce Wicked Women they bought an old electric typewriter that ironically would not print the letter ‘w’, so they “had to manually push the letter against the page” and the pair wrote most of the articles “under a variety of pseudonyms to make it appear as though they had lots of contributors”.(148) Laybutt’s “very open-minded” boss let them use the work photocopier on the weekend to print 90 copies of the first issue. Subsequent issues grew in size and cover price, peaking at 60 pages for $8, with up to 1000 copies printed.(149) The aim was six issues a year, though usually fewer were published. The magazine that Laybutt and Salmon created “reflected” the sadomasochistic sexual activity they were doing,(150) and they hoped it would let them meet other women “sharing the same experience”.(151) Salmon says “the seventies feminist thing just ended up being girls telling each other what to do. It became really dogmatic and it took the fun out of sexuality and being a dyke”.(152) Commentator Julie Catt says Wicked Women triggered a “lesbian sexual revolution”,(153) and others say it added “many new words to the lesbian sexual vocabulary – sadomasochism, fetishism, gender fuck – to name but a few”.(154) Wicked Women ran stories about a woman who was “horny for weeks, and masturbated ferociously”,(155) one from a woman who described how she was “blindfolded and placed in standing bondage [while f]ingers pinch my skin, pull at my hairs, slap my behind, teasing”,(156) and the dominatrix who wrote how her submissive “moaned, groaned, pleaded, yelled, screamed [and] begged me to stop but the juice was flowing freely down her inner thighs. Her cunt was writhing in frustration [wanting] me to fuck her to the point of exhaustion”.(157)
The first cover had the words: “Erotica Poetry Graphics SM Classifieds Decadence” above a graphic of a naked woman with a dog collar around her neck. Photographs of usually one or two women models soon replaced graphics on the cover. The magazine though was not simply pornography for lesbians. It explored sexual themes and often used playful images. There was a blurred photo of a naked cropped hair woman wearing a dog collar and seated cross-legged on bed,(158) a photo of a sultry woman in full leather jacket and cap looking piercingly into the camera,(159) and a party girl staring at the camera while pulling open her jacket to expose her breasts.(160) Inside were photo-spreads of women in leather or at sexual fetish events, and in one issue a photo-essay of open vaginas being fist-fucked.(161)
Quite apart from the publisher’s open promotion of sadomasochism there were a series of publishing events that triggered condemnation. In an early edition Linda Dement’s photograph of a woman holding a skinned rabbit against her vagina caused an uproar,(162) and the magazine was subsequently banned from at least one Melbourne feminist bookstore. Laybutt defends the photograph as “art … a strong image, but not an anti-woman one. It was widely misunderstood”.(163) A year later the inclusion of a gay male pedophile group press release,(164) led to “a ‘girlcott’ … sold very badly and lost some readership”,(165) followed the next issue when “all hell broke loose”,(166) after publishing an article written by a self-confessed “misogynist” gay leather man.(167) The final major controversy to confront the publishers of Wicked Women was Laybutt undergoing medical procedures to become a transman. “I was a tomboy” growing up, he says,(168) and in 1991 adopted the name Jasper, instead of Francine.(169)
Supporters of Wicked Women wrote letters to say “it’s wonderful to know there are other dykes out there into ‘unsound’ sex and games”.(170) Another said it was “important that women have a space where they can be upfront and honest about who they are and what they like”,(171) and one declared “I now, most times when going out to nightclubs and such, dress in leather”.(172) Some feminists engaged directly with the sexual desire implicit in Wicked Women’s content. One supported “expressions of lesbian sexuality which are exciting, dangerous and diverse” yet maintained the utopian goals of lesbian feminism “to rethink the relationship already in play between the phallus/cock/gun and power” concluding: “we wait with quivering clits for the day a woman submits her fiction in a non-male constructed language”.(173) With time this occurred as Laybutt and Salmon invited contributions from readers who submitted articles other than ones with sadomasochistic themes but “often vanilla or romantic sex flavoured and relatively sexually ‘safe’” articles.(174)
Less obvious than its challenge to existing ideas around lesbian sexual practices, was the role Wicked Women played in building lesbian community. Its classified personals included the expected: “23 Year Old into leather, looking for experienced S/M dyke to worship”,(175) but were also used by a range of lesbians to seek partners, such as “slim 22 yr old, strawberry blonde, desperately searching for my dark earth mother”. The magazine ran contact details for local lesbian social groups, and advertisements for Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. Wicked Women organised what became a popular annual event, the Ms Wicked competition “in which lesbians stripped and performed sexual acts for enthusiastic all-female audiences”.(176) More than 500 attended a Melbourne heat in 1991.(177) Wicked Women organised a Mardi Gras dance party Be Wicked that was raided in the early hours by police with the patrons “herded out”,(178) and Girl Beat at the gay male sex-on-site venue The Den.(179)
The magazine’s editor from 1994, Kimberly O’Sullivan said the “events proved to be enormously popular and [mainstream lesbians] saw we had a role in the lesbian community. It demystified us for them”.(180) The activities of Wicked Women’s publishers also helped draw together the lesbian and gay male communities that in the 1980s lived largely separately from each other. Laybutt had always found the gay male scene “infinitely more interesting” to explore.(181) She was a member of two gay male motorcycle clubs, and even attended male only fetish events, passing as a young guy. Early support for the magazine came largely from the gay male community and the emergence of Wicked Women provided a vehicle to “bridge the gap” at least between the gay male and lesbian fetish communities.(182) In 1993 Wicked Women organised a Mr Wicked competition.
The controversial nature of Wicked Women attracted attention but its generally uncompromising stance on content alienated both potential buyers and advertisers and caused significant problems for the venture as a business. While the primary aim was to present sex radical ideas, the bills still needed to be paid and its 1993 editor, Kimberly O’Sullivan said they started “to think more seriously about the risks [of accepting] an article which will alienate half of your readership”.(183) There were difficulties from their first Catholic owned commercial printer who dumped them after they ran a photograph of a women stroking her vagina with a statue of the Virgin Mary.(184) Lesbian hotels initially refused to stock the magazine,(185) and the women’s bookshops that did stock it “kept the magazine hidden under Lesbian Network so no- one ever saw it”.(186) At first only gay male leather, and sex shops stocked Wicked Women and it was distributed by subscription to mainly Sydney women, though also to other areas around the country and overseas, and some men.(187) The only advertising support the magazine attracted initially was from leather fetish and sex product shops run by gay men as “lesbian businesses … would not touch them”.(188) Each ‘girlcott’ and refusal to display the magazine reduced sales and increased reliance on organising fund-raising events.(189)
Apart from publishing Wicked Women, Laybutt in 1990 was involved in editing the mixed gay and lesbian alternative journal of arts, culture and sexuality, Hell Bent, and in 1991 Pink Ink: An anthology of Australian lesbian and gay writers. By 1994, both Laybutt and Salmon had stepped back from the front line of editing, handing responsibility to O’Sullivan, who later described her job as “administrator, book- keeper, accountant, publicity officer, advertising manager and delivery driver – in short, doing every single thing on the magazine from beginning to end”. Two years later she resigned due to the work pressure that came on top of the need to work a second full-time paid job, bemoaning that she “had almost no social life (and felt) burnt out”.(190) When Salmon stopped organising fund-raising events the magazine became financially unsustainable. O’Sullivan was not replaced as editor with Laybutt declaring “I feel that having become a man, I’ve moved on to different things” and Wicked Women ceased publication in 1996 after 28 issues.(191) Laybutt returned to live in Newcastle and became involved in publishing New Age ideas.(192)
The publishers of Wicked Women successfully appealed to the sexually libertarian section of the lesbian community, and in doing so challenged established feminist attitudes towards sexuality. They found a market niche and expanded, creating new social infrastructure and profoundly changed broader lesbian community attitudes towards sexuality. Ultimately though the publishing venture failed to become financially self-sustaining and closed when individual publisher energies waned.”
It is against this background, and in the midst of, that the G.O.D Gang was formed. Amongst my recollections are attending a patty in the vicinity of Zetland, held in a warehouse, and consisting primaily of G.O.D & Dolphin Motor Club members. I was one of the DJ’s (who had to deal with a DJ rig suspended from the ceiling on chains, and would often swing out from the mezzanine area it was set up in – and you had to make sure you didn’t follow it). During one of my sets, I watched as Francine (she had not undergone sex reassignment surgery at this stage) opened a door in the floor of the warehouse that obviously led down to a basement area. She went down the stairs, and was followed by half-a-dozen of the male members. I have no accounts of what went on down there, but considering Francine’s stand on gender-fuck issues, and the liberality of many males in the leather scene, I dare say it would have been quite eye-ooening. In the above excerpt from the book, there is a nod to me as the manager of “Numvers” Bookstore, being one of the gay managers and businesses that advertised in, sold, and supported Wicked Women, and their events. This also indicates the divisions not just within the gay community at that time – the separist nature of gay men & lesbians, but also the divisions within the lesbian community, the strict dogmatic approach they had to women who marched “outside the square”. The same cliques existed within the gay male community – leathermen, bears, twinks, vanilla, BD/SM, clones etc – but this did not prevent guys crossing over into several cliques, and when required, they all socialised together. This possibly explains Francine’s attraction to the gay male community, along with the support it offered her, and her ventures. In many respects, G.O.D became a catalyst for a change in relationships between gay men & lesbians – well, at least those that wrre liberal minded, and not pushing agenda’s.
The two following accounts are important for several reasons – there is – sermingly – no information on the G.O.D Gang on the internet; the “So Help Me G.O.D” piece has a run-down of resolutions reached in the first group event, giving an indication of how and why the gang was created, its structure, purposes and intentions. It also shows how the gang started to get its name out there through its involvement in some of the more “out there” events that were happening, and through integration with groups like the Dolphin Motor Club, The Griffins Motorcyle Club, and Dykes On Bikes.
From the Dolphin Motor Clubs newsletter “Quid Nunc”, Volume 1, Issue IV. 1990. Both articles are from the same issue.
“So Help Me G.O.D.”
“In the beginning there were Three. And behold, the Three looked down on us and said ‘We need a Girlgang.’ And so it was done, and a Girlfang was formed. And GOD gave unto its members a symbol of their unity: a red patch, thereon emblazoned a serpent encircling a sword. Then GOD looked down on us once again, and said ‘There is disunity in our community,’ and they took a thread from the red patch, colour changed it, and came forth with a blue patch. Thus were guys brought into the unity of GOD. And the Three looked down, and said ‘This is good,’ and behold, it was very good.”
G.O.D. (Guys/Girls of Disgrace/Dishonour/Degradation/Discipline/Denigration…interpret it as you will) is a group of girls and guys who fall into the classification of a gang. Despite the connotation of the word ‘gang’ meaning a group of louts, storm-trooping all over town , fighting, maiming, and causing general discord, the word ‘gang’ actually refers to a group of people, loosely based with no constitution or club rules to bind them. There is no official hierarchy, and no regular meetings as such. Members basically have a common interest (most GOD members are into leather sex in all or sundry of its variations) and basically get together just for a good time. A meeting could be said to be happening when two or more get together for a drink and a chat.
The Dolphin’s three Special Members: Francine, Jade & Lisa, are not only GOD girls, but founders of the group. Paul Costello, Geoff Arnold, and Tim Alderman are also members of GOD, and Les Heathfield is an Honorary Member. GOD girls are all invited to Dolphin events, and in return all Dolphin members are invited to all GOD, and Wicked Women events, apart from those deemed girls only. It is hoped that in the future, GOD and the Dolphins can get together to hold functions, or jointly sponsor functions. Membership currently stands at 22 girls, and 8 guys. The patches are red for the girls, and blue for the guys, and feature a snake entwined on an upward pointing sword. Thus with the initials of our name, the symbolism can be interpreted any way you want.
The recently GOD sponsored event for the Ms Wicked Competition was a tremendous night, with Tim Alderman from DMC one of the 5 judges for the event. The more recent Slave/Master/Mistress celebrity auction (see write-up this issue) just goes to show what girls and guys working together can really do. Our first official gang meeting was held in our Clubroom in Ultimo on Wednesday 30th May. About 25 members were present, plus about 5 visitors, including 2 women connected to the Mardi Gras committee, and a number of resolutions were passed by gang members.
*We are now closing ranks. Whereas before this night it was possible to become a gang member by the purchase of patches, membership is now only possible by a written submission, the applicant then having to come before a panel of selectors to have their suitability as a gang member judged.
* The panel of selectors was set ip, consisting of two founding members (one founding member must always be on the panel), one male nember, and two other girl members. Membership of the panel will be rotated over a three-month period. As the guys membership increases, we will be granted a second position on the panel.
* We recognise that there would, in all probability, be two distinct sectors within the membership: a social sector of people who support the group and wear the regalia, but who for reasons of jobs, profile etc. would not in all probability be involved in any “disgraceful” activities: and a “hard-core” sector who would bege involved in street thestre, demonstrations, marches, and other disgraceful activities . Neither group would be condemned by other members of the gang because of their stand.
* We wish to involve ourselves in the activities of other groups, such as Act-Up, to help them achieve changes as well as having our own group identified. We would also be planning parties, competitions, auctions etc for members, friends, and the community in general.
* Any monies accrued would be used for the benefit of the group in arranging parties, promotions, events, and special meetings.
* We would maintain our loose knit structure with no formalised committee or such, to maintain our independence as a gang. However, the founding members would have the final say as regards all decisions in the gang. The panel of selectors would mert on a regular basis.
* We would, at all time, support community causes, especially in areas such as AIDS, and AIDS treatment.
* We must become noticeable, and identifiable , the patch must become identifiable as a symbol,of people who are involved at nany levels of communal help, as well as a certain degree of outrageousness.
We all left the meeting knowing something monumental was happening. Barriers between poofs and dykes were down, and together we were going to make an impact of positiveness in this city, and hopefully further afield.
G.O.D. for sale, The Midnight Shift, 9 September 1990, Papers of Fabian LoSchiavo, Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives (ALGA)
Total darkness reigns. Through the darkness comes the opening spaceship sounds of Isao Tomita’s 2001 Theme: Thus Spake Zarathustra. The theme reaches a crashing crescendo, and fades with the same rumbling space ship sounds. Before the haunting opening bars of “Camina Burana” mixes into it, the sound of whips, much weeping, wailing and cries for mercy are heard approaching from out of the darkness. The Orff Chorus booms all around, and suddenly dazzling light fills the empty space, refracted through the incense smoke from an ancient thurible swung by a nun, as she attempts to placate and enlighten the chained throng of slaves that are being whipped into submission behind her. Struggles ensure, but the whip mistresses, Centurian guards, and the executioner keep everybody in line! Chains clank, cries get louder, and the incense smoke thickens as they encircle the herculean pillars, and the block from which they will shortly be despatched to heaven…or hell on earth. As the strains of “Carmina Burana” fade, the Centurians lead the slaves off the floor to the enmeshed holding pen. Their fatalistic cries die as the whip mistress finally subdues them into total submission.
No, not a scene from “Ben Hur” or “Quo Vardis”, but the entry procession for the G.O.D Slave/Master/Mistress Celebrity Auction, held at the Midnight Shift on Sunday 9th September (1990). We stated in the advertising that all manner of celebrities, and sleaze buckets, would be going under the hammer for charity…and we meant it!
Paul and Francine from G.O.D introduced the event, then handed the evening over to the very capable and outrageous whims of Monkey., from Tantrum Tits Lingerie, who was the evenings MC and auctioneer. Despite some early hassles with a faulty microphone, she handled the night as only Monkey can – totally over-the-top!
First to the block was Tim Vincent, Mr South Sydney Drummer who, despite a sign written on his back claiming “You can’t afford me” started the bidding off well and – sorty Tim…but someone could, and did, afford you: Matthew Cox, of the Dolphins, actually.
Monkey wasted no time in pushing the bids through, and that auctionees, and their potential owners were equally in agreement with the purchase. In rapid succession, Mr East Sydney Drummer, Bondage Boy, Toy Girl, and Slave Boy were put on the block…and dispensed with!
Many of those to be auctioned went to great lengths to add some theatre to the event, with costuming and dramatic performances. Toy Girl, and Cleopatra, were of special note, using dramatic music and great costumes. Cleopatra seduced the crowd beautifully, as only the Queen of the Nile could, though the gentleman who purchased her was quite obviously totally confused and befuddled by the whole event. The San Francisco motorcycle cop looked hot, and went for a good price. Bossy Boots was determined not to leave the block until she went for what she was worth. The two Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence were given lessons in humility from the pathetically low bids they attracted. Reverend Mother Abyss is destined for a long stay in Purgatory for her little white lies – 19years old, and still a virgin! Mea Culpa, Reverend Mother!
Jade bought her cartoon Cowgirl character to life, and despite the lack of a horse still fetched a reasonable price. Footy Girl, and School Boy, both dressed for the part, came and went. The Safe Sex Sluts decided to go as a group lot, and despire much wig pulling and stiletto throwing were eventually dispensed of. The unlikely named Captain Falafel and his sidekick Kid Sprout, looking like two flared and flowered hippies still recovering from a Sixties bad acid trip, brought some hilarity to the night, and were last seen being bullied and raped (playfully) under the DJs box.
Ms Wicked was the final official entrant to the block, and with much teasing, taunting and sexual persuasion eventually went for $800,000 ($200 in real money) after a group of girls pooled their resources.
Monkey, unbeknown to her at the time, was then grabbed by the Centurians, and led to the block. Having insulted just about everyone in the surrounds on the floor by this stage, bidding was bound to be high, and she was going for actual cash! Monkey took it all with good grace, got into the mood of the bidding by hurling out a few more insults to remind people of how much she was actually disliked, declared that she was sick of girls, and wanted a guy for a change, and eventually went for $70.
This brought the evening to a close. As the 2001 Theme again faded away, the dual DJs Gemma & Tim got the crowd onto the dance floor, and held them there until the midnight closing.
$810 was raised for the Maitraya Day Centre, and Victoria’s “Lesbian News”. The entire night was an unprecedented success.
Queering the paper trail in the more hostile world before 1970 there were no Australian gay magazines. Thirty years later, almost half a million copies of them were churned out each month with revenues that exceeded eight million dollars a year.
Despite this spectacular growth of a new industry – which continued until print was eclipsed in recent times by the internet – few publishers started newspapers or magazines with the intent to make money, and even fewer actually made any. Publishers came from the community as activist leaders, commercial venue owners or social scene participants who wanted to change their world in some way, great or small.
Various publishers used magazines to talk about what it meant to be homosexual, to challenge the views of the outside world, and to encourage a sense of gay pride. Some pushed ideas that were controversial within the gay community, such as notions of assertive gay male masculinity or lesbian sexual fetish. Some also considered it a core role for their publications to promote and build the gay scene, and foster the identity of its individuals.
Before the internet, magazines and newspapers were the dominant voice shaping gay and lesbian life in Australia. Through their need to sell advertising, they also played a part in developing the idea of the affluent gay consumer.
Historian Graham Willett describes Australia in the 1950s as a time when homosexuals were persecuted. There was active discrimination of homosexuals by state institutions in terms of employment and other rights and an increase in psychotherapies and criminal convictions, accompanied by the isolating effect of either media silence or vilification. Books and publications with even hints of homosexuality were zealously banned under strict government censorship laws, both federal and state.
But the world was changing. During the 1960s a range of predominantly youth-driven movements appeared: anti-Vietnam, New Left revolutionary radicalism, environmental concerns, the ‘get high, get laid’ counter-culture and second wave feminism, each challenging the dominant values of western society. It was these growing liberal attitudes and the gradual reform of censorship laws that made gay publishing possible.
The first gay media in Australia was activist by nature. Camp Ink was published in 1970 by gay activists from the intellectual left, and 500 copies were printed to be “a voice to the outside world”, as its key instigator John Ware later said. He was a psychology student in Sydney at the time, who clashed with his lecturers over their teachings that homosexuality was deviant behaviour. The first Camp Ink cover image was a black and white illustration that implied aversion therapy was akin to sawing off a man’s penis. The magazine became the official journal for the activist group CAMP and offered a free flow of ideas presenting homosexuality in a positive light, with debates on topics such as promiscuity, male prostitution, religion transvestites, law reform and the role of beats.
Despite the persecution of homosexuals, a gay world did exist before 1970, hidden from the public eye through friendship networks, in public parks and discreet corners of restaurants, coffee shops and bars. Catering to this private social scene, 22-year-old John Baker and his lover William Easton started the magazine William & John in 1972. They originally planned to produce a cheap newsletter to amuse their gay party set friends, but instead teamed up with a publisher to produce a more professional publication that boldly showed male nudity. Baker was not part of the formal activist movement nor the fledgling gay venue scene, and his magazine reflected the sexual libertine values of the time. Despite selling 20,000 copies an issue, William & John struggled to survive due to lingering censorship battles and personal difficulties faced by the publishers. However, a new market had been discovered and other commercially-oriented publishers then moved in to provide titillating content for gay men.
Lesbians, out-numbered and out-shouted by gay men and seen by some in the women’s movement as tarnishing that movement’s reputation, started their own separate publications. Liz Ross was active in the women’s liberation movement but critical of its publications for not providing enough coverage of lesbian issues. She became a key member of a collective that in 1976 produced the first of an unbroken line of lesbian magazines in Melbourne – the baton passed from Lesbian News to Labrys to Lesbiana. Sydney soon followed with its own publications, including Lesbians On The Loose (LOTL), which is still being published today.
Towards the end of the 1970s the gay world changed. Fueled by the mass migration of predominantly gay men from rural, suburban and interstate areas to the relative safety of the inner-city rapidly expanded the commercial venue scene, particularly in Sydney where the thriving Oxford Street precinct developed. This was accompanied by the growth of gay sporting, social and community service groups. Building and servicing this community suited the needs of media – it presented a reason to push forward gay rights, and on a practical level provided editorial content, advertising revenue and distribution outlets for the magazines.
A flurry of new publications started up. In 1975, Sydney gay bar manager Rod Stringer met with Los Angeles Advocate staffers in the US and launched a similar magazine in Australia called Campaign. He avoided overt sexual imagery, wanting to produce a respectable publication focused on gay men’s entertainment and lifestyle.
Eight years later in Melbourne, OutRage magazine shed its activist beginnings as Gay Community News to embrace a new name and a glossy presentation of entertainment and lifestyle. Its key architect was Danny Vadasz, and this dramatic shift from gay liberationist politics to gay men’s lifestyle mag mirrored his changing perception of the role gay media should play. He now saw the fight for gay social reform as achievable, rather than trying to overcome the entire capitalist/patriarchal system. Despite its shift to the commercial, OutRage stayed true to its activist origins through crucial and sustained coverage of the AIDS epidemic during the mid-1980s
Other gay men’s lifestyle publishers wanted to shake up the fledgling gay community and reshape it. Michael Glynn started the free newspaper Sydney Star in 1979 to promote an assertive masculine style and featured leather-clad men with hairy chests and moustaches. He publicly urged gay men to abandon the “limp-wristed fairy image”.
The 1988 emergence of Wicked Women by Francine Laybutt and her girlfriend Lisa Salmon was a direct challenge to prevailing feminist views in Australia. As a couple, Laybutt and Salmon explored sexual fetish and sadomasochism and the magazine focused on hardcore S&M, triggering boycotts from sections of the lesbian community. Despite this backlash, the magazine ran until 1996.
In the 1990s another key shift occurred in gay publishing with the dramatic expansion of free newspapers. Their growth into the dominant media form was driven by the fact they were free and easily-accessible, and their quick turnaround provided up-to-date news, venue gig guides and personal dating classifieds. High readership numbers attracted advertisers, which inevitably drove the search for even more readers. This led to a broadening of content to appeal to more sections of the community. More news was included, along with lesbian content and coverage of community group activities. Most advertisers were local businesses which encouraged the development of local newspapers in each city, and the market grew in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to sustain competing newspapers.
This expansion was also fueled by the growth in advertising from mainstream businesses, which started to shed their fear of association with a vilified minority and instead saw potential gain from a dynamic niche group. Gay media’s constant appetite for advertising revenue beyond just local gay businesses saw it play a leading role in developing the idea of the affluent gay consumer. The massive expansion of free newspapers set the scene for an audacious takeover in 1999 when many publications were swallowed up by property development company The Satellite Group, which promised to deliver efficiency through its national scope, and to usher in the new age of the web. The venture failed due to poor management and massive debt in its property division, and the company was bankrupt 12 months later with all its publications shut down. The sector recovered, however, as ex-Satellite staffers launched Melbourne Community Voice in Melbourne and G in Sydney, soon replaced by SX. Previous publishers also launched Bnews in Melbourne, Qnews in Brisbane, QWest (later named Shout) in Perth, and Blaze in Adelaide.
All print media suffered following the rise of the internet though gay publishing was particularly affected. The internet allowed confidential explorations of sexuality, and online cruising saw a decline in venue patronage and a further decline in advertising and readership in the print market. Gay magazines continue to survive in all major cities, though most readers now access the online versions. Hard-copy print runs have been slashed by up to 80 percent.
The golden era for print may have passed but the reasons behind its emergence remain, as well as the crucial role it plays. Societal shifts toward the acceptance of marriage equality bring new debates about relationships and monogamy; as do other debates such as the increased censorship of under-age sexuality. However, individuals making their first tentative steps into exploring their sexuality still need help discovering their identity, companionship and sex. The question remains as to whether the internet is up to the task and until that is proven, a role still exists for diverse print media.