Image of two men kissingHomosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook compiled by Rictor Norton

Trial and Execution of Three Blackmailers, 1719


NOTE: One of the blackmailers says "he had made it his Wicked Practice, by using some undecent Gestures, to induce Men to Sodomy, whom he fancy'd might be inclinable that way, as if he would have yielded his Body to that foul Act;" – in other words, he did not simply make himself available to any man to proposition him, but specifically made himself available to men whom he deemed to be homosexual, i.e. men whom he thought were "inclinable that way" – that is, a homosexual temperament in the view of these blackmailers was a pre-existing condition or taste, not something that any man might care to exercise, and they chose their victims by recognizing certain features in them.
          Another account gives the additional information that the three blackmailers were themselves sodomites and had been even before they began their extortion practice.

Trial of Richard Williams

Richard Williams and Roger Williams, of St. James's Westminster, were indicted for Assaulting Ralph Courtney, and Robbing him of 42 s. on the 9th of April last. The Prosecutor deposed that Richard Williams and Thomas Harrich came to his Lodgings to inquire for him, that he hearing some Body ask for him, opened his Door to see who it was, and the Prisoner and Harrich rusht into his Room (which was a Ground Floor) and said they wanted Money, and Money they must have, it was no time to dispute, they must have his Money or his Life; that they demanded 5 l. of him, but he had but 2 Guineas and half a Crown about him, which he pulled out of his Pocket into his Hand; that Harrich snatcht the 2 Guineas, and Richard Williams, the Half Crown, and went away. That Williams shut the Door clapping his Back against it and held him by his Shirt sleeve. He was in such a Surprise that he could not follow to apprehend them. Thomas Harrich deposed that the Prisoners and himself went to an Alehouse over against the Prosecutor's Lodgings and sent over Richard Williams to see if he was stirring, who brought word that he was not; a little after Richard and he went together, and enquiring for him, the Prosecutor opened his Door a little way, and they Brusht in, and did as the Prosecutor had before deposed; Roger Williams staying at the Alehouse till they came back. The Prisoners pleaded that Harrich told them the Prosecutor would have Bugger'd him, and had given him 9 s. and three half pence already, with a Promise of a further Reward, not to disgrace him. They called several to their Reputation by which it appeared that Roger Williams the Father had liv'd well and had a good Estate in Herefordshire, but by being engag'd for others was reduc'd, and now follow'd the business of an Undertaker , and was also supported by Friends; that his Son Richard, tho' in no Business had receiv'd several Legacies left him by some Friends, as 50 l., 100 l., and 25 1. which he had liv'd upon. It did not appear that Roger Williams was present at the committing of the Fact, but only waited for their coming back to the Alehouse, the Jury Acquitted him, and found Richard Guilty of the Indictment. Death.

Trial of Stephen Margrove and John Wood

Stephen Margrove and John Wood, of the Parish of St. Martin's in the Fields, were indicted for Assaulting George Smith on the King's High-Way, and taking from him 22 s. the 18th of January last. The Prosecutor deposed that the Prisoners came up to him (and John Wood took him hold by the Collar of his Coat) and demanded his Money, and said if he would not give it them they would take away his Life and swear Sodomy against him; that by means of this Violence, and being under a Terror, and in great-Fear he gave them what he had in his Pocket, which was Half a Guinea, and about 11 s. or 12 s. in Silver but they not being contented with that said they would shame him if he did not, give them more Money, and went Home with him in his Master's House in Golden-Square , where being in a Surprize, he gave them another Guinea; he was sure they were the same Persons, he having seen them before, when he was with his Master at Tunbridge. The Prisoners pleaded that the Prosecutor came up to Wood while he was making Water, and took hold of his Yard, using some unseemly Expressions, whereupon he called out a Sodomite; that then the Prosecutor fell on his Knees, and begg'd them not to expose him, and took them over to the Hoop Tavern Door, and gave them half a Guinea and some Silver here (which the Prosecutor deny'd) they said further than the Prosecutor took them Home to his Master's House and gave them another Guinea; and urg'd that it could not be robbing on the High Way, because the Prosecutor gave them the Money; But the Court observed that the Money, they took from him in the Street, was mention'd in the Indictment; and that he that took a Man by the Collar in the Street, and demanded his Money with threats to take away his Life if he did not give it them, and by such violence and putting in feat got his Money from him was guilty of Robbing him. They called several to their Reputation, by which it appear'd that Margrove had been a Servant at Young-Man's-Coffee-House 6 Years, and Wood had been a Gentleman's Servant, but none to give an Account how they spent the last 6 Months of their Lives. The Jury found them Guilty. Death.

Confessions and the Execution

Ordinary of NEWGATE
The Behaviour, Confessions, and Last Speeches
Of the Malefactors Executed at Tyburn,
On Monday the 8th of June 1719.

AT the Sessions held at Justice Hall in the Old-Baily, on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, the 14th, 15th, and 16th of May, 1719, among the Persons then and there Try'd, Ten (that is, 7 Men and 3 Women) who were found guilty of divers Capital Crimes, did accordingly receive Sentence of Death: But Five of them being Repriev'd, viz. 2 of the Women upon account of their Pregnancy, and the other Woman, with two of the Men, by the Mercy of THEIR EXCELLENCIES THE LORDS JUSTICES (which Mercy I hope and heartily wish they may duly improve.) Five are now order'd for Execution.

While they were under this melancholy State of Condemnation, I constantly visited them, and had them twice every day brought up to the Chapel of Newgate, where I read Prayers, and expounded the Word of God to them, endeavouring to perswade them now to live agreeably to it, who hitherto (as it appear'd) had highly offended against it.

* * * *

As they were attentive to my publick, so likewise to my private Instructions and Admonitions, wherein I represented to them the Deformity, Odiousness, and lamentable Consequences of Vice on the one hand, and the Beauty, Loveliness, and blessed Effects of True Religion and Virtue on the other; shewing them, that according as they now lived and dy'd, they should be either Happy, or Miserable for ever. In these they were fully taught, and seem'd to be very clear: And I hope they were most (if not all) of them well dispos'd.

The respective Accounts which they gave me of Themselves are as follow.

* * * *

2. John Wood, condemned with Stephen Margrove, hereafter mention'd, for an Assault and Robbery by them jointly committed on the Person of George Smith, taking from him 22 Shillings on the 18th of January last , He said he was 22 years of age, born at Winchester; That he came up to London when very Young: That soon after he got into Service , and lived several Years (alternately) with divers Honourable Persons, by whom he was entertain'd, sometimes in the Capacity of a Footman , at other times in that of a Butler , and often in both those Capacities at once; and, That the last Service he was in, he quitted about 9 Months ago on account of his Lady's disliking of him. He protested, That he was Innocent of the Fact he stood Condemned for, but at the same time freely confess'd he had been (otherwise) an Ill-liver, as having frequently profaned the Lords-day, much neglected the Service of God, both publick and private, and often yielded to the Devil's Temptations, by which he was brought to the Commission of those Sins so common among Men, and so heinous withal, viz. Swearing, Cursing, Drinking, Adultery, Fornication, &c. All which he said he now abhorr'd, and truly repented of; praying God to forgive give him all his Sins of what degree or nature soever. And here (after he had long persisted in his Denial of the Crime he was to suffer for) he at last acknowledged it, and the Justice of his Sentence upon it; adding, That of late he had made it his Wicked Practice, by using some undecent Gestures, to induce Men to Sodomy, whom he fancy'd might be inclinable that way, as if he would have yielded his Body to that foul Act; but when he had taken the Money agreed upon beetween them for it, he deceived them, and told them, that he was not for their Sport; and he must have more of their Money, or else he would accuse them, and defame them When he now came to himself, and consider'd this, and other his heinous Offences, he express'd great grief for them, as Stephen Margrove, (hereafter mention'd) did for his, who had committed the like Undecency and Cheat.

3. Stephen Margrove, condemned for the same Fact, committed with the said John Wood. He said, he was 21 Years of Age, born in Catherine-Wheel-Yard in the Parish of St. James in Westminster: That he had been 6 Years a Servant in a Coffee-house near Charing-Cross; and afterwards lived with a Gentleman for sometime: That having quitted this Service, he got into another, which was that of waiting on a Cornet in the Regiment of Dragoons then at Worcester: That the said Regiment being broke, his Master the Cornet, who had no further occasion for him, discharg'd him about a Twelve-month ago: That from that time he remain'd without any Employment, saving, that (now and then) he did some Business for One that kept a Toy-shop at Tunbridge; and that, when out of Service, he lived mostly upon his Friends; some giving him Victuals, others Lodging, and others Washing. He deny'd the Fact he stood condemn'd for, and said, he never was guilty of any such Crime, nor any other; and, That he was not in the least addicted to the common Vices of Swearing, Cursing, Drinking, keeping Company with lewd Women, &c. But after his loud Protestation of Innocence as to this Robbery, he at last confess'd his being concern'd in it; adding, That he had often allured Men (whom he supposed to be given) to Sodomy, but never suffer'd them to proceed to that foul Act with him, his Intent being only to get some Money, which he extorted from them by threatning them, much in the same manner as John Wood did. He acknowledg'd this was a great Offence, and therefore humbly begg'd Pardon of God, and all he had offended, to whom he could make no other Satisfaction.

4. Richard Williams, condemned for Assaulting and Robbing Mr. Ralph Courtney, taking from him 42 Shill. on the 9th of April last. He said, he was 21 Years of Age, born in the City of Hereford, and lived there with his Father 'till about 6 Years ago, at which time he came up to London, and was bound Apprentice to a Brazier: That after he had served two Years of his Apprenticeship, his Master dying, he got into another Service, and always behav'd himself honestly. He at first deny'd the Fact he stood condemn'd for, but afterwards confess'd he was guilty of it: And further declar'd, That for these two Years past he had been acquainted with John Wood and Stephen Margrove (beforementioned) and used their filthy and cheating Practices; but said he never committed that foul Sin of Sodomy, though he made a Shew, as if he would have inticed other Men into it; but it was only to get their Money. He said, he was sensible this was a great Offence, and therefore begg'd Pardon for it; as likewise for the Sins of Swearing, Drunkenness, Profanation of the Lord's Day, and neglecting of all Holy Duties, &c. of which, he told me, he repented from his Heart, and that he hop'd, GOD for CHRIST's sake (as he humbly implored) would be merciful to him, and forgive him.

* * * *

At the Place of Execution, to which they were carry'd from Newgate (in two Carts) this Day, I attended them for the last time; and two of them, viz. John Wood and Richard Williams, declar'd to me (as they had done twice before) That Edward Irons, who is accused to have robb'd a Porter on the Highway, and taken from him a Neckcloth and two Shillings and Six Pence in Money, is innocent of that Fact: That themselves, with another lately gone into the Country, were the only Persons who did it; and, That the said Edward Irons was no ways concern'd with them in it. After they had made this Declaration, I pray'd by them, and desir'd them all to clear their Consciences in every thing. To which they answer'd, They had no more to say, but that they died in Charity with all Men; and desired the Spectators would pray for them, and that all (young Men especially) might take Warning by them. Which they having said, I pray'd for them again, and sung some Penitential Psalms with them: I also made them rehearse the Apostles Creed, and wish'd they might obtain that Life Everlasting, which they had now profess'd to believe; and, That the LORD JESUS CHRIST would please to say to every one of their Souls (as He once did to the Penitent Thief on the Cross) To day shalt thou be with me in Paradise. Thus having recommended them to the DIVINE GOODNESS and MERCY, I withdrew, and left them to their private Devotion, for which they had some time allotted them; and just as the Cart was drawing away, each of them earnestly cry'd to GOD for Pardon and Grace, in these and the like Ejaculations. LORD, have Mercy upon me! LORD, comfort thou me with thy Spirit! LORD JESUS, wash away my Sins in thy most precious Blood! LORD, he thou my Helper! LORD, I come, I come! LORD JESU, receive my Soul! &c.

This is all the Account here to be given of these Dying Malefactors by me,
, Ordinary.

Monday, June 8th. 1719.

SOURCE: The Proceedings on the King's Commission of the Peace, and Oyer and Terminer, and Goal-Delivery of Newgate, held for the City of London, and County of Middlesex, at Justice-Hall in the Old Bayly, on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, being the 14th, 15th, and 16th, of this Instant May, 1719. In the Fifth Year of His Majesty's Reign; and the Account of the Ordinary of Newgate, London: Printed for Samuel Briscoe, at the Bell-Savage on Ludsgate-Hill, 1719.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "Trial and Execution of Three Blackmailers, 1719", Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 2 Jan. 2011, updated 16 Aug. 2021 <>.

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