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

Footpads and Sodomites, 1719


NOTE: A fuller acccount of the trials and confessions of these three blackmailers is given on another page. The following material, from the fifth edition of A Compleat History of the Lives and Robberies of the Most Notorious Highway-men by Alexander Smith, 1719, presents the additional revelation that the men were already sodomites even before they began their extortion practices. It also links them to the sodomitical blackmailer Thomas Vaughan, who in fact had been convicted more than ten years earlier, in 1707. The author may have been simply taking the opportunity to expand his narrative by including other sodomitical cases he was aware of. He even links them to Captain Edward Rigby who had been tried as long ago as 1698. And lastly, he introduces an impossible link to James, Lord Livingston, who was an important figure in the court of King James II (1430–60}.


THIS notorious Criminal, namely, Stephen Margrave, was Born but of mean Parents in Catherine-Wheel-Yard, in the Parish of St. James's in Westminster, and after he grew up he became a Servant at a Coffee-House near Charing-Cross, in which Station he serv'd Six Years; then he went away from that Service, and lived for some time with a Gentleman; but having also quitted that Service, he got into another, which was that of waiting on a Cornet in a Regiment of Dragoons then at Worcester, that the said Regiment being broke, his Master the Cornet, who had no farther Occasion for him, discharg'd him about a Twelve-month before his unhappy Exit. That from [p.319] 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 Liv'd mostly upon his Friends; some giving him Victuals, others Lodging, and others Washing; but at last they looking very cold upon him, he took to ill Courses, in turning Foot-pad, and Committed several Robberies on the Highway, till he was apprehended for that for which he Suffer'd, and took his Tryal for it, with one John Wood, as follows.
          They were Indicted for Assaulting George Smith on the King's Highway, and taking from him Twenty Two Shillings the Eighteenth of January 1718–19. . . . [p.321] . . .
          The abovesaid John Wood, Aged Twenty Two Years was also Born but of poor Parents, in the City of Winchester in Hampshire, . . .
          Richard William, Aged Twenty One Years was Born in the City of Hereford, and Lived with his Father till he was Fifteen Years Old, when coming up to London, he was Bound Apprentice to a Brazier,but his Master Dying when he had serv'd but Two Years of his Time, he got intoanother Service, but being seduced with bad Company, he soon left it and took to ill Courses, till he was apprehended for going on the Foot-pad, and Try'd as follows. . . .
          While these Criminals law under Condemnation, Stephen Margrove, Aged Twenty One Years, confess'd that he had often allur'd Men (whom he suppos'd to be given) to Sodomy,but never suffered them to proceed to that foul Act with him, his intent being only to get some Money, which he often extorted fromthem, by threatning to Hang them, if they did not comply with his Desires. Also John Wood own'd, that of late he had made it his Wicked Practice, by using some indecent Gestures, to induce Men to Sodomy, whom he fancied might be inclinable that way, as if he would have yielded hius Body to that foul Act; but when he had taken the Money Agreed uon bretween them for it, he deceiv'd them, and told them he was not for their Sport; and he must have more of their Money, or else he would Accuse them, and defame their Reputation for ever. And Richard Williams likewise acknowleded, that he had used the like Filthy and cheating Practices, but never Committed the foul Sin of Sodomy, [p.324] tho' he made a shew as if he would have inticed other Men into it, but it was only to get their Money.
          They knew this Abominable Sin of Sodomy was so detestable in the eyes of most Men, that they disown'd they were ever addicted to it themselves, that the World might not abhor their Memories after Death; but one Thomas Vaughan has declared since their Death, that they did really commit that foul Sin oftentimes before they took to the ill Courses of Robbing on the Highway, and that whilst they were in Service, they frequented several Molly-clubs,where all the most Impudent and Indecent Actions were Acted betwixt Mankind, for allaying their Abominable Lust contrary to the common Course of Nature. The aforesaid ThomasVaughan was a handsome, likely, Young Fellow, who formerly had been Page to a Lady, and afterwrds setting up a Milliner's Shop in the Pall-mall he still pursued the Wicked Sport of Sodomy, tho' Married, and for that end has Nighly walked in the Piazza's in Covent-Garden, to abuse the Bodies of others of his own Sex, or else get Money out of others that should make use of him: Moreover, to such a Height was his Impudence asceded in Villany[sic], that he would extort Money out of People that were no ways inclinable to that Horrid Vice, by threatning to Hang them, if they would not give him such Sums as he desired, so being successful in this sort of Wickedness [p.325] for some time, he still continued in it, till he went to impose uoon an Apothecary by the May-pole in the Strand, who was too hard for him as follows: Tom Vaughan and a Fellow who kept a Brandy-Shop in Hungerford Market in the Strand, combinng together to extort some Money out of the abovesaid Person, they one Day went to his Shop, and telling him they had earnest Business with him in particular, which was not proper to be disclosed before his Servants, he takes them up into his Dining Room, as supposing them to be some Clapt or Poxt Patients that were ashamed to let any Body besides himself know their Condition: But he soon found they came upon another Errand, for being now by themselves, Tom Vaughan charged the Apothecary with picking him up Two or Three Nights before in the Temple, where he gave him a Guinea to Commit Sodomy upon him in one of the Privies, and therefore if he did not give them Fifty Guineas, they would have him taken up in order to be Try'd for the same. The Apothecary who was always accounted a very Modest, Sober Man, besides being well Stricken in Years, was much surprized at this Accusation of a Fact of which he was never Guilty, thinking to himself should his Wife know of his being Taxed with such a neinous Crime, it would make endless discord betwixt them, and should he be taken up for it by a Magistrate's Warrant his Reputation would be spoil'd fpr ever, he [p.326] promised to raise them the Sum in Two Hours. With this Promise they were satisfied, and went to the Five-Bell Tavern, just at the end of Holywell-street, otherwise called the Backside of St Clement's, to pass away the Time till they obtain'd their Prize; in the mean while the Apothecary being sensible of his own Innocence, and supposing that if he gave them what he had promised, it would encourage them to visit him again, he discover'd the matter to some of his Friends, who advised him to make his Case known to some Justice of Peace, and obtain his Warrant for taking them up, for Tricking Villanous [sic] Rogues; accordingly one was granted the Apothecary, which he gave to a Constable whom he planted in a by Room below Stairs,and Two Hours being now expired, Tom Vaughan and the Brandy-Man came for the Money lately promised, when being invited into the Parlour, they were no sooner enter'd, but the Constable was at their Heels, whom apprehending and Carrying before a Magistrate, they were Committed to Newgate, and afterwards being Try'd before a Bench of Justices at Hicks's-Hall in St. John's-street by West-Smithfield, they were Sentenced to pay a Fine of Ten Pounds apiece, and to remain in Prison till the same was discharge,dand to be Whipt fromtemple-bar to Charing-cross, which Stence was Executed uon them with the greatest Severity; however, the Brandy-man, upon paying his Fine, [p.327] presently had his Liberty, but Tom Vaughan having no Money, he lay Three Years in Newgate, in a Starving Condition, before he could get his Fine remitted.
          These Two Sodomites were very intimate with that most notorious Fellow Captain Rigby [a dubious claim] who was Try'd at the Old-Baily formerly, for attempting to Bugger a Young Man at a Tavern by Suffolk-street, for which he stood on the Pillory at Charing-cross, and was Fined a Thousand Pounds, but after Fourteen or Fifteen Months Imprisonment in the Press-Yard at Newgate, obtaining his Liberty he went into the French King's Service, being Captain of a Man of War in the Fleet of late Lewis the Fourteenth, and is yet remaining in France.
          Tom Vaughan was also very intimate with one Levingstone who had been a Page of Honour to King James the Second, and with that Young Spark had Committed several Sodomitick Pranks in St. James's Park, till at last Levingstone being detected in that detestable Crime, he was put out of his place, turned Bully to the Whores about Charing-cross, tho' he was a Woman-hater, but purely took up with that Sex to get his Bread, and last of all Miserably Died of the Pox.
          It is not above a Dozen Years ago, that these Sodomites, or Mollides [sic], who mimicked in their Lew'd and most indecent Amours, all the Gestures and Speech of a Woman became so common, that there were diverse Clubs of them in several parts of the City [p.328] and Suburbs too, many of whom were taken up, and being Try'd, were Fined and Pillor'd: and it is not long since that an eminent House-keeper living not far from East-Harding-street in Fetter-Lane in London, going one Night over Fleet-Bridge, and seeing there a Gentleman making Water, he Runs up to him, and taking him round the Neck, and Kissing him, said My dear Mrs. Betty, I have been this Hour or Two looking for you for Enjoyment of your Company, and stop my vitals if I will not have One Bottle or Two of the best before we part, for I vow I Love thee beyond expressing my self. The Gentleman having heard of such sort of Fellows, that were for Kissing, Hugging, Tonguing, and Embracing their own Sex, besides doing a great many other unseemly Actions, reply'd, Ah! you bold Pullet, where have you been a catterwauling all this Nigh? I assure you, Priscilla, I've been Hunting High and Low for you, with a heavy Heart which you know is ever at your Command, therefore we'll now go to Bed at some Inn, and Kiss and Coo away the time till Morning as true Lovers oiught to do. Upon this Amorous Invitation they First went to an Alehouse by the Fleet-Prison, where the Room being too open, and the pick'd up Gentleman having a couple of Friends with him, the Sodomite was for removing to another place. Accordingly to another place they went in the same Precinct or Liberty, where the Gentleman having order'd his Two Friends to be in the Kitchen, he then entertained his Male [p.329] Gallant in a Box by himself, where calling for good Store of Brandy and Cyder, besides having some Veal-Cutlets, for Sine Cerere et Baccho friget Venus [Latin proverb: 'Without Ceres and Bacchus, Venus freezes'], the Housekeeper begins to enter the Premises by unbuttoning the Gentleman's Breeches, and to run his Hands into them, upon which crying out a Rape by a Sodomite, the other Two Gentlemen came Running to their Friend's Assistance, and taking the Ravisher into the Kitchen, they Ty'd him in a great Elbow Chair before a great Fire, where as he began to Roast, they Basted him by pouring Quart Pots of Water down his Arms, and into his Breeches, so that moderating the excessive Heat he suffered through the Fire, by cooling his courage with an opposite Element, they at last let him loose and making him pay a Reckoning of Ten Shillings, permitted him to go about his Business: But Two Days after the almost Ravished Gentleman going to see his Half-Roasted Suitor, squeezed a couple of Guneas out of him that he might not be exposed in Print.
          But to return to Tom Vaughan again, who was a great Crony of Mangrove, Wood and Williams abovementioined, he being Drest in Woman's Apparel, went one Night to the Piazza's in Covent-Garden, which not long since was a Place of Rendezvous for Fellows Addicted to Sodomy, where meeting a Gentleman whose Inclination was altogether for a Woman, and takng Vaughan for one, pick'd him up, inviting [p.330] him to participate of a Glass of Wine, but it being refused under pretence that he was not willing to expose his Face in a Tavern, it was agreed that the Gentleman should have his Will of her in any private Place he pleas'd. The Bargain's struck up for a Guinea, and into a Dark Alley then went, where the Gentleman Unbuttoning his Breeches, (out of which Vaughan had Filed his Watch and a Purse of Twenty Guineas) and taking up his Coats, he no sooner found his Gallant of the Wrong Sex, but supposing by his Fishing Tackle that his Whore was as a Judgment to his unlawful Embraces, metamorposed into a He-Devil, he ran away as fast as his Legs could carry him, with his Breeches about his Heels, not at all thinking on his Watch and Guineas, which Tom Vaughan carried off, and made merry among those that were Sodomites indeed.
          The abovesaid Thomas Vaughan was the Person with whom these Malefactors were very intimate, and had been Actually in the Commission of Buggery, tho' they denied it to the very last, nay, even at Tyburn, where they were Hanged in Company of Henry Broom, Aged Twenty Three Years, and who was Condemned upon Five several Indictments [of theft etc.] . . . [p.321]

SOURCE: Captain Alexander Smith, A Compleat History of the Lives and Robberies of the Most Notorious Highway-men, Foot-pads, Shop-lifts, and Cheats, of both sexes, in and acout London and Westminster, London, 1719, 5th edition.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "Footpads and Sodomites, 1719", Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 16 August 2021 <>.

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