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

The Trial of Charles Banner

April 1723


Although the jury was right to acquit the accused because there really was not sufficient evidence to support the charge, it is nevertheless fairly apparent that the accusation against him was correct. That is, even though the judge himself seems to recognize that Banner was in the habit of soliciting sex from young men, no sexual contact actually took place during this specific incident and therefore he could not be convicted of sodomitical assault. Incidentally, delivery boys/postboys were very often picked up by the mollies, and this remained true through the late nineteenth century when, I believe, young gay men actually joined the Post Office for the purposes of plying their trade and exploiting a long historical tradition.

Rictor Norton

CHARLES BANNER was indicted for assaulting Nicholas Burgess (a Lad of fifteen Years of Age) with an Intent to commit the unnatural and detestable Sin of Sodomy, March 12, 1722-3.

NICHOLAS BURGESS. On the 12th of last Month, about twelve at Night, as I was going along Wood-street, about my Father's Business, the Prisoner overtook me, and fell into Discourse. When we came to the Cross-keys he run me up against the Gate, call'd me his Dear and his Precious, and unbutton'd my Breeches, and acted several indecent Things. He invited me to go with him to some Ale-house or Tavern, but I refused. Then he asked me where I lived, and said, he hoped I would meet him again another Night. I told him my Father belong'd to the Post-Office, and that I was employed to carry Letters for my Father every post-night. — So then we parted; and about twelve o'Clock the next Post-night, the Prisoner came to me at the Post-house, clapt me on the Shoulder, and said, he would wait for me in the Street. So I went out with my Father's Letters, and the Prisoner came up to me in the Poultry, and we went together to the same Place we had been at before, in Wood-street. — I had acquainted my Father and some other Friends with the Prisoner's Behaviour, and his appointing me to meet me again, and they dogg'd us to the Place; and, just as the Prisoner began to renew his Indecencies, they came up and seized him.

Mr. BURGESS. My Son acquainted me with the Prisoner's Attempt upon him, and the Appointment for another Meeting, I took two Friends with me, dogg'd them to the Place mentioned, and, coming suddenly upon them, we seized the Prisoner, but I believe a little too soon. [i.e. before sex had actually occurred, meaning he could not be charged with committing a felony]

This was confirm'd by the other Witnesses who assisted in taking the Prisoner.

PRISONER. I never was guilty of any such Indecencies as the Boy has sworn to, nor did I ever see him before that Night as they took me up, and then I was only standing to make Water.

COURT. It's very odd the Boy should inform his Friendsof such an Appointment, and, that you should afterwards, by meer Accident, be found with him at the very Place and Time appointed. — Have you any Witnesses to the Fact, or to your Character.

PRISONER. I expect several, — but here is one.

WITNESS. I never heard before, that the Prisoner was even suspected of any such Behaviour as he is now charg'd with; but, that he always bore a good Character.

COURT. Where does he live?

WITNESS. In Swedeland-Court, near East-Smithfield.

COURT. Does he folow any Business?

WITNESS. Yes, he keeps a School.

COURT. A School! — Does any Body trust their Children with him?

WITNESS. Yes, I do, and so do a gret many more to my Knowledge; for he is looked upon in the Neighbourhood as a very honest, sober Man.

The Jury acquitted him.

SOURCE: Select Trials, 1742, vol. 1, pp. 329-30.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "The Trial of Charles Banner, 1723" Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. 1 Dec. 1999, updated 19 June 2008 <>.

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