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

The Trial of William Griffin

April 1726


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.

Rictor Norton

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, [1725] 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.

SOURCE: Select Trials at the Sessions-House in the Old-Bailey, London, 1742, vol. 2, pp. 365-6.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "The Trial of William Griffin, 1726", Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. 1 Dec. 1999, updated 20 June 2008 <>.

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