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

The Trial of Gabriel Lawrence

April 1726


Introduction

This is one of the series of trials that took place in 1726 following the raid on Mother Clap's molly house. As in other trials, Thomas Newton agreed to testify against the men he had sex with in return for immunity from prosecution. This particular trial is notable for the many details it gives about the popularity of Mother Clap's molly house and what went on there. It wasn't exactly a male brothel, but it certainly was more than just a tavern.

Rictor Norton


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.


SOURCE: Select Trials at the Sessions-House, in the Old-Bailey, London, 1742, vol. 2, pp. 362-4.


CITATION: If you refer to this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "The Trial of Gabriel Lawrence, 1726", Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. 1 Dec. 1999, updated 20 June 2008 <http://www.rictornorton.co.uk/eighteen/1726lawr.htm>.


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