IntroductionThis is one of the series of trials in 1726 that followed the raid on Mother Clap's molly house. The young hustler Ned Courtney gave evidence in return for immunity from prosecution, as in other related trials. The jury evidently did not believe Courtney's testimony that Whittle himself kept a molly house, and Whittle was acquitted. That verdict was just, because the evidence obviously was not strong enough to convict him of a capital felony. But nevertheless we can still wonder whether or not he was in fact a molly. It seems odd, for example, that no surgeons appeared to support his claim about their frequent use of his back room for merely medical purposes.
GEORGE WHITLE, alias Whittle, was indicted for committing Sodomy with Edward Courtney, December 1, 1725.
EDWARD COURTNEY. The Prisoner kept an Alehouse, the Royal-Oak, at the Corner of St. James's-Square, in Pall Mall. He had a back Room for the Mollies to drink in, and a private Room betwixt that and the Kitchen. There is a Bed in that middle Room, for the Use of the Company when they have a Mind to go there in Couples, and be married; and for that Reason they call that Room, The Chappel. He has help'd me to two or three Husbands there. One Time indeed, he put the Bite upon me; for, Ned, says he, there's a Country Gentleman of my Acquaintance, just come to Town, and if you'll give him a Wedding Night, he'll pay you very handsomely. So I staid 'till Midnight, but no Gentleman came, and then it being too late for me to go Home, the Prisoner said I should lie with him, which I did. He put his Hand upon and promised me a great deal of Money, if I would let him which I agreed to, and he did. But in the Morning he gave me no more than Six-pence.
Mr. RIGGS. For two or three Years past it was commonly reported, that the Prisoner kept a Molly-House, and therefore the Neighbours did not care to go and drink there.
DRAKE STONEMAN. I have known the Prisoner's House for two or three Years. I have seen Men in his back Room behave themselves sodomitically, by exposing to each other's Sight, what they ought to have conceal'd. I have heard some of them say, Mine is the best. Yours has been Battersea'd. I don't know what they meant by the Expression. There is a little private Room between the back Room and the Kitchen, they call it the Chappel, to which they sometimes retired, but I can't say for what Purpose.
The Prisoner's Defence.
PRISONER [i.e. WHITTLE]. This Ned Courtney is such a scandalous Fellow that he deserves no Credit. He has been thrice in Bridewell.
COURTNEY. 'Tis very true, I have been three Times in Bridewell, but it was for no Harm, as you shall hear. First, when I was a Servant at the Cardigan's-Head at Charing-Cross, I went to see the Prisoner, and he made me drunk in his Chappel, and when I came Home, I abused my Master's Mother, for which I was sent to Bridewell, and my Master would not take me in again. Then, Sir, I went to live at a Molly-House; but my Master breaking [breaking into houses], and I helping him to carry off his Goods by Night, a Constable stopt me, and I being saucy, and refusing to tell him where the rest of the Goods were, I was carried before a Justice, and sent to Bridewell a second Time. And the third Time was only for raising a Disturbance about a Mollying-Cull in Covent-Garden.
PRISONER. As to the Report of my being a Sodomite, it was rais'd out of Spight; for I unfortunately let a Barber's Shop to one Johnson, whose Wife was a cursed Bitch, and had been in Newgate for Perjury. Johnson owed me half a Year's Rent, and I arrested him, for which his Wife, whenever she got drunk, used to call me Sodomite Dog, and so the Scandal begun, and was spread among my Neighbours. I had a Wife, but she has been dead these two Years. I had two Children by Her, one of them is dead likewise, but the other is here in the Court, a Girl of 13 Years old. I was going to marry another Woman, a Widow, just before this Misfortune broke out. As for what Drake Stoneman says about some Things that he has seen in my back Room, there is nothing in it but this: I was acquainted with several young Surgeons, who used to leave their Injections, and Syringes at my House, and to bring their Patients, who were clapp'd [had venereal disease], in order to examine their Distempers, and apply proper Remedies. I have had them there on that Account eight or ten Times a Week.
PETER GRENAWAY. Ned Courtney was bound to my Master. He told me a Quarter of a Year ago, that one Butler, a Chairman, was the first Man that he had had to do with: And, he has told me since, that the Occasion of his quarreling with the Prisoner was, because the Prisoner refused to let him have a Pint of Beer when it was late. The Prisoner was a Peace-Maker, he kept a creditable House, and always advised his Customers to go Home betimes to their Wives.
WILL. BAYLIS and NICHOLAS CROWARD deposed. That they had lain with the Prisoner several Times when his Wife was living, and had never found any Thing in his Behaviour that might give them the least Ground to suspect him inclinable to sodomitical Practices.
STEWARD and ELIZ. STEWARD deposed, That the first News they heard of such a Thing was from the Wife of Johnson, to whom the Prisoner had let a Shop.
ALEXANDER HUNTER and WILLIAM BROCKET deposed, That such a Report was indeed whispered in the Neighbourhood a little before the Prisoner was taken up, but they knew not what Foundation there was for it.
Others of the Prisoner's Neighbours deposed, That they never heard any Thing like it.
ANN WHITE. I was the Prisoner's Servant. I know of no Room that was call'd the Chappel. The middle Room, and back Room were publick for any Company, and there was neither Locks nor Bolts to the Doors.
ANN CADLE. I have been the Prisoner's Servant ever since the 13th of October last. I lay in the House every Night. I don't so much as know this Ned Courtney. I never saw him at our House: And I think I should have seen him if he had lain there all Night with my Master.
The Jury acquitted the Prisoner.