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

Life of Thomas Neaves


NOTE: Thomas Neaves was an important member of the gang of robbers whose Captain was James Dalton. Several members of Dalton’s gang seem to have been homosexual, or at least had close connections with the molly underworld. For example, Richard Nichols, who was hanged at Tyburn on the basis of evidence given by Thomas Neaves, was probably the brother of Bartholomew Nichols, whom Dalton reveals had the molly nicknames "Susannah Haws" and "Fish Moll". Like Neaves, Dalton impeached members of his gang, and similarly exposed the molly underworld in his Genuine Narrative. Both men describe the gay mock birth ritual or "lying-in". Neaves further alleges that in one molly house or brothel, men would engage in coprophilia, something not described in any other source. Neaves was hanged on 7th February 1729.

14 December 1728

Thomas Neeves, who was admitted an evidence against several street robbers lately executed, with whom he had been a confederate, not taking warning thereby, but going in his former practice of thieving, was the same day committed to Newgate by Justice Gifford, for shoplifting, in stealing a coat vaue 15s. (Weekly Journal, or the British Gazetteer)

Saturday, 18 January 1729

On Thursday Morning ... the Sessions began at the Old-Bailey, when 20 Malefactors were try’d, of which Number 12 were cast for Transportation; and Thomas Neeves, who was lately admitted an Evidence against the Gang of Street Robbers, was capitally convicted, for stealing a Coat, Value 15s. from Charles Lawrence, a Broker, in Monmouth-Street. It is remarkable, that he play’d at Cards at an Ale-House, where they used to keep their Rendezvous, with one of his Gang, with whom he lost all his Money, and most Part of his Cloaths, which obliged him to go out upon the Sneak, (as their Term is) when he stole the Coat for which he is capitally convicted. (London Journal)

the Noted Street-Robber,
executed at Tyburn, on Friday the Seventh of February, 1728-9

Being ask’d whether he had Correspondence with those detestable Set of People call’d Molly’s, or Sodomites, Neaves reply’d, that he never frequented any of their Abominable Houses of Call, except Jenny Greensleeves his Nursery in Durham-Yard, whether [i.e. whither] they us’d to resort, there he saw several comical Adventures, such as Lyings-In. When a Man was formally laid in Bed, with the usual Ceremonies and Formalities, the Midwife, which they call’d Mrs. Susanna, attended; the Wretch had his intermitting Pains, would make wry Faces, sometimes Squawl out, and desire some of them to hold her Back, for her Pains were grinding and severe, sometimes by Intervals smile, sometimes cry out, but at last the Mount’s in Labour, and out jumps a Mouse; the Lady is deliver’d of a jointed Baby, the Clouts are warm’d, she is bound up and put to Bed, then the Child is handed about, where the Gossips views him, and pass their Verdict on him: O, it is a fine Child, it has Daddy’s Eyes, Daddy’s Nose and Chin; I warrant you, the Father is a good Workman, and the Mother a good Breeder, it does not look as if it was starv’d in the Womb. Madam, is her Cradle provided, and the Gossips Bread, Cheese, and a Cup of good nappy Ale, when they Chat, Drink, and are Merry.

In other Rooms, there are your Barking Culls, there is a Fowl provided, which Mrs. Margery eats, whilst a Man lyes under the Table imitating a Dog, and gnawing the Bones, which Mrs. Margery throws under the Table, thus do these sort of Vermin vent their Letchery.

In other Rooms there are others, which they call Shitten Culls, they lye flat on their Back, with their Mouths open, whilst buxom Nan turns up her S[hif]t and Sh[i]ts in his Mouth, which he licks in as Cordially, and with as good an Appetite, as a Scotchman does his Brewis, or a Sailor his Lob’s-Couse; and if it happens that a Bit falls on either side, he eats it up as greedily, as a Hog does the draught out of the Trough.

Neaves own’d that one Night, he was singled out, and pick’d up in the Piazza, in Covent-Garden, by an elderly Man, that could not be less than Sixty Years of Age, a Carpenter, near Tyburn Road, and went with him into a House in Parker’s Lane, Neaves making him believe it was a House for their Purpose, but I forgot to mention, that Neaves betwixt Covent-Garden, and Parker’s-Lane, got a very handsome large Silver Snuff-Box out of him; as soon as Neaves enter’d the House, he tip’d the Landlord the wink to carry on the Jest, and call’d for Liquor, the old Gentleman had a good Diamond Ring on his Finger, which Neaves ey’d, and had a design upon it, he prais’d it, and desir’d him to let him try it on his Finger, which request the old Cull comply’d with, then Neaves enquir’d of the Landlord, whether he could not provide a Bed for him and his Spouse, which being answer’d in the Affirmative, he ask’d the Price, and was answer’d a Crown, which the old Man thought to exorbitant, and ask’d several Times, what the B[itche]s (the Man’s Wife and Maid) did below, and why they did not go to Bed; the Women seemingly consented, and retir’d to a Place on the Stairs, where they espy’d all the filthy and comical Passages; the Cull felt Neaves by the Hand, and said he had a pure soft Palm: Whether the old Man did not like his Companions being reserv’d, or whether he suspected the Sincerity of the House, is a Secret, but he seem’d very uneasie for his Ring, which Neaves with a great deal of Perswasion return’d, and designedly quarrelling with him , took his Cane and broke his Head, then went off with the Snuff-Box, and left the Spark to pay the reckoning, for which he was oblig’d to pawn his Ring. The next Day, he brought Jenny Greensleeves with him, that is the Man of the House where they resorted, and sent for Neaves, who came immediately, when the Cull demanded the Box, but was answer’d he made him a Present of it, to do so, and so, then raising a dispute about the reckoning, the Landlady whieedl’d him according to his Merit, and turn’d him out of Dooirs.

This is all the Account of the Mollies and Sodomites, that I could get out of him, the reason that he assign’d was, that he would not have the World believe, that he had any intimacy with them, and that whenever he happen’d into their Company, he look’d upon them with Horror and Indignation, that he conceiv’d their Profligate and wicked course of Life, had a resemblance more of Beasts, than of rational Animals.

SOURCE OF EXTRACT: The Life of Tho. Neaves, the Noted Street-Robber, executed at Tyburn, on Friday the Seventh of February, 1728-9, for shop-lifting, etc., London: R. Walker, 1729, pp. 35-38. I am grateful to Heather Shore for bringing this work to my attention.
CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "Life of Thomas Neaves, 1729," Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. 5 August 2004, updated 3 March 2005 <>.

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