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

A Case of Pedophilia


Isaac Broderick, for attempting Sodomy. May 1730.

ISAAC BRODERICK, of St. Dunstan's, Stepney, was indicted for a Misdemeanor, in assaulting , a Boy, aged ten Years, with an Intent to commit the detestable Sin of Sodomy, April 16.

He was a second Time indicted for assaulting William Ham, Junior, a Boy, aged 11 Years, with ah Intent to commit Sodomy.

The Council for the Prosecutor open'd, that the Company of Coopers having in their Charge, the Disposal and Management of a School, the late Master of which being dead, and the Prisoner being recommended as a Person of Learning, who had commenced Batchelor of Arts in the University, he was elected Master of the said School in February last: That in two or three Weeks afterwards, the began his Attempts upon the Boys under his Care, by sending them, sometimes one, and sometimes another, up Stairs, and then making them pull down their Breeches, he behav'd himself in such a Manner, as would best appear from the Mouths of the Witnesses.

William Ham, junior. About two Months ago —

Court. How old are you Child?

W. H. jun. Almost Eleven.

W. H. Senior. He was ten Years old on the 10th of September last.

C. Do you know, Child, what an Oath is, and what you are to do upon taking an Oath?

W. H. jun. Yes, I must lay my Hand upon the Book and kiss it, and then tell what the Prisoner did to me.

C. But how if you should swear what is not true?

W. H. jun. That would be a great Sin, and I should go in danger of Hell-Fire.

C. Give an Account of what you know of the Prisoner.

W. H. jun. About two Months ago, as near as I can remember, the Prisoner bid me go up Stairs to move some Chairs out of a Room into a Closet. Idid so, and as I was coming down he met me on the Stairs, and bid me go up into his Room, which I did, and he follow'd and asked for a Cane. Then he bid me down with my Breeches, after which he felt all over my naked Body. — He took me up Stairs another Time, and did in the same Manner: But one Day as I was in the Kitchen, he bid me go up into the Garret, and look for a marble-cover'd Pocket-Book, and said he would give me a Half-penny if I found it. He presently follow'd me, and asked me what I ow'd him. I said I did not know what he meant. Then he bid me pull down my Breeches again; and he undid his own Breeches, and sat down in a Chair, and put a Handkerchief before my Face, and said he wonder'd if I could see any Thing. And then he put his Privy member between my Thighs, and ——

I had heard other Boys, my School-Fellows say, that he had done the like to them.

C. Who were these Boys.

W. H. jun. Rue Lewis, Edward Lewis, John Wright and John Meer.

W. Ham. sen. I frequently used at Night to examine my Son, what he had done in the Day. And he said he did not like his Master. I told him I supposed he had not minded his Book, and so his Master had beat him. But he said that was not the Reason why he did not like his Master. My Wife took him aside and examin'd hiim farther, and the Account she gave me of what he told her, was to the same Purpose as what he has now given in Evidence. I thereupon went to one that had the Direction of the School, and acquainted him with it. He said he was sorry to hear it, for if it was true, it was a very shameful Thing, and would bring a Scandal upon the Company's School.

Edward Caley said he was Ten Years of Age on the 6th of August last, and being examin'd as to the Obligation of an Oath, he gave a satisfactory Answwer, upon which he was admitted toswear, and deposed to the following Purpose:

About 2 o'Clock in the Afternoon — I think it was about a Month ago — the Prisoner sent me up to look for some Buttons. He presently followed and locked meinto the Room,and took a bit of Rod and bid me down with my Breeches. Then he felt all about me, and gave me a gentle Sroke or two, and bid me not cry out, for he would not hurt me — and then he put —— between —— and ——.

C. Did you tell any Body how he had used you?

E. C. Yes, I told my Bedfellow.

William Allen. I lay with Edward Caley, and about a Month ago as near as I can remember, being a bed with him, I took notice that he was very uneasy, turning first upon one Side and then upon the other. I asked him what was the Matter, and at last he said he would tell me, if I would not tell his Grandfather; for his Grandfather would tell his Master, and his Master would beat him. — Then he told me what the Prisoner hd done to him, and shewed me a Blister between his Thighs.

William Toy. Perceiving my Grandson very uneasy, I asked him what was the Matter, but he would not tell me. As he did not seem willing to stir about, tho' at other Times he was a very active Boy. I told him I believed he had been naught, and his Master had whipt him, and if it were so, it was well enough, for I knew he was apt to be very unlucky. However I desired his Aunt to enquire if any thing was the Matter. She told me the Boy had been ill used; upon which I examined him again my self, and charged him to tell me what his Master had done to him. At last he said his Master had served him as the two Men that stood in the Pillory had served one another, and that his Master had served other Boys so as well as him.

Mr. Justice Jones. When the Prisoner was brought before me, and charged with these Facts, I asked him for what Reason he used the Boys in such a Manner? He answered he did it to improve him in his Studies. He made no other Excuse, nor did he deny the Charge.

The Council for the Prisoner, observed on the foregoing Evidence,

That indeed the Offence he was charged with was very heinous; but for that Reason, the Proof ought to be the stronger.

That it was extraordinary to suppose, that a Man would make such Attempts upon Children, without so much as giving them a Caution not to speak of it: And it did not appear from any of the Witnesses, that any Caution of this kind was given.

That nothing had been produced to prove, that the Defendant ever shewed any such Inclinations till these Stories were trumpt up.

That the Defendant having been chosen Master of the Free-School, belonging to the Coopers Company, contrary to the Vote and Will of the one of the chief Electors, his Resentment had probably been the Occasion for setting on Foot this Prosecution.

That the Defendant was a Person of a fair Character, as would be proved by unexceptionable Witnesses, and therefore it was not to be supposed that he would be guilty of the Crimes laid to his Charge.

Then the Witnesses were called and sworn.

The Referend Isaac Sharp. I have known the Prisoner intimately well about 20 Years; he always had a fair Character, and was esteemed a pious and religous young Man. I never before, heard any thing of this kind, nor indeed any Ill of him, and I believe that all Trinity College would give him a good Character.

Josiah Ridgwell. I have lain with the Prisoner. He never offered any thing immodest to me, nor did I ever hear of his acting any thing indecent.

John Johnson. I have known him two or three Years. He bore a good Character for his Piety and regular Life. I have conversed with him and lain with him, and he never made any such an Attempt upon me, nor did I ever hear so much as an immodest Word come from him.

Mr. Martin. I have known him twelve Years, and never heard any Body speak ill of him.

Prisoner's Council. We hope the good Character given the Prisoner by these Witnesses will counterpoise the Evidence against him.

Prosecutor's Council. it might turn the Scale in doubtful Cases; but of what Weight is it against positive Evidence? — However, as you insist upon the Prisoner's Character, you must give us leave to call other Witnesses.

Henry Henneker, between ten and eleven years old. About a Month ago, the Prisoner sent me up to look after a Carpenter, who was at work in the House, and to ask him if he had done work. I went, and when I came down I told him the Carpenter had not done. The Prisoner sent me up again, and followed me, and took down my Breeches, and stroked me all over.

Edward Allen. The Prisoner sent me up to see for a String. I came down and told him there was no String. He waid there was one, and then he went up with me and took me into his Chamber. Then he asked me what I ow'd him. I said I could not tell what he meant, and with that he took the Sprig of a Rod, and laid me over his Knee and whipt me a little. Another Time he bid me take down my Breeches, but I ran away. He followed and catched me, but I got away again, and ran down Stairs into the School.

The Prisoner denied the Facts, and inveighed against the Parents of the Boy. He said they were Peresons of such vile Characters, that their good Word was a Scandal; that the Prosecution was malicious, and carried on by his Enemies, who had voted for Mr. Veer, the present Master of the School. — Then he called the following Witnesses.

The Prisoner's Sister. When I heard the Charge that was laid upon my Brother, I went without his Knowledge to Mrs. Ham, the Mother of the first Witness, and asked her what was the Ground of the Clamour raised about my Brother. She said she could not tell. I desired to see her Child, and when he came, I asked him what his Master had done to him? He answered, nothing. Upon which I said to Mrs. Ham, Is it fit that a Man should lose his Reputation for Nothing? And she made Answer, that Mrs. Allen would pull the House down about their Ears if they would not be Evidences. I desire a Surgeon might be sent for, to examine the Child, and I named Mr. Martin; but Mrs. Ham replied, God forbid! for my Child has got no Harm.

Mr. Day. I have known the Prisoner some Years. He used to come to my Masters House and lie with me, and I never saw anything that was unhandsome by him.

Then the Prisoner's Council asked Thomas Veer, if he did not know that Mr. —— or any other Person had threatned to send some Persons to Newgate, if they did not appear against the Defendant? To which Mr. Veer answered No.

The Jury found the Prisoner guilty of both Indictments.

He was sentenced to stand twice in the Pillory: Once at Ratcliff, in the nearest convenient Place to where the Offences were committed; and once at Charing-Cross: To suffer three Months Imprisonment, and to pay a Fine of twenty Nobles.

SOURCE: Select Trials, for Murders, Robberies, Rapes, Sodomy, Coining, Frauds, And other Offences, London: Printed for J. Wilford, behind the Chapter-House, in St. Paul's Church-Yard, 1735, vol. 2, pp. 367-71.


I include this trial partly to show that pedophilia and homosexuality should be considered as separate phenomena. Isaac Broderick clearly was not a molly and he was not part of any molly subculture. He was basically a lone pedophile, who did not associate with other pedophiles or with the mollies. In the absence of this kind of cultural context, it is difficult to know if Broderick had any kind of self-identity as either a pedophile or a homosexual. The trial is also interesting in showing that a ten-year-old boy was aware of sodomy through having seen two mollies stood in the pillory for the crime. There are numerous newspaper reports of his punishment in the pillory.

Rictor Norton

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "A Case of Pedophilia," Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. Updated 8 September 2000 <>.

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