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

The Trial of
William Goodman


At first sight this appears to be another instance of a typical blackmail ruse, whereby a man would offer his body to another and then threaten to reveal him as a sodomite unless he paid him money. This particular case, however, seems to me to suggest either that the supposed blackmailer was in fact sexually attracted to his supposed victim, or that he was quite willing to engage in sex for payment (or prior to picking his pocket, as was done regularly by female prostitutes). All in all, the incident seems to have begun as a kind of pick-up and then went terribly wrong, costing him his life.

Rictor Norton

William Goodman, alias Goodbarn, of St. Mary le Strand, was indicted for assaulting Henry Thompson in the Dwelling-House of Thomas Peeling, putting him in Fear, and taking from him 9s. 6d. in Money, Sept. 4.

Henry Thompson thus depos'd, On the 4th of September, going from the City near Chancery-Lane end, I met the Prisoner [i.e. Goodman], and asked him, which was Chancery-Lane? The Prisoner said he would shew me; I wanting to speak with Mr. Hearn, the Prisoner said he would shew me his House too, or bring me to the place where he used; but I found the Prisoner did not know Mr. Hearn's, for he carry'd me above his House a pretty way, however, upon Enquiry, we found Mr. Hearn's, but he was not at Home; afterwards the Prisoner ask'd me to give him a Mug of Ale, I did so, and then the Prisoner press'd me to go to his Lodgings, and he would treat me with a Glass of Wine; upon his being so inportunate, I went with him to the One Bell Inn behind the New Church in the Strand, and had half a pint of Wine, but seeing the Prisoner had no Money, I paid for it my self; I had a Box of Lace with me, and the Prisoner followed me Home, was very full of Talk, and invited me to go to his Quarters, and I did go, and then the Prisoner talk'd to me about Sodomitical Practices, and told me of great Persons that us'd that way, and offer'd it to me so far as to undo his Breeches, I told him I would suffer Death before I would admit of any such thing; the Prisoner said I had Gold about me, and if I did not give him my Money, he would swear Sodomy against me; then seiz'd me by the Collar, and told me, 'twas in vain to resist, and took my Money (which was 9s. 6d.) from me by Force: I would have given him part, but he would have it all, and made me turn my Pocket; indeed I was so surpriz'd, that I scarce knew what to do, and was glad to get from him on any Terms; I got away, run into a Baker's Shop, and enquir'd for a Constable, and then the Prisoner made off. On the Sunday following the Prisoner came with a pretended Constable to take me up for Sodomy, but his Constable ran away.

The Prisoner ask'd some trifling Questions, as, who spoke first? whether Mr. Thompson could Read or Write? because he shew'd him his Directions where to find Mr. Hearn's, which being imperfect, Mr. Thompson said was the Reason of his shewing it, not that he could not read it himself; then the Prisoner desir'd to know, if the Prosecutor ever came to him from Thursday to Saturday? Mr. Thompson said, No; becaue he was so hurry'd in Business that he had not time.

Mary Nichols thus depos'd, I sell Apples at the Door where Mr. Thompson came in, and the Prisoner follow'd him; Mr. Thompson was very much surpriz'd, and said, he was dogg'd by the Prisoner, and wanted a Constable — A Constable, said the Prisoner, and lift up his Hand, and would have struck Mr. Thompson, but he avoided the Blow; then the Prisoner ran away, and Mr. Thompson ask'd for a person to Aid him Home; he said the Prisoner had Robb'd him already, and he did not know what further Designs he had.

Mrs. Ray depos'd, That she saw Mr. Thompson come in very much affrighted, and that he said a sorry Fellow had dogg'd him from the One Bell Inn in the Strand.

James Ballandine depos'd, That on Sunday after the Prisoner was taken up, he broke out of the Round- House; but being re-taken, he said, he had rather have lost his Right-hand, than have been concern'd against Mr. Thompson.

Samuel Illeiff depos'd, That he went to the Prisoner after he was taken up, and ask'd him, how he could use Mr. Thompson so? And the Prisoner answer'd, He was sorry for it, for he had nothing against him.

Another Evidence depos'd to the same Effect, adding, that the Prisoner said he would clear Mr. Thompson in all Respects.

Robert Pointz depos'd, That Mr. Thompson had Lodged at his House near twenty Years, and that he was a Person of a fair Character, and deserved well from every Body.

There were several other Gentlemen and Persons of Reputation that gave Mr. Thompson an extraordinary Character, for being a Person of an unblemish'd Reputation, and an honest Man.

The Prisoner made a very trifling Defence, and called the Boy that draws Wine at the Inn where the Prisoner Lodg'd, who depos'd, That Mr. Thompson was there, and stay'd about a Quarter of an Hour; that they had half a pint of Wine, and Mr. Thompson paid for it; that he never see any Company come after the Prisoner, nor did he ever see him fuddled, but knew that he writ sometimes a Day or two together in his own Room. The Prisoner had no Body to call to his Reputation, the Jury found him Guilty.


SOURCE: The Proceedings at the Sessions of the Peace, and Oyer and Terminer, for the City of London, and County of Middlesex; on Friday the 16th, Saturday the 17th, Monday the 19th, and Tuesday the 20th of January, 1730 ... No. II. for the said Year. London: Printed for T. Payne, at the Crown in Ivy- Lane, near Pater-noster-Row, 1730, pp. 15-16.
CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "The Trial of William Goodman, 1730," Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. 5 January 2001 <>.

Return to Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England