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

William Holiwell and William Huggins


NOTE This case is interesting for showing that consent was no defence: in fact the man specifically charged with "consenting and submitting" to the act received a slightly harsher sentence. These two men were not part of the molly subculture. As in modern cases when men meet in urinals, this case of anonymous sex seems to have involved at least one married man. Interestingly enough, it is the married man who took the passive role in the act. See newspaper report for their treatment in the pillory.

William Holiwell, and William Huggins, for attempting Sodomy. December 1730.

WILLIAM HOLIWELL, was Indicted for a Misdemeanor, in assaulting William Huggins, with an Intent to commit the detestable Sin of Buggery; and

WILLIAM HUGGINS, for a Misdemeanor, in consenting and submitting to the same. March 19.

John Rowden. It has been for many Years my Business to shew the upper Part of St. Paul's Cathedral. On the 19th of November, between Twelve and One o'Clock, I was going to Dinner, and having heard the old Man's Door shut, I afterwards heard some Persons coming up softly. I hearkened, but could hear no Voice; and suspecting something more than usual, I look'd thro' the Light of the Newel Stairs, and discover'd the Prisoners in a very indecent Posture. I was then about 30 or 40 Steps from them. I made haste and surprized them. Huggins was stooping very low, so that I could not see his Head, his Breeches were down, his Shirt was turned upon his Back, and his Backside was bare. Holiwell was standing close by, with his fore Parts to the others Posteriors, and his Body was in Motion; but I could not see his fore Parts, because his Back was towards me. As soon as they found I was there, Huggins got up, and was very busy in putting up his Breeches. I seiz'd upon Holiwell, he struggled to get loose, and tore my Turnover. At last he disingaged himself, and made his Way to the Church Door, but could not get out, for it was lock'd, and I had got the Key in my Pocket. I locked them both into the Side-Isle, and went to get the Clerk of the Works to go with me to acquaint the Dean with the Matter. When I return'd, Holiwell was got out of the Place where I had left him, and could not be found for a considerable Time;but at last we discover'd him in a Gallery adjoining tothe Organ-Loft, where he had hid himself. When they were before the Justice, Holiwell's Shirt was examin'd, and there appear'd plain Tokens of Emission.

The Prisoner, Huggins, call'd a great many of his Neighbours to his Reputation. They gave him the Character of an industrious Man in his Business (which was that of a Waterman) a loving Husband to his Wife, a tender Father to his Children, an honest Man in his Dealings, and a Religious Man, who kept to his Church constantly on Sundays, and one of the last Men that they should have suspected of such Practices. That they should more easily have credited his Familiarity with Women, he commonly chusing their Company more than that of Men.

But all this had no Weight against positive Evidence.

Holiwell did not call one Witness to his Character.

The Jury found them both guilty of the Indictment.

The Sentence against Holiwell was, that he should stand on the Pillory near St. Paul's for an Hour, suffer six Months Imprisonment, and pay a Fine of 40 l.

And against Huggins, that he should stand on the Pillory an Hour at the same Place, and suffer eight Months Imprisonment.

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. 394-5.

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

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