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

William Curtis, Hustler

A Society of Sodomites

Friday, 28 July 1732

Yesterday Morning, after a long Examination, a Man was committed to Newgate, by Sir John Gonson and Justice De Veil, being charged with Sodomitical Practices. An Information upon Oath hath been given to the said Magistrates, of a Club or Society of Sodomites, who meet together Weekly, in several Parts of the Town, in Masquerade Habits, many of them in Womens Apparel, the better to carry on their vile and detestable Practices; and that Warrants are issued out to apprehend several of these Wretches. (The Daily Journal)

Wednesday, 2 August 1732

Last Night a young Man about 18 Years of Age [i.e. William Curtis], was committed to the Gatehouse by Justice De Veil, for Sodomitical Practices: He was under Examination near three Hours, and has impeach’d a great many of the Gang, and Warrants were issued out for apprehending of them accordingly. (The Daily Journal)

3 August 1732

Friday, July 28.   Yesterday morning Will. Bishop was committed to Newgate by Sir John Gonson, for an assault on Will. Curtis, with an intent to commit the horrid and detestable sin of Sodomy, &c. DP. — An information upon oath hath been given of a club or society of Sodomites, who meet together weekly, in several parts of the town, in masquerade habits, many of them in women’s apparel, the better to carry on their vile and detestable practises; and that Warrants are issued out to apprehend several of those wretches. DJ.— I take this to be a reflection upon masquerades, by some disaffected person. (Grub-street Journal)

3 August 1732

On Thursday a Man was committed to Newgate for Sodomitical Practices: And Information has been given upon Oath, of a Society of Sodomites, who meet weekly in Masquerade Habits, and Womens Cloaths. (Caledonian Mercury)

Saturday, 5 August 1732

Last Tuesday Night a young Man about 18 Years of Age, was committed to the Gatehouse by Justice De Veil, for Sodomitical Pratices: He was under Examination near three Hours, and has impeach’d a great many of the Gang, and Warrants were issued out for apprehending of them accordingly. (Read’s Weekly Journal; or, British-Gazetteer)

10 August 1732

From WYE'S LETTER, August 5.
. . . Here's a Talk of a Discovery of 60 or 70 Persons concerned in Sodomitical Practices, in and about this City [London]. . . . (Derby Mercury)

10 August 1732

Saturday, August 5.   Yesterday Hen. Catten, one of the persons taken up for sodomitical practices, was by Justice De Veil committed to the Gatehouse; and Geo. Cadogan, alias Beho, was also taken up, and admitted to bail by Just. Bere of Hammersmith, &c. DP. — He is since committed likewise to the Gatehouse. By the name Cadogan and Catten, this seems to be Irish unnatural caterwauling. (Grub-street Journal)

Saturday, 12 August 1732

On Monday last George Cadogan (who was lately taken up on the Information of William Curtis, for Sodomitical Practices, and was admitted to Bail by Justice Bere of Hammersmith) was committed to the Gatehouse, Westminster, his Bail having surrender’d him up. (Read’s Weekly Journal, or, British-Gazetteer)

Saturday, 2 September 1732

Last Tuesday Bills of Indictment were found at Hicks’s-Hall against George Cadogan, William Bishop and Henry Catten, for Sodomitical Practices, on the Oath of William Curtis, &c. (Read’s Weekly Journal, or, British-Gazetteer)

Thursday, 7 September 1732

Yesterday the Justices of the Peace for the County of Middlesex met at Hicks’s Hall, pursuant to their Adjournment, when William Bishop was try’d on an Indictment for an Assault with an Intent to commit Sodomy on William Curtis, and after a Tryal of about three Hours the Jury acquitted him. (Daily Journal) [The order for Bishops's release from Newgate prison noted that the indictment was "for assaulting one William Curtis with an intent to Commit that detestable Crime called Buggery" (London Metropolitan Archives, Middlesex Sessions, MJ/SP/1732/08).]

Saturday, 9 September 1732

Last Thursday at the Sessions at Hicks’s-Hall, George Cadogan, was tried on an Indictment for an Assault, with Intent to commit Sodomy with William Curtis, but the Jury acquitted him. (Read’s Weekly Journal, or, British-Gazetteer)

Saturday, 16 September 1732

London, September 16.   Monday Night the Sessions ended at the Old Bailey, when the Nineteen following persons received Sentence of Death, viz. Edward Dalton and Richard Griffiths, for the Murder of John Waller in the Pillory at the Seven Dials. On Saturday John Ayshford [sic], formerly a Bookseller in Westminster-Hall, was try’d at the said Sessions for Sodomy, on the Oath chiefly of William Curtis; but the said Curtis having made an Affidavit before Sir John Gonson and Justice De Veil, of Sodomitical Practices with Bishop, Cadogan, Catten and others, and did not then name Ayshford, the Court did not give any Credit to his Evidence; tho’ Curtis would have excus’d it, by saying Ayshford gave him Money not to accuse him; but several Witnesses appearing to his Character, upon the whole the Jury acquitted him; and the Court order’d him a Copy of his Indictment. (The Country Journal: or, The Craftsman)

Saturday, 16 September 1732

Monday the Sessions ended at the Old Bailey . At the said Sessions came on the Trial of John Ayshford, (charged on the Oath of William Curtis) for the detestable Sin of Sodomy; the Trial lasted about an Hour, when the Prisoner was honourably acquitted; the said Curtis, by his own Confession, was notoriously perjured, and ordered to remain in Court till the Jury had brought in their Verdict, when a Copy of the Indictment was granted the Prisoner. Several Persons of Credit and Reputation appeared in Behalf of Mr. Ayshford, but the Case appeared so very plain to the Court, only three were examined. It is remarkable, this was the third Person tried on Curtis’s Evidence, and all acquitted. (Read’s Weekly Journal, or, British-Gazetteer)

Trial at the Old Bailey, September 1732, when William Curtis gives "King's evidence" against John Ashford

[Case No.] 85.   John Ashford was indicted for committing the unnatural Sin of Sodomy, by feloniously, wickedly, devilishly, and against the Order of Nature, assaulting and carnally knowing William Curtis, a Boy about the Age of 20 Years, on the 29th of September, in the 4th Year of the King.
          William Curtis. I came out of the Country, and went to live at Mr. Nutt's, a Printer in the Old Bailey
[i.e. Richard Nutt, from a well-known family of printers/booksellers], at Michaelmas 1728, and in about six Months afterwards the Prisoner came to live there. We lay together. He had not been there above a Month or 6 Weeks, before he began to kiss me, and call me his dear Billy, and to meddle with my Privy Parts, and gave me Money not to speak of it. One Night he made an Attempt upon me, but I got out of Bed, and left the Tail of my Shirt in his Hand. My Mother mended the Shirt, but I did not tell her how it came to be torn. He continued to solicit me; he gave me more Money, and told me that he'd make me Heir to a small Estate that would come to him after his Mother's death, and cut his Brother off with a Shilling. At last, in about 3 Month's Time, he over-persuaded me to let him bugger me. And after that, he did it frequently while I continued at Mr. Nutt's, which was till August last.
          Court. And how long was it before you complained of this?
          Curtis. I told Hannah Unwin something of it about Half a Year after he first did it, and she talk'd to him about it: And in (p.217) July last I made my Information and Confession before Sir John Gonson, and Justice De Veil.
          Court. And why did you conceal such filthy Practices so long?
          Curtis. I was an ignorant Country Lad, and did not know the Greatness of the Crime; and then he allow'd me 3s. a Week constantly, besides Presents that he made me at other Times. He gave me last Easter these Cloaths that I have on now, they were made out of one of his Suits, and he paid Half a Guinea for altering them. He paid 20s. 6d. that I ow'd at one Toyshop, and 3s. at another.
          Court. How came you to leave Mr. Nutt's Service.
          Curtis. I was got acquainted with men that followed such Kind of Practices, as Bishop, Cadogan, and Catton
[see newspaper reports, above], and used to lye out o'Nights, and so we parted by Consent.
          Court. Have you never demanded any money of the Prisoner since you were turn'd away from Mr. Nutt's?
          Curtis. No: He always gave it me without asking. He lately gave me 2s. at a Coffee-house, and 1s. in Bridewell. The last Time he gave me money, was last Sunday was Sev'n-night.
          Prisoner [i.e. Ashford]. I own I gave him a Shilling in Bridewell, but I gave it him publickly; and as for the 3s. a Week, 'tis as false as God is true.
          Curtis. No, you gave me the Shilling in Bridewell privately.
          Prisoner. When you made your Information upon Oath before Sir John Gonson, and Justice De Veil, did you mention me?
          Curtis. No.
          Justice De Veil. He said upon his Oath, that those men whom he had nemed in his Information, were all the men that he knew to be concerned in Sodomitical Practices. And the Prisoner's Name was not at all mentioned in that Information.
          Court. And so you forswore yourself?
          Curtis. Yes.
          Court. Why?
          Curtis. Because he gave me mney, and cry'd and begg'd me not to discover him; and promised if I did not, he would stand by me as long as he lived.
          Court. And you really perjured yourself to save him.
          Curtis. Yes, I did.
          Court. After such a Confession, I don't see how the jury can credit any thing you say. But how happen'd it that you impeach'd the Prisoner at last?
          Curtis. I could not be easy in my Conscience till I had done it.
          Prisoner. I believe you had another Reason. Did not you fear that I should be an Evidence against your Character in the Trial of Catton and Bishop at Hicks's Hall for such Practices.
          Curtis. Yes, you did as much as threaten it, and I was obliged to do what I did in my own Defence.
          Mrs. Atkins. I keep Gray's-Inn Coffee-house. Curtis having ran away, was brought to my House as soon as he was found. The Prisoner came to Breakfast with him every Day, and they talked privately together. I examin'd the Boy, and he told me the Prisoner had been the ruin of him, by allowing him Pocket-money, and promising to cut his Brother off with a Shilling. He said, that the Prisoner had given him Cloaths too, and had order'd the Barber to make him a Wig, and that they were to go over Sea together. Before the Prisoner came, the Boy had no Money, but I saw him have a Shilling after the Prisoner was gone. The Boy did not tell me any thing of the Crime, but I guess'd at it.
          Prisoner. On what Day was the Boy brought to your House?
          Atkins. On Thursday, and you came next Day with several more.
          P)risoner. And what did I bring him?
          Atkins. You brought some Linen from his Cousin, Mr. Nevill, and some Books.
          Prisoner. What Books?
          Atkins. The Whole Duty of Man, which I thought it would have been well if you had practised. Then there was Wake's Exposition of the Church Catechism, and Stanhope's Christian Pattern.
          Mrs. Owen. The Prisoner asked me how much Curtis owed me, I told him 10s. (p.218) and 6d. for Snuff boxes, Combs and Buttons; and he paid me 10s. and bid me trust him no more. I said I would not; and he said, he would tell the Boy's Mother, and she should pay him again.
          Mr. Nicolls. Last Winter was a Twelve-month I lodged at Mr. Nutt's, and one Night in March, as I was writing, Curtis came in, and said the Prisoner was come Home drunk, and was such a nasty Toad when he was drunk, that he would lye no more with him, and therefore desired that he might lye with me while my Bedfellow was Abroad. The Prisoner and the Boy sometimes quarrel'd. The Prisoner would say to him, You neglect your Work, and I am forced to do it for you; but if you don't mind it better, I'll tell your Master. And the Boy would answer, So you may, you're a nasty Toad. I have seen the Prisoner in variety of Company, drunk and sober, but never in any Company suspected of such Things, nor did I ever suspect him myself; but I know the Boy was an idle Boy.
          Hannah Unwin. I know nothing of it. I never saw any such Thing by him.
          Council. No; he'd hardly do such Things in your Presence: But did the Boy never complain to you?
          Unwin. I have heard him say, that he would not lye with the Prisoner, because he had got a stinking Breath; and made himself so nasty with taking Snuff. Once indeed, about 2 Years ago, the Boy told me that the Prisoner would have done it, but did not; but I never believed the Boy, because I knew he was a liar. I've seen the Prisoner box his Ears 2 or 3 times, for neglecting his Master's Business, and have often heard him give the Boy good Advice, which the Boy did not like; for he has said to me, that one Reason why he did not care to lye with the Prisoner, because he was always preaching Presbyterian Sermons to him. Sometimes I have gone to call the Boy up in the morning, and then I have heard the Prisoner advise him for his good.
          Council. Did you never see them go up Stairs together privately?
          Unwin. No.
          Prisoner. Had you ever any Reason to think that I was guilty of such Things?
          Unwin. No.
          Prisoner. Have you not some Reasons to believe the contrary?
          Unwin. Yes.
          Council. Why did he ever Kiss you?
          Unwin. I have no need to tell you that; but I know he had a very good Character.
          Tho. Hambleton. I have lived in Mr. Nutt's Family. The Boy complain'd to me about three Quarters of a Year ago, that the Prisoner was a Molly and a Sodomite, and that he had committed Sodomy with him, and been the ruin of him; I lay on the same Floor about 2 Years ago, and never heard any such Thing; when he told me this Story, I did not advise him to do any thing, because, I did not believe him, and I did not believe him, because, I knew him to be a great Liar; and besides, he was a very idle Boy, and used to hid himself in Holes abut the House, to keep out of the way of his Work.
          Mr. Heath. The Prisoner is a Relation of mine, he had a good Education, and as virtuous a Character as any Man I know, and I cannot believe he would be guilty of such things; he served his time with Mr. Standfast, a Bookseller, in Westminster-Hall.
          Mr. Stag. He served his Time with Mr. Standfast, next Shop to mine, and always had the Character of a sober young Man, I recommended him to Mr. Nutt.
          Mr. Corbett. I have known him 11 Years, both when he was an Apprentice and a Master; he lodg'd and boarded 2 Years in my House, and when my Wife lay-in he lay with me, and I never found any thing in his Behaviour, but what was Sober and Modest.
          The Jury acquitted him, and the Court granted him a Copy of his Indictment. (p.219>

SOURCE: The Proceedings at the Sessions of the Peace, and Oyer and Terminer, for the City of London, and County of Middlesex, on Wednesday the 6th, Thursday the 7th, Friday the 8th, Saturday the 9th, and Monday the 11th of September 1732. Being the Seventh Sessions in the Mayoralty of the Right Honourable Francis Child, Esq. London, 1732.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "William Curtis, Hustler, 1732", Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 25 January 2021 <>.

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