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

The Trial of John Deacon
and Thomas Blair

January 1743


The notable feature of this trial is that one of the men was specifically accused of "voluntarily" consenting to be the partner of the other man in sex. Consent was no defence. The testimony also identifies St Paul's churchyard as a cruising area frequented by homosexuals, who are considered as a category of persons ("suspected as a Place which People of this Sort frequent").

Rictor Norton

JOHN DEACON and Thomas Blair were indicted; John Deacon for unlawfully and wickedly lawying Hands on Thomas Blair, with an intent to commite the detestable Crime of Sodomy; and Thomas Blair, for unlawfully, voluntarily, and wickedly permiting and suffering the said John Deacon, to lay Hands on him the said Thomas, with an Intent to commit the said detestable Crime of Sodomy, October 18.

ROBERT PERT. I am one of the Constables of Farringdon Without; there is a Court behind the Chapter-house in St. Paul's Church-yard, which is suspected as a Place which People of this Sort frequent. On the 18th of October, between 12 and 1 in the Morning, I was going my Rounds with my Partner; when I came to this Court, I heard a whispering; I went softly into the Court, imagining something of this kind was transacting; to Appearance, at first, I only saw the youngest, whose Name is Deacon, for he was full against the other, and seemed to hug round him; his Breeches were down, and his Shirt appeared: I then thought it was a Man and a Woman, for the youngest was in the same Motion as a Man is when he is embracing a Woman; they were so close, that if I had had the Presence of Mind to put my Hand between them, I could not have done it. I called out, and said, In the Name of God, what are you doing? Who or what are you? They seemed to josstle before they could get from one another; they had both their Breeches down. Upon which I called to my Partner, and told him they were a Couple of Sodomites, and he laid hold of them: Then I called the Watchmen, and carried them to the Watch-house; I asked them what they did there? Blair said, he went to ease Nature. I think, said I, it is in a very odd Way. D—n you, Sir, said he, if I must tell you, I was at Sh—te. As he said he went to ease Nature, I ordered a Watchman to take a Lanthorn to see, and I went myself, and there was no such Thing. I asked him whathe had to say for himself? He said he was a Gentleman, and a Master of Languages, and I used him ill. He sent for some People to come to his Character, but nobody came; and the other had but an indifferent Character. I carried them before Alderman Calvert, and he examined them separate: I was present, and they did not agree in their Accounts; Deacon said he went to piss, and Blair said he went to sh—te. Blair said, he never saw Deacon, but Deacon said he saw Blair, and that he went to piss, and said he would piss there; and that Blair begged of me, as he was going before the Alderman, that he might speak to me in private: Says he, It is in your Power to ruin me for ever, or to save me. Said I, I will say nothing but what I saw, and that I will upon Oath.

BLAIR. What Posture was I in? Was I not easing Nature?

PERT. He did make a Motion of squatting two or three Times when I first saw him. — He was not sitting down, he was standing up, shuffling to put up his Breeches. — I could see them perfectly by the Lamp, tho' they got to the darkest Corner of the Court.

BLAIR. I will speak as modest[l]y as I can. Ask him whether he saw the Flesh standing to this Abomination.

PERT. I cannot say any Thing to that. — I had no Light of my own, there was a sufficient Light of the Lamp. — I was within a Quarter of a Yard of them when I called out, and then I drew back.

BLAIR. This one Question will be found material: I do not know whether that honourable Gentleman is upon the Bench that I was before; I told him the same Story, that I was easing Nature, and this Gentleman made the same Objection then as he does now, that he could not see it: I said, Mr. Alderman, what I am going to propose is not cleanly or decent, but if you will please to order any Servant to go along with me into a back Place, I will convince them that I put that into my Breeches, by his pulling me away in a Hurry, that I should have left behind me: Ask him whether I did not say so?

PERT. He did propose that; but he might easily have done that in the Night-time; I should have smelt him in the Watch-house, if any such Thing as that had been done, for he set close to me a great while. As he was going from the Compter to Guildhall, he said he hoped the young Man had not confessed any Thing; I told him, I should not trouble myself with any Thing he had said, he would hear that when he came there.

PETER LINE, the other Constable, confirmed the Evidence of his Partner, in every particular, and so did Wright, the Watchman.

BLAIR, in his Defence, spoke thus; my Lord, that Sunday in the Afternoon, I went to the other End of the Town, to wait on some Gentlemen, and was in Company with several of them from between three or four till nigh eight at Night, and after that had been in two or three Companies; between eight and nine I was thinking of coming Home it was a pretty heavy Rain then, which obliged me to stay longer than I designed, and I went to the Moor-cock to drink a Tankard of Beer; and by drinking Beer and other Liquors, it gave me a Looseness, which occasioned all this Trouble and Ignominy. And if there is a God above, I speak sincerely, and it is in the Presence of my great God, who sees me, I declare I had no more Thought of committing that accursed Abomination, than I have of blosing up this House; and as to that Man, Idid not speak to him, as I hope for Mercy from God, Ido not know whether he is a Man or not; I was obliged to squat down in that Place, and had done it twice by the Way before. Besides, I was too much inLiquor, I could not possibly commit that Abomiknation, had I been ever so much inclined to it.

Mr. PERT. He was in high Spirits, but not drunk, he talked very well.

DEACON. Coming Home, I stopt in that Place to make Water, and a Person came close to me, and said, by your leave I must sh— by you, and while he was there, somebody cried out, What are you doing here? I said, no ill. Said he, What, you are two Buggerers, I suppose. Said I, there is no such Thing, and presently they laid hold of me, and took me to the Watch-house.

MARY APPLEBY gave him the Character of a very honest young Fellow.

Both Guilty.

* * *

[See Newspaper Reports for January–February 1743.]

SOURCE: Select Trials, 1764, vol. 1, pp. 67-70.
CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "The Trial of Deacon and Blair, 1743", Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. Updated 10 April 2000 and 26 August 2014 <>.

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