A Tragic New Year's Eve

The Trial of Richard Manning and John Davis
January 1745

Richard Manning, was indicted for a misdemeanour, in unlawfully, and wickedly laying hands on John Davis, with an intent to commit the detestable sin of sodomy; And,
John Davis, for unlawfully, and wickedly permitting, and suffering the said Richard Manning to lay hands on him, with an intent to commit the said sin of sodomy, December 31 [1744].

Sarah Holland. My husband keeps the Mermaid Inn in Great Carter Lane. On the 31st of December, between 9 and 10 at night the prisoners came in together and asked for a pot of beer. I did not know but they might be country gentlemen, so I run into the room and asked them if they would have a fire, they said no, they should not stay. I went into the next room where my husband was in bed. There is a wainscot partition between the 2 rooms, about 5 feet high, and the rest is glass, and a curtain to part of it. I looked through the glass, and saw them sitting facing one another with their knees jammed in together. I said to my husband, I believed they were sodomites. Then I looked through a thin curtain and saw them kissing one another. A little after I looked in again, and saw Manning's hand in Davis's breeches. I looked in again, and then Davis had his hand in Manning's breeches. After that Manning put his tongue into Davis's mouth: they seeing a candle in my room, got up and came to the window to look if they could see the shade of any body; then they set down again, and Davis shewed what he had [i.e. exposed his penis] to Manning; they kissed one another for some time, and then Davis opened his breeches: I had not patience any longer, and called Robert Wright, and said, I have heard talk of sodomites, and I believe these are some; Wright said he had not patience; I looked again, and saw them acting as man and woman: — I saw them act as such. Then I lifted up my sash, thinking they would go away. What do you mean, said I, by 2 men acting as man and woman.

Q. [Question from the Court] Was Manning's back or his face to Davis?

Holland. I believe his face.

Q. When you saw the first fact, why did not you discover it?

Holland. I don't know. When they found I had discovered them, Davis run into the yard with his breeches down, thinking he was going into the street, and some gentlemen stopped them both.

Manning. Did you see my breeches down, or any such thing; or did I run into the yard?

Holland. No.

Manning. The prisoner Davis pulled what he had out of his breeches, and asked me whether I was ever clapped, and desired I would look at ——.

Q. Did you hear any such conversation?

Holland. I did not hear them talk any thing.

Davis. I was very much in liquor. I don't know how I came to go to that house.

Holland. They were both very sober.

Edward Morey. I happened to be at Mr. Holland's and saw the prisoners in a back parlour that looks into the yard. Mrs. Holand called me into the little room, which she lies in, where Mr. Holland was then in bed, and desired me to stay. There is a partition wainscot 4 or 5 foot high, the rest is glass. She took hold of the corner of one of the curtains and desired me to look. According to her desire I did look, and saw the prisoners knees close to one another, and their faces as close together as ever mine and my wife's were — they were sitting face to face. Mr. Manning got out of his chair and looked to the glass to see if any body was looking. I went into the back yard with a design to look through the window, and presently Mrs. Holland cried out, nasty rogues, vile fellows. I met Davis at the entry door going into the yard with the lower part of his breeches unbuttoned, and his shirt out. He said, for God's sake let me go, or I am ruined to all intents and purposes. He said, it was the first crime that ever he committed of that kind before. — Manning denied it to all intents and purposes, was in a great rage, and asked me whether I would accuse him of being guilty of any such thing — they were sober to my thoughts.

Robert Wright. I lodge at Mr. Holland's. On the 31st of December, a little after 9, I was going to bed; Mrs. Holland met me at the foot of the stairs, and said, Wright, come here. I went into the little room, the candle was out. Said she, I have heard talk of sodomites, I believe there are some here. Says I, I don't like the thoughts of them. I looked through the glass and saw them close together: says she, look now, they are bussing [kissing]. At last Davis got up, he had got his shirt hanging out of his breeches: he went between Manning's legs, and here he went —— Mrs. Holland had not patience any longer, but threw up the sash, and said, you damned dogs, what are you doing of?

Q. Were they face to face when you saw this?

Wright. Yes; Davis was between Manning's knees; and when Mrs. Holland said, what are you doing of, they quitted one another.

Q. What position was Manning in?

Wright. He was sitting in his chair — Davis got up and went to Manning's chair, and got between his legs.

Q. Did you see Manning do any act?

Wright. He put his hand to the entrance of Davis's breeches.

Q. Do you think it was to assist him in this sodomitical act, or to prevent him.

Wright. I believe to assist him.

Q. You say Davis's face was towards Manning?

Wright. They came face to face: I advised Davis to put his breeches up, but he could not in two or three times trying, he was so much frightened: he said Manning had been the ruin of him — Davis said Manning had drawn him away several times, and Manning said that Davis pulled his —— out to him.

Jonathan Green. The last day of the old year I saw the Prisoners at Mr. Holland's, which was the first time I ever saw them in my life; on a sudden there was a great noise; presently came in Mrs. Holland; says she, Mr. Green, here are a couple of sodomites; I said, God forbid; I got from my chair, came into the passage, and there was Davis with his shirt out of his breeches: he fled into the backside to get off, for the fore door was fastened, but the hostler brought him in again: his shirt was out still; then he came and begged of me to intercede with the landlady to let him go: said I, Friend, if you had brought a girl into the house, I would have interceded for you both to go; but as it is, let the law take its place [i.e. take its course], for I will have nothing to do with you. He entreated to be let go, and said, he was undone; I said, it was a pity the thing had fell out so, that it was a wicked thing, and I would not screen him in it — As to Manning, he looked like an old rat in an iron cage, he did not make any attempt to go away.

Q. Why did you take him to be like an old rat?

Green. Because he looked very cunning.

Manning. I was buying a penny seed cake at a pastry cook's in Cheapside, and Davis was buying a wig; we were going to part; said he, shall we drink once; I said, I do not care [i.e. I do not mind] if I do, so we went to the Mermaid; then he asked me concerning a clap, and pulled out his —— to shew me, and I put my hand out to examine him.

Q. Are you a Doctor?

Manning. Yes; I practise that way.

Davis. I bought a half penny bunn in Cheapside, and was going to the Goose and Gridiron, and when I met Manning, he asked me to go with him to this house.

Q. Did you ever see him before?

Davis. Very seldom.

Manning. I never saw him but once, and that was one morning to drink half a pint of purl.

Joseph White. I keep the Leghorn warehouse in Leadenhall Street, Davis was my servant to clean knives and run of errands: he lived with me sixteen months, and behaved very well. I never saw him drunk but once, and then he was mad.

John Fort. I am partner with Mr. White, I can only confirm the evidence given by him of the Prisoner living with us, that he behaved well: he was the best servant we ever had in that station -— as an errand boy. I never heard he was guilty of any debauchery.

William Franklin. I have lain with Davis upwards of sixteen months, and never saw any unhandsome action by him.


Richard Manning and John Davis were convicted of a misdemeanour, and received judgment as follows.

That each of them shall stand on the Pillory in St. Paul's Church yard, some day within the space of one month, between the hours of eleven in the morning, and two in the afternoon, for the space of one hour: Manning to be imprisoned for the space of six months from this time; likewise [to] find sureties for his good behaviour for three years afterwards; himself bound in the sum of 40l. and two sureties in the like sum of 40l. each. Davis to be imprisoned for the space of three months from this time, likewise to find sureties for his good behaviour for one year afterwards, himself bound in the sum of 20l. and two sureties in the like sum of 20l. each.

SOURCE: The Proceedings on the King's Commissions of the Peace, Oyer and Terminer, and Gaol Delivery for the City of London; And also the Gaol Delivery for the County of Middlesex, held at Justice-Hall in the Old-Bailey, on Wednesday the 16th, Thursday the 17th, and Friday the 18th, of January. London: Printed, and sold by M. Cooper, at the Globe in Pater-noster Row, 1744 [i.e. 1745 New Style], pp. 75-6, 80.


(See also the news report for 10 January 1745. The Judge's frequent question concerning whether or not the defendants were in a face-to-face position arises from the conception of sodomy as anal intercourse — if they had been observed having intercourse face-to-back, they probably would have been convicted of the capital felony rather than only the misdemeanour, and sentenced to death. I am not sure what recent events had stimulated talk about sodomites, which the landlady had heard. Like the trial of Deacon and Blair two years earlier, one of the pair of men was specifically charged with consenting to the advances of the other. It is interesting that these men were immediately recognized as sodomites simply because they were observed sitting intimately close to one another. There is no suggestion that they were perceived as either effeminate mollies or as libertines. However, Manning was re-arrested the following year: see his second trial.

Rictor Norton

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "The Trial of Richard Manning and John Davis, 1745," Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. 25 January 2001; updated 1 March 2003 and 4 Dec. 2015 <http://rictornorton.co.uk/eighteen/1745mann.htm>.

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