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

‘As Common as the Night’

The Life and Death of a Soldier Prostitute, 1755

The Trial of Rowley Hanson

Rowley Hanson was indicted, for that he in a certain field and open place, near the king’s high-way on Dennis Chirac, Esq; did make an assault, putting him in corporal fear, and taking from his person a watch with two gold cases and a shagreen case, value 18 l. one steel chain, two cornelian seals, one guinea, and 4 s. and 6 d. in money, numbered, Sept. 15.

Dennis Chirac. [sic] On Monday the 15th of September last as I was going to Paddington to my house, I crossed the road, the prisoner followed me, he said it was a very fine day. We were both on foot, then I pulled my watch out, he asked me what o’clock it was, and snatch’d it out of my hand. I was surprised at that, and took hold of his arm, and said he should not have it; he said, give me your money then. I took it out, and gave him a guinea, and some silver, and then he said, give me the buckles out of your shoes, I said, I hope you do not design to strip me; then he did not take them. I went home and advertised the watch. On the Tuesday following it was brought, and I paid the 20 guineas which I advertised for it.

Q. Had he any arms?

Shirac. He had a stick in his hand, and swore at me, and threatened me.

Armstrong Janes. On the 15th of September last, the prosecutor sent an advertisement to me to put in the paper, I put it in, and on the Wednesday after there came two soldiers to me, one of them asked me whether there was a watch advertised to be brought to my home, they shewed me it. I seeing the shagreen case much bruised, said I thought 15 guineas was sufficient; he said, what you please. Then I gave him 15 guineas and away he went. In about 15 minutes after in came the prisoner, dressed in a silver lac’d hat, he swaggered and said, what did I mean by giving but 15 guineas? and said he would have 20. A gentleman was by, and said to me, if it was advertised 20 guineas, I must pay it. So I gave him five guineas, and away he went. On the Friday following there came two letters, one about an hour after the other, threatning to lay some information, I do not know what, if I did not send 10 guineas by the bearer; but I cannot charge the sending them upon the prisoner, the letters were signed R. A.

Prisoner’s defence.

I met with the prosecutor going along to walk in the fields, I live in Brook-street, I said to him, it was a very fine day, he said yes, so it was. We walked together, he asked me to go and sit down with him by a ditch side, I did; he began to use me very ill, by putting his hand into my breeches. I asked him what he meant by it, he said he hoped no offence, I said you shall go along with me before a justice, he said for God’s sake do not take me there, I will give you any thing. So he gave me his watch and money, and said he would advertise it on the morrow, 20 guineas reward. And that if he had had 50 guineas he would have given them to me. I shew’d the watch to some people that were in the fields at the time. After it was advertised I sent my comrade with it, he brought me 15 guineas. Then I went and said it was advertised at 20, and the man gave me five guineas more. There was nobody by when the prosecutor gave me the watch and money, but he and I.

Prosecutor. Here is the prisoner’s account he gave before the justice, in which he owns he never saw me before he saw me at the justice’s.

Mr. Brogden. I was by when the prisoner was examined before Mr. Fielding and Mr. Welch. (He produces the examination taken in writing; it is read to this purport.)

‘That on Monday last he found a gold watch by the side of a ditch, in Marybone fields, that it was advertised in the Wednesday’s paper following, 20 guineas reward, and that he sent the said watch by a soldier accordingly, and he brought back 15 guineas, then he went himself and demanded five guineas more, which was delivered to him, and that he never to his knowledge in his life had seen the person then present on this examination, who called himself Dennis Chirac.’

Guilty, Death.

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 22d, Thursday the 23d, Friday the 24th, and Saturday the 25th of OCTOBER. In the Twenty-ninth Year of His MAJESTY’S Reign. NUMBER VIII. for the YEAR 1755. Being the Eighth SESSIONS in the MAYORALTY of THE RIGHT HONOURABLE STEPHEN THEODORE JANSSEN , Esq; LORD-MAYOR of the CITY of LONDON. LONDON: Printed, and sold by M. COOPER at the Globe, in Pater-noster Row. 1755, pp. 329-30.

A C C O U N T of the
Behaviour, Confession, and Dying Words,
Of the FOUR
M A L E F A C T O R S,
Who were executed at TYBURN,
On WEDNESDAY the 12th of November, 1755

BY virtue of the King’s commission of the peace, Oyer and Terminer, and jail-delivery of Newgate, held before the right honourable Stephen Theodore Janssen, esq; lord-mayor of the city of London, lord chief justice Willes, Sir Thomas Dennison, knight, Sir Richard Adams, knight, William Moreton, esq; recorder, and others of His Majesty’s justices of Oyer and Terminer, for the city of London, and justices of jail-delivery for the county of Middlesex, held at Justice-hall in the Old-Bailey, on Wednesday the 10th, Thursday the 11th, Friday the 12th, Saturday the 13th, Monday the 15th, and Tuesday the 16th of September, in the 29th year of His Majesty’s reign, Mabel Hughes, John Benson, Jonathan Wigmore, James Billian, and Samuel Dipple, were capitally convicted, and received sentence of death accordingly. And,

By virtue of the King’s commission, &c. held before the right honourable Stephen Theodore Janssen, esq; lord-mayor of the city of London, lord chief justice Ryder, Sir Thomas Birch, Mr. Baron Legge, Sir William Moreton, recorder, and others of His Majesty’s [p. 3], &c. on Wednesday the 22d, Thursday the 23d, Friday the 24th, and Saturday the 25th of October, in the 29th year of His Majesty’s reign, Rowley Hanson and John Carrol were capitally convicted, and received sentence of death accordingly.

The behaviour of them all, since conviction, has been very composed and quiet, and their attendance at prayers in the chapel constant, having all been very healthy.

Mabel Hughes for the murder of Alexander Knipe, a boy of 11 years of age, was executed the 15th of September, pursuant to the act of parliament. And,

On Friday the 7th instant, the report of six malefactors was made to His Majesty, by Sir William Moreton, knight, recorder of the city of London, when His Majesty was pleased to order John Benson, Samuel Dipple, Jonathan Wigmore, and Rowley Hanson, for execution on Wednesday the 12th. And,

James Billian and John Carrol were at the same time ordered to be transported. [p. 4]

[other cases omitted]

4. Rowley Hanson was indicted, for that he in a certain field, and open place, near the king’s highway, on Dennis Chirac, esq; did make an assault, putting him in corporal fear, and taking from his person a watch, with two gold cases, and a shagreen case, value 18 l. one steel chain, two cornelian seals, one guinea, and 4 s. and 6 d. in money, numbered, September the 15th. [p. 5]

[other accounts omitted]

4. Rowley Hanson, says he was 21 years of age, and was born at Windsor, and was brought up there in a middle way of life; he was kept to school there, and taught to read and write, and was put out apprentice to a clock-maker in Grub-street. Whilst his father lived this unhappy youth, says of himself, that he behaved in his master’s service as became him; but when he died, he immediately withdrew himself, and returned to Windsor. He wanted now to be master of himself, and his own time, thinking to live like a gentleman at home, when his father was dead; but he soon found his mistake, there being not wherewithal, as he flattered himself.

However, he shifted to live some time at Windsor, till he became acquainted with soldiers quartered there, and frequent society with them led his inclinations towards the army. And, about four years ago, he says, he was made a drummer; since which men being wanted, and a regulation made, as he called it, and he being grown to the requisite stature, was made a common soldier in the first regiment of foot guards, to which he belonged when this unhappy adventure happened, which cost him his life.

What wrought his ruin was, the company he fell into, when a drummer; and shocking delusion from the most abandoned, and unnatural crew of wretches, that ever the world knew, called Sodomites, first led him into that damnable violation of all laws, natural, civil, and religious.

Being young, and a youth of a comely aspect, as he walked the park at St. James’s, which was his wonted place of resort, he was daily taken notice of by one or other of these vile miscreants, and taken into bye walks, or sometimes to taverns, or alehouses [p. 10] proper for the purpose; ’till at length he became as common as the night, and was acquainted with numbers of practicers in that unnatural, and devilish deed of darkness. Being thus taken in among them, he lost all thoughts of God, and religion; he had no regard to any duty, but that he was obliged to in the army, and the fear of military discipline kept him close to that.

He had many presents made him, and he was thereby enabled to go pretty smart when out of his regimentals, which was admired at by some of his comrades, that knew he had not relations that could afford him any great assistance. And, he acknowledges, that all he had besides his pay arose from the advantages which he received from those worse than brutes, whom St. Paul has complimented with the name of men, who leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one towards another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet. And thus does he condemn their practice, having finally provoked God to forsake them. The wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness, and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness. For who hold the truth in uprighteousness more than they, whose natural convictions of their own mind are kept down under the dominion and power of their corruptions; who invert the order of nature, or rather of the God of nature, and are more brutish, than the very brutes!

You may remember, there was a paragraph in the papers sometime since, with regard to a nest of these unnaturals being discovered by a vigilant magistrate, in a little room behind a barber’s shop, the place where not particularly described. As we talked about these disagreeable things, he told me once, that he verily believed he knew the house, tho’ he never was in it, but was acquainted with some who resorted to a house under that denomination. In short, he was known to, and knew, great numbers of these cattle, and has given the names of several, some who have been stigmatized, and some not. Their places of abode he has marked from Newington in Surry, to Windsor in Berkshire, and from Chelsea to Whitechapel in Middlesex.

The laws have provided proper punishment for this most enormous [p. 11] crime; but scarce any one but knows, how difficult it is to come at the perpetrators of it, so as to fix it upon them. These works of darkness are inveloped with such a thick cloud as is scarce ever to be seen through, which is the only reason they escape justice here; but he that sees through all the universe will surely punish them for these things.

This unfortunate youth, who laid open the way to these short observations, declared himself much more affected with sorrow, for that he had been among so vile a set of wretches, than that he was to suffer death for the robbery. He acknowledges the taking the watch from the prosecutor, the sending another person to receive the money, as the advertisement directed, and going after for the remaining part, which the other had not brought, and upon the whole acknowledges the justice of his suffering. He thanked God, who had thus afflicted him, and given him time to repent; and generally when we conversed he wept very bitterly.

But as to the two letters, threatning the prosecutor to lay an information, he utterly denies having any farther knowledge than that, after he was committed, the two letters were shewed to him, but he neither wrote nor read them; and he believes they were contrived, and sent by the other two soldiers.

The sense he now had of the heinousness of this, and all those abominable acts he had been concerned in, since God had been pleased to suffer him to be in trouble, which brought him to reflection, and to suffer here, he had hope might meet with favour from God hereafter, for the merits of Christ, in whom he alone trusted. [p. 12]

[other accounts omitted]

At the Place of EXECUTION.

ON Wednesday, the 12th instant, about nine o’clock in the morning, Samuel Dipple, and Rowley Hanson, in one cart, Jonathan Wigmore, and John Benson in another, were carried to the place of execution; where they suffered pursuant to their sentence passed upon them at the Old Bailey, during the sessions held there in September and October last. Two hearses attended to take away the bodies of Dipple and Wigmore. Some soldiers bore away the body of Hanson, and Benson’s was delivered to his friends.

This is all the Account given by me, JOHN TAYLOR, Ordinary of Newgate. [p. 14]

SOURCE: The Ordinary of Newgate’s Account of the Behaviour, Confession, and Dying Words, Of the Four Malefactors, Who were executed at Tyburn, On Wednesday the 12th of November, 1755. London: Printed for, and sold by T. Parker, in Jewin-street, and R. Griffiths, at the Dunciad, in Pater-noster Row, the only authorised Printers of the Ordinary’s Account. M.DCC.LV.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "As Common as the Night: The Life and Death of a Soldier Prostitute, 1755", Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 7 January 2005 <>.

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