A Robber Swears Sodomy against his Victim
NOTE: The following series of documents illustrate the problem of hiring agents to entrap sodomites. The agent will soon realize that he can earn more money by blackmailing sodomites than by arresting them. The two entrapment agents that these records document were the soldiers James Brown and his brother Thomas Brown, who confessed that they had picked up and then blackmailed more than 500 gentlemen whom they accosted in Bird Cage Alley, St James's Park, during the early 1760s. It is likely that many of these gentlemen were seeking rough trade, and found it. It is of course impossible to determine if the victim in all these instances really was a sodomite, but the fact that they continued to pay blackmail money over a period of time suggests that they may have been.
Magistrate's Information, 1 December 1759
The Information of Henry Turner Servt. to The Right Honble The Earl of Hartcoat [Harcourt] Taken before me this 1st. Dec. 1759
Who being upon Oath says that on Wednesday Night last between Six and Seven o'Clock
he saw a Person now present who calls himself Thomas Brown goe up and Speak to one John Parker in the Bird Cage Walk in St. James's Park and afterwards Walk together into the Grass, Upon which James Brown and another Soldier came up and Seized the said John Parker and said Damn you, you Sodomitical Doggs have we Catch'd you, and immediately Dragg'd him to the Sentry Box, Says that he then [was--crossed out] approved to assist Parker because he had Known James Brown before to be a dangerous Man.
Sworn before the Day & Year first above writen
SOURCE: Old Bailey Sessions: Sessions Papers Justices' Working Documents, 5th February 1759 28th December 1759, 1 December 1759,
Magistrate's Information, 1 December 1759
Middx to wit
The Information of John Parker Taken before me this 1st. day of Decr. 1759
Who being upon Oath says that he has lived as Servant to Anthony Gifford [or Griffin] Esqr. of Queen Square upwards of five Years, says that on Wednesday Night last he was sent by his Master to Westmr. on some business from whence as he was returning through st. James's Park to go to St. James's Square a Person Joined him in the Bird Cage Walk and Walked a little way with him, says that the said Person Pulled him by the Arm from off the Gravel Walk to the Grass where he immediately began to On [?] some Familiarities with him, and endeavoured to Put his hand in his Breeches, which this Informant resisting and turning round to get away from him was Immediately seized by a Person not present who calls himself James Brown who said, Damn you have I Catched
you, and Threatned that they wou'd have him hanged, says that the said James Brown lead him down to the Water side, and Took from him about five Shillings in Silver, which he demanded several Times before this Informt delivered it, says that the said Brown afterwards demanded his Buckles and Brown afterwards demanded his Buckles and Searched all his Pocketts for more Money, says that the Person who first walked with him and Attacked him as aforesaid made his escape, as this Informt. verily believes by the consent of the said James Brown, & says that the said Thomas Brown was present at the Taking of his Money from him as aforesaid and says that they both Threatned to Charge him with Sodomy, & says that the Person now present who calls himself Thomas Brown he verily believes to be Person who first attacked
him as aforesaid.
Sworn before me this 1st. day of Decr. 1759
SOURCE: http://hri.shef.ac.uk/san/pl/OB/PS/LMOBPS45004/LMOBPS450040058.jpg and http://hri.shef.ac.uk/san/pl/OB/PS/LMOBPS45004/LMOBPS450040059.jpg (London Lives website).
Magistrate's Information, 1 December 1759
Middx To wit
The Information of James Brown Taken before me this 1st. day of Decr 1759
Who being upon Oath says that he Knows a Person now present who calls himself Thomas Brown, with whom he has been acquainted about a Month, says that he has been twice concerned with the said Thomas Brown in Attacking Persons in St James's Park, accusing them of Sodomittical Practices & Robbing them of their Money, says that about three Weeks age this Informt and the said Thomas Brown, near the Bird Cage Walk in St. James's Park about 6 o'Clock in the Evening Attacked an Elderly Gentleman, took from him his Hall, Shirt, one pair of Gold Sleeve Buttons, a blue Coat, a Waistcoat and a Pair of Silver Buckles, says that the said Buckles was sold by the said Thomas Brown at a Silver Smiths who is a Widow in Tothill Street Westminster for five Shillings & Nine Pence, and the aforesaid Buttons for about sixteen Shillings at a House in Fleet Street near Fetter Lane, says that last Wednesday Night he and the aforesaid Thomas Brown Attacked a Person now present
who calls himself John Parker, in St. James's Park and took from him five or six Shillings in Silver, which Money was afterwards divided between this Informt. and the aforesaid Brown, says that the aforesaid Brown according to a Practice known to themselves was to Charge the said Party with Sodomy which they did.
Sworn before me this first day of December 1759
SOURCE: http://hri.shef.ac.uk/san/pl/OB/PS/LMOBPS45004/LMOBPS450040060.jpg (London Lives website).
The Trial of Thomas Brown and James Brown for Robbery
THOMAS BROWN, and JAMES BROWN were indicted for that they, in a certain place, called St. James's Park, near the king's highway, on John Parker did make an assault, putting him in corporal fear and danger of his life, and taking from his person 5s. in money numbered, his property, and against his will, Nov. 28.
John Parker. I was sent of a message to Westminster, and as I was coming back through St. James's Park, near the upper end of the Bird Cage Walk, Thomas Brown came up to me.
Q. When was this?
Parker. This was the day before the Thanksgiving-day, about six o'clock in the evening. He said, "It is a fine evening, and the weather is warm," and walked a pretty way with me. Then he took hold of my arm, dragged me a little way out of the path, took me round the middle, and then pulled my breeches open.
Q. How far did he take you out of the path?
Parker. But a very little way; it was about as far as from where I stand to the door coming into the court (which is about six or seven yards.) Then James Brown, the soldier, came up (I was turning myself from the other) and said, "D[am]n you, you rascal, have I catch'd you?" and struck me on my breast. Another soldier came on the other side, and laid hold of Thomas Brown. James Brown said to me, "D[am]n you, you dog, I'll have you hang'd, you sodomitical dog," and drag'd me down to the water side, where he and the other soldier, but Brown in particular, demanded my money.
Q. What words did James Brown use?
Parker. He said, Give us your money, or we will have you hanged.
Q. Where was Thomas Brown?
Parker. He and the other soldier were close behind me.
Q. Was this said to you only, or to Thomas Brown and you?
Parker. James Brown said it to be only. I put my hand into my pocket, pulled out my money, and gave James Brown two or three shillings, part of my money, who immediately said I had more, so demanded the rest, felt in my breeches pocket, and took the rest of my money out of my hand.
Q. How much was it?
Parker. He had five shillings I am sure, and I believe more. Then they drag'd me quite down to the island, where the boat goes over, and said I had gold about me, and searched me.
Q. Did not you cry out?
Parker. I did not; then they said I had got a pair of silver buckles, and demanded them, but I refused to deliver them, saying they might say what they pleased.
Q. Did Thomas Brown demand any thing of you?
Parker. James Brown in particular demanded my money, and I believe Thomas Brown did also.
Q. Did Thomas Brown accompany you all the way down to the water-side?
Parker. He did.
Q. Did they take your buckles out of your shoes?
Parker. They did not; then James Brown said he would charge the centinel with me, but Thomas Brown and Matthews the other soldier said, Let him go, let him go; then James Brown said, No, d[am]n him, he shall not go.
Q. What became of Matthews?
Parker. He was before justice Fielding, I believe he was let go about his business. Thomas Brown made off, and James Brown charged the centinel with me, saying I was a sodomite, and that he had catched me and another man together, but the other man had got away. Then one Mr. Turner, who happened to see the whole affair, came to me, saying, Young man, don't be frighted, I saw the affair, and will go to the officer of the guard and have them taken up; then Brown the soldier went away. Mr. Turner went away, and returned and asked the centinel why he did not keep the soldier as well as me; the centinel said he knew nothing of the affair, and I might go about my business also; then Mr. Turner said I should not go away, for he had seen the whole affair. Soon after that, Brown and Matthews the two soldiers came back; then some soldiers came and took the two soldiers and me to the guard room at Whitehall, and we were taken to Mr. Fielding's, where the two soldiers said they had catch'd me and another man in the Park committing sodomy, and that the other man was got away, meaning Thomas Brown; they swore there that they saw me with my hands about Thomas's neck, kissing him.
Q. from Thomas Brown. Did I take any thing from you?
Q. from James Brown. Where was you when I came to you?
Parker. First of all I was near Rosomond's-pond, that joins to the Park.
Q. How far did they take you from the pathway, near Rosomond's pond?
Parker. They took me down to the canal side, as far as they could go.
A Juryman. I know the ground, from the place where he says near Rosomond's pond, down to the canal where the boat ferries over, is near a quarter of a mile.
Parker. When he had drag'd me about halfway there, I saw Matthews and Thomas Brown stand, separated from each other.
Q. Was Thomas Brown by when James Brown took your money?
Parker. He was.
Q. Was he in the custody of Matthews at that time?
Parker. I believe he was not. When James Brown said he would charge the centinel with me, Thomas Brown and Matthews desired him to let me go.
Q. Did you not cry out in all this time?
Parker. No, I did not, I could not see any body, I was so far from the walk, I mean the Bird-cage-walk; as I had walked along, there were people in the walk; this was about six o'clock, St. James's clock had just struck.
Henry Turner. I am servant to lord Harcourt, and have been for eight years. I was going over the Park on business for my Lord that evening, the clock struck six as I came into the Park. I went thro' the walk called the Bird-cage-walk, and I saw Brown the soldier and another soldier dodging and sculking behind the trees by Rosomond's pond; the other prisoner at the bar I beg leave to call the gentleman, for destinction [sic] sake, that there may be no mistake in my evidence, as they both go by the name of Brown.
Q. What do you mean by dodging?
Turner. That is what they called the sculk when before Justice Fielding, that is, they were walking from tree to tree, and then standing still and looking about; I thought by their behaviour there was some villainy going forward, because I knew James Brown the soldier ever since the 1st or 2d of August last, having then detected him in
Court. You must mention nothing but what relates to this present indictment.
Turner. This night I was going along towards Story's gate; about the middle of the walk I saw a gentleman's servant (the prosecutor) coming this way, and the gentleman at the bar walking the other way; he went up to the prosecutor and spoke to him, and turned and went along with him, and went forward towardsRosomond's pond; then the gentleman took the prosecutor by the arm, and they stop'd for about half a minute or a minute. I had my eyes on the soldiers; presently they rush'd upon the prosecutor and the other, and said, you sodomitical dogs, have I taken you.
Q. Was you near enough to see what past between the two prisoners at the bar?
Turner. No, my Lord, I might be near 100 yards from them; they were then a little way in the grass, not quite so far as the row of trees at that time; Brown the soldier laid hold of the prosecutor, and said he would drag him to the keeper, but instead of that they drag'd him to the corner where the boat ferries over; then they were farther from me, but I heard the soldier d[am]n his blood and say, if he would not give him his buckles he would take him to the Savoy. I was afraid to go to them for fear of having a mischief, because I knew Brown the soldier knew me, and he is a very dangerous fellow.
Q. Did you hear any talk about money?:
Turner. No, I did not care to go too near; I heard Matthews say, let him go away; the soldier Brown said, d[am]n his blood if he did not take him to the centinel; when they had got him there, I step'd up to the prosecutor, and clap'd him on the shoulder, and said, young man, do not be afraid. I have seen more of the affair than you may think of. Matthews had hold of the gentleman, but he never brought him up to the centinal. As soon as I began to interfere, Matthews and James Brown went away. I asked the centinel how he dared to confine the man as a prisoner and not the soldiers; he said, what was that to me; then I said, Sirrah, do you not belong to such a regiment; and when he saw I was determined the thing should be enquired into, he wanted the prosecutor to go about his business; then I said to the prosecutor, if you go away, you dog, you ought to be hanged as high as Haman; I'll stand by you, if you will stand your ground by me; then I went to the guard and got some soldiers, who came and took the soldiers in custody; the gentleman as I call him was taken upon James Brown's impeachment.
Q. from Thomas Brown. Whether you know or saw me take any thing from the prosecutor, or called him any names, which are not fit to be named in a Christian country?
Turner. No. James Brown intreated me to go about my business, and not trouble my head with the affair, threatening he would swear sodomy against me, and charge the centinel with me; that if I appeared in this affair, and he could catch me from home, he would swell my head so that I should not be able to go about my business. He said also that I belong'd to the prosecutor, but I had never seen him before to my knowledge.
Mr. Anthony Gifford. Parker has been my servant five years last October, and is a very honest, faithful servant. Since this affair, I have inquired in my family (as he is in some measure charged with the most heinous of crimes by these men at the bar) whether he had any followers came after him at any time: I was told he had nobody came after him, and I do not think there is the least room for such a thought of him. A servant that has lived in my house twenty-five years informed me, that he was never out of my house after nine o'clock since he has been with me, except on a benefit night, when he has gone to a play with the maids; he is an honest, sober, faithful servant as ever lived. I would mention to your Lordship the reason why he was in the Park at that time: I sent him the evening before Thanksgiving day with a brace of pheasants to Great Queen Street, and ordered him also to go to the white house, which is joining to the Gatehouse, Westminster, and after he had been at these places it might be about six o'clock. I have inquired since, and found he delivered his messages punctually; I mention this to shew, that he did not loiter away his time. When the soldier Brown was before justice Fielding, he desired to be admitted an evidence, which was granted. Then he could readily tell where to find the other prisoner, who was taken and brought there; then he (that is, Thomas Brown) acknowledged being there. He said there had been 500 of these things done there, and mentioned abundance of laced waistcoats. The soldier Brown confessed they had once stripped a man naked, shirt and all.
Thomas Brown's Defence.
I met the gentleman's servant in the Park, who sat down by me; he got up and went up the walk a little way. I stop'd to make water, and walked after him. I said it was a fine evening, and I would walk round. The man that stands by me, and another soldier, came and took hold of him and me, and said we were two sodomites; that we had been committing sodomy and buggery together; they hauled him and me along, and charged the centinel with him, but I went away about my business. As to seeing any thing taken from the prosecutor, I know nothing of it; I saw nothing by him in that way as they charge him; I cannot charge him with what I know nothing of.
Prosecutor. I think this Thomas Brown said I was a sodomite.
James Brown's Defence.
Another soldier and I were walking through the Park about half an hour after six o'clock, when we saw my fellow prisoner and the prosecutor sitting on a bench together; they got up, and walked by us. They they turned down, went behind a tree, and stood out of sight. The other soldier and I went down and said, there can be no good going forward, when peole go down to the water-side at this time of night. Thomas Brown had his arm round the prosecutor's neck, whose breeches were down, and Brown said he wanted to put his tongue into his mouth. I laid hold of the prosecutor, adn carried him to the first centinel I came to; he offered me money several times, and said he would give me any thing in the world if I would let him go; there is the soldier at the door whom I charged with him. Call Cartwright.
For Thomas Brown.
Robert Clark. Thomas Brown has been a lodger with me about a year and seven months. He came to me last May was twelve months, under the character of a gentleman, had regimentals on, and appeared as a person that had a commission in the army, but he said he was dismissed. He has had several gentlemen come after him, one was a lalwyer. Inever saw any thing by him, but what answers to the character of a gentleman. A gentleman that lodges with me has left his buroe open, with the key in it, ad perhaps 100l. within side, in money and bank notes, yet never lost any thing.
Q. Is that gentleman here?
Sarah Clark. The prisoner always behaved like a gentleman ever since he has been at our house, in which I have left him alone, and he never wrong'd me of any thing; the company which came after him appeared like gentlemen.
For James Brown.
Henry Cartwright. I was centinel in the Park at the Cock pit, between six and eight o'clock, the night that James Brown and another brought a man to me, and said he was a sodomite, and put him into my box. The man said he had been rob'd of all his money by them, and when Brown and the other soldier came, I took them in charge as well as the footman, till the guard came, and took them away.
Eleanor Dugan James Brown lodged a great while in my house, and I never heard any thing bad of him before this.
James Guilty, Death
Thomas Acquitted: But ordered to be detained for robbing a person unknown.
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 Justicie-Hall in the Old-Bailey, On Wednesday the 5th, Thursday the 6th, and Friday the 7th, of December, No. 1, Part 2, London: Printed, and sold by G. Kearsly, 1759, pp. 20-3.
NOTE: Thomas Brown was acquitted because he had turned King's evidence against his brother. He was shortly set free.
Although James Brown had received judgement of death and was supposed to be hanged on 5th February, he was respited on 1st April 1760 and ordered to remain in jail. He was again respited on 1st May 1760 and ordered to remain in jail. As of 1st July 1760, "James Brown Formerly Attainted of several Felonies and Robberies and received Judgement of Death but being respited Ordered to remain to be kept safe in Gaol until [he] shall be discharged by due Course of Law." In August 1760 he was granted a royal pardon on condition he join a regiment of in Jamaica, but he escaped from the ship on which he was due to be transported. However, in 1763 he was again arrested, again for robbing/blackmailing an alleged sodomite. See The Life and Death of an Entrapper.
CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "A Robber Swears Sodomy against his Victim, 1759," Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. Updated 25 April 2000; expanded 14 January 2011 <http://rictornorton.co.uk/eighteen/1759brow.htm>.