The Trial of Thomas Burrows

December 1776


The notable feature of this trial is that it reveals the existence of a private club where men went to have sex with one another. The man who was tried was believed to regularly pick up young men to bring to this club – see Newspaper Reports for more details the report of his execution.

Rictor Norton

THOMAS BURROWS was indicted for feloniously assaulting one William Brooks on the 28th of November, and that he feloniously, diabolically, and against the order of nature, had a venereal affair with the said William, and carnally knew him, and did commit and perpetrate with the said William [p.3] that detestable and abominable crime (among Christians not to be named) called buggary [sic], against the statute, &c.

What are you? – A cabinet and chair-maker by trade.
          Where do you live? – In Hart-street, Covent-garden.
          What do you know of the prisoner? – I saw him guilty of a very dirty action.
          Begin regularly? – Last Wednesday I was at the Harlequin nn Drury-lane, and had a pint of beer; the prisoner came in.
          At what time? – About eight o'clock, as near as I can guess.
          Did you know him before? – No, only coming up time after time bothering after me; he asked me to drink many a time.
          Then you know him personally? – Yes.
          He came in about eight o'clock? – Yes; I was in the public tap-room at the Harlequin; he asked me to drink.
          Was there any body there? – Yes, there were people there; but I don't know who they were rightly; I did drink part of a pint of beer with him; then he sent for a quartern of gin; then he asked me if I would go home and eat part of a piece of turkey and a piece of goose he had got; he said, I should be welcome to eat part of it; I went home with him.
          Where? – In Nag's Head-court, Drury-lane; a gentleman that was there, that keeps his carriage, sent for a couple of bottles of wine; there were five gentlemen there besides him.
          What all to sup with him? – Yes.
          What is the prisoner? – He washes and irons and cooks, and that for these sodomites; and picks up young fellows for them.
          Is he of no particular trade? – No; after the two bottles of wine were drank out, I went hom about my business; they did not act any indecency then with me; the next day they came and enquired after me.
          COURT. Come to the time that you know any thing against the prisoner? – It was Thursday night that I saw the action; he came after me to my quarters in Exeter-street, he wanted to speak to me; I had not been in above ten minutes before I saw him; he said, a gentleman would be glad to speak to me concerning some business out of the country; accordingly I went along with him to his house; they took me up stairs; there were, I believe, about fourteen of them in all, gentlemen and gentlemen's servants together; by and by there was a rug hung up taken from a bed in the room; there was a fire-place and every thing; the rug was put up in one corner of the room; Brooks, who is a gentleman's servant, and the prisoner, went behind it; Brooks is not yet taken; and there they had connections together.
          How do you know that? – I saw it; after they saw that I was for going, and they would not let me; they took the key out of the door.
          Did the rug continue hanging down? – One might see at one corner; and I sat against the fire-place.
          Was the rug quite close to the wainscoat. – No, not one side; there was an opening that one might see; it was hung over a line at one corner of the room.
          COURT. You must be very particular in describing what you saw? – I saw Brooks leaning his head against the wall: they had both their breeches down; he pulled out his —— and put it into Brooks's ——.
          How long had they bene behind this rug before you saw this? – Not above three minutes.
          How long did they continue behind the rug? – Not aove ten minutes, as near as I can guess.
          How far was you from them? – Not farther than from that gentleman (about three yards).
          Did you see any thing else? – I saw the nastiness about the room that came out of Burrows.
          Whereabouts in the room? – At the corner where they were, just behind Brooks.
          Afterwards they sat down and began kissing and slavering over me, and wanted to do the same with me; they began kissing me, and used me very ill; a gentleman offered me three guineas if I would go and lie with him at an inn; and afterwards he offered to make it up ten.
          How many were there in the room at this time? – Fourteen.
          Did you sit there all the time? – They would not let me go out; they said, you will be locked out; you had better, said a [p.4] gentleman, lie along with me; after seeing so much clandestineness, I insisted upon going home.
          At what time was this, the day or night? – This was about nine o'clock at night; they kept me till between twelve and one.
          Can you positively undertake to swear this man's —— was in Brooks's ——? – Yes, I am positive of it, because Burrows pulled off his coat.
          What became of their shirts? – They tucked them up.
          Where you sat you say you saw them behind the rug, and they were doing this for ten minutes? – In the course of ten minutes from the beginning to the end, as nigh as I could guess.
          Did you sit quietly upon your chair during the time? – Yes; and did not seem to see any thing; that transaction made me sick, I wanted to go, but they took the key out of the door.
          What position were they in to you? – I looked at them side-ways.


          Every word he says is as false as God is true; he told quite a reverse story at Sir John Fielding's: I will tell you the story as true as I can to the best of my knowledge; I have know this man some time; he is a soldier in the guards.
          COURT. Ar eyou a soldier, Loame? – Yes; I have sixty pounds lying at Mr. Townsend's in Prescot street now for my discharge.
          Prisoner. I and another young fellow were drinking at a public-house, he was there; we had a pound of buttock of beef; I asked him to eat and drink with us, which he did; I saw him no more till one day coming through the Park, he was a sentry there, he said, he had longer to see me a great while; I said, why did you long to see me? he said, tell me where you live; he sent for me to Mr. Robertson's; I did not send for him; he said he had quarrelled with his wife, had dashed her through the windows and cut her arm almost off; he insisted upon my going to see her in the hospital; I did, he made me in liquor; I went home to sleep with him; he stole a pair of silk stockings out of my pocket; I asked him for them, he said, I gave them to him; he got me pressed; he thought, I suppose, I was going to do something with him about the stockings; I was on board the tender from Saturday to Monday night; this accusation against me is as false as God is true. I am a watchcase maker by trade; I served my time upon Puddle-dock; but I have been harrassed about so, that I have not had time; he has told quite a different story at Sir John Fielding's to what he says now.

Tried by the Second Middlesex Jury before Mr. Baron HOTHAM.[p.5]

SOURCE: The Whole Proceedings on the King's Commission of the Peace, Oyer and Terminer, and Gaol Delivery for the City of London . . . held at Justice Hall in the Old Bailey, on Wednesday the 4th of December 1776, and the following Days. Taken in short-hand by Joseph Gurney. Number I. Part I. London, 1776.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "The Trial of Thomas Burrows, 1776", Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. 5 September 2014 <>.

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