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

Newspaper Reports, 1778

Thursday, 16 January 1778

John Forward, a Journeyman Shoe-maker, charged John Spence with an Attempt to commit an unnatural Crime. It appeared that the Prisoner meeting Forward in Shire-lane, asked him what Countryman he was. He said he came from Taunton Dean. After some other Questions, he asked him to walk in Lincoln's-inn-fields; but in the Way thither, behaved in a Manner that left no Room to doubt his Intentions; on which Forward seized him, called the Watch, and had him taken into Custody. The Prisoner, who made no other Defence than attempting to retort the Charge, was committed for Trial at the present Westminster Sessions; and a Collection of 1l. 12s. was made for the Shoe-maker, to enable him to support the Expence of the Prosecution. The above Spence is one of the Fellows lately charged with robbing Dr. Myonnet, of Gray's-inn. (Public Advertiser) (see reports for 26–28 August 1777)

Monday, 23 February 1778

On Saturday, at the Guildhall, Westminster, William Spence was convicted of assaulting John Forward, with intent to commit an unnatural crime in Likncoln's-inn Fields, and was sentenced to stand in the pillory in Lincoln's-Inn Fields this week, and to be imprisoned twelve months in Newgate. (Morning Post)

Friday, 27 February 1778

Yesterday in the Forenoon, Spencer was put in the Pillory, pursuant to his Sentence, at the End of Portsmouth-Street, in Lincoln's Inn Fields, for an Attempt to commit an unnatural Crime on John Forward; he was severely pelted by the Populace, and after standing an Hour, was taken down and conveyed to Newgate, in order to be imprisoned one Year. (Daily Advertiser)

Friday, 27 February 1778

Yesterday forenoon Wm. Spencer was brought from Newgate, and put in the pillory, in Lincoln's-inn Fields, where he stood one hour, pursuant to his sentence on Saturday last, for an assault on John Forward; with an intent to commit an unnatural crime; 7 or 8000 people, it is supposed, assembled on the occasion, who severely pelted him with apples, potatoes, mud, &c. After his time was expired he was carried back to Newgate, in order to undergo one year's imprisonment.
          During the execution of the above sentence, a Gentleman had his purse conveyed out of his pocket, containing near 30 guineas; several people lost their watches, and others their handkerchiefs, &c. but one of the thieves was detected. (Morning Post)
[This was very widely reported in the press.]

Friday, 27 February 1778

Yesterday a man stood in the pillory in Lincoln's-inn-field, for an attempt to commit an unnatural crime in that neighbourhood. He was very severely treated by the populace. A woman happening to be present with a jack-ass loaded with apples, the people soon bought them all, and used great part of them in pelting the culprit. (Gazetteer and New Daily Adveretiser)

Frideay, 27 February 1778

Yesterday Joseph Spence stood in the pillory in Portugal-row, Lincoln's-inn-fields, agreeable to his sentence for an attempt to commit an unnatural crime: the mob were immense, and pelted the culprit most severely with rotten eggs, apples, turneps [sic], &c. &c. The croud were so severe against him, that they pulled him out of the coach into which he got to be carried to Newgate; the Sheriffs Officers, at length, got him into a Bailiff's house in Southampton-buildings, Holborn, for security. (Morning Chronicle)

Thursday, 5 February 1778

The young Ganymede who has lately taken a trip to the continent, for an unnatural attempt he made upon a gentleman in the Bedford Coffee-house, is supposed to have been long practised in the favourite passion, as he has been supporting the character of a man of fortune for many years past, without any visible means of procuring even a livelihood. (Morning Post)

Thursday, 12 March 1778

Yesterday at the Public-office in Bow-street, . . . A person was put to the bar, charged on the information of an oilman in Westminster, with meeting him a few nights ago in St. James's Park, and extorting, or indeed rather robbing him of two guineas and his great coat, pretending that if he refused either, he would charge him with an unnatural crime; and that the next day he sent him a letter, demanding a farther supply of five guineas on the same account, which letter led to the discovery of the prisoner. As the oilman did not appear at the office yesterday, a summons was ordered to be sent him, in order to prove the allegations of his information. (Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser)

Friday, 13 March 1778

William Johnson was put to the Bar, having been previously charged with robbing Mr. Jewett, Oilman in Westminster, of two Guineas and his Great Coat, in St. James's Park, and afterwards sending a Letter, threatening to charge him with an unnatural Crime, if he did not advance a Sum of Money; but as Mr. Jewett did not appear, a Summons was ordered to be made out for him, that he might give his Evidence on a Charge of so serious a Nature. (Public Advertiser)

Saturday 9 May 1778

On Friday last, at the Old Bailey, the following singular circumstance happened: A man was indicted for sending a letter to a gentleman in order to extort money from him, and in case of his refusal threatened to accuse him of an unnatural crime. Mr. Sylvester, counsel for the prosecution, as soon as the prisoner was put to the bar, informed the court, that as the prosecutor was coming to court to give evidence, his pocket was picked of his pocket-book, which contained the letter (that was the chief evidence against the prisoner) a bank note of 30l. and other things of value. By this means the prisoner was discharged. (Ipswich Journal)

30 May – 2 June 1778

Yesterday a Soldier was carried efore the Lord Mayor for sending threatening letters to a Gentleman, that unless he sent him a sum of money he would swer that he attempted to commit an unnatural crime with him in the Park; he was sent to the Poultry Compter for further examination. (London Chronicle)

2–4 June 1778

The Soldier who was sent on Monday to the Poultry-compter, accused with endeavouring to extort money from a Gentleman by threatening to charge him with an attempt to commit an unnatural crime, was brought before the Sitting Alderman, but the Prosecutor not being able to prove his charge, he was dismissed. (London Chronicle)

11–14 July 1778

Yesterday was held at Guildhall the General Quarter Session of the Peace for this City, when George Milward, who some Time ago was pilloried for an unnatural Attempt, was tried for extorting Money from a young Gentleman, of whom he received near Fifty Pounds, under Threats to charge him with a horrid Offence. The Prisoner openly acknowledged the Innocence of the Prosecutor, and denied that he ever obtained a Shilling by such an Accusation. He very cunningly endeavoured to overthrow the Indictment, by attributing the Prosecutor's Motives to be of a different Kind for surrendering up his Property, namely those of Charity to the Prisoner's distressed Circumstances. He was convicted, and sentenced to suffer six Months Imprisonment in Newgate, and stand in the Pillory at the Royal Exchange. (St. James's Chronicle)

Tuesday, 14 July 1778

George Milward was indicted for extorting Money under a Charge of an infamous Kind against a Gentleman Clerk in the City: He apologtised to a Witness for raising the Charge, by saying, that "Necessity had no Law." and Money he must have. He had collected in the Course of three Years near Fifty Pounds by different Visits. (Public Advertiser)

Monday 3 August 1778

SALISBURY, Aug. 1. The following prisoners are to take their trials at our assizes which begin this day before Sir Richard Perryn, Knt. and Sir Francis Buller, Knt. viz. . . . Edmund Carter, for assaulting John Harding and Christopher Bellinger with intent to commit an unnatural crime. (Hampshire Chronicle)

Thursday, 6 August 1778

Yesterday George Milward, who was sentenced at the sessions to stand in the pillory at the Roiyal Exchange for extortion, suffered his sentence – The mob, for the first half hour, behaved with astonishing lenity; but the nature of his crime being generally blazed through the croud, a plentiful shower of eggs, &c. saluted him, and he was taken down almost in a state of insensibility. (Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser)

24–26 September 1778

SATURDAY, September 26. . . . Yesterday morning Thomas Jones, alias Charles Jones, alias Miss Jenny Jones, a male prostitute, of St. James's Park, was brought before Sir John Fielding, charged by a young man with an attempt to commit an unnatural crime upon him in the Park in the preceding evening. This wretched lady is fifty years of age, and grey-headed, and as audacious in his infamy as that paragon of male practices, D—r [i.e. Drybutter]. (London Evening Post) (The same report appeared in the General Advertiser and Morning Intelligencer for 28 Sept.) [This is one of the earliest occurrences of the phrase "male prostitute".]

Thursday, 6 October 1778

Yesterday a Man was carried before the Lord Mayor and Alderman Pugh at the Mansion-House, charged with an Attempt to commit an unnatural Crime, but being a stout young Fellow he was by Consent of the Prosecutor sent to the Poultry Compter to serve as a Soldier, and to be examined this Day before the Commissioners. (Daily Advertiser)

Friday, 9 October 1778

The Man who was carried on Wednesday before the Lord-Mayor, charged with having attempted to commit an unnatural Crime, and sent to the Compter as a proper Person to serve as a Soldier, was Yesterday taken before the Commissioners at Guildhall; but they being informed of the Offence he was charged with, refused to accept of him, and he was thereupon taken back to the Compter until he can get Bail for his Appearance at the Old-Bailey, to take his Trial for the said Offence. (Daily Advertiser)

Tuesday, 20 October 1778

John Williams, an elderly man, was convicted of an attempt to commit an unnatural crime on Robert Cross, one of the constables of Farringdon Ward Without. The defence made by this wretch was, that he was in liquor, and totally insensible of what he did: but the witness swore he was quite sober, and made a stout resistance. The Court, at first, adjudged him to stand once in the pillory, and be imprisoned six months; but it being whispered that his infirmities would not be able to withstand the fury of the populace, the Bench reconsidered the sentence, and changed it to a year's imprisonment in Wood-street Compter. (Gazetteer and new Daily Advertiser)

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "Newspaper Reports, 1778", Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 22 February 2021 <>.

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