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

Newspaper Reports, 1779

HIGHLIGHTS: Two men are sent to prison rather than made to stand in the pillory, for fear they would be killed by the mob (16 Feb.); four men are arrested near the railings of Covent Garden Market, in the area known as "the Sodomitical Walk", whose dress and deportment clearly indicate their orientation (16 July); several convicted sodomites are impressed into military service (16, 27 and 29 July); a convicted homosexual poisons himself (31 July); a public advertisement offers a reward for the apprehension of a wool-comber and a breeches-maker for sodomy (1 & 11 Sept.).

Saturday 30 January 1779

Yesterday was committed to the City Goal, a tanner at Thorp next Norwich, for violent attempt to commit an act of sodomy on a lad about 18 years of age. (Norfolk Chronicle)

Tuesday, 16 February 1779

At the sessions yesterday at Guildhall, John Reynolds and Wright Stagg were tried and convicted of assaulting a constable with intent to commit an unnatural crime, and were sentenced to twelve months imprisonment in Newgate: one of these men has several children, and bears an irreproachable character for sobriety and integrity. (Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser)

Tuesday, 16 February 1779

Yesterday the General Sessions of the Peace was held for this City at Guildhall, . . . Two Men were found guilty of an unnatural Attempt: The Court was some Time in Deliberation whether the Punishment of Pillory should be inflicted. The Recorder observed, that the Crime being perpetrated in the Street, it was dangerous to the Police of the Metropolis, and much aggravated; a public Example ought therefore to be made of the Offenders. The Bench agreed that nothing was too severe for the Crime of so enormous a Nature; but the Man who last suffered the Ignominy of a public Spectacle was so severely treated, that he had nearly breathed his final Gasp under the Fury of the Populace. It was then proposed to have a Guard of Protection from the Mob. The Answer given to this Proposition was, that so far from a Posse of Constables being able to abate, they would only increase the Flames, for the Mob would grow exasperated by Resistance on such an Occasion. At length the Pillory was given up, and they received Sentence to suffer a Year's Imprisonment in Newgate. (Public Advertiser)

Friday, 9 April 1779

On Sunday evening last, a man was taken up in a court behind the Chapter-house, in St. Paul's Church-hard, for making an attempt upon a gentleman to commit sodomy, and was yesterday brought before Mr. Alderman Pugh, at Guildhall; when it appeared that one of the city constables, who hath lately taken up and convicted several persons out of the same court, and he being upon his duty a few nights before, was assaulted in a very atrocious manner by the prisoner; and being again upon his duty last Sunday night, upon going up the same court, he again saw the prisoner, upon which he desired a friend of his to go up the court to see if the prisoner would make any attempt upon him; a few minutes after, the prisoner came up in a posture shocking to humane nature to describe [perhaps exhibiting an erection], when he called to his friend the constable, and secured the prisoner, who appeared to be a wine merchant, and a man of property. The prisoner having nothing to say in his defence, but attempted to make up the matter by pecuniary satisfaction, which being totally rejected, it plainly appearing that the prosecutor's only motive was public justice; accordingly they were bound over, and the prisoner committed to take his trial at the next sessions. It is much to be wished that every constable, through this great metropolis, would follow this example, which would be the means of checking vice, and bring such atrocious villains to their deserved punishment. (General Adevertiser)

Saturday 17 April 1779

B U R Y, April 16.
Tuesday Wm. Sell (a prisoner for debt in our gaol) and John Carter, (a private in the West Suffolk militia) were charged on the oath of Wm. Rose, with committing sodomy, which the said John Carter has confessed. (Ipswich Journal)

Friday 7 May 1779

WHEREAS on Monday the 15th of April, 1779, BENJAMIN WHITEHEAD, of Bewdley, did attempt to commit an Unnatural Crime, on the Body of STEPHEN GREEN, of that Place, and is now supposed to be at the Sign of the Feathers in Full-Street, Derby. Whoever shall bring, or cause to be brought, before WILLIAM CRAYME, Mayor of Bewdley, in the County of Worcester, the Body of the said Whitehead, shall receive a Reward of TEN POUNDS. (Derby Mercury)

Friday, 16 July 1779

On Sunday evening last the constables of St. Paul, Covent-garden, met (having received information that a detestable set of men assembled and paraded nightly within the rails of Covent-garden market, but especially in that part known by the name of the Sodomitical Walk) when they detected four of those abominable wretches, after having watched their proceedings for above an hour. They were brought before Sir John Fielding the next morning, who ordered them to be kept and brought before him and his brother Commissioners the next morning at Covent-garden vestry, when the charge being fully proved by the peace officers, they were all sent to the Savoy to serve his Majesty as soldiers. It was no more remarkable than true, that the speeches, faces, behaviour, deportment, and dress of those wretches, plainly indicated that they were such miscreants. (Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser)

27–29 July 1779

Yesterday a man was carried before the Lord Mayor for an attempt to commit an unnatural crime in the Post-office-yard; being a strout young fellow, he was sent on board a tender. (London Chronicle)

Thursday, 29 July 1779

Tuesday night a man was detected in the necessary of the General Post-Office, in attempting to commit an unnatural crime on a lad about fifteen years old, and was carried to the Compter; he was yesterday carried before the Lord Mayor at the Mansion-house, who ordered him to be sent on board the tender, as a fit person to serve his Majesty. (Morning Chronicle)

Thursday 29 July 1779

At Bedford Assizes Thomas Denby and Samuel Wallis were tried and convicted of unnatural practices, and sentenced to pay a fine of 5s. each, to be imprisoned in the house of correction for one year, to stand once in the pillory, and to find sureties for their good behaviour for three years. (Stamford Mercury)

Saturday 31 July 1779

On Monday evening Lord Chief Baron Skynner, and the Hon. Mr. Justice Blackstone, arrived in this city, and opened the commission for holding the assizes.
          . . . At the assizes at Bury St. Edmund's, which ended on Saturday last, . . . William Fell and Robert Carter, for sodomy, were sentenced to stand in the pillory, pay a fine of 5s., be imprisoned for one year, and find sureties for their good behaviour for three years. – Fell stood in the pillory on Tuesday, and was severely pelted by the populace. He died soon after he came out of the pillory, and it is conjectured that he had taken poison in the morning, with an intent to destroy himself before the time. (Norfolk Chronicle)

9–11 August 1779

This day at noon Joseph Coleman stood on the pillory in West Smithfield, according to his sentence at the late Quarter Sessions at Guildhall, London, for an attempt of an unnatural crime on a Gentleman in St. Paul's Church-yard. (Lloyd's Evening Post)

10–12 August 1779

Yesterday Coleman stood in the pillory in West Smithfield, within the rails, for an attempt to commit an unnatural crime, and was severely pelted by the populace, the latter part of his time. Two ticket porters were taken into custody for throwing rotten eggs, but afterwards dismissed. (London Evening Post)

Wednesday, 11 August 1779

This day Joseph Coleman will stand in the pillory in West-Smithfield, pursuant to his sentence at Guildhall sessions, for attempt to commit an unnatural crime in a Court near St. Paul's Church-yard. (Morning Chronicle)

28–31 August 1779

At the Rotation Office, Litchfield-street, yesterday, Thomas Ellis, a detestable villain, about fifty years of age, was put to the bar, charged by M'Donald, Grubb, and Hyde, belonging to this office, with committing an unnatural crime. The officers being sworn, deposed, that having information of some footpads being in the fields in the parish of St. Pancras, on Sunday evening, they went in search of them, when they found the culprit, and another man, who made his escape, lying in a ditch together in a situation too indelicate to mention. He was committed to Clerkenwell Bridewell. (London Evening Post)

Wednesday, 1 September 1779

Yesterday a Letter arrived Express at Sir John Fielding's from John Thurlow, Esq; Mayor of Norwich, informing him that a Warrant had been granted against Thomas Grantham and Abraham Fountain, both of Whittlesey, in the Isle of Ely, for Sodomy, and requesting his Assistance in apprehending them. Trantham is by Trade a Wool-comber, and a Man of considerable Property, and Fountain by Trade a Breeches-maker and Glover, and of a genteel Appearance. Ten Guineas Reward is offered for apprehending them by the Parish of Whittlesey. (Public Advertiser)

4 September 1779

To the PUBLIC.
ESCAPED from Justice, THOMAS GRANTHAM of Whittlesea, within the Isle of Ely in the County of Cambridge, Master Wool-comber, and ABRAHAM FOUNTAIN of the same Place, Glover and Breeches maker. – GRANTHAN is a Person of Property, and buys large Quantities of Wool, either for himself or by Commission: He is much of a Gentleman-like Person, about five Feet eight or nine Inches high, rather lusty, aged sixty or upwards, goes very genteelly dressed; his usual Dress is Light-coloured or White Cloaths, a White frizzed Wig and rather large; of a sallow or yellow Complexion, round faced in Proportion to his Stature, has something of a Pomposity of delivering himself in his Conversation and speaks a little lisping. – FOUNTAIN may be an Inch or two higher than Grantham, a well-dressed Person, supposed to be about four or five and twenty or upwards, generally wears Mixture or Bloom-coloured Cloaths, of a fair Complexion, of a good Address, and with fancy Hair curled.
          Any Person or Persons who will apprehend either of the aforesaid Persons, and give Notice to Sir John Fielding, Bow street, London, John Thurlow, Esq. Mayor of Norwich, the Rev. John Warren, at Wisbich in the Isle of Ely, in the County of Cambridge, Doctor in Divinity, or to Mr. Henry Mavdwell of Whittlesea, within the Isle and County aforesaid, shall receive a Reward of Ten Guineas, over and above the Reward allowed by the several Acts of Parliament for the apprehending of Felons. (Norfolk Chronicle)

Saturday 11 September 1779

Whereas THOMAS GRANTHAM, a wool-comber, and ABRAHAM FOUNTAIN, a Breeches-maker and Glover, both of Whittlesey, in the Isle of Ely, in the county of Cambridge, stand charged upon oath before the Reverend Doctor Warren, a Justice of the Peace of that county, with having committed the detestable crime of Sodomy, and for which warrants are issued to apprehend them.
          Whoever will apprehend them, or be the means of apprehending them, will receive Ten Guineas reward from the officers of the parish of Whittlesey aforesaid, on their conviction.
          Grantham is a man of property, has much the appearance of a gentleman; is about five feet nine inches high, upwards of sixty years old, rather lusty, dresses genteel, and generally in light coloured clothes, a large white wig, sallow complexion, round face, lisps a little, and has a pomposity in delivering himself.
          Fountain is rather taller than Grantham, is well dressed, either in mixed or bloom-coloured clothes; is about twenty-six years old, fair complexion, of a good address, and sandy curled hair. (Newcastle Courant)

Thursday 21 October 1779

The principal matter that came before the Magistrates in Bow-street, yesterday, was the examination of one Staples, who was accused of extorting money from Thomas Harris Carsey, servant to a Gentleman in Berners street, under the pretence of charging him with an unnatural crime; from Carsey's evidence it appeared, that on the 10th of Sept. near eight o'clock in the evening, he met the prisoner in Piccadilly, who joining conversation with him they walked some considerable time, when the prisoner suddenly collared him, said he was one of Sir John Fielding's men, and he would accuse him of an unnatural crime if he did not give him six guineas; that surprized and frightened at so heinous a charge, he borrowed some money of a friend and gave him two guineas, and likewise gave him two guineas the next day; yet this not contenting him, he further extorted 16s. and some wearing apparel from him; at last finding there was no probability of getting rid of him, he acquainted Sir John Fielding with the particulars, and had him apprehended. The prisoner attempted to retort the accusation on the prosecutor, but all in vain, for he was committed, and Carsey bound over to prosecute him upon four separate indictments. (Stamford Mercury)

Monday 25 October 1779

On Thursday five Prisoners were tried at the Old-Bailey, two of whom were capitally convicted, viz. John Taylor, for forging a Receipt upon a Bill of Exchange . . .; The other capital Convict was John Staples, for robbing Thomas Harris Carrsay [sic] of two Guineas, under a Threat of charging him with an unnatural Crime. (Northampton Mercury)

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "Newspaper Reports, 1779", Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 22 February 2021, updated 22 April 2021 <>.

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