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

Newspaper Reports, 1785

Monday, 14 February 1785

LEWES, February 14.
The following affair happened at Tunbridge-Wells, on Tuesday the 1st instant; – A gentleman, attended by one servant, came to the Angel inn, at that place, who, in the course of the day, it was observed, paid particular attention to a lad about fourteen years of age, nephew to the landlord, and in the evening found means to entice him to bed with him, which being soon after discovered by the family, they suddenly rushed into the room, and rescued the boy from a situation that justified his friends in taking the gentleman into custody, who was, in consequence, the next day had before Messrs. Children and Hooker, two of his Majesty's Justices of the Peace for the county of Kent, charged with an attempt to commit an unnatural crime on the body of the boy; after a short examination, the charge was substantiated by the clearest evidence, and to the entire satisfaction of the magistrates; whereupon the gentleman was by their worships bound over to appear at the next assizes for the county of Kent, to take his trial for this detestable offence, himself in One Hundred Pounds, and two sureties in Fifty Pounds each. The sureties are an eminent attorney in London, and Mr. Winton, master of the Rose and Crown, at Tunbridge. The gentleman's name is P——, and it is said, he has lately married a lady possessed of a fortune of twelve hundred a year, and that he was on his way to Lewes, in order to view a part of his wife's estate which is situated in the neighbourhood of this town, when the unhappy affair took place. (Sussex Advertiser)

Tuesday, 29 March 1785

Mr. P—, who was detected in an attempt to commit an unnatural crime on the body of a boy at the Angel inn, in Tunbrdge Wells, and bound over to appear at the assize, at Maidstone, to take his trial for the detestable offence, did not appear; his reconizance was thereby forfeited, anx he must in consequence be adjudged an Out-Law. (Morning Herald)

Saturday, 9 April 1785

LONDON, Tuesday, April 5.
Saturday last, at the quarter-sessions held for the city and liberty of Westminster, before a full bench of justices, Richard Cope (a soldier in the first regiment of foot guards) was tried on an indictment found against him, for assaulting and imprisoning a gentleman, of eminence, fortune, and honour, in Lincoln's-Inn, detaining him in a place called the Black-hole, without fire or candle, all night, of the 7th of December last, and charging him with an unnatural crime, in order to extort money from him, when the defendant was clearly found guilty of all the charges laid in the indictment, to the great satisfaction of a crouded [sic] court, for which offences he was sentenced to be imprisoned in Tothill-fields-bridewell 5 years, and to stand in the pillory at Charing-cross 5 times, viz. once in every year, the first time on Saturday next, the 9th instant. (Ipswich Journal)

Monday, 11 April 1785

Captain Jones, who was condemned about 14 years ago, for an unnatural crime at the Old Bailey, and who afterwards received his Majesty's pardon, on condition of transporting himself for life, however extraordinary it may seem, is at present Mustapha General to the Bombadiers, in the service of the Grand Seignior. (Morning Chronicle)

Monday, 11 April 1785

Saturday Cope, the grenadier, stood on the pillory at Charing-cross; but through the interposition of some of his brother soldiers, he was preserved from that severe treatment he would otherwise have experienced from the numerous croud which attended on the occasion. (Morning Chronicle)

Saturday, 16 April 1785

This day at 12 o'clock, Richard Cope, a grenadier in one of the regiments of foot-guards, stood on and in the pillory at Charing-cross, pursuant to sentence, for attempting to extort money from a gentleman in St. James's Park, on pretence of swearing an unnatural crime against him. A vast number of people attended, and paid their respects to this consummate villain, by saluting him in a severe manner with rotten eggs, apples, potatoes, &c. He is to be imprisoned five years, and stand in the pillory 4 times more. (Ipswich Journal)

Monday, 18 April 1785

On Saturday last Richard Cope, who endeavoured to extort money of Mr. Phipps, by threatening to accuse him of an unnatural attempt, stood in the pillory at Charing-Cross for the first time, pursuant to his sentence; previous to which, he haranged the spectators to invoke their clemency; the first three quarters of an hour he received no marks of their resentment, but during the last fifteen minutes he was severely pelted with mud. (Sussex Advertiser)

Saturday, 2 July 1785

John Morris and James Guthrie were tried for robbing John Marshal, in Hyde Park, of a Silver Watch, a Cambraic Handkerchief, and three Guineas, &c. Part of the Things were found on one of the Prisoners, and Part under the Bed of the other. The Prisoners, in their Defence, said, That they had detected the Prosecutor, and another Man, in an unantural Act, in Hyde Park; that they insisted on taking him before a Magistrate, but he begged for Merecy, and desired to give them the Money, &c. as Hush-money, and that they took them as such. They called the Person with whom they pretended the Prosecutor was connected; but he miserably contradicted himself; and the whole Defence appearing a most wicked one, the Jury found them both guilty: Death.
          The Judge afterwrds told them, that as their Defence was a great Aggravation of their Crimes, it became highly expedient the Law should take its Course on them; and therefore, advised them not to flatter themselves with any Hopes of Pardon. (Oxford Journal)

Thursday 22 September 1785

Yesterday at the Sessions at the Old Bailey ten Prisoners were convicted of Felonies; one was convicted of an unnatural Attempt and sentenced to be publicly whipped twice, and imprisoned three Years in Newgate; five were acquitted. (Derby Mercury)

22–24 September 1785

Yesterday Rogert Sweatman was tried before the Recorder and a London Jury, on an indictment for committing an unnatdural crime on the body of Henry Sanson. In the course of the trial there were various brutal circumstances alledged, which, though necessary to the form of public justice, could not be related without the utmost violation of modesty. Human nature is sufficiently degraded by the existence of such abominable propensities, and a desire of holding up such wretches to public and personal detestation, can alone induce us to pollute our publication, by leaving such crimes upon record. Sanson gave in evidence, that he and the prisoner were for some time acquainted; and that he was induced by the prisoner to go and sleep with him, in the night in which the transaction took place: he was in bed, and asleep about three hours, when he was awakened by the unnatural proceedings of Sweatman.
          This was the only evidence, and the prisoner rested his defence on a denial of the facts. The Judge first reprimanded the witness in very proper terms, for the feeble and insufficient resistance he acknowledged himself to have made, and his continuing in bed with the prisoner after what had first happened. The credibility of the witness's testimony was, in some degree, affected by these cicumstances, which, together with his declaring the fact not to be absolutely completed [i.e. no penetration], caused the prisoneer to be acquitted of the capital offence; but for his attempt, and the assault, he was sentenced to be imprisoned for three yers, and in that time twice publicly whipped.
          If the face be really the index of the mind, Sweatman's bore ample testimony against him, and exhibited a set of features every way corresponding with his vices. He is a squat ill looking fellow, and by no means equal to the prosecutor in size or appearance.
          The trial of this wretch was so shocking, that the Recorder ordered the short-hand writer to burn his notes, judging that even what appeared in Court was too indecent for the public eye. (London Chronicle)

Saturday, 24 September 1785

Friday, Sept. 23.
This day Roger Sweetman was tried for an unnatural crime, but the evidence depending solely on his companion, who was in all respects a particeps criminis, and the offence not being legally compleat, the prisoner was acquitted. The evidence was too disgusting to repeat, and utterly impossible to meet the publick eye on a newspaper. This same prisoner was again indicted for an attempt to commit the same crime on another person, who, to use his own language, gave him two or three good pelts, and he desisted. The prisoner was convicted on this indictment, and after receiving a severe reprimand from the Recorder, he was ordered to be severely and publicly whipped twice, and imprisoned in Newgate for three years. . . .
          The trial of the wretch for an unnatural crime, yesterday, at the Old-Bailey, was so shocking, that the Recorder ordered the short-hand writer to burn his notes, judging that even what appeared in Court was too indecent for the pubilc eye. (General Advertiser)

Saturday, 24 September 1785

William Sweetman was convicted of an Attempt to commit an unnatural Offence, and ordered to be twice publicly whipped, and imprisoned three Years in Newgate. (Northampton Mercury)

Friday, 9 December 1785

On the 25th ult. Isaac Honeyball, was committed to our goal, by Philip Salter, clerk, for assaulting Samuel Gurnett, in the night of the fifteenth and sixteenth days of November, in Shenfield, in his county, with an intent to commit sodomy. (Chelmsford Chronicle) (See News Reports for 11 March 1786.)

Friday, 9 December 1785

Monday, in the Court of King's Bench, a cause of a most extraordinary and disgraceful kind came on. A person who keeps an academy was tried for several unnatural attempts on his pupils. It is too dreadful and shocking to enter into any relation of the circumstances of this villainy. – It is in truth too disgraceful to the times to be published at all. (Stamford Mercury)

Monday, 12 December 1785

Yesterday a teacher at a boarding-school, and a preacher at a methodist meeting-house at Hammersmith, was tried on an indictment, charging him with an attempt to commit an unnatural crime on one of his school-boys: on the evidence of the child, who proved the attempt very clearly indeed, and of a person to whom he acknowledged it, Mr. Erskine his counsel gave up his brief, and the man was found guilty. (Reading Mercury)

Friday, 16 December 1785

John Brown, and George Smith, alias Darby, were indicted for robbing Charles Atwell of a silver watch, a steel chain and key, with five shillings in money, on Sunday evening the 30th of October, in the Green Park. They were also charged on a second indictment, with taking from Charles Brown, at the same time, a handkerchief, three keys, a box of lip salve, some white paint, and other articles. Charles Atwell deposed, that on the aforementioned evening, he was stopped in the Green Park, near the door, opposite Clarges-street, by four men, who robbed him of the articles mentioned in the indictment. Though he thought the prisoners were among them he could not swear that they were the persons who rifled his pockets. The same circumstance was given in evidence by Charles Brown, and the person of Smith, one of the prisoners, sworn positively to. The prisoner's counsel, in the course of the trial, extorted, with some difficulty, a confession from Brown, of his being formerly tried for a charge of sodomy, and interrogated him very ingeniously as to his reason for being at that time in a place so remarkable for unnatural proceeding, and usually known by the appellation of cooing seats (sic). To this neither of the evidence would give a satisfactory answer, as they both previously declared that they were going to a place perfectly out of that direction. These circumstances operated so strongly on the Court and the Jury, that, notwithstanding the apparent guilt of the prisoners, they found a verdict not guilty.
          On the second indictment, the testimony of those two evidences was corroborated by that of the constable, who swore to having found on the person of Brown, a letter directed to one of the prosecutors, together with the lip-salve, and some other articles. However, as every circumstance confirmed the suspicion of unnatural guilt in the prosecutors, the credibility of their evidence was so much effected in the opinion of the jury, that the prisoners were ACQUITTED, but ordered to find bail for their future behaviour, before they should be enlarged. (Morning Herald)

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "Newspaper Reports, 1785", Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 13 September 2014, updated 10 March 2021 <>.

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