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

Newspaper Reports, 1787

Monday 22 January 1787

. . . Yesterday the sessions ended at the Old Bailey, . . . One Wright, accused of an unnatural offence, had his trial deferred till next sessions. (Hampshire Chronicle)

Thursday 22 February 1787

Saturday last came on in Westminster-hall, before Mr. Justice Buller, and a special jury, a cause wherein Mr. Robert Pinckney, an apothecary of Marlborough, was plaintiff, and the printer of the Salisbury Journal defendant. The action was brought against the defendant for inserting in his paper a letter signed "Joseph Pullen," accusing the plaintiff of unnatural practices with his servant. The defence set up by the defendant was, that he had given up the original letter (a copy of which he had inserted in his paper) to the plaintiff, for the purpose, if possible, of finding out the author; and had also offered a reward of fifty guineas to any person who would discover him; and, as infinite pains had been taken by the defendant to trace out the anonymous assassin who wrote the libel, they were circumstances, which ought to operate in mitigation of damages. The jury retired for a short time and found a verdict for the plaintiff, with 200l. damages, and costs of suit; and we are happy in being informed, since the above trial, very flattering circumsances have appeared to fix the real author of the above diabolical libel, and the foul calumniator of one of the best of characters. (Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette; for the letter, see News Reports for 11 September 1786.)

Saturday 24 February 1787

On Saturday last was tried, before Mr. Justice Buller, and a Special Jury, in Westminster Hall, a Cause in which Mr. Robert Pinchney, of Marlborough, Apothecary, was Plaintiff, and the Printer of the Salisbury Journal, Defendant. The Action was brought against the Defendant for having inserted in his Paper a Letter, accusing the Plaintiff of unnatural Crimes. The Defence set up was, that the Defendant had given up the original Letter, which was anonymous, and had been at infinite Pains in endeavouring to discover the Author; for which Purpose he had also offered a Reward of Fifty Pounds. – The Jury retired for some Time, and after their Return found a Verdict for the Plaintiff with 200l. Damages, and full Costs. (Oxford Journal)

Monday 13 August 1787

Monday last Thomas Crispin, aged 45, was executed at Heavitree gallows, Exeter, pursuant to his sentence, for committing a detestable crime on the body of Hugh Gribble, aged 20. He was taken from High Gaol, about half past six in the morning, (five hours earlier than has ever been observed on former execution days). From the time of his condemnation to the moment of his final exit, his behaviour betrayed little signs of remorse or contrition. The wretch acknowledged his guilt to the Ordinary just before he was turned off, but blamed his prosecutors for the active part they had taken in bringing him to so shameful an end.
          Crispin was born at Pilton, near Barnstaple. His father, a quarter-master of the Guernsey man of war, took him to sea with him when a boy. He was never put to school, but taught to read by his parents, who died while he was young. He afterwards earned his living by turning the wheel in a pottery; and for the last seven years lived in the workhouse at Pilton.
          Gribble, who was convicted with Crispin, has since received a fortnight's respite. (Hampshire Chronicle)

15 August 1787

At the assizes at Exeter, which ended on the Crown side on Thursday evening, six prisoners were capitally convicted, and received sentence of death, viz. Thomas Ayre, for stealing a mare saddle, &c. John Piper, for house-breaking; Thomas Crispin, aged 45, for committing an unnatural crime on the body of Hugh Gribble, aged 20; and said Hugh Gribble, for permitting him so to do; Richard Bailie, for robbing his master; and Thomas Gothard, for an assault, and stealing a two gallon keg of brandy. Robert M'Donald, for stealing 66 pounds of lead from the Royal Hospital, Plymouth, to be transported. (Daily Universal Register)

Saturday 18 August 1787

Monday last Thomas Crispin, aged 45, was execued at Heavitree gallows, near Exeter, pursuant to his sentence, for committing a detestable crime on the body of Hugh Gribble, aged 20. The wretch acknowledged his guilt to the Ordinary just before he was turned off, but blamed his prosecutors for the active part they had taken in bringing him to so shameful an end. Gribble from an appearance of idiotism has received a fortnight's respite. (Ipswich Journal) [According to a note in the National Archives, HO 47/6/79, the grand jury claimed that Hugh Gribble suffered from fits and is now insane. On 15 August he was recommended for a free pardon.]

Saturday 1 September 1787

When Justice Buller passed sentence on Tho. Crispin, aged 45, who was lately executed at Exeter, and Hugh Gribble, he said as follows:
          "Thomas Crispin and Hugh Gribble, the detestable and abominable sin, of which you have been fully convicted, is of a nature too vile and scandalous for me to expatiate on. I have only to remark, that it is a sin on which God himself has pronounced the sentence of death: a sentence which God Almight has exectued with his own hand, and executed it with brimstone and with fire. As the nature of your crime distinguishes you from other malefactors, it becomes me to make a distinction in the time of your punishment and theirs. Such monsters as you cannot be too soon cut off from the face of the earth; I shall therefore order your execution in a very few days. Go then, avoid the light of the sun, hide your heads in darkness, shun the observations of mankind, and employ the few hours you will be permitted to live, in incessant appeals to the God of mercy for his redemption from the enormity of your guilty and the vengeance which awaits you." – Gribble from an appearance of idiotism is respited. (Ipswich Journal)

Friday 28 December 1787

LONDON. – Tuesday, Dec. 25.
. . . Yesterday were apprehended by four of the officers of Bow-street, Peter Green and John Francis, two soldiers, for assaulting Mr. Evans, apothecary, of Knightsbridge, in St. James's Park on Saturday night, and taking from him a gold watch, a great coat, and three guineas in money. Green has not been long discharged from imprisonment, in consequence of extorting money from a gentleman under a threat of accusing him of an unnatural crime. They struck Mr. Evans several times, although it was moon-light, and would have stripped him of his other coat, if some persons had not been coming in sight. The gold watch and great coat were found in their lodgings, and of course taken care of by the officer who found them. (Chelmsford Chronicle)

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "Newspaper Reports, 1787", Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 14 May 2010, enlarged 16 September 2014 <>.

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