A Sodomite Club in Warrington, 1806

NOTE: In May 1806 a group of twenty-four men in Warrington and surrounding areas were arrested for homosexual offences, nine of whom were eventually tried. At the Lancaster assizes in August 1806 five men were convicted of buggery; Samuel Stockton, Thomas Rix, John Powell, and Joseph Holland had regularly assembled at the home of Isaac Hitchen, where they engaged in sex and called one another "Brother", and kept assignations at the shop of Holland, a well-off pawnbroker. Most of the men had relations with John Knight, one of the most affluent men in Warrington, and with the confectioner Thomas Taylor, who both turned King's Evidence to save themselves. Hitchen and Rix were sentenced to death but respite, but Stockton, Powell and Holland were hanged on the new drop erected at the back of the castle in Lancaster. Two other men were acquitted of buggery but re-charged with attempted sodomy, including 72-year-old Peter Atherton who had practised sodomy "for a great many years". In 2004 it was discovered that the names of the men and some notes by them survived scratched on the walls of their cells. (Information gathered by Andy Denwood, from working on a project for BBC Radio which did not reach broadcast stage.)
          Thomas Taylor was a consenting partner, but in legal language this meant that he allowed or "suffered" himself to be "assaulted". Taylor acknowledged that he had engaged in homosexual relations for the past ten years, and it seems likely that he regularly offered sex in exchange for "presents". The other main witness, John Knight, also had sexual relations with more than one man, and in his case it seems likely that he offered favours to some of those who agreed to have sex with him. The sodomites' main house of assignation was a public house in Sankey, a village on the outskirts of Warrington.
          For additional details, see Newspaper Reports for 1806.

A T     L A N C A S T E R.
One of the Barons of His Majesty's Court of Exchequer.





JOSEPH HOLLAND was indicted for that he not having the fear of God before his eyes, nor regarding the order of nature, but being moved and seduced by the instigation of the Devil, on the 9th day of July, in the forty-second year of the reign of his present Majesty, at Warrington, in the county of Lancaster, in and upon one Thomas Taylor, of Warrington aforesaid, did make an assault, and that he then and there feloniously, wickedly, diabolically and against the order of nature, carnally knew him the said Thomas Taylor, and then did commit that horrid, detestable, and abominable crime called b——y [buggery]. [p.31]

To this Indictment the Prisoner pleaded — NOT GUILTY.

The case was shortly opened on the part of the prosecution by Mr. Serjeant Cockell.


Thomas Taylor, sworn.

Q[uestion] You keep a shop at Warrington I believe. — A[nswer] Yes.

Q   What kind of a shop is it? — A   A confectioner's.

Q   Do you know the prisoner at the bar? — A   I do.

Q   What business is he? – A   A pawnbroker.

Q   Do you remember some time in the course of last year, seeing the prisoner one evening as you were shutting up your shop? — A   Not in the last year.

Q   Well in the year before. — A   To the best of my recollection it was about four years ago.

Q   What month was it in? — A   I believe in the month of July.

Q   Now state what passed. — A   He asked me to go home with him to his house to get a glass of ale; I went with him home, but declined drinking any ale. He then desired me to go up stairs with him.

Q   Was his wife at home at that time? — A   She was not. I followed him up stairs and he asked me to undress myself.

Q   Did you do so? — A   I did.

Q   In what manner did you undress your self? — A   I pulled off my coat, and afterwards my waistcoat and breeches. [p.32]

Q   What did he do? — A   He did the same; he then asked me to lie down on the bed; I lay down.


Q   In what way did you lie down? — A   I lay down upon my back.

Q   Did he lie down too? — A   Yes, at my side.

Q   Now state what took place further? — A   He put his p— p— [i.e. private parts] between my things [sic, but probably a misprint for "thighs"], I told him to be quiet.

Q   Well? — A   He then asked me to turn on my side, which I did with my b—m [bottom, or perhaps bum] towards him; after this he took and put his p— [penis, or perhaps prick] into my f—t [fundament].


Now state particularly what occurred. — A   I found myself wet.

Q   How long did he continue in the position you have described? — A   A few minutes; he then left off.

Q   Did he do this of his own accord, or was it by your desire? — A   He left off when he had done. [Note that Taylor evaded answering the question, as presumably it was by his own desire.]

Q   What did he do with his body at first? — A   I bent my —— [bottom?] towards him, and he worked his body backwards and forwards.

Q   What took place when this affair was over? — A   I dressed myself, took up my hat, bid him good night, and went home.

Cross-examined by Mr. Scarlett.

Now Taylor, attend to what I say, were you not taken up upon suspicion of having committed [p.33] this crime yourself? — A   I never committed it on any man.

Q   Were you not charged with having more than once committed this crime yourself upon others? — A   I was suspected, but never committed it.

Q   That is not an answer to my question, I ask you whether when you were taken up, you were not charged with this crime by more than one or two persons? — A   I was charged by John Knight, but I never perpetrated the crime on any man.

Q   How long ago is it since you suffered any person to commit this infamous crime upon you? — A   About eight or nine years since.

Q   How old are you now? — A   About forty-five.

Q   Then when you first submitted yourself to be contaminated with this abominable crime, you were about thirty years old?

Court Nay that would be fifteen years ago.

Counsel — True, is it not more than eight or nine? — A   It was ten or eleven.

Q   So then at that time you were thirty-five? — A   Yes.

Q   Did you ever make any resistance or complaints when this crime was attempted to be committed upon you? — A   I have resisted.

Q   Did you ever make any complaints to any person on these occasions? — A   I never did except to the person that had committed it.

Q   When you have complained to the persons [p.34] themselves was it before or after? — A   Both before and after.

Q   Did you ever receive money from these persons at any time? — A   Never.

Q   Did you ever threaten to disclose if they did not give you money? — A   No.

Q   Did you receive any money from the prisoner? — A   I never did.

Q   So then, on these occasions you suffered these persons voluntarily to perpetrate this horrid crime upon you, or in short to do as they would. — A   I have resisted.

Q   Had you know the prisoner any time, or had you had any particular acquaintance with him when he asked you to go with him to his house? — A   I had not.

Q   Where had you seenm the prsoner before this time? — A   I had seen him at Isaac Hitchin's, about three weeks before.

Q   Had you ever seen him act contrary to decency or good morals, before the night when you say you went home with him? — A   I never did.

Q   Now how could the prisoner ask you to go with him home for this purpose, having had so little acquaintance, unless he knew, or had some reason to believe, that you were a person likely to make no resistance to his desires? — A   I cannot tell.

Q   You might have made your escape, I suppose there was nothing to hinder you. — A   I suppose so.

Q   On what day were you taken up? — A   On Sunday the 6th of April.

Q   Did you give any information against any persons on that day? — A   I did not on that day, [p.35] for I had not a perfect knowledge of the circumstances.

Q   Did you the day before? — A   I did, against John Howard and Alexander Chorley.

Q   How many persons did you inform against? — A   Three.

Q   You gave information against the prisoner, did you not? — A   Yes.

Q   Was this before or after the time you informed against the two you have mentioned? — A   It was before.

Q   How is it then you say you did not inform against any person on the day you were taken up, on Sunday? — A   It was on Sunday I gave information against the prisoner.

Q   O, then you did inform against somebody on the Sunday? — A   I did.

Q   Now, sir, I ask you whether at any time after you were apprehended, any promises of pardon were made to you, provided you would make a disclosure of what you know respecting the matters then under investigation. — A   I was told that if I spoke the truth it would be no worse for me.

Q   I must have an answer to the question I put; were you not given to understand, that if you would tell all you knew, and make good your story against the prisoner, you should not be prosecuted? — A   Yes, I was told if I spoke the truth I should not.

Q   Not be prosecuted. — A   Yes.

Q   Now when you were committed to Lancaster jail what did you suppose was the reason? — A   I cannot tell.

Q   You come here to tell the truth as you say, is it so? — A   Yes. [p.36]

Q   And you expect to be pardoned, don't you, if you speak the truth? — A   I do.


Q   If you tell the truth you expect to save your life? — A   Yes, to save my life.

James Nicholson, attorney, sworn.

Q   Mr. Nicholson, I believe you were present sir when the prisoner was examined at Warrington. — A   I was.

Q   You assisted the magistrate, I believe sir, on that occasion. — A   I did.

Q   Now I will just ask you sir, were any promises or threats made use of previously to his making the confession we are about to hear? — A   Not the least sir; in fact, the greatest attention was paid to this; indeed when he was examined, I even asked him whether he wishes me to put down what he said, to which he replied he did.

Q   You took his examination in writing, I believe. — A   Yes, sir.

Mr. Scarlett

Q   The prisoner I believe was in custody some time before he was committed. — A   Yes, several days.

Q   Was any body permitted to see him? — A   Yes, several persons were admitted, but we always took care to be informed when any body came. [p.37]

Q   Then whether any promises or threats, or any thing of that nature had been sent to him by any of these persons, you do not know. — A   Certainly not, but from the care that was taken I could not conceive it possible.

Q   Was the prisoner in charge of a constable? — A   He was.

Q   Did he sleep alone? — A   Yes.

Q   Who was the constable that attended him? — A   Paul Caldwell.

Paul Caldwell sworn.

Q   Caldwell, did you attend the prisoner when he was in custody? — A   I did.

Q   Did you at any time make use of any threats or promises to him? — A   I did not.

Q   Were any such to your knowledge used by any other persons? — A   No, not to my knowledge.

The examination was then read, which stated that the examinant, Joseph Holland, having been charged with committing the crime of buggery on Thomas Taylor at Warrington, says, That the said Thomas Taylor was at his house, and says that they lay down on the bed together, but did not perpetrate the crime.

Mr. Nicholson recalled.

Q   Mr. Nicholson, was Thomas Taylor also examined before the magistrate? — A   He was. [p.38]

Q   His examination was also, I believe, signed and read over to him. — A   It was; I did not take it all down in his precise words, for he had use of some expressions I did not chuse to wrote down.

Q   However, it was in tenor and substance the same, and was read over to him? — A   Yes.

The Examination of Thomas Taylor was then read; it was to the following effect: The examinant having been charged with the crime of b—— [buggery] says, that he did go with one Joseph Holland to his house about two years ago, that he went up stairs with him, that they undressed and lay down upon the bed, and that the said Joseph Holland did then and there commit upon him in part, this crime.

Mr. Scarlett.

(To Mr. Nicholson)   Then Mr. Nicholson, though you did not take down Thomas Taylor's exactly in his own words, you certainly did not understand him to mean that this crime was perpetrated so far back as four years ago, as he now states in evidence. — A   I certainly did not understand him to say that it was any thing near so long since.

Q   Pray did you write his examination in different terms from what he made use of? — A   By no means, it was in effect the same, but he stated some things in a way that I did not think proper to copy closely; for instance, he stated that the [p.39] penetration was not much, or so great as it might have been with a stronger man, describing Mr. Holland as being enfeebled, and said to the best of my recollection, that he had joggled at him.

Mr. Peter Nicholson,

Was then called by the counsel for the Prosecution, and said, that having seen the witness Thomas Taylor after his examination, he said to him, "Mr. Nicholson, I believe there was an error in my examination, stating that the crime had been committed two years ago, for it was four."

Here ended the evidence for the prosecution.

The Prisoner made no defence: he called three witnesses to his character. The evidence of the first, John White, being as follows; –


John White sworn.

Examined by Mr. Scarlett.

Q   You live in Warringotn, I believe. — A   I do.

Q   What are you? — A   A plumber and glazer.

Q   Do you know the prisoner? — A   I do.

Q   Did you not go up to London with him once? — A   I did.

Q   How long did you remain there? — A   About three weeks. [p.40]

Q   Where was this? — A   At a friend of the prisoner's.

Q   Did you sleep with him while you were there? — A   Yes, the whole time.

Q   Did you ever know him guilty of any indecencies, or if you had, should you have suffered him to remain in the same bed with you? — A   I should not.

Cross-examined by Mr. Cockell.

Q   What took you to London, had you any business there? — A   No, it was a journey of pleasure.

Q   Who paid your expences, did not the prisoner pay them? — A   He paid a very trifling part, I cannot justly recollect how much.

Q   Had you money before you went up? — A   Yes.

Q   Where had you that money from? — A   From my father.

Court. How much; had you more than a guinea? — A   I had more than that.

Q   The prisoner was going up to London at the time and offered to take you along with him. — A   Yes.

Q   You mentioned it to your father, and had his consent? — A   Yes.

Q   And he gave you money for the purposes? — A   He did.

Q   I believe you are with your father, who is also a plumber and glazer. — A   I am.

Q   Is he in considerable business? — A   Yes.

Q   The prisoner was known to him, and is a man of property? — A   Yes.

The Court summed up the evidence, and the Jury found the prisoner — GUILTY. [p.41]



Was indicted for having committed a similar offence upon John Knight at Warrington.

Q   John Knight, where do you live? — A   At Warrington.

Q   Do you remember the prisoner? — A   I do.

Q   Do you recollect any body calling upon you in September last with a message from the prisoner? — A   A person named Saunders called upon me at the glass house [factory where glass and pottery was made], and said a gentleman wanted to speak to me, who was at a public house.

Q   Did you go where he told you? — A   Yes, I went there and saw the prisoner.

Q   Well, you had some conversation. — A   We had some ale together, and afterwards he invited me to meet at Mr. Holland's the next day, and to bring some glass dust with me.

Q   Did you go according to his request? — A   I went about twelve or one o'clock the next day to Mr. Hollands with the glass dust.

Q   What, did you purchase the glass dust for him? — A   No sir, we have it at the glass house.

Q   Oh, you got it gratis did you? — A   Yes.

Q   Well, proceed with our story. — A   When I went to Mr. Holland's I saw him standing at the door, he calle me, and asked me how I was, addressing me by the name of Brother Knight.

Q   You went into his house. — A   He brought me into the kitchen, when I saw the prisoner.

Q   Was Holland's wife at home? — A   She was not, we drank some gin together, and afterwards Mr. Holland went into the shop.

Q   Relate what happened them. — A   The prisoner came to me, began unbjttoning my breeches and feeling at my p—e p—s [private parts]. He unbuttoned his own and we went into the parlour. [p.44]

Q   Was any body there besides yourselves? — A   Nobody, there was one of the parlour windows shut, for to prevent our being discerned: There was a sofa in the parlour. I went and leaned my hands upon the sofa and the prisoner put his y—d into my f—m—t [i.e.put his yard into my fundament].

Q   How long did he remain so? — A   A few minutes.


Did you perceive any thing come from him? — A   Yes.

Q   What into your body? — A   Yes, and also with my hand on the outside.

Q   You are sure of that? — A   I am quite sure of that.

Q   Well, what took place after this? — A   After this Mr. Holland came in, and we had some more liquor, and then I went away to my work.


Q   Have you not informed against several persons, besides the prisoner at the bar, since you were apprehended? — A   I did.

Q   And you have been promised pardon, or have had hopes of pardon given you, if you would make good your story against these people? — A   Yes, if I tell the truth.

Q   You say all that happened in Mr. Holland's parlour. — A   Yes.

Q   Which looks into the front street. — A   No, the back. [p.45]

Mr. Sanders

Was then called, who confirmed a part of Knight's testimony, relating to his calling upon him, &c.

Court (to the prisoner).

What have you to say in your defence?


I am not guilty of this crime.

The court shortly summed up the evidence, remarked that if the jury believed Knight's evidence, the charge was fully brought home to the prisoner at the bar.

          VERDICT, GUILTY — DEATH. [p.46]




I N D I C T M E N T.

JOHN POWELL was indicted for a similar offence, charged to have been committed by him on the 25th day of July, in the forty-second year of his present Majesty, &c. upon John Knight, at Warrington.

Mr. serjeant Cockell

Opened the case to the jury.


John Knight sworn.

Q   Do you know the prisoner at the bar? — A   I do.

Q   What is he, and where does he live? — A   He keeps a public house near Sankey chapel, in the neighbourhood of Warrington. [p.47]

Q   Do you recollect being there on a Sunday about four years ago? — A   Yes.

Q   What time of the year was it? — A   About July or August.

Q   Now tell us who you saw there. — A   There was a Mr. Allen from Liverpool, whose sister had just died at Warrington, and he was come over to bury her. I also saw Mr. Powell's brother and brother in law.

Q   Well, what passed at the prisoner's house after that? — A   I had some conversation with Mr. Powell about the death of his sister, and out of friendship he offered me a glass of his ale; we drank and conversed together some time, and afterwards Mr. Allen went away.

Q   Did you got too? — A   No, I staid there till between eight and nine o-clock, and Mr. Powell said he would see me a part of the way; we went out together.


Did any person see you go out? — A   I don't know whether Powell's brother might not.

Q   Well, the prisoner took you where? — A   He came with me as far as the bridge on the road to Liverpool, where we stopped; he then unbuttoned his breeches and mine, and began feeling at my p—e p—s [private parts]. We then went into a field through a gate opposite the bridge, and walked up to the top of the field; as it was a wet night I had my top coat on. The prisoner pulled off my top coat, and laid it on the grass; I then laid down on my coat on my belly, and the prisoner —— [p.48]

(The witness here related what happened, amounting to the full charge laid in the indictment.)


Is the prisoner a married man? — A   He is.

Q   Well, when this was over you parted. — A   Yes, after this we got up, and I went on my way.

Cross-examined by Mr. Scarlett.

This is the fourth* [Knight had already convicted Rix, Hitchen, and Stockton.] time today that you have given evidence against persons accused with this crime? — A   I believe it is.

Q   You think it a good joke perhaps, and smile at it? — A   No, I do not think it any joke.

Q   How many had you accused besides? — A   I had not accused any person when I was first taken up at Warrington.

Q   When was it that you accused the prisoner after? — A   It was between Warrington and Lancaster; I told the constable I would tell all I know whether I saved my life or not.

Q   Have you accused John Allen? — A   No, but I have sent for him here.

Q   You say you had something to drink at [p.49] Mr. Powell's, now tell us how much you drank that afternoon. — A   I spent three shillings.

Q   What did you drink? — A   Only ale.


Did you drink it all yourself? — A   No, not all, I gave it to others in return.

Q   Were you not drunk? — A   I was not so drunk but I could tell what was done by me.

Q   Now, sir, I ask you upon your oath, did not you say when you were examined before the magistrate that you on that occasion were so drunk that you could not tell what was done? — A   When I was before the magistrate I was so fluttered that I did say at the first I was so drunk as not to know all that passed.

Q   What was the reason that Powell offered to go with you on your way home? — A   Powell said that as I was in that state he would see me part of the way.

Q   Then that was the only reason for going with you, I suppose? — A   I thought so.

Q   If his motive had been to commit this crime, might he not as easily have done it in his own house? — A   I wanted to be going.

Q   Well, but you know he might have had an opportunity of doing it before you went if he had been so inclined; I suppose he has rooms, stables, or cellars, at his house, where you might have done your dark deeds? — A   I was pressed to sleep there that night, but I wanted to go home.

Q   Then you say he accompanied you to the [p.50] bridge, and there did what you described; pray is not that situated on a public road? — A   Yes, on the road to Liverpool.

Q   It was in the summer time, and therefore not yet dusk? — A   It was so light that we were obliged to go into a field to prevent being seen.

Q   Yes, you went into a field just opposite the bridge? — A   Yes.

Q   Any body might see into that field? — A   Not where we were, we went to the far end of it.

Q   Now I ask you sir, upon your oath, were you not at that time so drunk as to be unable to know what the prisoner did when you came upon the field? — A   I could tell very well what was done by me, I had occasion to remember it for a week after.

Q   What you mean to saw you were hurt, pray sir how long had you been before that in the practice of submitting yourself to be contaminated with this abominable crime? — A   I had never submitted to it before this time.


Oh, this was the first time was it? — A   Yes, nobody had ever gone that length with me before.

Q   Now, sir, I want to know, have you not been informed that if you made good your story against the prisoner at the bar and the others that you have informed against, that you would be forgiven? — (The witness paused.)

Q   I repeat the question, do you not expect to remain in this country if you make good your story? — A   I cannot tell that. [p.51]

Q   But you think to save your life? — A   I mean to tell the truth whether I save my life or not.

Q   It was a wet night when this affair happened was it? — A   Yes it was.

John Allen sworn.

I remember being at Sankey chapel in that year, it was the Sunday after the death of my sister, she died in the month of July, and I went to Warrington on the Saturday. On Sunday afternoon I was at the public house, where I saw the prisoner and the last witness Mr. Knight. The latter enquired about my sister, and we conversed and drank together for some time; I remained there, to the est of my recollection, till about half past five o'clock, after which I took my leave.


Q   Mr. Powell's house, I believe, was much frequented? — A   Yes.

Q   About what time was it you were there? — A   Just after the evening service at Sankey chapel.

Q   Now, I'll just ask you, sir, how did the last witness Mr. Knight seem when you were there? — A   He appeared about half drunk, as one may say.

Q   And you left at half past five o'clock? — A   Yes, about that time, as near as I can remember. [p.52]



I never committed this offence. This witness, John Knight, has scarcely told one word of truth in all he has said; I am sorry to say he is imposing upon you, my lord, he really is, he is indeed, he is imposing upon you most shamefully, and is only trifling with the lives of different people, and what he says about the gate opposite the bridge, is all false, for there is no such gate there.


The judges, in summing up, told the jury to pay particular attention to the circumstances of Knight's intoxication, and to be perfectly satisfied, that he was not so far gone, as to be incapable of knowing what passed in the field, before they attached that degree of credit to his testimony which might lead to convict the prisoner. Respecting the prisoner's declaration that the witness, Knight, was deceiving them, and that all he said was entirely false, the learned judge remarked that it was not every man that was capable of expressing himself in that very energetic manner in which the prisoner had done, a circumstance that induced him to wish most sincerely that the prisoner had brought some witnesses to his character; it was nevertheless a most notorious fact, [p. 53] naturally resultilng from the peculiar odium and disgust which attended this most abominable crime, that many persons possessed of that purity of mind which they would consider as contaminated by being brought forward, in any shape, on these occasions, were naturally solicitous to remain unexposed, even when it might be in their power to say some things favourable to the accused parties.

This was a circumstance which, undoubtedly, often rendered it extremely difficult for the prisoner to bring forward the desireable evidence in his own behalf, and, therefore, the jury would take this into their consideration.

At the same time, gentlemen, (continued his lordship) I certainly cannot state to you, that you are authorised by any means to place the simple declaration of the prisoner at the bar on the same footing with the sworn testimony of Knight, which in some instances has certainly been conformed by another. As to his sporting with the lives of the innocent, really, gentlemen, I am quite at a loss to conceive, considering that he has already convicted three of these unfortunate men, what could induce him to go further, and maliciously and diabolically swer what he has against the prisoner, if he knew it to be false.

If on weighing these circumstances in their minds they were induced to attach full credit to Knight's evidence, they would then have to satisfy themselves whether the prisoner had fully, and completely, perpetrated the crime [i.e. full anal penetration and ejaculation] laid to his charge, before they could bring it home to him in [p.54] all its force; if so, they would discharge the painful, but necessary, duty of finding the prisoner guilty; but on thee other hand, if after a consideration of all their circumstances, there still remained any doubt upon their minds, and certainly (his lordship observed) this was one of those cases in which satisfactory testimony to the prisoner's character would have greatly increased his own, they would in this case no doubt feel it their duty to acquit him.

The jury consulted for about ten minutes, and then brought in their verdict

GUILTY — DEATH. [p.55]




I N D I C T M E N T.

JOSHUA NEWSHAM was indicted for having committed the same offence upon John Scott, a young man, about nineteen, on the 23d day of May, at Warrington, &c.

Mr. serjeant Cockell
Opened the case on the part of the crown.

John Scott sworn, examined by Mr. Park.

Q   Where do you live? — A   At Warrington.

Q   What trade are you? — A   A fustian cutter.

Q   How old are you? — A   I was twenty last March.

Q   Do you know the prisoner? — A   Yes. [p.56]

Q   How long have you known him? — A   Several years.

Q   What business did he carry on when you first knew him? — A   He was waiter at the St. George in Warrington.

Q   Who kept the St. George? — A   His brother.

Q   What were you at that time? — A   I was with a hair dresser who kept a public house called the Talbot.

Q   Where is it situated? — A   In Sankey-street, not far from the St. George.

Q   How did you become acquainted with the prisoner at the bar? — A   He used to come to my master's to get shaved.

Q   Do you rememer, about four years ago, the players being at Warrington? — A   Yes, it was in the month of May.

Q   Do you recollect seeing the prisoner about this time? — A   Yes, sir, I was going to the theatre one evening, and standing at the door, the prisoner came up, he asked me if I was going in, and said he would treat me; he paid for me a place in the gallery, and I went up.

Q   Did he go up wiht you? — A   No, he went up into the boxes; about an hour after he came up, and asked me if I would go down and drink with him; I went down with im into a public house, and there he gave me three glasses of warm brandy and water.

Q   Well, when you had drank the brandy and water, what happened? — A   We went back to the play again.

Q   Where did you go there, into what part of the house? — A   Into the gallery again. In a [p.57] few minutes the prisoner came up and asked me if I would go into the boxes with him; I went and staid with him in the boxes till it was over, and then we went out together, adn two other young men with us.

Q   Where did you go? — A   We walked on towards the prisoner's house.

Q   Was that in your way home, I don't mean the hair dresser's, but where you lived? — A   Yes, we called at a coffee house, and then the prisoner ordered me a glass of rum and water, and a bottle of wine for himself and the other two.

Q   Did ye give you any wine? — A   I think I had one glass.

Q   Was there any more than one bottle of wine drank? — A   They drank three bottles.

Q   Now after this what followed? — A   The prisoner invited me to go and take half of his bed.

Q   Did you agree to this? — A   Yes, for I was afraid to go home, as it was late, and said my father would scold me.

Q   How far was it to the place where you lived? — A   I lived at —— Mills, about a mile and a half from where we were.

Q   What in the country? — A   Yes.

Q   Well? — A   I went home with the prisoner to the St. George, we found the passage to the bar closed; we went into the yard, adn the prisoner desired the ostler to go and see where his brother was; the ostler came back and said, it is all clear, your brother is sitting at the bar fire, and won't see you; we then went in, and the prisoner desired me to stick close to him, and let me up stairs into his bed room; the room was dark.[p.58]

Q   You had no candle? — A   No, he bid me get to the food of the bed, and undress me as fast as I could; he put my clothes under the feet of the bed, lest his brother should come up into the room and see me; I got into bed, and the prisoner went down. I cannot remember any thing more that passed then, or at what time the prisoner came to bed, for having drank some liquor I fell asleep.

Q   Well, you cannot remember what happened immediately, but state what you next observed. — A   Some time in the night I awoke, and found the prisoner had got upon my body, with his —— into my —— [yard into my fundament].

Q   How long did he remain so? — A   Perhaps two or three minutes; I said "Oh dear, Joseph, what are you doing?" he bid me lie still, and said, he should not hurt me any more; I said I would not, and struggling pretty hard he got off.

Q   Did you perceive any thing at that time? — A   I did not.

Q   What, nothing at all after he had got off? — A   No, nothing. [In other words, ejaculation had not occurred.]


Nothing but what you have described? — A   No, sir; I fell asleep again, and in the morning about five o'clock, a gentleman rang a bell, whicih came into the prisoner's room; he got up, but desired I would be still a little longer.

Q   How long did you lie after this? — A   About five minutes, and then he came up, and said, my brother is not up yet, dress yourself quick, and [p.59] I'll let you out; I put on my clothes and went out.

Q   Did you feel any thing at this time? — A   Yes, I felt extremely sore the next morning, and grew worse and worse; I continued in that state several months.

Q   Did you in consequence make any application to the prisoner? — A   I never was in his company after; I wrote a letter to hium, as if coming from my mother, and desiring him to lend me a guinea, which he sent me by an old man that delivers out letters.

Q   Had you in fact said any thing to your mother on the subject? — A   I had not.

Q   Did you ever see the prisoner after? — A   Yes, I saw him again some time after, when the mountebanks were in Warrington, I saw the prisoner then, but did not speak to him.

Mr. Scarlet.

I think it hardly necessary to ask any questions – however I'll just put one.

Q   You say you awoke in the night on that happening which you described, and the prisoner desire dyou to lie a little longer? — A   Yes.

Q   But this you refused? — A   Yes, the moment I awoke I bean to struggle, and by that means I got away from him.

Q   And perceived nothing but what you have mentioned? — A   Nothing at all. [p.60]

Court, to Counsel for Prosecution.

Q   Do you mean to pursue this case?

Mr. serjeant Cockell,

No my lord; they have got to understand the law, that is clear [in other words, the defendant had been charged with the felony of sodomy, which required proof of both penetration and ejaculation, but since ejaculation had not occured the felony charge could no longer be maintained]; but that boy shall not be let off, he has forfeited his life.


Gentlemen of the Jury,

The prisoner at the bar has been indicted as you have heard for a capital offence, and really, gentlemen, I must say that this case does appear to have been attended with circumstances of peculiar aggravation; that a man of years should have meditated the foul design of contaminating a young inexperienced man, as the witness undoubtedly was, and though there is not sufficient evidence in point of law to convict him of the capital crime, I shall undoubtedly order him to be indicted again for a lesser offence. Gentlemen, under the present circumstances, you must acquit the prisoner. [p.61]

The jury accordingly found the prisoner



I will take no bail for Newsham.

N. B. Newsham was ordered by the judge to remain in custody, and another indictment to be preferred against him for a misdemeanor. [p.62]




I N D I C T M E N T.

PETER ATHERTON (aged seventy-two) was indicted for suffering and soliciting John Hill to commit a similar offence upon him, on the 10th day of August, 1796, and against the statute in that case made and provided, &c.

Mr. serjeant Cockell,

In opening the case, remarked with peculiar emphasis, that this case was rendered particularly shocking and disgusting, from the age of the prisoner at the bar who was no less than seventy-two years of age, and, he was sorry to add, that he had been in the habit of committing this horrid crime for a great number of years.

The learned counsel then briefly recaptulated the circumstances of the case, and proceeded to call the witnesses on behalf of the prosecution. [p.63]


John Hill sworn.

Examined by Mr. Topping.

Q   You life at Warringotn, I believe? — A   Yes.

Q   How long have you known the prisoner? — A   About thirteen or fourteen years.

Q   In what way did you become acquainted with him? — A   For about a year before this offence was committed, he came frequently to our house, and often pressed me to go home and see him; he came one day and invited me to go home with him.

Q   About what time was this? — A   Five or six o'clock in the evening.

Q   What time of the year? — A   In the summer time, I went with him to his house.

Q   Well, did he say any thing, I don't mean any thing bad, but had you some general conversation? — A   Yes, we talked for a while, and then he asked me to go up stairs with him; we went up into his room.

Q   Was there a bed in the room? — A   Yes.

Q   Now what passed in the room? — A   He began of groping at my thighs and unbuttoning of my breeches and his own.

Q   Well, what else? — A   He then laid hold of my —— [yard] and pulled me back towards the bed; he leaned against it with his —— [backside] towards me.

Q   What, had he still hold of your —— [yard]? [p.64] — A   Yes, all the time, it went a little way into his f——t [fundament].

Q   What by his pulling it? — A   Yes, I asked him to let me go, but he stuck to me.

Q   Well, what happened then? — A   My [yard] then went betwixt his thighs, that is all that I know.

Q   Had you not e——ed s—d [emitted seed] in his body? — A   No, I had not.

Mr. serjeant Cockell.

They have known the law since Saturday; of course we cannot proceed upon his indictment [i.e. since ejaculation had not occurred, he could not be prosecuted for the felony of sodomy], but I hope your lordship will order him to be detained.


Oh certainly, let him be again indicted.

Mr. serjeant Cockell.

I believe there is another indictment against him for a misdemeanor.


In that case it may as well be tried now.

Clerk of the crown.

My lord, I do not find any other.


Very likely; for the grand jury having [p.65] preferred one, would probably think a second inconsistent.

(The bills were looked over, but none being found, the prisoner was ordered to remain in custody, having been acquitted of this charge by the jury, under the judge's direction, for want of evidence.)

The jury, according to the instructions of the court, returned a verdict —


S E N T E N C E:


Joseph Holland, Thomas Rix, John Powell, along with Isaac Hitchen and Samuel Stockton who had also been convicted by John Knight were brought into court to receive sentence, [p.66] and after having been asked what they had to say why sentence of death should not be passed upon them according to law – the court proceeded to pass sentence of death on Holland, in nearly the following terms:

John Holland, you stand convicted by a jury of your country of a crime which, according to the very energetic terms of the law, is a crime not to be named amongst Christians. I will not, therefore, offend the ears of any of those who may be before me, on this solemn occasion, by making any observations on the enormity of the offence of which you have been found guilty: — it is a crime of that nature and magnitude, that it is the duty the legislature owe to that society over which it presides, to mark it with the severest and most inevitable punishment.

I warn you, therefore, not to indulge any expectation that pardon will be extended toward you, but rather to make the best use of that short time which you will be allowed, in order to prepare yourself for that state into which you must shortly enter. — It now only remains with me to fulfil the painful task of pronouncing the awful sentence of the law, which is:

"That you Joseph Holland be taken from hence to the place of execution, there to be hanged by the neck until you are dead, and may God Almighty have mercy on your soul!!" [p.67]

Mr. Holland appeared in the highest degree alive to his awful situation, and exclaimed, after the sentence was pronounced, upon his knees, "Amen, the Lord have mercy!"

The same sentence was passed on the rest. [p.68]

SOURCE: Remarkable Trials at the Lancashire Assizes, London, 1806. (From copy in the Lancashire County Council Record Office.)

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "A Sodomite Club in Warrington, 1806", Homosexuality in Nineteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 5 May 2008 <http://rictornorton.co.uk/eighteen/1806lanc.htm>.

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