Sodomites in Bristol

Saturday, 9 September 1732

Bristol, Sept. 2.   Last Tuesday about Six o’Clock in the Evening, the Hon. JOHN Scrope, Esq; one of our worthy Representatives in Parliament, and Recorder, arrived here, in order to hold the Sessions for a General Jail Delivery of this City and County. On Thursday he began to try the several Prisoners, and finishes this Day, too late for inserting the Particulars. Those already convicted are the following:
          Richard Baggs, for an Assault, with Intent to commit Sodomitical Practices on the Body of an Upholster’s Apprentice, on the 21st Day of February last. The just Resentment shewn to this Person, after his being convicted, and leading from the Guildhall to Newgate, is something particular: He was conveyed at the Head of the Felons, by the Governor of the Prison, and a strong Guard of Constables, who had much ado to keep him from the Rage of the incensed Mob, that hooted him along in the most stigmatizing Manner, hustling a great Basket among them till he came to the Place of his contemplative Retirement.
          P.S. Just now Baggs was sentenced to stand in the Pillory one Hour, to suffer six Months Imprisonment, and pay a Fine of 200 l. and one Combs received Sentence of Death. (Read’s Weekly Journal, or, British-Gazettee)

10 September 1732

Thursday, Sept. 7. On saturday the Assizes ended at Bristol, when one man was capitally convicted, and Ric. Baggs, who assaulted a young man, with intent to commit sodomy, was fined 200 l. order’d to stand in the pillory, and to be imprison’d for 6 months. DP. (Grub-street Journal)

21 September 1734

Bristol, Sept. 14. [At trials at the Guildhall] Two Men were cast for Transportation, and several Persons tried for Sodomitical Practices, but acquitted. (Read’s Weekly Journal, or, British Gazetteer)

21 September 1734

Bristol, Sept. 14. ... On Wednesday Morning the following Persons were brought on their Trials at Guildhall, viz. ... [TORN PAGE]
Boy of eleven Years of Age, ...[damaged page]
detestable Sin of ...[damaged page]
so Fast about his Waist, as forced him on the Ground: On Account of his Youth, the Court thought fit to shew him Compassion, and ordered him to be discharged. The Judge gave a particular Charge to his Mother to be careful of him for the future, for that his Crime was so horrid as to admit of no Instance.
     The two Persons who traversed their Indictments for Sodomy the last Assizes, put themselves on their Trials; and Burgess, lately in Newgate for the like Crime, but saved from the Halter by being admitted an Evidence against the noted Catamite tried a few Months since at Taunton, and several others, was also the Evidence against those two Persons, and swore home to the Fact; but it appearing to the Court, that Burgess offered to decline giving his Evidence the Night before, for the Sum of two Guneas, and the Council otherwise invalidating his Evidence, as being a Pereson of infamous Repute, they were acquitted.
     The other Persons, relating to the like Affair at the Three Tons in Castle-Ditch (which has been so much the Talk of the Town) were also acquitted; but the Jury were some Hours in Dispute, after the Court adjourned last Thursday, before they could agree in their Vedict, on the Validity of the two Girls Evidence, particularly against one of them, who they swore was the Passive; and another, whose Fate depended on this Decision, they also swore to be the Active; but at length they gave it in, Not Guilty. (London Journal)

Thursday 22 September 1737

They write from Bristol, that Thomas Hull the Sodomite was so severely pelted in the Pillory, that he died upon the Spot. (Stamford Mercury)

25 January 1737

Bristol, Jan. 22. We have been a pretty while Quiet from hearing of the detestible Actions of those Vermin the Sodomites, till last Tuesday Night another Instance happened in this City, at an Inn in Thomas-street, where one of Lucifer’s Tribe was discovered in a diabolical Amour with a Soldier: It seems he deceived the honest Soldier with specious Pretences, and treating him pretty freely with Liquor, had Leave to a Part of his Bed, which he was no sooner in, but he began his brutish Attempts, and being overheard by the Chambermaid, she immediately inform’d some Gentlemen in the House of the Affair, who presently turn’d the He-Lady out of the Inn, and being well mobb’d, was confoundedly pelted, and beat thro’ divers Streets; the Butchers too got him into their common Beast Penn, and dragg’d him thro’ the Filth, till the Wretch was almost suffocated. He was a Servant to a Soap-boiler in the Castle. (Daily Gazetteer) (The identical report was repeated in the 29 January 1737 issue of Read’s Weekly Journal, or, British Gazetteer)

Saturday 5 February 1737

Bristol, Jan. 22. . . . We have been a pretty while quiet from hearing of the detestable Actions of those Black Gang of Vermin the Sodomites, till last Week an Instance happened in this City, at an Inn in Thomas-street, where one of Lucifer’s Tribe was discovered in a Diabolical Attempt with a Soldier: It seems he deceived the honest Soldier with specious Pretences, and treating him pretty freely with Liquor, had Leave to a Part of his Bed, which he was no sooner in, but he began his brutish Attempts, and being overheard by the Chamber-maid, she immediately inform’d some Gentlemen in the House of the Affair, who presently turn’d the He-Lady out of the Inn, and being well mobb’d, was severely pelted thro’ the Streets: The Butchers too got him into their common Beast-Penn, and dragg’d him thro’ the Filth till the Wretch was almost suffocated. (Newcastle Courant)

8 February 1737

On Wednesday Morning about 10 o’Clock, Mr. George Ballard, a Surgeon of Paulbury near Bristol, was ... cruelly treated, in being knock’d down, stamped upon, main’d and beat to that Degree, that he was left as dead, by two Foot Pads, who robbed him of 44l. 6s. 6d. and a Gold Ring, in the Wood above Roundham Passage. One of the Rogues met him descending the Hill, and to decoy him out of the Road (being near Capt. Webb’s House) related a pretended Accident that had befallen one of Captain Webb’s Servants, by breaking his Leg, and desired his Assistance; the Surgeon readily rode into the Wood, where he saw the other Foot Pad holding his Leg, and making wry Grimaces as if in much Torture; he no sooner lighted off his Horse, and stoop’d to see the Fellow’s Leg, but he was knocked down with a square Staff about five Foot long, his Hands tied back with Whipcord, his Pockets plundered, and a Gold Ring taken off his Finger, which they dropt among the Bushes, and imagining People were coming, damn’d the Ring and said, let’s go off; but to make their Retreat sure, dead Men telling no Tales, they both stamp’d on his Breast and Belly to dispatch him, and indeed were within an Ace of their Intention, for he lay insensible full two Hours, and being weakned [sic] with the Loss of Blood, and the swelling of his Arms, he was dubious of reaching Captain Webb’s House, but a young Lady approaching, he begged her to call Assistance; but before any came he, wth great Difficulty, crept to the House; and tho’ immediate Search was made by the Servants of Sir John Smith and Captain Webb, the Rogues got away.
     Mr. Ballard has been dangerously ill with his murderous Treatment, spitting much Blood. He is under the Care of Mr. Dolman, Surgeon; and there is some Hopes of his Recovery. (Daily Gazetteer.
This was also reported in Read’s Weekly Journal, or, British Gazetteer.)

22 February 1737

Bristol, Feb. 19. Since the barbarous Treatment, and Robbery of Mr. Ballard, Surgeon of Paulbury, by two Ruffians in the Wood above Roundham Passage, here has been the Devil of a Blow among the Sodomitical Black Gang, occasioned by the apprehending two Persons on Suspicion of that Robbery, last Saturday, by Mr. Lewis, Boat-builder, and Mr. Owen, of this City.
     Mr. Lewis having read their Description in the Bristol Paper of the 29th ult. And seeing the above Persons standing with another of their Companions, at or near Stokes Croft, who answering to Particulars therein mention’d, by their Dress and Physiognomy it put Mr. Lewis and his Friend on a Resolution of seizing them; but those Chaps suspecting the Design, said, they are talking of us, let us make off, verifying the true Saying, a guilty Conscience needs no Accuser, and took to their Heels with Precipitation, but were closely follow’d, and after several Dodgings and Windings through narrow Defiles, two of them were taken. Being carried to the Council-House, upon Examination and Search, they appear’d, to the Surprize of the Magistrates, to be of the Black Gang, and lately come from London. Among their Papers were found a List of those Hell-Cats, with their proper Names and effeminate Titles; and some of them appear to be topping, thumping, He jading Quality of the first Rank in Lucifer’s Class; but particularly that old Offender, Edwards, is among them; and a Letter found, dated that Day, directed to this Wretch, and was intended to be dispatch’d that Afternoon; which for its peculiar Stile, and Invitation to this pretty Creature, we hear [sic] give an Extract of It.

     To Thomas Edwards, Esq; at Frampton.

     Dear Friend and Loving Sister,

     We thank you for all past Favours, especially for the last at your House. We got home very safe that Night, and are now bound for London: We wou’d willingly see you before we go, and caress one the other: We are three of us, you shall have your Choice; two are clean, wholesome, young, smooth fac’d Fellows, well dress’d, either of whom you shall have your Will. Pray appoint the Day, because we will be at home. Our Lodgings are private, at –– in St. James’s Church-yard, and a private Room to ourselves. We beg you to bring some Money with you (as being Church-warden it will be nothing out of your Way) to bear our Charges to London. You need not be afraid to send an Answer by the Bearer, because he can neither write nor read. So I remain,
     Your once adapted[sic], and loving Spouse,
          Thomas Rogers alias Mary Fly.

     As they are now pretty well known, both by their Real and Cant Names, there is some Hopes that a List will appear to the World in a proper Delineation, that other Persons may be aware of such Vermin, and prevent a Suspicion by herding with such Swine.
     Mr. Ballard has confronted the two Fellows in Custody; but has not sworn to either; tho’ he believes one of them, Thomas Rogers, to be the Person that held up his Leg in the Wood when he was knock’d down and robbed, and has desired their further Detention in Prison; and we hear, for other Reasons, they will not be parted with in Haste; tho’ as they are of such a Tribe, some People are dubious whether they are the Assassins, on Account of the Effemacy [sic]and unnatural Cowardise [sic]of those Female-Creatures.
     Since that Robbery, a Letter has been thrown over Capt. Edgley’s Garden Wall at Ham Green, wherein are incendiary Threatnings against Sir John Smyth, Bart. and Capt. Webb, for their Assiduousness, in sending their Servants to search the Wood for the two Robbers, menacing to this Effect, That had they known Mr. Ballard would have made such a Stir, about such a Sum as 44l. 6s. 6d. they would have taken particular Care to lay him more quiet; tho’ they thought to have had a better Booty had Capt. Webb fell in their Way; but as he, and Sir John, had been thus busy, they would next Fair bring down Auxiliaries from London, in hopes of making a better Market. (Daily Gazetteer)

[The identical report was published in the 26 February 1737 issue of Read’s Weekly Journal, or, British Gazetteer, but omitting the first short paragraph after the letter, beginning "As they are now pretty well known ... ".] [The same report was published in the 24 February 1737 issue of The Old Whig: or, The Consistent Protestant, but Edwards is prudently alluded to as "Ed–s", and the letter is not prefixed with the phrase "To Thomas Edwards".] [See also the report for 18 February 1738, below.]

26 February 1737

Bristol, Feb. 19. Since the barbarous Treatment and Robbery of Mr. Ballard, Surgeon of Paulbury, by two Ruffians in the wood above Roundham Passage, two Persons have been apprehended on Suspicion of that Robbery; and being carry’d to the Council-House, upon Examination and Search, they appear’d, to the Surprize of the Magistrates, to be of the Sodomitical Black Gang, and lately come from London. Among their Papers was found a List of those Hell-Cats, with their proper Names and effeminate Titles. Mr. Ballard has confronted the two Fellows, but has not sworn to either; tho’ he believes one of them to be the Person that held up his Leg in the Wood when he was knock’d down and robb’d, and has desired their further Detention in Prison.
     Since that Robbery, a Letter has been thrown over Capt. Edgley’s Garden Wall at Ham-Green, wherein are incendiary Threatenings against Sir John Smyth, Bart. and Capt. Webb for their Assidiousness, in sending their Servants to search the Wood for the two Robbers, menacing to this Effect, that had they known Mr. Ballard would have made such a Stir about such a sum as 44l. 6s. 6d. they would have taken particular Care to lay him more quiet, though they thought to have had a better Booty, expecting that Capt. Web would have fallen in their Way; but as he and Sir John had been thus busy, they would next Fair bring down Auxiliaries from London, in hopes of making a better Market. (Country Journal: or, The Craftsman)

25 March 1737

Last Monday se’nnight Richard Baggs, one of the Indorsers, who formerly mounted the Rostrum for an Assault of that kind, was oblig’d to revisit his old Lodgings in Newgate at Bristol, for stealing a Parcel of Caps out of Mr. Lewis’s Warehouse in Temple-street, positively sworn to by him, and which were found, upon Search, with a Parcel of Stockings, in Dickey’s Case of Drawers, in an Apartment of the said House.
     When he was in Custody for Examination, one Gentleman told him, that he was a detestable Wretch; another, that he deserv’d to be hang’d out of the Window for a publick Show: However he had the Grace to offer Bail; but he was given to understand, that his Sureties should be Two, sworn to be worth 1000l. each, and all their Debts paid, and himself to enter into a Recognizance of 2000l. for his Appearance, at the next General Gaol Delivery, which begins the 21st of March. (Daily Gazetteer)

29 March 1737

Bristol, March 20. Last Thursday the Asizes ended, before the Worshipful Michael Foster, Esq; Recorder, when the six following Persons received Sentence of Death, viz.
     John Govey, for stealing a large Quantity of Tobacco out of a Warehouse belonging to Mr. Lewis, on Redcliff-hill.
     ...
     Samuel Baber, was found guilty of extorting three Guineas from Mr. Thomson of London, in threatning to swear a Sodomitical Attempt against him, and ordered to stand in the Pillory once; three Months Imprisonment; and to find Sureties for two Years. The Prisoner positively insisted that the Prosecutor actually thrust his Hands into his Breeches, in the publick Kitchen, at the Three Cups and Salmon in Tucker-street.
     Adam Raffs, was indicted for an Assault to commit the Sin of Sodomy. The Prosecutor was as positive at the Trial, as he was in his Information: But the Prisoner producing an Evidence who had laid with him often, and never was assaulted in any Manner, and also several Female Evidences, who giving him a good Character, he was acquitted.
...
     Richard Baggs was acquitted of the Indictment against him for stealing six Woollen Caps out of Mr. Lewis’s Warehouse. He moved the Court for a Copy of his Indictment; but it was not allowed him. (Daily Gazetteer)
[The identical report about Baber was published in the 9 April 1737 issue of Read’s Weekly Journal, or, British Gazetteer.]

5 April 1737

Bristol, April 2. Saturday Samuel Baber stood in the Pillory in Wine-street, for extorting three Guineas from Mr. Thompson of London; but making an Harangue to the People, and desiring them to take Warning by him, not to take a Bribe to screen Persons from Justice, when a Sodomitical Attempt was offer’d; they were so civil to pelt themselves, and left him alone to be a Spectator to their dirty Sport. (Daily Gazetteer) [Govey was ordered for execution on Friday in Easter Week.]

Tuesday, 13 September 1737

Bristol, Sept. 10.   Yesterday ended the General Gaol Delivery for this City and County . . .
     And among the rest, was ordered to stand in the Pillory as this Day, and the Saturday after; to find Sureties for their good Behaviour for 12 Months, and to remain in Prison till such Sureties are found,
     Thomas Hull, an old grey-headed Letcher, who has infested this County upwards of five Years; lurking for the Devil’s Prey (like an old stinking Fox) under the different Characters and Disguises of a Solicitor, a Gentleman of an Estate, a Steward to a Nobleman, a Cook, a Tapster, and other Shapes; among the rest, he personated a Lady’s Footman at one of our Fairs, to decoy a Jew from his Standing, under Pretence that a beautiful young rich Lady his Mistress, was enamour’d of her Person; he got the Jew to a Publick House behind the Rose, where he told him, that he could not divulge the entire Secret, as to the Lady’s Name, where she lived, &c. unless he would lie with him that Night at his Lodgings at the King David on St. Michael’s Hill; and to make his Story more plausible to the poor Jew, he pull’d out a Handful of Money upon the Table, as if the Lady had sent it for the Purpose of his Commission, and making several other strange Offers, the honest Jew began to suspect him for a Villain, and inform’d the Mistress of the House of his vile Insinuations: But old Reynard (well known at Leicester, the Place of his Nativity) was at length catched in Sodomitical Practices with one Robert Rawlins, a young Soldier, at a Publick Inn in this City, who is to mount the Rostrum with this old Badger, according to their Sentence Yesterday. (Daily Gazetteer. This identical report, dated from Bristol on 10th September, was reprinted in the Virginia Gazette in America on 25 November 1737.)

Thursday, 20 September 1737

Bristol, Sept. 17.   Last Saturday Thomas Hull, an old Letcher from Leicester, and Robert Rawlins, a Soldier, stood in the Pillory in Wine-street, pursuant to their Sentence, for Sodomitical Practices; but never were two Wretches worse pelted, especially old Hull, who was stunn’d several Times, and so depriv’d of his Senses, that he hung some Time by the Wrists in the Iron Hand-cuffs of the Pillory: After which the Mob pulled down his Breeches, and continued pelting with such Fury, that had not the Pillory broke down, tumbling them backward over Head and Heels on the Street, and the Magistrates with some Constables intervened, they certainly would have been kill’d on the Spot. Hull was carried away on a Man’s Back to Newgate, where he lay speechless, and thought past Recovery till the Monday following. (Daily Gazetteer)

Saturday 18 February 1738

Bristol, Feb. 4. One Day last Week departed this Life, at Frampton-Cotterell, the noted Old Catamite Edwards, so often mentioned for his Backdoor Practices in the Publick Papers; and it is affirm’d he has left a Publican’s Daughter at Sadbury Hill 8000l. and 2000l. more to a Relation in this City. If it be really true that he died worth so much Money, no Wonder how he evaded the many (undoubtedly just) Prosecutios that were heap’d upon him in his Life-time; during great Part of which, it is said, he kept a Seraglio of dying Nymphs, who at Times took Turns to Lie-in, as they call it; some of whom were deliver’d of monstrous Hieroglyphicks, which were nursed in a most affedtionate Manner, till their Acts of Bestiality were quite exhausted. One of this Creature’s own Species being discharg’d from the Seraglio, took upon him to carry on a Prosecution against his Grand Seignior; and went so far as to bring the Matter to the Crown Bar in the West, where he actually swore the detestable Sin of Buggery upon him: But the Credit of the Evidence not being satisfactory to the Jury, and the Deceased producing Evidence (of undoubted Credit to be sure) swearing he was in another Part of the Country at the Time the Prosecutor fix’d the Fact upon him, he artfully got off and died in his Bed, contrary to the general Expectation of the honest Part of Mankind. (Newcastle Courant) [See also the report for 22 February 1737, above.]

Tuesday, 4 April 1738

Bristol, April 1. . . . On Wednesday last John Talbot was taken up by the Temple Watch and committed to Bridewell by the Right Worshipful the Mayor, for attempting to commit the detestable Sin of Sodomy with Wm. Gale, who made an Information against Talbot for the said Assault. This Talbot was one of the Fellows that was taken up with Roger Johnson, alias Mary Fly, and detain’d in Bridewell some time since, on Suspicion of robbing and almost murdering Mr Ballard the Surgeon, of Paulbery, in Roundham Wood; when upon searching their Pockets, there was found a Letter directed to Edwards the Sodomite, who lately, tho’ unexpectedly, died in his Bed at Thornbury, and also a List of the black Gang of those Villains, from whom they wanted a Collection of Money to pay their Expences back to London. (Daily Gazetteer)

Saturday 10 June 1738

Bristol, May 27. Yesterday was committed to Newgate, a Soldier belonging to the Regiment quarter’d here, for actually committing the detestable Sin of Sodomy with a young Lad, whom he had decoy’d to lie with him at his Lodgings in the Pithay. The Boy has sworn to the Emission, which makes the Crime of a Capital Nature. (Newcastle Courant)

Thursday 7 September 1738

They write from Bristol, that at the Assizes of Oyer and Terminer, and General Goal Delivery for that City, which ended on the 1st inst. John Jobbs was convicted of High Treason in counterfeiting the current Coin of this Kingdom, and receiv’d Sentence of Death for the same; as did David Reid, for committing the detestable Sin of Buggery.
          . . . His Majesty has been pleased to promise his most gracious Pardon to any one of the Persons, who, on the 28th of June last, broke open the Lodging Room of William Berry, a Prisoner in the Fleet Prison; as also a Box in the said Room, out of which was taken the Sum of 40l. on the Discovery of any of his Accomplices, so as they or any one of them be apprehended and convicted thereof.
          Last Sunday Serjeant Bury, of the Third Regiment of Foot Guarts, hang’d himself at his House in the Dutchy Lane in the Savoy. (Derby Mercury)

Saturday 16 September 1738

Bristol, Sept. 2. Yesterday ended the Assizes of Oyer and Terminer, and General Goal Delivery, for this City and Country, when John Hobbs and David Reid received Sentence of Death. – The former was convicted of High-Treason, in counterefeiting the current Coin of this Kingdom: And the latter was found guilty of committing the detestable Sin of Buggery, on the Body of William Evans, a Lad about 15 Years of Age. It appear’d by the Lad, that at a certain Time and Place in this City, being in Bed with the Prisoner, he was attack’d in the Middle of the Night in so unnatural a Manner by the Prisoner, that he cry’d out, and would fain have got out of Bed, but that the Prisoner threatned to knock his Head off it he offer’d to stir: That the Prisoner had actually carnal Knowledge of his Body (the Circumstances of which, Modesty forbids here to be related) and so far abus’d him, that he procur’d several Witnesses who saw on the Sheets (which were produced to the Jury) the frightful Effects of the Prisoner’s Carnality. (Newcastle Courant)

Thursday 28 September 1738

Bristol, Sept. 23. . . . The Execution of David Reid, for Sodomy, by violently forcing a Boy of 14, is respited by a Reprieve that came down from one of the Principal Secretaries of State last Saturday Morning, which followed another that was in the Thirsday’s Mail when robbed; so that had the Execution been on the usual Day, Friday, which was postponed on Account of electing a new Mayor and Sheriffs, it would have come too late, and he had certainly been tucked up, to the Satisfaction of the whole City. (Derby Mercury)

Saturday, 9 June 1739

Bristol, June 2.   Thursday last, at an Adjournment of the Quarter-Sessions for the City of Bath, came on the Trial of one Cousens, a Heel-maker, of Westbury, under the Plain, for attempting to commit the Detestable Sin of Sodomy, on the Body of a young Man, Son of the Sexton to the Parish Church of St. James in that City, and the Assault even made in the Body of the very Church while he was sweeping it; of which he was found Guilty, and sentenced to stand in the Pillory one Hour next Monday; when ’tis expected this Monster will meet with the usual Discipline from the Peole. (Read’s Weekly Journal)

Saturday, 16 June 1739

Bristol, June 9.   The Sodomite mentioned in our last was severely pelted in the Pillory last Monday at Bath; so that Eggs were sold at Two a Penny. (Read’s Weekly Journal)


ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: I am grateful to John Dussinger for calling my attention to the 22 February 1737 report in the Daily Gazetteer.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton. Ed. "Sodomy in Bristol," Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. 10 Dec. 2003; updated 28 Feb. 2007, enlarged 17 Feb. 2015 <http://rictornorton.co.uk/eighteen/bristol.htm>.


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