The Trial of Charles Hitchin

April 1727


Charles Hitchin was the Under City Marshal and a famous "thief-taker", who was responsible for the capture and subsequent hanging of the famous Jonathan Wild. Wild exposed Hitchin as a sodomite in a pamphlet. Hitchin was a member of the Society for the Reformation of Manners, which campaigned against immorality; he used his position to extort money from both bawdy houses and molly houses. Hitchin's trial and subsequent events were widely reported in the newspapers. He was badly treated by the mob when he stood in the pillory, and he prosecuted the men who attacked him.

Rictor Norton

Charles Hitchin, for Sodomy, April, 1727.

CHARLES HITCHIN, (the Under City-marshall, and formerly a Cabinet-Maker in St. Paul's Church-yard) was indicted for committing the unnatural and detestable Sin of Sodomy with Richard Williamson, March 29.

He was a second Time indicted for a Misdemeanor, in assaulting Richard Williamson, with an Intent to commit Sodomy.

Richard Williamson. On the 29th of March, in the Evening, coming from the Savoy-gate, I met the Prisoner, who invited me to drink, and I consenting, he carried me to the Royal Oak, in the Strand, where after we had had two Pints of Beer, he began to make use of some sodomitical Indecencies; I desired him to let me go, because I had some Business in the Savoy that must not be neglected. He said I should go, if I would promise to come again, and would leave my Hat for a Pledge. I did so, and, in a little while, returned to him, and then he took me to the rummer Tavern, where he treated me with two Pints of Wine, and hugg'd me, and kiss'd me, and put his Hand ——. From this Place he persuaded me to go to the Talbot-Inn. There we had another Pine of Wine, and then he ordered the Chamberlain to make a Bed ready, and bring a Couple of Night-caps, which was done, and then we went to Bed: And the Prisoner —— and —— and ——. The next Morning I went to Joseph Cockcroft, who is a Relation of mine, and acquainted him with the whole Story: And he went back with me to the Talbot, and desired that he might be sent for if the Prisoner came again.

Joseph Cockcroft. On Saturday the 9th Instant, I was sent for to the Talbot-Inn, and going thither, and hearing that the Prisoner was in a private room with another Man, I peeped through the Key-hole, and saw him —— and —— and ——. After this I knocked at the Door. The Prisoner opened it. I took him by the Collar, and told him I had some Business with him. He laid his Hand upon his Sword, Sir, says I, if you offer to draw, I'll whip ye thro' the Gills.

Christopher Finch, Servant at the Talbot-Inn. The Prisoner frequently came to my Master's house with Soldiers, and other scandalour Fellows, and called for a private Room, which made me suspect him for a Sodomite. And so when he came with the Prosecutor, I peeped through the Key-hole, and saw him ——.

John Cole and George Birch, Watchmen, deposed, that when the Prisoner was taken, the Prosecutor offered to make the Matter up with him for a Sum of Money.

John Carter, Constable, deposed, That he was called by the Cook of the Talbot, and charged with the Prisoner; but heard no Proposals made by the Prosecutor for compounding the Matter.

The Prisoner called several Witnesses to his Character, the chief of whom was Micah Wilkins, who deposed, That the Prisoner was a very honest Man, and had taken a World of Pains, and spent a great deal of Money in discouraging the Prophaneness, curbing the Vices, and reforming the Manners of the present Age.

The Jury acquitted him of the Sodomy, and found him guilty of the Attempt. The Court sentenc'd him to pay a Fine of 20 l. to stand in the Pillory near the End of Catherine-street in the Strand, and to suffer six Months Imprisonment.

He died not long afterwards. We have given some Account of him in the Life of Jonathan Wild, to which we refer the Reader.

SOURCE: Select Trials at the Sessions-House in the Old-Bailey, From the Year 1720, to this Time, Dublin, Printed by S. Powell, For W. Smith in Dame-street, G. Faulkner, in Essex-street, and Oli. Nelson, in Skinner-Row, 1742, vol. 3, pp. 71-3.
CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "The Trial of Charles Hitchin, 1731," Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. Updated 29 April 2000 <>.

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