The Trial of John Lowther, 1761

NOTE: The following case describes how a young man accidentally stumbles upon a gay cruising ground, and after receiving unwanted attentions from two men arranges to capture one of them.

The T r y a l
of Mr. John Lowther,
For an ASSAULT on
With an Intent to commit the Crime of Sodomy:

At An Adjournment of the General Sessions of the Peace, at Guild-Hall, the 7th of October, 1761.

London: Printed for J. Scott, at the Black-Swan,in Paternoster-Row, M,DCCLXI.

JOHN LOWTHER, late of London, Woollen-Draper, not having the fear of God before his eyes, but being moved and seduced by the instigation of the devil, on the 15th of May in the first year of the reign of our sovereign Lord, GEORGE the Third, King of Great-Britain, &c. with force and arms at London, that is to say, at the parish of St. Edmund the King,, in the ward of Langbourn, in London aforesaid, did wickedly make an assault upon John Bushnell, then and there, being in the peace of God and our said lord, the King, and then and there, did beat and ill-treat the said John Bushnell, with intent that most horrid, detestable, sodomitical crime, (among Christians not to be named) called Buggery, with him the said John Bushnell, against the order of nature, then and there feloniously and diabolically to commit and perpectrate, and then and there did other wrongs to the said John Bushnell, to the great displeasure of Almighty God, to the great scandal of all human kind, to the great damage of the said John Bushnell, to the evil example of all others in the like case offending, and against the peace of our said lord the King his crown and dignity. Andthat the said John Lowther, on the said 15th day of May, in the first year aforesaid, at London aforesaid, that is to say, at the parish and in the ward aforesaid, in London aforesaid, did make an assault upon the said John Bushnell, then and there [p.5] being in the peace of God and our said lord the King, and then and there did beat and ill-treat the said John Bushnell, and did other wrongs to the said John Bushnell, to the great damage, &c. and against the peace, &.

The Witnesses for the prosecution were, at the request of the defendant's council, examined apart.

Q. WHAT age are you?
          John Bushnell. I am in the 19th year of my age, and am an Apprentice to Mr. Abbot, a Cabinet-maker in Lombard-street, and have been so these three years, and my parents are farmers.
          Q. Do you know the defendant Mr. Lowther?
          Bushnell. I had no knowledge of or acquaintance with him, tillthe 15th day of May, last.
          Council. Give an account of what happened at that time, or any other.
          bushnell. On the 14th of May last, I was cfossing by the Exchange, when a stout man brushed by me and touched my elbow, and looked hard at me, then crossed over the way into Pope's-Head-alley, then turned towards the wall, as if to make water; I passed by him, keeping on my usual pace, went up Lombard-street into Three King-court, he followed me up Lombard-street, and into Three-King-court, and there he stopped to make water, and again stared me in the face, patted me on the cheek, and attempted to put his hands into my breast, and behaved othewise indecently to me.
          Q. Did you give any account of this to any body, and who?
          Bushnell. I told Moses Bowden of it that night.
          Q. Did you observe the man particularly?
          Bushnell. I did; and the next evening being the 15th of May, about seven or eight o'clock at night, I went out with my master's son to a taylor's, and about nine o'clock we called on Moses Bowden who went along with us, and I told my young master what we were going about.
          Q. Did Bowden go along with you?
          Bushnell. Yes; he went along with me, and took a stick in his hand; we went together to Pope's-Head-Alley, and after I had shewn him the place where I observed the man come from the night before, I desired Bowden to go back to Three-King-court, and to conceal himself behind a cask which was there, and wait till I came back, and if any body returned with me, for him to observe what passed, and if he attempted to use me as he had done the night before, to assist me in apprehending him.
          Q. Whither did you go from thence?
          Bushnell. Then I went to the place near the Exchange, where I had been the night before, and there I saw three or four men walking under the piazzas, but not the man I had seen the night before, and being about to return hom, the defendant Lowther came up to me, and brushed on my elbow just in the same manner as the man did the night before, stared me full in the face and then crossed the ay into Pope's-Head-alley, and there turned to the wall to make water; from these circumstances I suspected him to be one of the same stamp with the man who had used me so the preceding night. – I then went past him, and looking back, observed the defendant looking after me: I kept on my usual pace up Lombard-street and into Three-LKing-court, and Mr. Lowther followed me immediately, keeping a small distance behind me, as I went along Lombard-street.
          Q. When you got to the court, what happened there?
          Bushnell. I stopped within three or four yards off the cask where Moses Bowden was placed; there was a lamp very near where I stopped, and Mr. Lowther stopped within a yard and a half of me, and turned himself against the wall, as if going to make water, and after continuing a very little time in [p.6] that posture, he turned himself towards me, having the flap of his breeches unbuttoned, and shook his private parts at me, making a great panting noise, much like a person out of breath with running, he then buttoned his breeches flap, passed by me, and went a little down the court towards Gracechurch-street; then he returned to the same place, unbuttoned the flap of his breeches, and made a shew of making water a second time, but soon turned towards me with his private parts in his hand, and shook them at me again, all the while making the same panting noise. – He again buttoned the flap of his breeches, and took a turn down the court towars Lombard-street, but returned again directly, came to the same place and pretended to make water a third time, and turned soon towards me, shaking his private parts and panting as before. At this time Mr. Lowther came rather nearer me than he had done before, and put his head over my shoulder and stared me in the face, (I thought he had been going to kiss me.) Then he returned and behaved as before, by first turning to the wall, then towards me and shaking his private parts at me, and making the same panting noise: he then went to the opposite side of the court. – I was then further from him, but more in the light of the lamp, which gives light to that part of the court; there turned first towars the wall to make water a sixth time, then turned towards me and behaved exactly as he had done before, and made the same panting noise; he then turned again to the opposite side of the court where he was first, and immediately unbuttoned the flap of his breeches, and pretended to make water again, but soon turned towards me in the same posture as before and made the same panting noise; then buttoned his breeches flap, took a turn as before, and immediately returned to the same place again, and made a shew of making water twice more: in the whole, eight times in the court, besides once in Pope's-Head-alley.
          Q. What did Mr. Lowther do them?
          Bushnell. He then, after he had made water the eighth time, drew nearer me than before, with his private parts in his hand, and came close to me, and run them against my waistcoat, which was buttoned, and then made an attempt to lay hold of one of my hands. – I drew my hand back, and then he caught me by the thigh, and squeezed me for near a minute, and then tried to get his hand into my breeches, but he only got his four fingers in, and then with his other hand he attempted to unbutton my breeches, but he only could get one of the buttons in part unbuttoned: (the flap of Mr. Lowther's breeches was all this time unbuttoned, and his private parts out) I then thought he had gone quite far enough, and thereupon seized him by the collar, and called out to Moses Bowden for help.
          Q. Did the defendant make any struggle?
          Bushnell. I had a great struggle with him, insomuch that he slipped down,and his hat falling off, I quitted my hold, and he immediately got his hat up again and ran away across the court towards Gracechurch-street; just at this time Moses came up to my assistance, and we both pursued him, crying out, "Stop Sodomite!" and he was soon apprehended, just as he turned into Grace-church-street.
          Q. Did you say any thing to Mr. Lowther, all this time?
          Bushnell. I did not speak one word to him, – nor he to me.
          Q. Did Moses Bowden come to your assistance directly?
          Bushnell. His leg, he said was a little benumbed, by lying so long upon it, but he soon came up to me, and we followed him; and I called out Stop, Sodomite, and as I said before, in Gracechurch-street he was caught.
          Q. Did you ever lose sight of him? [p.7]
          Bushnell. If we did it was but for a moment, for Moses Bowden and I came up to him together, and we charged him wtih the fact, but he denied it.
          Q. Was the defendant's breeches down?
          Bushnell. Being in such a great hurry, I did not observe them at all directly, I observed there was a flap before them, and if they were not buttoned in running, they must have been down when he was apprehended.
          Q. Are you confident and certain the defendant in court was the person?
          Bushnell. I can with the greatest certainly say he is the person.
          Q. How often might you see the prisoner make water, or seem so to do?
          Bushnell. I saw him make water, or attempt to do it, eight times in Three-King-court, and once in Pope's-Head-alley.

Cross Examination.

Q. Is Three-King-court a public place as a thorough-fare?
          Bushnell. Three-King-court is a pbulic place not 200 yards from the prisoner's house.
          Q. Did you see any other persons passing in this court during the time you was there?
          Bushnell. I saw several persons that were strangers pass by, and Isaw a maid servant pass by twice.
          Q. So then this Three-King-court is a public thorough-fare where a great many people are continually passing and repassing.
          Bushnell. At this time a great number of people did not come through it.
          Q. What do you call a great number of people? How many might there be in the whole?
          Bushnell. Not above six or seven at most.
          Q. When did you inform Moses Bowden of this?
          Bushnell. I told him about ten o-clock the night before, when we were going to bed, and at four o'clock on the 15th, and not before. I asked him if he would go with me in the evening, to assist me in detecting the man.
          Q. Was you in bed on the 14th of May at night, when you told this to Moses Bowden?
          Bushnell. No: we were sitting on the bed-side undressing ourselves in order to go to bed; we lye together.
          Q. Did you acquaint your master with this affair before the defendant was taken into custody?
          Bushnell. No, I did not.
          Q. It's very strange – What reason could you have for not acquainting your master with it?
          Busnell. I did not care to tell him of such an affair.
          Q. Could Bowden see what passed in the court, when he was behind the cask?
          Bushnell. Yes: he could very well, for the cask did not obstruct his sight;there was a small space between the cask and a plug, through which he might easil see every thing.
          Q. Where did Mr. Lowther stop first in the court.
          Bushnell. He stopped at or near the trough.
          Q. What then this is a common place for people to make water in?
          Bushnell. Yes: there is a trough for that purpose; but Mr. Lowther turned towards the wall rather on one side of it.
          Q. When Mr. Lowther came up to you in the court, after he had made water eight times as you have said, how long might you and him be together, two or three minutes?
          Bushnell. He was a minute or more handling my thigh.
          Q. Did not you speak to him?
          Bushnell. No: not one word passed between us during the whole time.
          Q. As soon as the defendant got from you, you saw he ran away very fast?
          Bushnell. yes: he ran so fast that neigher Moses nor myself could overtake him, ad I ran as fast I could.
          Q. If the defendant had buttoned the flap of his breeches in running one should [p.8] have thought it would have hindered him from running so very fast.
          Bushnell. As to that I cannot say whether he buttoned them when he was running, or after he was stopped; when I did observe them, which was not for a minute or two after he was stopped, they were then buttoned.

          Moses Bowden. I am porter to Mr. Abbot, in Lombard-street. On the 14th of May last, about ten o'clock at night I went to shut the gates, and after I went to bed with John Bushnell; when we had got up stairs, John told me that as he was coming home, a Sodomite came from under the 'Change, and followed him thro' Pope's-head-alley to my master's door, and had used him ill by stroking his face, and other rude behaviour; and the next day about four o'clock, he asked me if I would go along with him, and endeavour to take this man? I consented, and accordingly we agreed to go to find out this man who had attacked him the night before, and about nine o'clock that evening, young Mr. Abbot came up stairs to me at my maser's house,, and told me that John was below, adn wanted me; I went to him, and he desired I would take a stick with me for he said the man who had assaulted him the night before was a strong man, and might prove too many for us without it.
          Q. Did you go along with him?
          Bowden. I went with him to the end of Pope's-Head-alley next Cornhill, and there he shewed me the place under the 'Change where the man came from who had used him ill the night before. I then saw three or four men walking under the Exchange. Then Bushnell desired I would go back and conceal myself behind a large cask belonging to Mr. Beven the chymist, which stood near my maser's back-door in Three-King-court, and to take particular notice of what passed, if I saw any man follow him into the court. I immediately went back, and placed myself behind the cask, and after I had lain there about ten minutes, I observed the prosecutor come into the court, and soon after Mr. Lowther followed him: John Bushnell came within about three yards of the cask where I was concealed; and the defendant Lowther stopped with a very little way of him, and turned agianst the wall, as if to make water.
          Q. Was thee any light in the court by which you could see what passed?
          Bowden. There was a lamp within thre eyards of me, but it did not give so much light to that part of the court where John and Mr. Lowther were, as it did to the opposite side. He stopped within about a yard and a half of the prosecutor, who then stood still, and in his making water turned towards him with his face, and then walked by the prosecutor towards Gracechurch-street, then came back agin, and offered to make water agin, and turned towrds the prosecutor but I could not see what passed in particular, on account of the badness of the light, but I heard a panting every time. Then the prisoner rturned a third time, and offered to make water again, and I then saw the prisoner look hard at the prosecutor, and then brush by him; then returned again a fourth time, and went towards a white wall, and there offered to make water again, and then his face was towards the prosecutor; I could then see much plainer than before, and did observe that the deendant's hand was about his breeches, and he shaking something, which I believed to be his privat eparts; he panted very much.
          Q. How often did you see the prisoner make water?
          Bowden. I saw him offer to make water, I believe eight times; and after he had attempted to make water the eighth time, I saw him come close up to the prosecutor, but as they were so close together, I could not see what passed between them, I saw there was a scuffle between them, and in two or three minutes Bushnell called out, "Help, Moses." I attempted to rise directly, but I had laid so long on my leg that it was benumbed, and I could not for a few minutes go to his assistance, but I soon got [p.9] better, and went to him, and just as I got to him, the defendant ran away; we ran after him aas fast as we could, and John cried "Stop, Sodomite," and the prisoner was stopped in Gracechurch-street.
          Q. Did you know Mr. Lowther before this affair?
          Bowden. No: I might have seen him before, but not to know any thing of him.
          Q. Look about the court and see if you can see him here now.
          (He looks about the court, and after some small time sees him.)
          Bowden. That is the man.
          Q. How ong was you in the court?
          Bowden. It was about twenty minutes from the first to the last.
          Q. Did you see any other people in the court?
          Bowden. I saw about four or five people pass in the court, one of whom was a maid servant.
          Q. Did any words pass betwene the prisoner and the prosecutor, in your hearing?
          Bowden. I did not observe that a word passed between them.
          Q. When the prisoner was taken, did you observe his breeches?
          Bowden. The flap of his breeches was buttoned when I saw him after he was taken.

Cross Examination.

          Q. You said that Bushnell told you how he was used on the 14th of May, the same evening?
          Bowden. Yes he did.
          Q. Pray at what time did he tell you of it?
          Bowden. A little after ten o'clock, as we were going to bed.
          Q. Was you in bed when he first mentioned it to you?
          Bowden. No: we were both sitting on the bed-side undressing ourselvs: we lye together.
          Q. Did he say any thing that evening of his intention to apprehend him the next night?
          Bowden. No, not a word; the firt time he mentioned that to me was about four o'clock in the afternoon, on the next day.


          The prisoner did not himself say any thing in his defence, but Mr. Serjeant Davey who was one of his council, opened the defendant's case, in a clear and sensible harangue, wherein he expatiated largel on the heinousness of the offence with which the defendant stood charged; that they who were guilty of this offencemight (as is expressed in the indictment) be justly said not to have the fear of God before their eyes, but to be moved and seduced by the instigation of the devil; in order to perpetrate a crime, than which none is more against man's nature, and he supposed might be first taught by repeated acts of lewdness; – he observed that as no one was ever accused of committing this offence but when alone and in secret, there could be no evidence to the facts on behalf of the defendant; that in the present case there were three things proper to be considered, which were,

          First, The proof or improbability of the fact.
          Secondly, The consistence of the evidence.
          Thirdly, The general character of the person accused:
After having said something on each head, but most on the goodness of the defendant's character, called the following witnesses

To his Character.

          Mr. Fuller. I have known the defendant fourteen years; I have spent many evenings with him, and he was never suspected of so unnatural a fact, far from it. I think I was with Mr. Lowther on the 15th of May last; we had taken a walk to Peerless Pool, and about nine o'clock in the evening, I parted with him in Coleman-street, and he said he was to hve company that evening at his [p.10] own house. Three-King-court is near his father's house. I never heard any thing against his character till this time.
          Q. Is Three-King-court the way from Coleman-street to his house?
          Fuller. No, it is not, his house is much nearer.
          Q. Was Three-King-court the way to Clement's-lane, where his father lives?
          Fuller. No, it is not the nearest way.
          Q. Must not the prisoner pass by Clement's-lane in his way to Three-King-court from Coleman-street?
          Fuller. Yes, if he went the right way.

          Samuel Rickards. I have known the prisoner from a little boy, and I never observed a propensity to any such thing, but thought him gallant amongst the ladies. When Moses Bowden was before my lord-mayor, he said he was behind the tub and saw nothing nor heard any thing that passed; and his is the generality of what there passed.
          Q. from Prosecutor's Council. Then you would insinuate to the court, that when Moses Bowden was before my lord-mayor, he gave a different account of the matter to what he now dows?
          Rickards. When he was before my lord-mayor, he did not say half so much as he has now said.

          Mr. Pierson. I have known the prisoner six or seven years, and he always bore a general good character, and was esteemed a truly religious and vertuous man, and not capable of committing such a crime. When Mr. Lowther was carried before the lord-mayor I went with him, there Bushnell mentioned his going up to Mr. Lowther whilst he was making water, and looked hard at him, and told him he was an impudent fellow.

          Sir conyers Joscelyn. I have known Mr. Lowther many years. – He came frequently to my house, and I esteemed him a virtuous moral man, and I could not suspect him of what he is charged.

          Mr. Hope. I have known Mr. Lowther ten or twelve years; and is esteemed a man of virtue and sobriety, and bore a good character.
          Mr. Welch. I have known Mr. Lowther twelve years. He lives within five doors of me; and I never heard an imputation of sodomy against him.
          Mr. Woodhouse. I have known Mr. Lowther from a boy; there were few days in the week but I called on h8im. – I never heard, nor think him capable of what he is charged with.
          Mr. Alman. I have known te prisoner Mr. Lowther, ten or twelve years; have been pretty much acquainted with him, and he always bore a very good character.
          Mr. Bradley. I have known Mr. Lowther twenty-seven years; and he bears as good a character as any man in England. – He has made his addresses to two ladies; and I never heard any imputation of this kind laid against him before.
          Mr. Prentice. I have known Mr. Lowther six or seven years: and have lain in the same bed with him, five or six times. – I always had a good opinion of him, and I thought his disposition quite contrary to what he is charged with.
          Mr. Pocock. I have known Mr. Lowther twelve years; have lived in the same house with him, during that time, and always bore a good character.
          Mr. Watlington. I hae lain with Mr. Lowther, five years ago.
          Mr. Woodman. I have known Mr. Lowther fifteen years; and don't think him capable of the crime laid to his charge.
          Mr. Maugrage. I have known Mr. Lowther five years and never thought him inclined to any thing of this nature.
          Mr. Pickett. I have known Mr. Lowther eight yars, and lived in intimate friendship with him; and he always bore a good character.
          Mr. Ewer. Thirteen or fourteen years intimate with him.
          Mr. Peel. Five or six years.
          Mr. Simonds. Five years. [p.11]
          Mr. Deme. Twenty five years.
          Mr. Wells. Six or seven years,
          With many others.


          John Gregg. (lord mayor's officer) I was present when the defendant was brought before the lord-mayor. The witnesses were separately examined, and when Bowden was examined, he gave much the same account as he has now done.
          Jeremiah Hargrae. I keep the Rainbow coffee-house, in Cornhill, I was not surpriz'd when I heard the prisoner was taken up. Four years ago I saw the defendant and a footman close together face to face about eleven or twelve o'clock at night; I said, "You villains what are you at?" and they said they were making water; it was deputy Ellis's footman, who had before been talked of as a guilty person in that kind. I have ever since despised the hissed at the prisoner.
          John Knight. I live next door to the defendant Lowther; I have heard it talked amongst the neighbours in the parish, that he was a man addicted to these practices. I know no particular fact against him of my own knowledge.
          Joseph Hare. I kept a shop near the defendant's for several years; I was not at all surprised when I heard Mr. Lowther was charged with this offence.
          George Fowler. I live in Cornhill, I have heard the defendant talked of, but know nothing particular against him myself.

          Upon the recorder's summing up the evidence, on both sides, and making most pertinent remarks on the Whole, the Jury brought the defendant in guilty of the charge laid against him; on which he was sentenced to stand in the pillory, near his own house in Cornhill, suffer three months imprisonment in Newgate, and be fined twenty pounds.

F I N I S.

NOTE: For the treatment of Lowther in the pillory, see News Reports for 1761.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "The Trial of John Lowther, 1761", Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 17 July 2013 <>.

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