of several Reputed Sodomites



In 1707 eight or nine members of the Societies for Reformation of Manners acted as agents provocateurs in order to entrap sodomites, whom they had observed making contact with one another on London Bridge and in the Royal Exchange. (Both of these places were popular gay cruising grounds because they offered the opportunity to loiter without causing suspicion.) The trial prompted a number of contemporary pamphlets and broadside ballads, such as The Women-Hater's Lamentation and The He-Strumpets.

The Societies for Reformation of Manners was founded in 1690 and there were about twenty such Societies by 1701. They aimed to clean up public vice, and focused particularly upon prostitution. The leader of the Societies, Reverend Bray, was obsessed with sodomy, which he called "an evil force invading our land" in the sermon he preached at St Mary's Le Bow before the Societies for Reformation of Manners on 27 December 1708. Bray directed several raids from 1707 through 1709, in association with Constables who were themselves members of the Societies. By their annual meeting in 1710 they were able to boast that by their means "our streets have been very much cleansed from the lewd night-walkers and most detestable sodomites." Our knowledge about the homosexual subculture of London at that time is exactly coterminous with the investigations of the Societies for Reformation of Manners. It is not accurate to say that the gay subculture was "born" at that time, only that it was "uncovered" by these campaigning moralists.

Though these moral reformers may have been over-zealous, there is little reason to doubt the accuracy of their evidence. There was no motivation for them to bring false charges, as it would be two centuries before police forces got the bright idea of increasing their arrest figures by the use of "pretty police." Most of the men confessed when they were apprehended, though they subsequently denied it at the actual trial. Only one man put forward the defence that he was married, from which I infer that the others were bachelors. Three or four of the men killed themselves while awaiting trial in prison, and hence were not tried. The source document is a single sheet of paper, printed on one side only.

See Newspaper Reports for 1707 for accounts of the men being exhibited in the pillory, and one suicide. The publicity given to the prosecution and punishment is lamented in an article by Daniel Defoe. For another account of the trial, which gives some interesting details, see Trial of Sodomites.

Rictor Norton

The TRYAL and CONVICTION of several Reputed Sodomites, before the Right Honourable the Lord Mayor, and Recorder of London, at Guild-Hall, the 20th Day of October, 1707.

Thomas Lane, a Foot Soldier, was Indicted for assaulting of Mr. Richard Hemmings and Mr. Samuel Baker on the 15th of September last. The Evidence declar'd, That Lane was standing upon London-Bridge, and that he came to Mr. Hemmings, and pulling out his Nakedness offer'd to put it into his Hand, and withal unbutton'd the Evidences Breeches, and put his Hand in there, but Mr. Hemmings put his Hand away: He the rather bore with the Filthiness of the Action, because Mr. Baker, the other Evidence, had told Mr. Hemmings, that Lane the Prisoner was such a kind of a Person, and therefore design'd to apprehend him, which they did. He said in his defence, that he had been at St Thomas's Hospital, and coming over the Bridge, he went to make Water, and that the Evidence's Hand slipt upon his Nakedness, and such like frivolous stuff; and withal endeavour'd to say, That the Evidence assaulted him. But the Matter appear'd plain against him; and he had little else to say, but that he had been so many years in King William's, and the present Queen's Service, and never us'd to do such Things. After which the Recorder gave his Charge to the Jury; the Verdict being omitted, till the rest of these obscene Trials were over.

John Williams was Indicted for Assaulting Thomas Jones, and John Jones, in Sept. last. the Prosecutors each severally declar'd, that the Prisoner upon the Exchange, put his hand into their Breeches, and likewise had his Nakedness out, which he offer'd to put into their hands: He was a Youth, and being carried before Sir Richard Levet, he confess'd, he had first been seduc'd to that Practice, by one Fish, in May-Fair last; and that he had done it about four times. He endeavour'd to deny on his Tryal, all he had said before the Justice, and said the Prosecutors threatned him if he did not own it, but all appear'd frivolous and he had no Evidence to call.

William Huggins was indicted for Assaulting Richard Hemmings, and Thomas Jones, upon the Exchange, the 9th of Sept. last; the Prosecutors declar'd, that walking upon Change, with design to detect such wicked Persons; they were sate upon one of the Benches, and the Prisoner came to them severally, and offer'd to put his hand into their Breeches, pulling out his Nakedness at the same time; upon which they apprehended him, and he said, at that time, that he had hear'd there were such sort of Persons in the World, and he had a mind to try. He had Counsel of his side, and call'd several to his Reputation, who all said he was a very honest Man, as to his course of Life; otherwise, that he was employ'd as a Porter: He said, that he had been carrying 6 Pound of Coffee into Leaden-Hall-street: that he had been married about a Year to a young Wife, who was big with Child; and that he always seem'd very fond of her: He deny'd the Fact, and said he never used any such Practices; but none of the Evidence speaking as to what he was indicted for, the Matter was then left to the Jury.

Ch. [i.e. Charles] Marriot was Indicted for assaulting of Robert Bokins, Richard Hemmings, and two others upon London-Bridge. They declar'd he came to them severally, and pull'd out his Nakedness, and unbutton'd their Breeches, and after they had Apprehended him, he confes'd that that day seven- Night, he was pick'd up by a Gentleman in Black, with whom he Committed an Indecent Action, and said the Gentleman offer'd to Commit Sodomy with him; but he refused that. He confessed the same before Sir Robert Beachcroft, but deny'd all upon his Trial, and said he was coming that way, and had no such design, but it was very plain against him.

Paul Booth was Indicted on the same account, for Assaulting Robert Bokins, John Buttermn, and one Taylor upon the Exchange. The Evidence was much the same; all which appear'd plain against him.

Benjamin Butler, was Indicted for assaulting Thomas Grantford, and another in the same Manner upon the Exchange: He confess'd the Fact when taken, but deny'd it upon his Trial, making very lame and trivial excuses, which all avail'd him nothing.

John Blithe, Indicted on the like account for Assaulting Robert Bokins, and Thomas Grantford, the Evidence was much the same as the former, he Confess'd it when taken, and had very little to say for himself.

James Booke Pleaded Guilty to his Indictment, which was much the same with the rest.

The Tryals being over, the Jury found them all Guilty of the said Indictments.

SOURCE: The TRYAL and CONVICTION of several Reputed Sodomites, before the Right Honourable the Lord Mayor, and Recorder of London, at Guild-Hall, the 20th Day of October, 1707. Sold by J. Morphew near Stationer's- Hall, 1707.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton, Ed., "The Tryal and Conviction of Several Reputed Sodomites, 1707", Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. 1 December 1999, updated 28 April 2013 <>.

Return to Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England