A Full and True Account


The following account reports one of a series of raids made upon molly houses (taverns where gay men met) arranged by the Societies for Reformation of Manners in the opening years of the eighteenth century in London. The agent provocateur activities of members of the Societies resulted in a notable trial in 1707. The raid in 1709 was based on information received from George Skelthorpe, whose dying words are given in full on another page. The 1709 prosecution provides evidence that sodomites were regarded by their contemporaries as a "kind of People" — in other words, a kind of species much earlier than social constructionists like Foucault would allow for. It is also clear from this account that these gay men were part of a subcultural network, and met regularly at a gay tavern. A contemporary description of the kind of activities that went on in a molly house is provided by Ned Ward.

The source document is a single sheet, printed on only one side, which is incorrectly bound with an unrelated trial in a collection of Miscellaneous Sheets in the British Library.

Rictor Norton

A Full and True
of the
Discovery and Apprehending

A Notorious Gang of Sodomites in St. James's: With the Examination and Committment of Two of them to Newgate, by Sir Henry Dutton Colt.

Notwithstanding the Example made of several of these kind of People, call'd Sodomites, who in a Beastly way [use] themselves with one another to the dishonour of God, and the lessening of Mankind; yet, several Knots, and Gangs of them still Associate themselves together; and 'tis confidently said that Skelthorp the Soldier, who was Executed last Sessions, gave a private Intimation of some of them, and the Houses they met at. He affirming at his Death, and with his last Dying Words, that he knew many of them, and had thought in his Lifetime to have discover'd them, some now say, that this Gang has been discover'd through his means, others that a Foot-Boy belonging to his Grace the Duke of O------, gave notice of their meeting, and had them Apprehended.[Probably James Butler, 2nd Duke of Ormonde, who would be impeached in 1715.]

So that last Night Officers were order'd in search of them, and according to the Account given, they apprehended Nine of them, some at a Brandy-Shop near German-street [modern Jermyn Street], the Person that kept the said Shop being himself one of the Gang, who was also Apprehended, as likewise the Footboy belonging to the Duke of O------, and some of them at other Places.

Being brought before Sir Henry Dutton-Colt, at St James's, They were Examin'd, and upon many Intances of the Beastly Fact of Sodomy alledg'd against them, they were this Day being Thirsday the 7th instant Committed two of them, viz. the Foot-Boy, and the Brandy Man and some others to the Gatehouse.

It is also Discours'd that a Discovery is made of many more of them, for whom Officers are out in search; so that 'tis hop'd the whole Knot of them will be now Detected, to the great Satisfaction of all honest People.

SOURCE: A Full and True ACCOUNT of the Discovery and Apprehending A Notorious Gang of Sodomites in St. James's, London: Printed for T. Bland near Fleetstreet, 1709.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton, Ed., "A Full and True Account, 1709", Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. 1 December 1999; updated 15 June 2008 <http://www.rictornorton.co.uk/eighteen/trial09.htm>.

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