Image of two men kissingHomosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook compiled by Rictor Norton

The Execution of James Hunt and Thomas Collins

August 1743

A Genuine ACCOUNT of the BEHAVIOUR, CONFESSIONS, and Dying WORDS, of the MALEFACTORS Who were Executed at KENNINGTON-COMMON, On THURSDAY the 25th of August, 1743.

At the King's Copmmission of the Peace, Oyer and Terminer, and General Goal Delivery, for the County of Surrey, held the 5th, 6th, 8th, and 9th Days of August, 1743, at the Town of Kingston upon thames for the said County, Ten Men and Two Women, were by their Country found guilty of capital Crimes, and received Sentence of Death, viz. James Day, Anne hazzard, and Mary Daggars, for Murder; Richard Keeble, for returning from Transportation; James Hunt, and thomas Collins for Sodomy; John Harris, otherwise Harwood, for Horse-stealing; David Roundy, for picking the Pocket of Nathansel Haigh of a Silver Watch; ~William Ashman for stealing ScotchLinnen to the Value of 5 l. 19 s. in the Warehosue of Alexander Hays, the Property of Tayler Courtman; John Beauchamp, otherwise Beacham, Thomas Whiting and Thomas Millest, for breaking open and robbing the Dwelling House of Sir John Elwill, Bart. at Egham. Of these Twelve Criminals, the Judge before he left Kingston, was pleased to reprieve Mary Daggars, David Roundy, William Ashman, and Thomas Whiting; the former to be transported for her Life; and the other three for the Term of 14 Years each. And great interest being made in the Behalf of Beauchamp and Millest, they were reprieved four Days after the Assizes ended; and they are both to be transported for Life. . . . [p.2]

JAMES HUNT, and THOMAS COLLINS, of the Parish of St. Saviour's, Southwark, were indicted for that they, not having the Fear of God before their Eyes, &c. on the 5th Day of June did commit together the detestable Sin of Sodomy, not fit to be nam'd amongst Christians.

JAMES HUNT, 37 Years of Age, was born in the Parish of St. Mary at Rotherhithe, of honest and creditable Parents, who gave him tolerable Education; and when of Age, [p.17] he was put Apprentice to Mr. Coffin, the King's Barge Builder. He was bred an Anabaptist, and was one of the most unaccountable Men that was ever under the like Misfortune. He had a pretty good Notion of religious Principles, but was so conceited, and often talk'd so absurdly, that there was no setting him to rights, nor did he care to be instructed. He said he knew very well what he had to do, and did not want further Advice. The Rev.Mr. Wilson took great Pains in laying before him the heniousness of the hateful Crime of which he was convicted, and told him to what Danger his immortal Soul was expos'd, unless he sincerely repented, acknowledg'd the Justice of his Sentence, and dy'd in Peace with those who had been the Instruments of detecting and punishing such a Miscreant. He said he had done all he could, and that he knew he was happy, but declared tht he would never forgive those who had prosecuted him. Mr. Wilson imagin'd, that |Hunt not being a Member of the Church of England, might dislike his Doctroine; and therefore desired he would send for his Teacher, who was an Anabapist, and a very good Christian. The Gentleman came to the Goal on the Tuesday before the Execution, and had Hunt into a Room, none but Mr. Wilson being in Company. He was again ask'd if he was guilt of the Sin of Sodomy? He said he was not; and the Evidences against him were all Liars, and call'd them very opprobrious Names; and again said he never would forgive them.

He was one of the most morose, ill-natur'd, surly Creatures that could breathe, and was never at Peace one hour, but continually railing against his Prosecutors; and even the Day before his Execution, Mr. Wilson still labouring to bring him to a Confession, he answered, "Say no more to me about it; I'll forgive no Body, for I'll die harden'd." – This was a most shocking Speech for a Man who had but a few Hours to live; but he continued to the last Moment in the same Manner he had all along behaved.

THOMAS COLLINS, was 57 Years of Age, born at Braminham in Bedfordshire of very honest Parents. He said he was originally bred to the Weaving Trade, but went abroad when he was but young, and serv'd in the Army, and was several Years a Serjeant in the Service of the late Emperor. He said he married the Daughter of one Mr. Gale, who liv'd in Broad-Yard Blackman-Street, Southwark, by whom he had several Children. When he came home to England, he went into Bedfordshire to his Relations, and continued there some time; but that about 16 Weeks ago he came to Town, and lodged at one Mr. Burridge's in Bishopsgate-Street. The Account he gives of the Fact for which he suffer'd is as follows: that on the 6th of June last pretty late in the Evening, as he was coming over London Bridge, to see a Grand-daughter who lives in the Borough of Southwark, he went down Pepper-Alley, and saw Hunt going a little way before him; – that he ask'd Hunt if there was not a Necessary House down there? – That Hunt reply'd there was one, and that they then both went in together, but had not been there much above a Minute before two Men came and said they were Sodomites, and pull'd him off the Seat, turned his Pockets inside out, (as he supposed to search for Money) and [p.18] on finding none, they said D–mn them let them go; here is no Feathers to pluck.

This was the Account he gave – but when Hunt was examined by the Rev. Mr. Wilson, he said he was in the Place before Collins came down the Alley; so that in their Colnfessions, they directly contradict one another.

The Words of dying Persons ought certain to have great Weight with all Mankind; but where two Men who were convicted of such an attrocious [sic] Crime, upon the fullest Evidence that was ever given in any Court of Justice, should prevaricate so much, and behave in so indecent a Manner as they (especially Hunt) have done ever since their Condemnation; the World must be left to judge, whether they were Innocent or Guilty.

Hunt was very ignorant of Religion, and could neither say the Creed or Lord's Prayer. He was very sullen, and declar'd he would forgive no body that had done him Injury. . . .

The Day of Execution.

THE Turnkey who used to look after these unhappy People, about seven in the Morning, unlock'd them, and told them the Time appointed for them to die drew very near. They all seem'd very willing and resign'd, except the two Sodomites and Keeble. About nine o'Clock the Rev. Mr. Wilson came to the Goal, and pray'd with them about two Hours; they were all very fervent, and join'd in Prayers, kneeling, except Hunt, who did not kneel, and when he was rebuked for not so doing, the only [p.19] Excuse he had was, that there was no Room, that he knew he had taken Care of his Soul, and that he was quite easy on that Account. After Prayers were over, they were brought down into the Prison Yard, and after having their Irons knock'd off, and halter'd by the Executioner, they were conveyed to the Place of Execution, James Day in a Mourning Coach, attended by the Rev. Mr Wilson, and the other five in one Cart.

About twenty Minutes after One in the Afternoon they came to the fatal Tree, and Day being come into the Cart, Mr. Wilson went up into the same Cart, and pray'd with them a considerable Time. . . .

Keeble join'd in Prayers, but said nothing. Hunt and Collins continued quite obstinate. Harris was very resigned, and said he was glad to be freed from a miserable Life. Prayers being over, the Executioner tied them all up to the Gallows. Day's Contenance never chang'd the whole Time. While they were praying to God to receive their Souls, the Cart drew away, and after having hung 35 Minutes, they were all cut down. Day and Hazzard were carried away in a Hearse; and Keeble and Hunt in two Coaches. The Mob carried off the Body of Harris, and left Collins the Sodomite under the Gallows, who was afterwards taken by the Surgeons, but they finding him greatly infected with the Venereal Disease, they brought him back, and both he and Harris were buried by the Brickmakers in one Grave, not far from the Gallows. [p.20]

See also Newspaper Reports for August–September 1743.]

SOURCE: A Genuine ACCOUNT of the BEHAVIOUR, CONFESSIONS, and Dying WORDS, of the MALEFACTORS Who were Executed at KENNINGTON-COMMON, On THURSDAY the 25th of August, 1743. London: Printed for J. Nicholson, in the Old-Bailey. 1743.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "The Execution of Hunt and Collins, 1743", Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. 24 March 2012 <>.

Return to Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England