I’m sure you’ve already discovered this site – and for any historical writer it’s an essential bookmark and a huge wealth of resource. When I first found it it only had cases in a range of about 100 years, but it expands – and now there are cases from the 1670s to the 1910s. it’s a very easy site to navigate too, and has a lot more information than first appears.

When researching Standish I found so much that I didn’t know – the offence that Ambrose is accused of – that of “consenting to an assault of sodomitical intent” sounds incredible to our modern ears, but it’s true – the person having the sodomy perpetrated upon him, could be charged and could be found as guilty as the person performing the act.

Assault with Sodomitical Intent

This charge was levelled in cases of attempted or actual anal intercourse where it was thought impossible (or undesirable) to prove that penetration and ejaculation had actually occurred. This offence was a misdemeanour. See also: Sodomy. Prosecutions for this offence become markedly more common from the 1840s.

What I found interesting was that the burden of proof – penetration AND ejaculation had to be attested to by two witnesses – which would have made it more difficult to prove. However people often lied, I’m sure – leading to more hangings than were necessary, perhaps.


Anal or oral intercourse between a man and another man, woman, or beast. In order to obtain a conviction, it was necessary to prove that both penetration and ejaculation had occurred, and two witnesses were required to prove the crime. Both the “active” and “passive” partner could be found guilty of this offence. But due to the difficulty of proving this actual penetration and ejaculation many men were prosecuted with the reduced charge of assault with sodomitical intent. Details of sodomy prosecutions were censored from the Proceedings from the 1780s onwards. For more information on the gay communities of London see the Homosexuality pages.

Don’t forget that a “lenient punishment” such as pillorying or imprisonment (usually in Newgate, as that prison was attached to the Old Bailey by an underground corridor) were hardly lenient at all, and could both of them mean a death sentence. Unlike Hollywood and the BBC portrayals of the Pillory, people didn’t always throw rotten fruit and vegetables to the general amusement of all. Rocks were often used, faeces and “cannonballs” of mud and stones. People died in the Pillory – John Waller (perjurer) was stoned to death – and the six convicted members of the Vere Street Coterie (men arrested at the White Swan, a Molly House, in 1810 – had to have the protection of 200 armed constables to prevent the crowds from killing them in the pillory.

And a sentence, even a small one, for a stay in Newgate depended very much on your financial circumstances.  The prisons of days before the reforms instigated by Elizabeth Fry and Dickens during the mid 1800’s were dreadful places. You had to pay an (unofficial) fee upon entrance to the warders – food wasn’t provided as a matter of course, you had to buy it – so if you didn’t have money you were in danger of starving to death.  Before you could be released you not only had to pay your fine (difficult if you were in prison and not earning money) but again, another strictly unofficial “release fee” to the warders. If you couldn’t pay this – you didn’t get out, simple as that. Of course if you had money, or a way to earn money within the prison walls, or kind friends and relations – anything was for sale inside the jail itself. Including a a cleaner or a maid, alcohol (Newgate had two bars) and sex of any type.

Here’s a small selection of cases:

George Duffus, Sexual Offences assault with sodomitical intent, 28th February 1722.

George Duffus , who at the Sessions in December last was indicted for Assaulting and committing, in and upon the body of Nicholas Leader , the unnatural sin of Sodomy, on which the Jury brought in a special Verdict: was indicted for a high Crime and Misdemeanour in Assaulting, and Attempting to Commit in and upon the Body of Nicholas Leader, the unnatural sin of Sodomy . Nicholas Leader depos’d, that the prisoner (being in Bed with him) seiz’d him by the Throat, forcibly turn’d him on his face, and endeavour’d to commit the said crime upon him. The fact being plainly prov’d, the Jury found him Guilty .
Fin’d 20 Marks, a Months Imprisonment, and to stand upon the Pillory near Old Gravel Lane.

Thomas Rodin, Sexual Offences assault with sodomitical intent, 10th October 1722.

Thomas Rodin , was indicted for a Misdemeanour, in Assaulting a Person unknown, with an intent to commit the unnatural and detestable Sin of Sodomy . Henry Clayton deposed, that he and the prisoner lodged in one Room, at Peter Wright ‘s a Shoemaker, at the 3 Shoes in Long Alley in Moorfields ; that sometime in March last, but what day he could not remember, a stranger accidentally came thither to Lodge; at night this Evidence went to bed, and the prisoner and stranger between 10 and 11 came up, it was a Moonlight night: the stranger was drunk, and the prisoner acted with him as in Cohabiting with a Woman, and said he receiv’d more pleasure in lying with a Man, than with the finest Woman in the World; being askt why he did not prosecute sooner, he answer’d that he ow’d his Landlady Wright 12 or 13 l. and was afraid to say any thing till he had clear’d that Account; after which he indicted his Landlady at Hick’s Hall for a Bawd, which she moved with a Certiorari, and then he prefer’d the Bill against the prisoner. The prisoner in his defence, call’d Elizabeth Wright , who deposed, that Clayton was a scandalous Villain, and that the prisoner was a poor honest ignorant industrious Fellow, and by reason of his business commonly went to Bed by 5 or 6 a Clock, and never sat up so late as Clayton said it was when he came up with the stranger, and that Clayton had spitefully charged the prisoner with this Fact, because the prisoner had Indicted Angelica Lathom , who kept Company with Clayton, and had several Husbands beside; that the prisoner had a Wife, and they had lived together above a 12 Month at her House. The Jury acquitted him.

Julius Cesar Taylor, Sexual Offences assault with sodomitical intent, Sexual Offences > keeping a brothel, 16th October 1728.

Julius Cesar Taylor was indicted for assaulting John Burgess , with an Intent to commit that horrid and detestable Sin of Sodomy .

He was a second Time indicted for keeping a disorderly House, and entertaining wicked abandon’d Men, who commit sodomitical Practices .

It appear’d by the Depositions of divers Witnesses, That on the 15th of August last, the Prisoner was seen to sit on the Lap of John Burgess , when they committed such indecent and effeminate Actions, as are not to be mentioned: that the Company who resorted to his House, launch’d into such Extravagance, as was scarce ever heard off.

When any Member enter’d into their Society, he was christned by a female Name, and had a Quartern of Geneva thrown in his Face; one was call’d Orange Deb, another Nel Guin , and a third Flying Horse Moll, and that the Prisoner was Accessary in these unnatural Actions. It likewise appear’d by the Depositions of several of the Neighbours, that the Prisoner kept a disorderly House, and he having none to appear for his Character, the Jury found him Guilty of the first Indictment, for keeping a disorderly House, and of the second Indictment, for an Assault upon the Body of John Burgess .

Julius Ceasar Taylor, for keeping a disorderly House, was fined ten Marks, and five Nobles, for an Assault on the Body of John Burgess , and ordered to give Security for his good Behaviour for one Year.

William Hollywell, William Huggins, Sexual Offences assault with sodomitical intent, Sexual Offences sodomy, 4th December 1730.

William Hollywell and William Huggins , were indicted, the former for an Assault , with an Intent to commit the detestable Crime of Buggery upon the latter, and he for consenting and submitting to the same .

John Rowden depos’d, That it had been for many Years his Business to show the upper part of the Cathedral of St. Paul’s ; that the 19th of November , betwixt 12 and 1 o’Clock, he was going to Dinner, and having heard the old Man’s Door shut, he afterwards heard some Persons that seem’d to be coming up softly, he hearken’d, but heard no Voices, that suspecting something more than usual, he look’d through the Light of the Newel Stairs, he being about 30 or 40 Steps from the Prisoners, and did discover the Prisoners in very indecent Postures, whereupon he made haste to them, and surpriz’d them in the following Posture; Huggins’s Breeches were down, he stooping very low, so that he could not see his Head, his Shirt was turn’d up on his Back, and his Back-side was bare; Hollywell was standing close by, with his fore Parts to the other’s Posteriors, and his Body in Motion, but his fore Parts he could not then see, his Back being towards him, this Evidence: That having thus surpriz’d them, Huggins was busy’d in putting up his Breeches, and Hollywell struggled with him to have got from him, and to have gone off, and tore his Turnover, but he having disengag’d himself, Hollywell got to the Church Door, but could not get out, it being Lock’d, and he having the Key in his Pocket, so he Lock’d them into the Side-Isle , and went to get the Clerk of the Works to go with him to acquaint the Dean with the Matter; that when he came again, Hollywell was got out of the Place where he left him, and could not be found for a considerable time, but at last was found hidden in a Gallery adjoining to the Organ-Loft ; and when they were before the Justice, Hollywell’s Shirt was examin’d , and there appear’d plain Tokens of Emission.

The Prisoner Huggins call’d a great many of his Neighbours, who gave him the Character of an industrious Man in his Calling (which was that of a Waterman ) of a loving Husband to his Wife, of a tender Father to his Children, of an honest Man in his Dealings , and of a religious Man that kept to his Church constantly on Sundays, and one of the last Men they should have suspected as to such Practices, and should more readily have credited his Familiarity with Women, he commonly associating himself with Women more than Men, but this Character did not avail him against positive and credible Evidence; and Hollywell not calling one single Evidence to his Character, and the Fact being plainly prov’d, the Jury found them both Guilty of the Indictment.

William Hollywell to stand on the Pillory near St. Paul’s, for an Hour, to suffer 6 Months Imprisonment, and to pay a Fine of 40 l.

William Huggins , to stand on the Pillory for an Hour at the same Place, and to suffer 8 Months Imprisonment.

John Twyford, Sexual Offences sodomy, 10th July 1745.

John Twyford , of St. Clement Danes , was indicted for that he not having the fear of God, &c. upon one John Mullins , wickedly, unlawfully and feloniously did make an assault, and the detestable sin of buggery did commit and do, which is not fit to be named among Christians, against the form of the Statute, &c .

John Mullins . Some time in June I was going along near the Fleet Market, there was a press gang coming along, and the Gentleman at the bar stood looking at them: Said he, brother soldier , they will not press any Irishmen; yes I said, I believe they will press any thing: he said he loved a soldier as he loved his life, and that he was a sea officer , and asked where there was a pot of good beer. and desired me to go and drink with him. We went to the Plough by the Fleet Market , and he would not let me pay any thing: he said he was going to the Talbot Inn in the Strand to a particular acquaintance of his, and desired I would go with him; after much persuasion I went; he asked me to lie there; I told him I must go home, but he pressed me to stay, and he agreed for a bed for one shilling; he persuaded me to go to bed; I was very uneasy, and pretty much in liquor, and growing sleepy, I went into bed, and when he thought I was asleep, he began his tricks upon me; I am almost ashamed to tell – he put his – into my fundament, and pushing so hard it awaked me. I asked him what he was at, and said he was not a Gentleman; then we began to quarrel, and I being stronger than him turned him off, and then fell o’beating of him, and we were both carried to the watch-house. In the morning he said, brother soldier, you had better make this up: he said he had not much money about him, but he would give me half a crown, and he told me I must say that I was in liquor, and did not know what I said.

Q. Did you say before the Justice that you was in liquor?

Mullins. Yes.

Q. And did you say to the Justice that the complaint you had made to the constable was false?

Mullins. No; I said it was not all true.

Q. Did not you declare of your own accord that you was sorry for what you had done, and that you was drunk?

Mullins. No, I did not, I said I was in liquor.

Robert Duck . I lay in the next room; Mullins refused to go to bed, but at the persuasion of the Prisoner he did go to bed: when they had been in bed about a quarter of an hour, Mullins cried out very loud, what are you for, and made a great oath, and said, you are in my fundament, and then they fell o’fighting: then my master and mistress and five or six Gentlemen who were drinking in the house came up.

Q. When they came into the room, did he complain to them of what the Prisoner had done?

Duck. Yes; very much.

Q. Were not they fighting before?

Duck. No – the prisoner was very much beat, Mullins was beating him upon the bed when the company went into the room.

Q. Were they drunk or sober?

Duck. The prosecutor was the drunkest of the two.

Oliver Pen . I don’t know the prisoner, I should know the soldier if I was to see him – that is he. They paid me for their lodging, that’s all I know of the matter.

Q. Was there any complaint made when you went up?

Pen. Yes; the soldier said the prisoner wanted to do so and so to him, and so they fell o’fighting.

Q. What was the occasion of their quarrelling?

Pen. Because the prisoner wanted to be concerned with him.

Q. Who did he say that to?

Pen. To all the whole room for what I know. I asked the soldier, and said, as you are a man of maturity, how could such a thing be acted to you, (for you are not a boy) without you was as willing as the other? And then he said he had not entered his body; then said I, you assaulted one another, and must leave it to the Court; then I found they were both forsworn, for they must both of them be willing alike, or else there could not be any such thing done.

In order to convict a person upon an indictment for sodomy, the act of parliament requires that the emission should be proved as well as the penetration, so the Jury acquitted the prisoner; and he gave bail for his appearance next sessions at the Old Bailey, in order to take his trial for an assault with an intent to commit sodomy.

There’s no record of that case, sadly.