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

Prosecuted for Consenting Sex, 1735


Summary: The following is a transcript of the trial of two men, a butcher and an itinerant trader in meat, prosecuted specifically for consenting to have sex with one another. It is almost certain that they did have sex, as explicitly described in the court, but it transpired that the main witness had offered not to prosecute them in return for hush money, and this attempted extortion persuaded the jury to doubt the trustworthiness of the witness, so the jury accordingly decided to acquit the accused. Later, the witness was charged with perjury, but the outcome of that case is not known.


Cases 78, 79. George Sealey and Thomas Freeman, were indicted, Sealey, for committing the horrid and detestable Sin of Buggery, with the said Freeman; and Freeman for wickedly and wilfully consenting, and permitting the said Sealey to commit the horrid Crime aforesaid, March the 5th. And,
          Thomas Freeman and George Sealey were indicted, Freeman for committing the said horrid and detestaable Crime with the said Sealey; and Sealey for wickedly and wilfully consenting and permitting the said Freeman, to commit the horrid Crime aforesaid, March the 5th.
          Thomas Palmer. I am a Butcher in Newgate Market; going home thro' the Bell Inn, I saw Mr. Freeman and Sealey together in the Yard; Freeman call'd out to me, and asked me if I would go and drink a Glass of Wine: I said, I did not care if I did. He took me on one side, says he, this Sealey has got a good deal of Money, if you'll play a Game at Cards, I will go your halves: We went directly over to the 3 Tunns, next the College of Physicians, and call'd for a Pint of Wine: We drank half a Glass a piece; then they two went out into the Yard by themselves, and stay'd there 4 or 5 Minutes; then they came in again and asked for a Candle: This was about 1 or 2 in the Afteroon, and on the 5th of March last. The Candle they said was to go down to the necessary House, and their going down to the Vault together, made me think they were gone to contrive how to win my Money: I wanted to hear what they were saying to one another, so I went softy down, and got almost down to the Door, within a Step or 2 of the Vault Door; and I heard Freeman say —— here he used an Expression which implied a Sodomitical Intention; but there being a Candle in the inside of the Vault, I went nearer, and put my Eye to a Crack in the Door, and I saw Freeman bending; his Knees were on the Ground, or very near; one Hand by the Side of the necessary House, his Breeches down, and his Shirt up, that I could see half way up his Back. Sealey had his Breeches down, —— (Here he mention'd several Circumstances shocking to Nature, not fit to be repeated.) I was< frighted and walk'd up Stairs softly; I ran into the Market, and called Freshwater; we ran back again, and William Vincent seeing us run, follow'd us; Freshwater went down Stairs, and the will tell you, what he saw. The next Morning I went before Alderman Billers, and got a Warrant for them.
          Q. Give an Account of the Situation of the Place?
          Palmer. The little House wants a Step or 2 of the Bottom of the Cellar, and the Door opens directly fronting the Seat, and except they have alter'd it, there is a Crevice down the Middle. With respect to me, they stood Side-ways; and Sealey was behind him, but not between Freeman and the Door; Freeman's other Hand was against the Wall, or the Boards, and Sealey stood shoving behind him; if they both had not been sideways to the Door, I could not have seen them. After they came up Stairs, Freeman sat down by the Fire, and there was as much —— (Here he swore positively to the Fact, attended with lewd Discourse and unnatural Circumstances.) I heard Freeman say this once or twice, – twice it was; for I heard him before I put my Eye to the Crack, and once afterwards. I have 2 Gentlemen of good Consideration to my Character. I have no more to say.
          Counsel. I think you say, the first Thing you saw, was with relation to Sealey.
          Palmer. Yes, Freeman was Patient.
[i.e., the 'passive' partner]
          Counsel. I find you have some Notion of the Thing. Pray when the Vault Door opens, don't it touch the Edge of the Seat? What Size is this Place? Is it possible for a Man to lie down, his Legs extended behind him, and another to stand there too?
          Palmer. Why here's Room enough for a Man, to stand behind me, and do it, in this very Place, (where the Witnesses stand) and the Vault is bigger than this.
          Counsel. Had you never any Conversation with Mr. Hodgson on this Affair?
          Palmer. I had some talk with him.
          Counsel. In that Discourse, was there no mention of Cuttings and Turner?
          Palmer. Mr Freeman had a Trial with Turner at Guildhall. Cuttings and Turner came to me, and wanted me to go with them to Guildhall; I would not go without a Subpœna. I went, but never was called.
          Counsel. Had you any Discourse with Mr. Hodgson, more than once about this Affair?
          Palmer. He came to me once or twice, about my not prosecuting Freeman, the same Month the Fact was committed.
          Counsel. Then I ask you, if you did not say, you had no just Cause to prosecute Freeman?
          Palmer. No, I did not. I only told him I had no quarrel with Freeman; I owed him no ill-will; and I do this in justice to the Publick.
          Cousnel. Have not you applied to him; in order to have Money?
          Palmer. No, never in my life, neither to Mr. Hodgson, nor Freeman.
          Counsel. How long have you known Freeman?
          Palmer. Eight or nine Years.
          Counsel. Is he marry'd?
          Palmer. I believe so; he lives with a Woman, and has two Children.
          Counsel. Did you ever hear any Imputation of this kind before?
          Palmer. No, never.
          Counsel. How does he live with his Wife?
          Palmer. Very friendly with her.
          Counsel. I ask you, if you do not know that he is very fond of his Wife?
          Palmer. I never saw him quarrel with her in my life.
          Freeman.
[perhaps a mistake for 'Counsel'] Did Freshwater go down?
          Palmer. Yes, and I saw him push the Door open little by little, 'till to my thinking he could get his Head in: The Door was neither locked nor bolted.
          W. Freshwater. I know both the Prisoners: Freeman is a Butcher, and Sealey is a Pig man, a Higler. On Friday the 5th of March, I went with Palmer to the Wine Cellar. He trembled like an Aspen Leaf, and told me he had seen something he never saw before in his life. At the Cellar Door, he said to me, Colonel, Colonel, listen, listen: I heard a humming, and went down three or four Stairs and came up again – By G–d, says I, there's something the matter, more than ordinary: I went down again, and heard a jumbling of the Vault Door; I came up, and said to Vincent, by G–d they are b——g one another: I went down again, and pushed the Door inwards, softly, it gave way a little and a little by degrees. When it was opened far enough, I put my Head in, and saw them; the Candle stood on the Left-hand side of the Seat. Sealey lay with his Breeches down, near the Seat of the Vault, and they were pushing one another very close; Freeman's Breeches were down likewise, I pulled my Head back, and the Door clapped to, then I was in the dark. I felt about and found a little Cask, I got upon that, and looked over the Partition, where there was a Slip of a Board broke off, I put my Head over, looked in, and saw Freeman's — Here he gave much the same Evidence as Palmer as to the Fact.
          Counsel. Have you never been applied to, to give Evidence in this Matter?
          Freshwater. Yes, I was subpœnaa'd [sic] to give Evidence in a Trial between Turner and Freeman at the Common Pleas.
          Counsel. Have not you declared you know no ill of Freeman?
          Freshwater. I did say I knew no ill of him 'till this 5th of March: I said I would do nothing to his Prejudice, except I had a fair Subpœna.
          Counsel. How many People will this Vault hold?
          Freshwater. Why, if there's Room for one Man to go into it, and shut the Door, it will hold two Men on such Business Two large Men may go in, one may go in first, and the other may get in when the Door is half-way open.
          W. Vincent. I know the two Prisoners. I saw the two Witnesses run through the Bell Inn, and I followed them to the Wine Cellar, but when I got to the Door of the House, Palmer was standing at the Top of the Cellar Stairs: He points to me to keep back, I wondered what they were at, and presently up came Freshwater, and swore they were at it. Afterwards he told me in a Fright, Tom Freeman and Sealey were b——g one another, and he went down again. I do not know how the Light stood, but I saw the Light of a Candle, and I went back into the Kitchen, and then Freeman and Sealey cane up. Freeman I thought was a little in Liquor, and Sealey very much. There was something on Freeman's Apron, but I cannot say what it was. On the Top of the Vault there is a Board or two out, and a Man may put his Head in. The Place is so big, that Mr. Edwards and I have been in it togtether, and I believe two more might stand in it.

          Freeman's Defence. I stand indicted for a most horrid Crime, it is a Shame to express it. I never was in the Prisoner's Company but that Day. He bought Meat of me, which came to four Shillings and ten Pence Half-penny; I sent it to the Bell Inn where his Horse stood; my Servant came back, and said, the old Man would not pay for it; I carried it to him my self, and asked him for the Money: We drank together, and I agreed to trust him 'till next Market Day; but he went away without paying his Share for what we drank at the Bell Inn. The Man of the House advised me to go after him for the Money. I went, and he told me if I would go with him to the Wine Vault, he would pay me, and give me a Pint of Wine. We had been drinking Ale and Brandy, so I call'd Palmer to go with us; and we 3 drank a Pint of Wine; Sealey would not pay for that, but he said, if we should play at Card he should get Money to pay: Upon this he went out into the Yard, and according to Palmer's Directions I followed him to get him to pay: He wanted to go into the Cellar he said, but could not find the Vault: The Maid gave him a Candle, and I followed him down and sat upon the stairs untill he came out. When we came up, they never charged us with any Crime, but Palmer called me on one side, and said, we'll be even with this old Son of a B—h, we'll go the Fountain Tavern thro' Newgate, call for a Pint of Wine, and leave him to pay. We all went there, and came away, leaving the old Man behind us at the Tavern.
          Next Morning I heard it was reported I had b–g–d Sealey. I sent for Vincent to the White Horse in Warwick Lane, and desired him to tell me what he knew of the Design. He told me Palmer and Freshwater had raised the Report; then I will sue them says I. In the Morning a Man told me, that Spratley had advised Palmer to swear it, and told him if he did so I could not sue him: Palmer swore it, and my Friends advised me to keep up Stairs. I never heard how the Matter stood, 'till Mr. Edwards told me, I must go with him to execute Releases with Palmer and Freshwater. On the 10th of April, Mr. Turner call'd me Buggerer, I su'd, and cast him: he got acquainted with one Cuttings a Solicitor in the Old Bailey, and they 2 gave Mr. Salter Directions to draw the Bill for Sodomy against me. Palmer declared he gave no Directions at all, and Freshwater declared he knew no hurt of me. After the Bill was drawn, Cuttings insisted upon their swearing and gave them Subpœnas. Mr. Edwards hearing this, went to Cuttings and Turner, and to the Man who swore against me. Freshwater told him, that Cuttings and Tuirner were the Men who would joyn in the Bill. On the 6th of July, Palmer told me that Trade was so bad, he must make a Demand upon me; and says he, you know upon what Account: Twice they sent for me to the Magpye, but I would not go. One Thursday I over-heard Turner and his Wife quarreling about some Money, and he told her he had been in Company with Cuttings, Palmer and Freshwater, and says he if you'll give them 5 Guineas a piece, they'll swear so, as to hang Freeman, and on Saturday July the 12th, Palmer told me that Cuttings and Turner had offer'd me 5 Guineas to swear, and unless you'll give me 5 Guineas I will; I bid him swear and be d——d; Afterwards he told me, tho' I would not give him 5 Guineas, Mr. Edwards would; I got a Constable and took him up, and he fell on his Knees, and declared he knew no hurt of me.
          Nathaniel Edwards. In February or March, I had word brought me of his Affair; the Prisoner Freeman marry'd my Sister, therefore I concerned my Self in it: I sent for him, to my House, and he gave me the same Account, he has now given. I blamed him for keeping Company with such Scandalous Persons as the Witnesses, who are reputed Gamesters, and their Characters bad. I advised him to stop the Report, by making the matter up with them; telling him, it was a Shame such a Thing should be brought before a Court. He said, he was innocent, and absolutely refus'd. I desired him to leave it to me; he said I might do as I pleas'd. I sent for Freshwater, and required of him concerning the Fact; he told me he saw them plainly in the Vault; but says he, I have not sworn nor will I if you'll be civil, I expect something if I do not Prosecute. Then I went to Palmer; he told me he had sworn, but he was sorry for it; he did not desire to hurt him, but the Butchers in the Market, had urged him to it. Palmer told me he was willing to make it up, if he could do it safely, for he knew no hurt of Freeman; and I took the Expression to be without any Exception. I was uneasy about the other Prisoner Sealey, so I took my Horse and rode to Busby to enquire his Character, and I found all his Neighbours gave him a very good one. Sealey's Wife told me, it was impossible the Charge could be true, and gave me a Reason, very convincing, that it could not be. After this, Palmer and I, and his Lawyer had several meetings at the 3 Tunns in Ward's Close, one Time he insisted on 15 Guineas, and said if some People had the Job, they would make 20, or 30 of it: But after many Words, we agreed to 5, to sign General Releases, and I was to be at all the Expence. I paid the Money, and the writings were executed. Then I went to Freshwater, but he'd do nothing without his Lawyer, who lives at the Goat Alehouse in Long Lane: We all met at the Vine in Gray Friar's; Freshwater said, he had no design to Prosecute, but he wanted Money to defray the Charges of a Bastard Child, he had at Hitchen. He said he'd leave to my Honour, what he should have: I bid him come to my House; he came, and I gave him a Guinea and a half. Some time after, Freeman and Turner having been at Law, Palmer told me at the Gentleman and Porter in Shoe Lane, that he was bid 10 Guineas to swear on the other side: Cuttings and Turner, says he, have been with me, but if you'll give me as much, I had rather have the Money from you. I told him, I thought we had made an End before; but if this Money would certainly be the last, I would give it. He said, he must have 5 Guineas that Night, I told him he should have it; but after we had made this other Agreement, they took Freeman up.
          After the Trial between Turner and Freeman, Freshwater declared he would not come against Freeman any more, and asked me for a Guinea, says he, I have had but a Guinea and a half yet, and 'tis very hard, if I can't make a little more Money of this that will just defray the Expence of the Bastard Child. I said I was weary of parting with my Money so; then says he, let me have half a Guinea, I refused: then d—n ye, says he, it shall be the worse for you, and so we parted.
          Counsel. Tho' Palmer and Freshwater said they knew no Harm of him, had you no suspicion of his being guilty, that occasion'd you to give your self all this Trouble, and to throw your Money about, in order to have it hush'd, and made up?
          Nathaniel Edwards. I would have given 30 Guineas to have prevented the Scandal.
          Counsel. But could you imagine that general Releases would discharge a criminal Prosecution? What was it, you gave them this Money for?
          Nathaniel Edwards. To make an End of the Dispute on both Sides.
          Counsel. But as there were Warrants out, the Prosecution was on Foot.
          M. Hodgson. Mr. Edwards, sent for me to his House, and there I found Freshwater. I asked him some Qustions, and he said he might make a good Advantage of this Affair, for he had seen them. Mr. Edwards was for making it up, and asked him where he might see Palmer, for he had left the Market. Freshwater said, he could not see him, unless he went with him: he agreed to carry us to him, and at the 3 Tuns in Wood's-Close, a Gentleman saw Palmer This the beginning of March. I asked Palmer how the Fact was committed; he said they went down together, privately to play at Cards, and I saw them in the Vault together, and the Candle, but I saw no farther Action. I acquainted Mr. Edwards with this, and the next Orders I had from him, were to meet him at the same Place with Releases. I went there, and found Mr. Edwards, Palmer and Freshwater, Palmer's Wife and another Gentleman. Mr. Edwards went into another Room with Palmer's Wife, and when they return'd, Mr. Edwards asked her before the Company, if she was satisfy'd: she declared she was satisfy'd; and on that the Releases were executed. After this I was sent for to the Vine in Gray Friars, to execute Releases between Freshwater and Freeman. Freshwater told me he had made it up with Mr. Edwards, and a Release from Freshwater to Freeman was executed. The next Notice I had, was from Mr. Edwards in Rose-street; he told me Freshwater had proposed to make an Affidavit, that he knew no Hurt of Freeman; upon Cuttings and Turners sending for him to swear against Freeman at the Old Bailey. I drew up an Affidavit, and at an appointed Time, met Mr. Edwards and Freshwater. In the Affidavit Freshwater declared, that Cuttings and Turner had been with him several Times about this Business. The Affidavit was read over twice to him, and he made several Alterations in it; and then read over to him literatim and distinctly.
          The Affidavit was proeuced and read.
          After Freshwater had made this Affidavit, Mrs. Ewards sent for me again: 'twas that very Day the Grand Jury was discharged the Sessions before last. I went and found Palmer with her. He said that Cuttings and Turner had sent for him to swear to an Indictment against Freeman, and he asked me if they could compel him to swear; I told him it was reasonable he should swear to the Truth.
          Samuel Edwards's Evidence was to the same Purport, adding that from a View of the Place; he thought it impossible this Crime could be committed there; it not being (as he thought) 2 Feet wide and the Door without either Crack or Crevice.
          Then appear'd to Freeman's Reputation, John Duck, John Page, Bryan, and Francis Philpot, John Sturges, and George Gale; who all gave him a very good Character.
          To Sealey's Character, Robert Waller, Thomas Hadson, Will. Haines, Jo. Nicholas, John Bellows, John King, and John Fuller: who thought him a Man of Reputation, and that he would not do such a Thing.
          Then was call'd to Palmer and Freshwater's Character, Joseph Tibbot, who had known Palmer upwards of 7 Years, that he was his Apprentice, that indeed he did break, but that he believed he would not forswear himself for 500 l.Samuel Saunders swore he thought Palmer would not forswear himself on any Account. – Anne Sutton, she was Freshwater's Mistress, she warn'd him to do Justice, and speak the Truth, and believed he would not forswear himself on any Account; Godfrey Newton, and William Sprately gave likewise the Witnesses good Character.
          Acquitted.

17 July 1736

On Thursday Night Sir Richard Brocas committed to Wood-street Compter, Thomas Palmer, for attempting to extort five Guineas from Thomas Freeman, a Butcher in Newgate-Marekt, under that false Pretence of threatning to swear Sodomy against him. (London Daily Post)

Saturday, 11 September 1736

Yesterday 12 Prisoners were tried at the Old-Baily, three whereof were cast for Transportation, and 18 Acquitted.
          Among the latter were a Newgate-Market Butcher and a Pig Man, for Sodomy. (London Daily Post)


SOURCE: The Proceedings at the Sessions of the Peace, and Oyer and Terminer, for the City of London, and County of Middlesex, on Wednesday the 10th, Thursday the 11th, Friday the 12th, Saturday the 13th, and Monday the 15th of December, 1735, Number I. London, 1735. (pp. 188–191)

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "Prosecuted for Consenting Sex, 1735", Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 21 October 2021 <http://www.rictornorton.co.uk/eighteen/1735free.htm>.


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