Last update:
November 13th

living room logo

Old Bailey Proceedings - Introductory Reading - B
London's Central Criminal Court - 1674 to 1913


Some terms explanation


Women hatersAssault 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.


the act of anal penetration, regardless of the sex of the passive participant.


frequently paired with "crime" or "sin", a common code word for sodomy. Over the course of the period covered by the Proceedings trials for sodomy become decreasingly explicit, with a wide range of euphemisms used.


extortion with threats to expose men for homosexual practices was common, and a search using this term will find many relevant cases.


For the eighteenth century, the Proceedings provide vibrant and detailed evidence of the sophisticated worlds and subcultures of London's homosexual communities. Until the 1780s trials for sodomy provide extensive accounts of the otherwise hidden world of molly houses and homosexual prostitution. In the last decade of the eighteenth century, and throughout the nineteenth century, however, the details of these trials are censored, and the Proceedings give only the barest facts of each case. From this period onwards, the best details of behaviour and attitudes within the Gay community can be found in trials for blackmail, and in the incidental accounts that emerge in trials for other crimes.

Keeping a Brothel and Procuring

Molly houseKeeping a house where prostitution or sodomy was encouraged to take place. As misdemeanours, these offences were for the most part tried in different courts, the Sessions of the Peace and Court of King's Bench. However, a few brothel house keepers were prosecuted at the Old Bailey in the late seventeenth century; and a few keepers of "molly houses" (for sodomy) in the eighteenth. In the 1830s a new offence of procuring a woman for the purpose of engaging in illicit sexual activity was created.

Two moliesMolly

an eighteenth-century slang expression for homosexual men taken from the Latin mollis meaning "soft".

Molly house

refers specifically to the network of alehouses where homosexual men met.

Sodomize, sodomite

the act of, or a participant in, any form of penetrative sexual activity with the exclusion of heterosexual, vaginal sex between an adult man and a woman over 12 years of age. In the eighteenth century sodomy included bestiality, child abuse, and oral sex.


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.


frequently paired as "unnatural act" or "unnatural sin", it was another common code word for sodomy.



navigation map
If you can't use the map, use these links.
HALL Lounge Living Room Memorial
Our Bedroom Guestroom Library Workshop
Links Awards Map