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Old Bailey Proceedings - Trial Accounts
London's Central Criminal Court

6th September 1732
John Ashford
Sexual Offences - sodomy

85. John Ashford was indicted for committing the unnatural Sin of Sodomy, by feloniously, wickedly, devilishly, and against the Order of Nature, assaulting and carnally knowing William Curtis, a Boy about the Age of 20 Years, on the 29th of September, in the 4th Year of the King.

William Curtis. I came out of the Country, and went to live at Mr. Nutt's, a Printer in the Old Bailey, at Michaelmas 1728, and in about six Months afterwards the Prisoner came to live there. We say together. He had not been there above a Month or 6 Weeks, before he began to kiss me, and call me his dear Billy, and to meddle with my Privy Parts, and gave me Money not to speak of it.

One Night he made an Attempt upon me, but I got out of Bed, and left the Tail of my Shirt in his Hand. My Mother mended the Shirt, but I did not tell her how it came to be torn.

He continued to solicit me; he gave me more Money, and told me that he'd make me Heir to a small Estate that would come to him after his Mother's death, and cut his Brother off with a Shilling. At last, in about 3 Month's Time, he over-persuaded me to let him bugger me. And after that, he did it frequently while I continued at Mr. Nutt's, which was till August last.

Court. And how long was it before you complained of this?

Curtis. I told Hannah Urwin something of it about Half a Year after he first did it, and she talk'd to him about it: And in July last I made my Information and Confession before Sir John Gonson, and Justice De Veil.

Court. And why did you conceal such filthy Practices so long?

Curtis. I was an ignorant Country Lad, and did not know the Greatness of the Crime; and then he allow'd me 3 s. a Week constantly, besides Presents that he made me at other Times. He gave me last Easter these Cloaths that I have on now, they were made out of one of his Suits, and he paid Halfa Guinea for altering them. He paid 10 s. 6 d. that I ow'd at one Toyshop, and 3 s. at another.

Court. How came you to leave Mr. Nutt's Service.

Curtis. I was got acquainted with men that followed such Kind of Practices, as Bishop, Cadogan, and Catton, and used to lye out o'Nights, and so we parted by Consent.

Court. Have you never demanded any money of the Prisoner since you were turn'd away from Mr. Nutt's?

Curtis. No: He always gave it me without asking. He lately gave me 2 s. at a Coffee-house, and 1 s. in Bridewell. The last Time he gave me money, was last Sunday was Sev'n-night.

Prisoner. I own I gave him a Shilling in Bridewell, but I gave it him publickly; and as for the 3 s. a Week, 'tis as false as God is true.

Curtis. No, you gave me the Shilling in Bridewell privately.

Prisoner. When you made your Information upon Oath before Sir John Gonson , and Justice De Veil, did you mention me?

Curtis. No.

Justice De Veil. He said upon his Oath, that those men whom he had named in his Information, were all the men that he knew to be concerned in Sodomitical Practices. And the Prisoner's Name was not at all mentioned in that Information.

Court. And so you forswore yourself?

Curtis. Yes.

Court. Why?

Curtis. Because he gave me money, and cry'd and begg'd me not to discover him; and promised if I did not, he would stand by me as long as he lived.

Court. And you really perjured yourself to save him.

Curtis. Yes, I did.

Court. After such a Confession, I don't see how the Jury can credit any thing you say. But how happen'd it that you impeach'd the Prisoner at last?

Curtis I could not be easy in my Conscience till I had done it.

Prisoner. I believe you had another Reason. Did not you fear that I should be an Evidence against your Character in the Trial of Catton and Bishop at Hicks's Hall for such Practices.

Curtis. Yes, you did as much as threaten it, and I was obliged to do what I did in my own Defence.

Mrs. Atkins. I keep Gray's-Inn Coffee house. Curtis having ran away, was brought to my House as soon as he was found. The Prisoner came to Breakfast with him every Day, and they talked privately together. I examin'd the Boy, and he told me the Prisoner had been the ruin of him, by allowing him Pocket-money, and promising to cut his Brother off with a Shilling.

He said, that the Prisoner had given him Cloaths too, and had order'd the Barber to make him a Wig, and that they were to go over Sea together. Before the Prisoner came, the Boy had no Money, but I saw him have a Shilling after the Prisoner was gone. The Boy did not tell me any thing of the Crime, but I guess' at it.

Prisoner. On what Day was the Boy brought to your House?

Atkins. On Thursday, and you came next Day with several more.

Prisoner. And what did I bring him?

Atkins. You brought some Linen from his Cousin, Mr. Nevill, and some Books.

Prisoner. What Books?

Atkins. The Whole Duty of Man, which I thought it would have been well if you had practised. Then there was Wake's Exposition of the Church Catechism, and Stanhope's Christian Pattern.

Mrs. Owen. The Prisoner asked me how much Curtis owed me, I told him 10 s. and 6 d. for Snuff-boxes, Combs and Buttons; and he paid me 10 s. and bid me trust him no more. I said I would not; and he said, he would tell the Boy's Mother, and she should pay him again.

Mr. Nicolls. Last Winter was a Twelve-month I lodged at Mr. Nutt's, and one Night in March, as I was writing, Curtis came in, and said the Prisoner was come Home drunk, and was such a nasty Toad when he was drunk, that he would lye no more with him, and therefore desired that he might lye with me while my Bedfellow was Abroad.

The Prisoner and the Boy sometimes quarrel'd. The Prisoner would say to him, You neglect your Work, and I am forced to do it for you; but if you don't mind it better, I'll tell your Master. And the Boy would answer, So you may, you're a nasty Toad.

I have seen the Prisoner in variety of Company, drunk and sober, but never in any Company suspected of such Things, nor did I ever suspect him myself; but I know the Boy was an idle Boy.

Hannah Unwin. I know nothing of it. I never saw any such Thing by him.

Council. No; he'd hardly do such Things in your Presence: But did the Boy never complain to you?

Unwin. I have heard him say, that he would not lye with the Prisoner, because he had got a stinking Breath; and made himself so nasty with taking Snuff. Once indeed, about 2 Years ago, the Boy told me that the Prisoner would have done it, but did not; but I never believed the Boy, because I knew he was a liar.

I've seen the Prisoner box his Ears 2 or 3 times, for neglecting his Master's Business, and have often heard him give the Boy good Advice, which the Boy did not like; for he has said to me, that one Reason why he did not care to lye with the Prisoner, because he was always preaching Presbyterian Sermons to him. Sometimes I have gone to call the Boy up in a morning, and then I have heard the Prisoner advice him for his good.

Council. Did you never see them go up Stairs together privately?

Unwin. No.

Prisoner. Had you ever any Reason to think that I was guilty of such Things?

Unwin. No.

Prisoner. Have you not some Reasons to believe the contrary?

Unwin. Yes.

Council. Why did he did he ever Kiss you?

Unwin. I have no need to tell you that; but I know he had a very good Character.

Tho Hambleton. I have lived in Mr. Nutt's Family. The Boy complain'd to me about three Quarters of a Year ago, that the Prisoner was a Molly and a Sodomite, and that he had committed Sodomy with him, and been the ruin of him; I lay on the same Floor about 2 Years ago, and never heard any such Thing; when he told me this Story, I did not advise him to do anything, because, I did not believe him, and I did not believe him, because, I knew him to be a great Liar;

and besides, he was a very idle Boy, and used to hide himself in Holes about the House, to keep out of the way of his Work.

Mr. Heath. The Prisoner is a Relation of mine, he had a good Education, and as virtuous a Character as any Man I know, and I cannot believe he would be guilty of such Things; he served his time with Mr. Standfast, a Bookseller, in Westminster-Hall.

Mr. Stag. He served his Time with Mr. Standfast, next Shop to mine, and always had the Character of a sober young Man, I recommended him to Mr. Nutt.

Mr. Corbett. I have known him 11 Years, both when he was an Apprentice and a Master; he lodg'd and boarded 2 Years in my House, and when my Wife lay-in he lay with me, and I never found any thing in his Behaviour, but what was Sober and Modest.

The Jury acquitted him, and the Court granted him a Copy of his Indictment.

[Verdict: Not Guilty]



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