Suppression of Night-Houses

18 July 1730   Several substantial tradesmen and house-keepers living in Bridges-street, Catherine-street, and Places contiguous to Drury-Lane, being frequently disturbed, especially in the night time, by thieves, pickpockets, and other lewd persons that are harbour’d and entertain’d in several night-houses and other houses of ill fame in that neighbourhood, petition’d the Bench of Justices last Westminster Sessions; and the Bench referred it to a Committee of sixteen or eighteen Justices of the Peace, to meet on purpose to supress those disorders: And on Tuesday morning eleven or twelve of those Magistrates met for the first time at Covent-Garden Vestry, took a great number of examinations, and immediately issued out their warrants against ten disorderly houses, and sent the High-Constable wiht a great many Petty Constables to execute the same: Several persons who keep those houses were apprehended and brought before the Justices; some of which are bound over to the Sessions, some committed to the Gatehouse for want of bail, and others fled. (London Journal)

25 July 1730   On Thursday . . . the Chairman and Committee of Justices of the Peace, appointed at the last Westminster Sessions for the suppressing of the night-houses and other disorderly houses in Covent Garden, Bridges-street, Russell-street, and other places contiguous to Drury-lane, met for the second time at Covent Garden Vestry, where there were present ten Justices of the Peace; and a considerable number of the substantial inhabitants in and near White Hart Yard made a complaint of several disorderly houses in that neighbourhood, whereby they were frequently disturbed by many dissolute and wicked persons harbour’d in those houses; the Justices immediately issued out their Warrants, and sent the High Constable and a great many Petty Cosntables, to apprehend the persons who keep these houses, several of whom were brought before the said Justices, and for want of bail committed to prison; and several loose and idle persons and suspected thieves and pickpockets taken the night at several of these houses are committed to Tothill-Fields Bridewell, to hard labour; and amongst othes, a Bailif’s Follower, who is a notorious bulley in the Hundreds of Drury, as well as a solicitor; and his doxy is also committed with him. (London Journal)

28 July 1730   A woman that has many years begged about the streets, was taken into custody, and committed to the Gatehouse by Justice Scot, being charged with seducing a girl of 7 or 8 years of age, to go privately into several houses, and stealing divers goods.
     Several disorderly houses in the Parish of Covent-Garden having been searched on Friday night last, and a great many creatures taken, and the next day committed to Tothill-Fields Bridewell, has occasioned 3 or 4 of the most notorious persons in the said Parish to move off with their effects by night. [Daily Journal]

29 July 1730   Sir John Gonson, and about 12 other Justices of the Peace for the City and Liberty of Westminster, having determined to meet twice a week, in order to suppress the disorderly houses within the said City and Liberty, above 40 lewd women have been committed to Tothill-fields Bridewell within a fortnight past. [Daily Journal]

1 August 1730   Sir John Gonson, and about 12 other Justices of the Peace for the City and Liberty of Westminster, having determined to meet twice a week in order to suppress disorderly houses within the said City and Liberty, above 40 lewd women have been committed to Tothill-fields Bridewell within a fortnight past. (London Journal)

8 August 1730   On Wednesday morning, about two o’clock, 22 lewd women and 8 men were taken out of several disorderly hosues in Westminster, by virtue of search warrants, and carried to St. Martin’s Round-House; and the same day were examined, and most of them committed to Tothill-Fields Bridewell, by Sir John Gonson, and about ten other Justices of the Peace, who met at St. Martin’s vestry. (London Journal)

15 August 1730   On Saturday night three fellows were taken in the saw-pit in Upper Moorfields, and secured in the Round-house, and on Monday morning they were caried before Mr. Justice Tallboy at Hoxton, and by him committed to Bridewell; since which the inhabitants thereabouts are endeavouring to have a Watch there all night, for the security of all persons that have occasion to come over the Fields, that shed being a common receptacle for rogues and villains to harbour in at all times of the night. (London Journal)

22 August 1730   On Monday was held at the Court of King’s-Bench in Westminster-Hall, before the Justice of the Peace for the City and Liberty of Westminster, an Adjournment of the last General Quarter-Sessions of the Peace for the said City and Liberty, when Mary Maccaig, alias Harvey, was committed to the Gatehouse for a contempt of the Court, in abusing Justice Robinson, then upon the Bench, and also for raising a disturbance in the Court; and assaulting and striking several Constables then on duty. [See more details at Moll Harvey.]
     One John Ellis was also committed to the said jail by the Bench of Justices, for attempting to rescue the said Marry Maccaig, alias Harvey, as she was carrying to the Gatehouse.
     At the opening of the said Adjournment, the Chairman gave a learned charge to the Constables and Headboroughs, in which he told them how far they were justifiable in apprehending of lewd and disorderly persons without a warrant, and then informed them of a letter that he had received from the Right Hon. the Lord Harrington, one of his Majesty’s Principal Secretaries of State; wherein his Lordship had, by his Majesty’s Command, communicated to the Sollicitor of the Treasury, Orders to defend, at his Majesty’s Expence, any vexatious suits that should be commenced against any Constable, Headborough, &c. in the execution of their offices: The contents of the letter was as follows, viz.




          Windsor Castle, August 11. 1730.
To Sir John Gonson, Chairman of the General Quarter Sessions of the Peace, held at Westminster-Hall, for the City and Liberty of Westminster.
Having received the account you gave me of the resolution baken by the Justices of the Peace at your last General Quarter Sessions, for laying before his Majesty the fear that several of the Constables and other Peace-Officers for the City and Liberty of Westminster, labour under by vexatious prosecutions, that are frequently commenced against them, upon the least mistake in executing of their office, and sometimes when they do not go beyond the limits of their office; this is to let you know, that I have acquainted his Majesty with the same, and he has been graciously pleased to direct me to issue our orders to his Solicitor of the Treasury to defend, at his Majesty’s expence, any suits that shall be so commenced against any Constable, Headborough, &c. in the execution of his office; and all Constables, Headboroughs, &c. are required upon any such suit being commenced against them, to apply themselves to his Solicitor ofthe Treasury accordingly.

After this the Court heard and determined several indictments, and then adjourned to Monday next come three weeks. (London Journal)

29 August 1730   On Monday last, the Constables of the Parishes of St. Paul’s Covent Garden and St. Martin’s in the Fields were ordered to attend Sir John Gonson, the Chairman, and the Committee of Justices appointed at the last Westminster Sessions for suppressing the night houses, night cellars, and other disorderly houses in and near Drury-Lane, at their next meeting, to lay before the said Justices an account in writing of all night houses, and other disorderly houses in their respective wards, to the end that when the licenses are renewed (which by the late Act of Parliament they are required to be the next month) care may be taken to prevent those houses, as well as such others that are under prosecution, tohave any more licenses granted them to sell drink or distill’d liquors.
     And we hear, that for the more effectual supressing disorderly houses, the said Justices are resolved to put in execution the Act 3 Car. 1. cap 3. whereby every person keeping an alehouse, &c. without license from the Justices of the Peace, forfeits 20s. to the poor of the parish, to be levied by distress and sale of the offender’s goods; and in default of distress, and the penalty not paid in six days, to be publickly whipped; for the 2d offence, the offender is to be committed to the House of Correction for one month, there to be dealt with as an idle, lewd and disorderly person; and for the 3d offence, to be committed to the House of Correction, as aforesaid, and not to be inlarged from thence, but by Order of Sessions.
     On Tuesday the said Chairman and Committee of Justices met at Covent-Garden Vestry, and bound over to the Sessions several persons for keeping those sort of houses, and examined several idle and disorderly men and women apprehended late on Monday night at those places. Four of the most notorious of them were commited to Tothill Fields Bridewell to beat hemp, and the rest were discharged.
     On Wednesday morning, one Luke Powel, alias Hopp (so called for his going with a crutch, and pretending to be lame) Captain of a gang of pickpockets, who nightly infest the streets near Temnple-Bar, was committed to Tothill Fields Bridewell by Sir John Gonson, being apprehended late on Tuesday night, and upon searching him, six handkerchiefs were found in his pockets. (London Journal)

5 September 1730   On Sunday morning Phlip Sullivan, lucy Negle, Theodosia Brown, Mary Stiles, Mary Lee, Elizabeth Coxeter and Ann Bowman were committed to Tothill Fields Bridewell by Sir John Gonson, and charged upon oath by the Constable of the Night, and the Beadles and Watchmen, to be idle and disorderly persons, and reputed pickpockets, belonging to a gang who nightly infest the streets about Temple-Bar and the Strand, to the terror and great disturbance of the civil part of the neighbourhood, as well as others who are obliged to be abroad on their lawful business. Philip Sullivan is a common bulley for these sort of women, and a few nights before insulted and threatned two Watchmen who endeavour’d to disturb some of his doxies.
     Sir John Gonson also granted his warrant out against a man and his wife who keep a disordery brandy shop, which is open all night long for the entertainment and reception of these sort of creatures, and from whence they sally out into the streets, when they have an opportunity to rob or do any mischief. (London Journal)

12 September 1730   On Friday last week the Grand Jury for the County of Middlesex were discharged for the last Sessions, having examined upwads of 250 Bills of Indictment, which are more than ever were known in one Sessions. (London Journal)

19 September 1730   One Mary Muffet, a woman of great note in the Hundreds of Drury, and lately committed to Tothill-Fields Bridewell, by the Chairman and eight other Justices of the Peace of the Committee appointed at the last Westminster Sessions, for suppressing the night houses and other disorderly hosues, &c. brought his Majesty’s Write of Habeas Corpus, and was on Wednesday carried before the Rt. Hon. the Lord Chief Justice Rayjmond, at his Chambers in Serjeants-Inn in Chancery-Lane, expecting to have been either bail’d or discharged; but her committment apeparing to be legal and just, and drawn up with great care, his Lordhsip thought fit to remand her back again to Bridewell, where to her no small mortification she is still beating hemp, and bestows many hearty curses upon her lawyers, as well as the civil part of the neighbourhood, who complained of her to the Justices. (London Journal)

26 September 1730   [Six more people were committed to Tothill-Fields Bridewell for keeping disorderly houses, and a man and woman committed to the Gatehouse for keeping a very disorderly house in Charles-street, Covent-Garden.]

17 October 1730   [Twenty-four bills of indictment were issued against disorderly houses in and near Drury Lane.]

(Texts have been modernized with regard to capitalization, italicization, and punctuation, but original spelling has been retained. This edition copyright Rictor Norton. All rights reserved. Reproduction for sale or profit prohibited. These extracts may not be archived, republished or redistributed without the permission of the compiler.)

CITATION: Rictor Norton, Early Eighteenth-Century Newspaper Reports: A Sourcebook, "Suppression of Night-Houses", 25 July 2002, expanded 29 July 2002 <>

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