A Molly House was a cross between a gay club and brothel in the 18th century. They were social venues where people could come to sing and dance, but men could sit on each other’s laps. Legal records say that there were 30 Molly Houses in London, which was extensive for its population of 600,000, to have 12 was the equivalent of having around 200 gay clubs in London in the 1970s. ‘Molly’ had the meaning of ‘Mary’ and also slang for soft or sissy (as in Molly Coddle), or a slang for female prostitute. It meant pansy, puff or fairy.
Sex between men was illegal in Britain until 1967.
In the 1720s there was a prosecution wave amongst the gay community. Prosecutions for sodomy were about 5 a decade in London, but in the 1720s there were 15 a year in London. Sodom was one of the cities (Sodom and Gomorrah) mentioned in the book of Genesis in the Bible in an incident where tourists were homosexually raped by the locals in a crime of racism. The cities were destroyed by God as punishment. Some Christians took this to outlaw the act of genital penetration between men, called “sodomy”.
A raid produced the following case at the Old Bailey. 20 April 1726 widow and father Gabriel Lawrence, a milk man, was tried at the Old Bailey for the crime of sodomy with Thomas Newton aged 30. The House of Margaret Clap, next to the Bunch of Grapes in Field Lane in Holborn. It hosted 30 or 40 persons every night, but more on Sundays. All rooms had beds. Henchmen would often track down such crimes. Grabriel Lawrence was hanged and then taken to Surgeon’s Hall to be dissected.
Marrying rooms – add text here.