LGBTQ Heroes: James Pratt and John Smith
James Pratt and John Smith were two London men who, in 1835, became the last men to be executed in England for sodomy.
Who were James Pratt and John Smith?
James Pratt was born in 1805. He worked as a groom. He was married. He lived with his wife and children at Deptford – a busy part of London on the south side of the Thames River.
John Smith was born in 1795. He worked as a labourer. He lived in Southwark – a trading area of London on the south side of the Thames River.
Why were James Pratt and John Smith arrested?
There was a man called William Bonhill. Bonhill rented rooms in Southwark, from which he was running what seems like some sort of gay brothel or pleasure house for men. Bonhill’s landlord tipped off the police. When the police arrived, they arrested Bonhill. The police also arrested James Pratt and John Smith who the police believed were having sex in one of Bonhill’s rooms. Bonhill’s landlord said that his suspicions were raised because Bonhill frequently had male visitors, who generally came in pairs.
What happened at the trial?
Pratt and Smith were both convicted of buggery and sentenced to death. Bonhill was convicted as an accessory and sentenced to 14 years of penal transportation. Bonhill was transported to Van Diemen’s Land where he subsequently died.
Pratt and Smith were executed by hanging. They were the last men in England to be executed for being gay.