BBC TV blog
Tony Marchant, the creator and writer of Garrow's Law, discusses the difficult balancing act involved in making the series "historically accurate but dramatically compelling at the same time."Read Tony Marchant's post on the BBC TV blog
Inspirations: Episode 2
Garrow’s Law aims to give viewers a window on life in late eighteenth century legal London.Mark Pallis's blog: more links
Mark Pallis, Garrow's Law consultant on legal and historical matters, tells us more about the real cases and events that inspired this episode.
BURNT TO DEATH
In Garrow’s time, women were sentenced to be burnt for treasonable offences. This meant that women and men could receive different punishments for the same offence: in the case of coining (or counterfeiting money as we know it today) men found would be hanged and women would be burnt.
Onecase that inspired the Episode took place in 1786. Silvester was prosecuting, and Garrow was defending. There were three defendants in total. Garrow got two off, but the third, Phebe Harris, was found guilty and sentenced to death. When Phebe was burnt, 20,000 turned up to watch. The second inspiration was the case of Sophia Girton, who was sentenced to death by burning in 1790. During the trial, you can sense her horror and fear when she cries out:
Oh you base wretch! you cruel villain! you cruel false swearing creature.
We put these words into the mouth of Phebe Harris.
The only silver lining is that Sophia Girton, sentenced to death by burning just four years after Phebe Harris, didn’t actually end up on the pyre. Her conviction triggered legislation in parliament banning burning. Sohpia ended up being pardoned on condition of being transported to Australia.
BEING GAY IN GEORGIAN LONDON
A great place for people who want to learn more is the site Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England, compiled by Rictor Norton.
THE REAL CAPTAIN JONES
The real Captain Jones was accused of sodomy in 1772 and his case resulted in the first public debate about homosexuality in England
Jones was a published expert on fireworks and also published the first known account of figure skating and was responsible for popularizing the sport. The Episode aims to give viewers a sense of what life was like as a gay man during a time when homosexuality was punishable by death. From a sources point of view, it was a challenge.
During Garrow’s time, reports of sodomy trials were suppressed, so there are very few records. We turned to earlier cases to understand exactly how prosecutions worked. It’s worth remembering that even if both adults consented, sodomy was still punishable by death. As a result, one of the only ways out would be for one man to turn against the other and say he was forced. This appears to have happened along the way in the case of Robert Crook and Charles Gibson from 1772.
The law at the time has been called a Blackmailers Charter and men making accusations of sodomy against each other was relatively common. In the Case of John Woodford 1787, for example, Garrow prosecutes a man for robbery. In this case the robber said “if you do not give me some money, I will say you are a sodomite” Similarly, in the case of Robert Jones and Ann Simpson 1792, Garrow’s client was a man who had been accused of sodomy and, as a result, brought a prosecution for extortion against a Mr Jones.
GARROW'S VIEWS ON SODOMY?
There are no records about Garrow’s personal views on sodomy save that on at least one occasion, in the case of Richard Gilpin in 1820, when Garrow was a judge, he found a man not guilty of sodomy.
Link: Case of Phebe HarrisOld Bailey Online - Case of Phebe Harris, 1786
Link: Case of Sophia GirtonOld Bailey Online - Case of Sophia Girton, 1790
link: Case of Crook and GibsonOld Bailey Online - Case of Crook and Gibson, 1772
link: Case of John WoodfordOld Bailey Online - Case of John Woodford, 1787
link: Case of Robert Jones and Ann SimpsonOld Bailey Online - Case of Robert Jones and Ann Simpson, 1792
link: Case of Richard GilpinOld Bailey Online - Case of Richard Gilpin, 1820
- William Garrow
- Andrew Buchan
- John Southouse
- Alun Armstrong
- Lady Sarah Hill
- Lyndsey Marshal
- Sir ArthurHill
- Rupert Graves
- Aidan McArdle
- Judge Buller
- Michael Culkin
- David Jasker
- Matthew McNulty
- Isabella Jasker
- Liz White
- Captain Robert Jones
- Andrew Scott
- John Farmer
- Anton Lesser
- Mary Christie
- Victoria Balnaves
- Ian Grieve
- Phebe Harris
- Florence Bell
- Maria Reader
- Rachel Pickup
- Ashley Pearce
- Nick Pitt
- Tony Marchant
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