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Vere Street Coterie

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The Vere Street Coterie were a group of men arrested at a Molly house in Vere Street, London in 1810 for sodomy and attempted sodomy. Eight men were eventually convicted. Two were hanged (as per the then still extant sodomy laws promulgated by Henry VIII in 1534) and six were pilloried for this offence. Along with Oscar Wilde's imprisonment for a similar offence, this event was one of the major events in gay history in England during the 19th century.

The White Swan in Vere Street, London, was established as a molly-house (that is, a gay club) in early 1810 by two men, James Cook (not the seafarer) and Yardley (full name unknown), who realised the lack of gay brothels in the city offered a business opportunity for them (Yardley claimed to be straight with a wife and purely in it for the money).

The club had been operating for less than six months when, on 8 July 1810, it was raided by the Bow Street police. 27 men were arrested, but in the end the majority of them were released (perhaps as a result of bribes) and only eight were tried and convicted.

Six of the convicted men, found guilty of attempted sodomy, were pilloried in the Haymarket on 27 September that year. The crowds who turned out to witness the scene were violent and unruly, throwing various objects (including rotten fish, dead cats, "cannonballs" made of mud, and of course vegetables) at the men. The women were reported as being particularly vicious. The city provided a guard of 200 armed constables, half mounted and half on foot, to protect the men from even worse mistreatment.

Two men, John Hepburn and Thomas White (a drummer boy), were convicted of the act of sodomy itself despite not being present at the White Swan during the night of the raid. The pair hanged at Newgate on 7 March 1811.

It is also known in connection with alleged same sex marriages there by Reverend John Church.

The entire history of the White Swan and the Vere Street Coterie were related by the lawyer Robert Holloway, who published a book about it called The Phoenix of Sodom in 1813.

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