Maker: Thomas Tyler
Gabriel Lawrence figurine, c.1757
Hand painted Bone china, 19cm
Museum no: C. 457
This traditional figurine depicts Gabriel Lawrence, a burly milkman, who frequented the infamous molly houses of London in the early 1700s.
He was arrested during the infamous raid on Mother Clapp’s in Field Lane, as part of a movement by The Society of the Reformation of Manners to eradicate lewd, profane and immoral activities throughout the city.
Gabriel, and two companions, William Griffin and Thomas Wright, were convicted of sodomy and sentenced to death. All three were hanged on the gallows at Tyburn in the spring of 1726.
As a celebration of the life and spirit of Gabriel, his close friend, the potter Thomas Tyler created the piece in typical Rococo style. It plays on pastoral themes of the time, reflecting Gabriel's work as a milkman and his deep love for molly culture.
The figurine of Gabriel Lawrence has been held in the Keeper’s collection since the mid-18th century.
A letter from Thomas Tyler
(This account was taken down verbatim by a notary as the last request of Thomas Tyler, a figurine maker at the Bow porcelain factory, 1753)
I had wanted to make one last thing before my furnace damaged lungs rattle for the last time and I thought of you Gabriel. Memories of those wild times, like sunlight quivering through leaves, almost able to be caught; at first, Gabriel’s face alive and laughing through the cracked make-up. Then like a cloud obscuring the sun, this image is replaced by the discoloured twisted one I no longer recognised at Tyburn. My desire in making this figurine is to keep the first alive and obliterate the last.
The rotten stench from the Fleet ditch fills my being, and I am at once a young potter enjoying a cramped Sunday night at Mother Clapp’s on Field Lane. Gabriel had never cared that he was a burly old milkman, he just loved to dress up as a Molly. His best gown kept for Sundays; it was the colour of Rape fields. I, of course, had made the ‘Necessary-House’ with many a fine fellow but he was not a notorious sodomite like the rest of us. He was a Molly in dress and spirit alone.
God damn those black wretches from the evil Society for the Reformation of Manners and that cold February night that robbed the colour from my world.