Poor-Whores Petition

The Poor-Whores Petition to the most Splendid, Illustrious and Eminent Lady of Pleasure, the Countess of Castlmaine etc.  The Honorable Petition of the Undone Company of poor distressed Whores, Bawds, Pimps, and Panders, etc.

Humbly sheweth,
That your petitioners having been for a long time connived at and countenanced in the practice of our venereal pleasures (a trade wherein your ladyship hath great experience, and for your diligence therein have arrived to high and eminent advancement for these late years), but now we, through the rage and malice of a company of London apprentices and other malicious and very bad persons, being mechanic, rude and ill-bred boys, have sustained the loss of our habitations, trades and employments; and many of us that have had foul play in the court and sports of Venus, being full of ulcers, but were in a hopeful way of recovery, have our cures retarded through this barbarous and un-Venus like usage, and all of us exposed to very hard shifts, being made uncapable of giving that entertainment, as the honor and dignity of such persons as frequented our houses doth call for, as your ladyship by your own practice hath experimented the knowledge of. 

We therefore being moved by the imminent danger now impending and the great sense of our present suffering, do implore your Honor to improve your interest, which (all know) is great that some speedy relief may be afforded us, to prevent our utter ruin and undoing.  And that such a sure course may be taken with the ringleaders and abettors of these evil disposed persons that a stop may be put unto them before they come to your honor’s palace and bring contempt upon your worshiping of Venus, the great goddess whom we all adore.

Wherefore in our devotion (your honor being eminently concerned with us) we humbly judge it mete that you procure the French, Irish and English Hectors, being our approved friends, to be our guard, aid and protectors, and to free us from these ill home-bred slaves that threaten your destruction as well as ours that so your ladyship may escape our present calamity.  Else we know not how soon it may be your honor’s own case: for should your eminency but once fall into these rough hands, you may expect no more favor than they have shown unto us poor inferior whores.

Will your eminency therefore be pleased to consider how highly it concerns you to restore us to our former practice with honor, freedom and safety; for which we shall oblige ourselves by as many oaths as you please, to contribute to your ladyship (as our sisters do at Rome and Venice to His Holiness the Pope) that we may have your protection in the exercise of all our Venereal pleasures.  And we shall endeavor, as our bounden duty, the promoting of your great name and the preservation of your honor, safety and interest, with the hazard of our lives, fortunes and honesty.

And your petitioners shall (as by custom bound) evermore pray, etc.

Signed by us, Madam Cresswell and Damaris Page, in the behalf of our sisters and fellow sufferers (in this day of our calamity) in Dog and Bitch Yard, Lukenor’s Lane, Saffron Hill, Moorfields, Chiswell Street, Rosemary Lane, Nightingale Lane, Ratcliffe Highway, Well Close, East Smithfield etc., this present 25th cay of March 1668

She-trader ballad

The Complaint of All the She-Traders in Rosemary-lane, Black-Mary’s Hole, Ratcliff, Dog-and-Bitch Yard, Moor-fields and Petticoat-lane, against the City Cheats, or new Coffee-houses, about Charing-Cross, Westminster, Covent-garden, Fleet-street, and those parts of the town. 

To The Tune of an Orange 

A Curse on your shams, ye Coffee-house Dames
Who instead of extinguishing, cherish men’s Flames;
How finely you draw the poor gentlemen in,
With your devil’s commander, wine, to the Sin
                                                                    Fornication. 

Sobriety cloaks your lust, with a Pox,
While we deal more plainly, like honester Fokes
Altho’ we can hardly keep open our Dores,
For all we maintain the perfectest Whores  
                                                                       
In the Nation. 

When Miss is with kid, that shame may be hid,
For a Coffee-house for her strait money is bid,
Where Baneling comes out, and then she’s as pure
As a Girl of fifteen that n’er played the Whore                                                                                
                                                                      But in Fancy. 

At Night to the Star the Bullies repair,
Where Robis has fix’d a Planet more fair;
Whose Aspect alone portends more annoy
Than the glitt’ring flames that devoured old Troy:                                                                                
                                                                    O brave Nancy. 

Strait Nancy comes down in her flowr’d Sattin Gown,
And in scoring ten Shillings she cheats but a Crown,
To little (alas!) to maintain the Jade’s pride,
And the lavish expense of her Bully beside,                                                                                
                                                                   I must tell ye. 

Chocolat, Syder, Mum, flows all o’re the Room,
Of which (‘tis believed) Madam Nancy drinks some;
But to Robin this drinking is but a meer Task,
For he swears he can’t sleep without t’other Flask
                                                                   In his Belly. 

The Flasks go round and Glasses are crown’d,
Till some fall o’ fighting, and then to the ground;
When Robin and Nancy th’advantage do take
Of picking their Pockets before they do wake,                                                                                
                                                                Of their silver. 

If Gold was there, you boldly may swear,
They get it by means not honest or fair;
For whatever they cram into Fob or to Gut,
You may be all confident is nothing but  
                                                                  What they pilfer. 

Then from Rosemary-lane we all do complain,
From Black mary’s Hole from Ratcliff again,
From Dog-and-Bitch-Yard, and from famous Moor-fields,
To the Sparks of this end of the Town, of the Ills
                                                                  We lye under. 

In time then appease our harsh Miseries,
Or the cruel Affliction you Gallants will seize,
How if we shall be forced e’r many a day
To turn honest women all; which you will say,
                                                                  Is a Wonder. 

O Petticoat-lane! that long did’st maintain
The Quack, that pretends to cure the Rein
How low art thou fallen from thy Trade in a trice,
What before for a George may now for a Sice 
                                                                 Be procured. 

Then let us All a Council callAnd cry out amain, A Hall! a Hall!
For such damn’d Impositions were ne’re before known,
Since Damaris Page, here, and can be by none
                                                                           Here endured. 

Let’s muster our Force, both our Foot and our Horse,
Those who ride on crutches and those who halt worse,
And let us proclaim it Explusion by Law,
To those who from our Assistance withdraw,
                                                                         Or lye skulkers. 

For ‘tisn’t worth our while to Buttock and File,
And to Clap is both our own pain and our Toil;
Then either afford us in Visits relief,
Or some of the traders may find to their grief,
                                                                       We’ll turn Bulkers.

 

Pepys Visits Coffee House

I went to the Coffee Club and heard a very good discourse; it was in answer to Mr. Harrington's answer who said that the state of the Roman government was not a settled government, and so it was no wonder if the state of property was in one hand and the command in the other, it being therefore always in a posture of war; but it was carried by ballot, that it was a steady government, though it was true by the voices it had been carried before that it was an unsteady government; so tomorrow it is to be proved by the opponents that the balance lay in one hand and the government in the other.

Biographies

Records of some legal cases provide rudimentary biographies of people summoned as witnesses, which allow us to glimpse residential and occupational patterns.  This is a summary of some randomly selected examples

DL/C/23X79/51, fo. 35, the case of Merkyns vs. Jones

Thomas Pilkington of the Strand parish of St Clements Danes, a victualer, has resided there for six months.  Previously he had resideded in St Giles Cripplegate for a year and St Sepulchre without Newgate for a year; before that he had lived in Nottingham.  He earns his living by drawing beer and claims to be worth fifty pounds, his debts being paid.  He confesses he was once imprisoned for three days for selling beer without a license.

Ann Toy has lodged with Elizabeth Merkin for six months and "doth get her living by making flowers for ladies and persons of great worth."  She is the wife of Humphrey Toy, resident in the parish of St Clements Danes for ten years, although he is now living in Wales.  "She lives of her own means by making flowers," paying 2 shillings a week for her lodging, while she pursues a suit in the court of Chancery about her patrimony, "which is the cause she cannot live with her husband."  Before lodging with Merkin she stayed for twelve months in the house of a Mrs. Draper in the same parish; before that she lodged with Lady Billingsley.  She signed her statement, suggesting she knew how to read.

Francis Boucham, aged 22, describes herself as a spinster and servant to Merkyn, with whom she has resided for six months.  Before that she lived in Westminster and the parish of St Mary's Stayning, London.  She "getteth her living by her labor" and has earned 2 shillings 6 pence in wages in six months.

GLRO DL/C/235, fos. 133, 152, 196-7; the case of Powell vs. Ireland of the parish of St Mary le Savoy (along the Strand)

Anne, wife of Edward Gibson, aged 28 or 29 years was born in Berkshire and has resided in the parish nine years.

Robert Danistry, blacksmith, is 35 years old and has resided in the parish eleven years; before that he lived in Bdfordshire

George Plummer, blacksmith, is 40 years old and has resided in the parish nine years; before that he lived in Buckinghamshire

Margaret Greene, a servant to Edward Gibson, has resided in the parish for 3 years; before that she lived in St Dunstan's in the West, London, for six years.

Frances Rice, 60 years old, has resided in the parish for sixteen years and was born in Warwickshire.  "She is a charwoman and worketh in diverse houses in the parish of St Mary Savoy and St Clements [Danes]... She is worth little but liveth by her labor and receiveth the alms of the parish".

George Plummer of St Mary le Savoy, a blacksmith aged 40 years, has resided in the parish for nine years; before that he lived in Buckinghamshire.

Robert Danity, a blacksmith aged 35 years, has resided in the same parish for ten or eleven years; previously he lived in Bedfordshire.

Mary, wife of Simon Purdue is 35 years old and has lived in the same parish for eight years, having been born in Sussex.

Anne, wife of Andrew Mills, a farrier, is 30 years old and has resided for six years in the same parish. Before that she lived in London, having been born in Staffordshire.  Mary Purdue was her apprentice.

Mary, wife of Jolley Woolsey, a surgeon of the parish of St Clements Danes, has resided there for six years and is 34 or 35 years old.  She had lived for three years in St Mary le Savoy parish, having been born in Northamptonshire.  She signed her deposition. 

John Dare, a citizen of London and blacksmith, has resided in the parish 20 years.  He claims to be worth ten pounds, his debts being paid.  He had served as constable of the parish but was evidently illiterate, since he signed his statement with a mark.

DL/C/233, fo. 285-6, the case of Plunket vs. Croft, a tithe dispute over property in Tuttle Fields, on the edge of Westminster

Elizabeth Johnson, of St Margarets Westminster, is a widow aged 60.  "For these ten years last past she hath kept cattle and selleth of their milk and by that means maintaineth herself.

Nicholas Collup of St Martins in the Fields, a laborer aged 32 years, has resided in his parish for 6 years, having lived before that in Buckinghamshire and Essex.  He was hired in 1630 to make hay on "eight acres of meadow near Tuttle Fields... For these six years last past he hath been and is a laborer and by that means maintaineth himself and before he was a sevingman or a cook in house to one Mrs. Wall a widow in Beaconsfield [Buckinghamshire]... He has wrought two or three hay harvests" with Mr. Crofts.

Gabriel Davies of St Martins in the Fields is a servant of Crofts, aged 30 years.  "For six years past he ... hath lived with Mr. Crofts ... during which time he hath gone with the drays and looked to the cattle and done other service about the house and in the fields and ... before he was groom to Mr. M--- in County Monmouth for seven years."  He receives wages of 2 shillings a week plus drink and lodging. 

Robert White of St Margarets Westminster is identified as a yeoman, aged 45, resident in his parish for 20 years.  He is a servant to Crofts receiving sixteen pounds a year in wages.

 

Alehouse in Alley

A report to the Lord Mayor and Alderman of London on a new tavern in an alley, July 13, 1629 (TNA SP16/146/74).

[The team sent to inspect the site recommends suppressing the tavern] in regard of the situation thereof, being near the Turn Again Lane and other alleys full of poor and in a back place, where people of ill behavior may resort, without sight of the magistrate or better sort of people (there being a bowling alley and a pair of butts already made and finished where poor people, which do abound in that place, may resort and spend their thrift, and cause brawls and breaches of the peace... It [the tavern] is in an obscure place or hole not long since digged through a dead wall and now not only fitted with a bowling alley and butts as aforesaid but also with a shovelboard, and fit for nothing but a common gaming house in a dark place, out of the eye of government, and is like to be frequented with no other but the poorer sort of artificers and laborers".

Casual encounters

An attempted seduction? (Examination of Frances Chicheley, June 1637; GLRO WJSR48/7)

She going towards her lodging about the hour of ten of the clock at night ... one Mr Williams overtaking her ... caused her to go with him into the Reindeer Tavern where they did drink two pints of wine and coming out of the tavern ... Mr. Williams would needs have her to go with him to his lodging and put his hand into his pocket and drew out a purse with golod in it and gave it her promising her if she would go to his lodging with him and there lie with him he would make her his wife and carry her down into the country and would maintain her like a lady"  However another witness, Maragraet Evans, described Frances Chicheley as "a notorious pickpocket" (WJ/SR48/8).

Casual socializing in mixed company (Examination of Anne Smith, October 1637; GLRO WJ/SR(ns)50/19

She saith that she and Anne Jones about viii of the clock the last night being near unto Whitehall there came unto them Michael Rudge and David Weames ... and they went together into King's Street to the Golden Lion tavern where they had music and drink until about ten ... and at the coming forth of the said taver David Weames went from then and then ... Anne Jones persuaded this examinant and ... Rudge to go along to a friend's house of hers ... and ... they went along into Long Acre to the house of James Smith ... and there they first sat in a lower room and afrter the said Smith had [all lthree] up to a chamber, where Anne Jones stayed about an hour and a half, and then having gotten rid of ... Rudge she departed and after the said Smith shutting the said chamber door [she] ... sat by ... his bedside ... until about iiii of the clock this morning and then Smith opened the chamber door and bid her to be gone because his mother should not know that a woman had been in the house all the night."  Related depositions indicate that Smith maintained a shop in the Strand.  He refers to Anne Jones as Anne Powell and says that she asked if Rudge could sepnd the night in their house, whereupon his mother made up a bed for them.  Rudge claimed that he had been robbed of 53 shillings during the night.  What really happened that night?

Prostitution

Complaint of Joan Coffin to the Westminster justices of the peace, 1622 (Greater London Record Office WJ/SR5/92). 

Coffin complained “of some abuses committed by one who dwelleth in my stable yard and keepeth (as general report is) a dishonest house, which is both troublesome and shameful to the honest neighbors dwelling near them, for they no sooner came home from the Justice but they renewed their wonted reveling in such sorts that all of them fell to quarreling, and one of their female guests came forth and swore she would break down the windows (in a roaring manner) if the mistress of the house would not give her the money that was due her… then shortly after being late at night I heard a voice crying murder, whereupon I called at my window to know the reason of that fearful noise, and the mistress of that house answered that she had a little girl that she maintained with meat, drink and lodging, and for giving her a box on the ear (the girl being drunk) she made that uproar, but the girl replied and told her she lied falsely, and that she paid her 5 shillings a week for her diet and that because she would not do as others had done before she abused her in that manner.  Not long after her female guests fell in a strife, because the one of them might not go up to a Frenchman that was there as well as the other, and fought and tore one another’s head clothes, whereupon one of them came forth and said that there was a bawdy house kept wherein there was at that time two whores, and that the mistress of the house kept whores of all prices, 10d to 8d, from 8d to 6d, from 6d to 4d. 

“Wherefore presently I called William Stacye one of the Churchwardens who brought with him Thomas Warner a Burgess of the parish, who examined this aforesaid wench, who exclaimed so [saying that the house was a whorehouse] who justified her former speeches, yet all these open shames will not yet reform my aforesaid neighbor but still with reviling speeches do daily abuse me, and once (coming into my own yard) the man of that house kicked me and threw me into the dirt, having none near to help me, and presently he went to bind my husband, my son and myself to the peace, my husband knowing none of them, and afterwards (we all being in bed) in Monday last, hearing a great noise, my husband made him ready and brought a constable to their door, and the constable finding the house full of guests (betwixt one and two of the clock of the morning) cometh down again, and my husband demanding the cause of that noise, he answereth that he saw nothing but that a company of Secretary [of State] Naunton’s men drinking there, and the next morning I saw two of their young women and two men with them (that had been there all night) going abroad together, which showeth what a house my neighbor keeps.

Examination of Joan, wife of Richard Coffin, yeoman, of St Martin’s in the Field (WJ/SR5/102)

Being asked “what course of life John Webb and his wife do hold and of what conversation they are reputed to be saith that by report they are bad livers and to her … knowledge there is great resort to their house in the day time both of knights and gentlemen and also of diverse women, some in the habit [clothes] of citizens’ wives, and some like chambermaids and others of several fashions in their appearance.  And [she] … hath seen women making themselves ready in the said Webb’s house at three of the clock in the afternoon and that Webb and his wife put a young gent and a wench into the house and locked the door and went their way.”  The statement is signed with a mark.

Covent Garden brothels.  Information given by John Stavye and others, 1637 (WJ/SR (NS)/47/17. 

“He saith that he dwelleth in Covent Garden near unto the house of Grace Crisby … and that she is a common entertainer and lodger of lewd women, and that there is a great resort unto the said women of men, to the great disturbance of the neighbors”.

Another neighor, William Probee, states that “one Mrs. Cotton a light woman being lodged there, there was great resort of gents at all time in the night.”

John Thoroughgood testifies that “he dwelleth next door to Crisby’s and many times in the night gentlemen come to his house and enquire for wenches and being told that they mistake the house they then go to Crisby’s house and there they have entertainment”. 

The overseers accounts indicate that the house in question was in King Street.

Information of Richard Thornton, November 24, 1639 (WJ/SR(NS)/50/26).

“…he dwelleth the next door save one to Mr. Smith’s in James Street and since his coming thither, which was about eight weeks since he and his wife have been much disturbed by such as have mistaken his house for Mr. Smith’s and sometimes his wife hath been pulled and hauled by some that have come and would not be persuaded but Mr. Smith dwelt there and they would have wenches and he further saith that all the neighbors thereby are much disgusted by the resort of lewd women … to Mr. Smith’s house night and day and men resorting to them.”  The statement is signed with a mark.

An Irish brothel in Drury Lane.  Information by John Wall (or Watt?), 1638 (WJ/SR (NS)/50/32)

He was “enticed and persuaded by Edward Seller to go … with him to his house in Drury Lane, promising unto him that he had pretty wenches … [he] lodged there about six weeks, in which time he had the company of women several times in the chamber, and there was common resort of men and women unto the said house and they lay together and kept very evil rule and many of them that frequented and lodged there were Irish men and women.”

A prostitution ring in 1625.  Information of Mary Hall, spinster (WJ/SR (NS)/15/130.

Jane, wife of John Banks “is a bawd, in that she sold this informant’s maiden head twice … There is resort of whores daily to the said Banks his house and this day there was in his house seven whores, viz, Sara Waters, living with her mother at Ratcliffe, Jane Waters, deceased, sister of the said Sara lived in Bankes his house whose maidenhead was sold five several times by Bankes his wife … The second Elizabeth Ratclifde lodging at a broker’s house near Scroop’s Court in Holborn.  The third Margaret Hammond, one Mr. Hammond’s daughter dwelling near the White Hart in the Strand.  The fourth one Mary but where she lodgeth she knoweth not.  The fifth, Mary Etherington, who lodged lately at the Windmill in the Strand.  The sixth one Mrs. Anne Edwards a minister’s wife now lodging at Banks his house.  The seventh one Elizabeth Hales who liveth with her mother in Clothfair by Smithfield.  There is one Anne Cobbie a tawny Moore that is often at the said Bank’s house and this informant saith she hath heard her and diverse men report that they would rather give a piece to lie with her than another so because of her soft skin.  And also one Thomasine Greene hath frequented the said house much but now lies sick of the pocks in Turnball Street and is almost consumed with them”. 

Plague and disorder

During a moderate outbreak of the plague in 1636 John Eliot sent the following report to Sir John Coke, one of the two Secretaries of State (State Papers 16/334/28).

There hath been papers lately scattered about the streets that threaten destruction to the French... Such threats ... at any other time might have been slighted, yet at this instant I do ... conceive them material... First there are about the suburbs of the City many thousands of suspicious persons that neither have any justifiable calling nor known means of subsistence but live by the spoil of others, and those ... may be apt to enter into any desperate action.  Secondly, I have observed that the absence of masters of families hath made apprentices and servants so rudely wanton as they may be daring enough to follow any wicked example.  Thirdly I have observed that the absence of the justices of the peace hath not alone increased the number of beggars, rogues and vagabonds but so encouraged them as the civil people can hardly walk the fields or streets in security and these may prove dangerous stubble if a spark of sedition should be kindled.  Fourthly I have observed there are very many thousands of watermen, porters, hackney coachmen, discarded Irish footmen and the like, so necessitated as they are in a very desperate condition.  And lastly I have observered there are millions of shoemakers, glovers, silkweavers and the like that are not able to give fulness of bread to their servants and apprentices.

Crime deposition 1

Credible information has been given to this court that diverse persons accused for murders and other heinous ... offences have gotten harbor and as it were taken sanctuary in the parish of St Clement Danes... insomuch as no officer dare to execute any warrants or enter into any house to arrest the said offenders or any of them.  It is therefore ordered [that the following persons shall cease to keep houses where food and beer are sold]: Widow Stevens, William Tinger, Rafe Savage, Henry Nutter, William Coleson, Frances Middleton, John Heywarde, William Shipman, Martin Johnson, Mr. Archpoole, Richard Rider, Mr. Seamer, Richard Whitlockes, Robert Walker, Mr. Cannon, Mr. Thompson, William Blisse, Mr. Hide, Mr. Engrawe, Charles Prine and Mr. Badford.  (Greater London Records Office, MJ/SBR/3, fo. 61)

Charles I Alters Covent Garden

TEST EDITING AS MALCOM (by LISA)

After the construction of Covent Garden was nearly complete, Charles I attempted to extract more money from the Earl of Bedford by charging him with creating a public nuisance by his new development.  In response Bedford filed the following statement (Alnwick Castle Manuscripts YIII/2/4/10):

Before the buildings was upon this license [erected] the plot of it was shewed to his Majesty's view and his Majesty was also graciously pleased to view also the plans in his own person, attended by diverse lords commissioners for buildings, whereupon he so altered the plot of the buildings that were to be erected that the Earl was by that alteration (in regard of the plot, the piatzo & co., which by that alteration he was to build) put to 6000 pounds more charge than otherwise he had been at by giving of larger time to his tenants and abatements in their rents, which necessarily followed by reason of their being held to build accoring to his Majesty's alterations... The Earl himself built none save three piatzoe houses all of which are built far above and beyond the particulars commanded in the proclamations, fully according to his Majesty's alterations of the plot.   

Covent Garden: Court Depositions

Covent Garden brothels.  Information given by John Stavye and others, 1637 (WJ/SR (NS)/47/17. 

“He saith that he dwelleth in Covent   Garden near unto the house of Grace Crisby … and that she is a common entertainer and lodger of lewd women, and that there is a great resort unto the said women of men, to the great disturbance of the neighbors”.

Another neighor, William Probee, states that “one Mrs.  Cotton a light woman being lodged there, there was great resort of gents at all time in the night.”

John Thoroughgood testifies that “he dwelleth next door to Crisby’s and many times in the night gentlemen come to his house and enquire for wenches and being told that they mistake the house they then go to Crisby’s house and there they have entertainment”. 

The overseers accounts indicate that the house in question was in King Street.

Information of Richard Thornton, November 24, 1639 (WJ/SR(NS)/50/26).

“…he dwelleth the next door save one to Mr. Smith’s in James Street and since his coming thither, which was about eight weeks since he and his wife have been much disturbed by such as have mistaken his house for Mr. Smith’s and sometimes his wife hath been pulled and hauled by some that have come and would not be persuaded but Mr. Smith dwelt there and they would have wenches and he further saith that all the neighbors thereby are much disgusted by the resort of lewd women … to Mr. Smith’s house night and day and men resorting to them.”  The statement is signed with a mark.

An Irish brothel in Drury Lane.  Information by John Wall (or Watt?), 1638 (WJ/SR (NS)/50/32)

He was “enticed and persuaded by Edward Seller to go … with him to his house in Drury Lane, promising unto him that he had pretty wenches …  [he] lodged there about six weeks, in which time he had the company of women several times in the chamber, and there was common resort of men and women unto the said house and they lay together and kept very evil rule and many of them that frequented and lodged there were Irish men and women.”