The Swan Circle

A story of Georgian networking

Fatal Beauty: the whores of Bridewell

18th Century Digressions, Society and Politics No Comments »

William HogarthIn the second half of the eighteenth century the rep-utable inhabitants of Covent Garden, St Martin in the Fields, St Mary le Strand and St Clement Danes met at the Blakeney's Head in Bow Street to draw up a scheme for clearing the area of the numerous brothels and street whores.They nominated and appointed individuals to a committee that would patrol the parishes every month and present all necessary information before a magistrate. 
  In Bridewell Prison many of the whores stripped themselves stark naked 'to take the diversion of dancing. The Beadle (whose business it was to give the delinquents their proper discipline) hearing of their design, and thinking it very necessary that they should have music, appeared amongst them with the proper ensigns of his office, and made them dance to the brisk tune of the Cat o' nine tails'.
   Members of the public expressed their concerns in the press regarding the treatment of the women; many commentators argued that the funds raised for caring for the impecunious Palatines (see previous post) could have been used to alleviate the plight of the poor prostitute. One particular author made a plea to the public and the authorities for the better treatment of all the street women:

   'They are first seduced by those who ought to be their protectors; are hunted by those who gain the current shilling for the discharge fee; committed to a prison, which can work no amendment in them, but from which they come totally corrupted, and destitute of any remains of shame which they might have left; and then let loose again, without the means of getting honest bread, to return to their loathsome trade, and afford another fee on being taking up afresh. When they are not in prison they are subject to the insults of the inhuman; to the vile extortions of the bawds and panders, for whose profit, rather than their own, they live a life of infamy, and die the martyrs of their fatal beauty, and a loss to the community…'

MJ Holman @mishjholman

The Poor Palatines of London

18th Century Digressions, Society and Politics No Comments »

Palatine CampIn 1764 The Daily Advertiser printed a letter from the pastor of the Lutheran Church in Goodman's fields concerning the plight of some refugees. Six hundred Germans, Protestant Wurtz-burghers and Palatines were travelling to the island of St John in America, but were unable to continue further and were stranded in London.
  Four hundred individuals came ashore, whilst the rest were detained aboard ship. The conditions were dire and though many ex-pats were charitably contributing to a fund for provisions, they were too few to sustain such a number; all the refugees were "in a manner without food, many without clothes, and some sick, yet obliged to lie in the open fields, exposed to all the inclemencies of a rainy season." The women in particular were suffering and one mother and her new borne child died.
  The morning of the letter a hundred tents were supplied from the Tower, followed swiftly by a payment for the passage of the two hundred who were  contained in the foul quarters of the ship. Londoners opened their coffers and started donating; subscriptions were declared at coffee-houses and a physician, a surgeon and male midwife offered their services. In a Cornhill coffee house, a committee took charge and advertised for two ships of not less than 200 tons burden.
  Not everyone was happy with the idea of this 'foreign aid' and many raised the criticism that the givers were not so forthcoming to assist the native poor of London who could "barely keep life and soul together". Even after such discussions, most observers agreed that conditions within the refugee camp were appalling and that those packed behind Whitechapel Church in an "intolerably nasty, inconvenient, and unwholesome" situation were suffering. Huddled together in tents that were barely two yards wide, a family of eight or nine endured the indignity of having no access to water except some stinking pools in an nearby ditch and the masses of inquisitive Georgian Londoners crowding together to get a glimpse of their plight.

MJ Holman @mishjholman

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