Early Eighteenth-Century Newspaper Reports compiled by Rictor Norton

Mother Needham

The notorious madam Mother Needham (right), recruiting a fresh country girl for her brothel, in a print by Hogarth.


Tuesday 21 July 1724   Yesterday morning the celebrated Mother Needham and Mother Bird, two eminent conservators of the Game of the Kingdom, were committed to Newgate; their houses being disturb’d the night before by the Constables, who disengaged the Gentlemen and Ladies to a great number, and carried them to the Round-House. This being the first time Mrs Needham ever received publick correction, since her being at the head of venal affairs in this town, ’tis thought will be the ruin of her houshold. [sic] (The Daily Journal)

Wednesday 22 July 1724   Yesterday Mother Needham was bailed out of Newgate. (The Daily Journal)

8 August 1724   Mother Needham being indicted in the Crown for keeping a disorderly hosue, continues still in Newgate, and is to be try’d upon the same in Michaelmas Term next. (The Weekly Journal; or, British Gazetteer)

Wednesday 2 September 1724   Yesterday morning a fire broke out in Conduit-Street, at the house lately inhabited by Elizabeth Needham, commony call’d Mother Needham, a notorious lewd prostitute and procuress, who stands indicted for the same, and a poor unhappy Frenchman, who had been drawn in to spend his fortune and to keep her and her strumpets company, lodging still in the house, perish’d in the flames, and the house was entirely consum’d. (The Daily Journal)

5 September 1724   Early on Tuesday morning a fire broke out at a house in Conduit-Street, near Hanover-Square, lately inhabited by the woman commonly called Mother Needham, which consum’d the said house and all its furniture. We hear an execution was served upon the goods, and that they were to be sold forthwith. Capt. Barbute, a French Half-Pay Officer who liv’d there, being missing in the evening, is suppos’d to be burnt, unless he got out the back window, of which there was then no account. (The Weekly Journal or Saturday’s-Post)

Monday 7 September 1724   On Saturday evening the skull and other bones of Mr Barbute, a French half pay officer, who was burnt in the house in Conduit-street, lately inhabited by Mother Needham, were found by the labourers in clearing the rubbish, and were remov’d to the Rose Tavern there, where the Coroners Inquest is to sit upon them. (The Daily Post)

10 April 1725   We hear that the infamous Mother Needham, alias Bird, alias Howard, alias Blewit, was again apprehended on Sunday last for keeping a disorderly house in Union-Street near Bond Street, and is in custody for want of sureties ’Tis said likewise that she has made a large discovery of the several lewd women who keep private disorderly houses, and the names of several gentlemen as well as women, who frequent them; she apprehending herself to be in a fair way of being punished for her notorious enormities, having many years escaped the lash of the law. (The Weekly Journal; or, British Gazetteer)



[The following report from 1726 is a satirical elegy. In fact Elizabeth Needham did not die until 1731.]

15 October 1726   Last week died the noted Mother Needham, who we hear has left several valuable legacies to her acquaintance, in particular the picture of Sodom and Gomorrah to indorsing D―n; an ounce of Mercuris Dulcis to Beau C―e, of St. Martin’s Lane; her estate to the Duke of Wharton; her library to Ned C―; and a receipt to cure a clap to little Quibus; but as we have not the entire copy of her Will, we shall only at this time publish her Epitaph, as it was sent us by one of our Correspondents.

Here lies Dame Needham in this grave,
     The Lord have mercy on her,
When living, she was kind and brave,
But as she’s dead, he is a knave
     That tumbles down upon her.

Her dealings were amongst the fair,
     At Leukenor’s and Drury,
But putting off some broken ware,
She slipt her foot in fatal snare,
     And felt the rabbles fury.

Rais’d on a precipice of wood,
     With woeful arms extending,
An hour the pious matron stood
The force of dogs, and cats, and mud,
     Sound eggs and rotten, blending.

This broke her heart to see her love
     To mankind so requited;
She dy’d and made her last remove,
Her body’s here, her soul above,
     Or underneath benighted.
  [Weekly Journal, or The British Gazetteer]

9 November 1728   Monday there was a numerous apperance of ladies of pleasure at Bond-stret Round-House; several of whom were taken out of Mother Needham's House in Park-Place, by St. James's Street, and the rest out of severeal noted brothels in Drury-Lane, Long-Acre, &c. on Sunday night last. (The Weekly Journal; or, British Gazetteer)

29 April 1731   On Saturday ended the Quarter-Sessions for Westminster . . . — The noted Mother Needham, convicted for keeping a disorderly house in Park-place, S. James’s, was fined 1s. to stand twice in the pillory, and to find sureties for her good behaviour for 3 years. [Grub-street Journal]

6 May 1731   Saturday, May 1. Yesterday the noted Mother Needham stood in the pillory in Park-place near S. James’s-street; and was severely handled by the populace. Daily Journal That notorious woman Eliz. Needham stood, U&c. over against Park place, and was severely pelted. Daily Post The famous Mother Needham was set before the pillory facing Park-place. She was so very ill, that she laid along under the pillory, notwithstanding which she was severely pelted, and it is thought she will die in a day or two. Post-Boy The infamous Mother Needham. Courant Stood in the pillory: she was screened by a mob of hired fellows, and lay all along on her face on the pillory, and so evaded the law, which requires that her face should be exposed. London Evening PostThe sum of what my Brethren here relate is this, The noted, notorious, famous, infamous Mother Needham, stood in, was set before, and laid along under, on her face, on the pillory, in, and over against Park Place.
      A boy getting upon a lamp post near the pillory, fell from the same upon iron spikes, and tore his belly in so violent a manner, that his bowels came out, and he expired in a few hours in great agonies. . . .
      Tuesday, May 4. Yesterday morning died Mother Needham. Daily Post The famous: at 9. Post-Boy The noted: about 9. Daily Journal In the Gate-house. Post-Boy & Daily Journal Who stood in the pillory last friday, and was to have stood again to-morrow. Daily Journal — She declared in her last words, that what most affected her was the terror of standing in the pillory to-morrow in New Palace-Yard, having been so ungratefully used by the populace on wednesday. Whitehall Evening PostThey acted very ungratefully, considering how much she had done to oblige them. [Grub-street Journal]

(Texts have been modernized with regard to capitalization, italicization, and punctuation, but original spelling has been retained. This edition copyright Rictor Norton. All rights reserved. Reproduction for sale or profit prohibited. These extracts may not be archived, republished or redistributed without the permission of the compiler.)

CITATION: Rictor Norton, Early Eighteenth-Century Newspaper Reports: A Sourcebook, "Mother Needham", 20 April 2002; expanded 3 September 2002 <http://grubstreet.rictornorton.co.uk/needham.htm>

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