Early Eighteenth-Century Newspaper Reports compiled by Rictor Norton

Women of Pleasure

26-29 July 1701   On Friday night a woman of the town, that lodged in Marsom Street, being jealous that her gallant had dealings with some body else, cut his throat with a razor, for which she was committed to the Gate-House, where she hanged her self on Sunday morning. [Post Boy]

22–25 March 1718
Whitehall, March 24, 1717-18.   Whereas Peter Anthony Motteux, late of Leadenhall-Street, London, was on Wednesday the 19th of February last, in the Morning, found dead in a House of very ill Fame, in Star-Court in the Butcher-Row near Temple-Bar, and there being several Circumstances which make it strongly suspected that he was murthered; His Majesty is graciously pleased to promise His Pardon to any Person concerned in such Murther (except him or her by whose Hands the Murther was committed) who shall discover the rest of the Persons who committed the said Murther, so as they or any of them may be convicted thereof. His Majesty is likewise graciously pleased to promise a Reward of 50l. to such Person who shall make the Discovery abovementioned.
 .  .  .  .  .  . J. CRAGGS
(London Gazette; This letter was reprinted in several following editions of the newspaper, and in other newspapers. See also the following report, and news report for 22 October 1730.)

20-26 April 1718   A Soldier, and four Women were try’d for the Murther of Mr. Motteux, late of Leaden-hall Street, but for want of due proof were all acquitted. (The Original Weekly Journal)

Saturday 13 September 1718   On Monday night last about 32 common strolers, were taken up in and aobut Drury-Lane, most or whom were the next day sent to the House or Correction; and the Constables and other Officers, continue to seize all loose and disorderly persons every night in the neighbourhood; they propose in a fortnights time to clear the Hundreds of the game. (Original Weekly Journal)

3 January 1719
St. James Market, December 30th. 1718.
Mr. Read,
In reading one of your journals wherein I read a letter sent to you from the abovesaid place, concerning several apprentices living there, and therebout, who were disaffected to the present Government, this is to acquaint you that, your printing the aforesaid had such a good influence on some of those treasonable sparks, that they do not practice those seditious doings as they did before. However some of them are still as wicked as ever, and going with them the Friday in Christmas Week to a certain tavern in Drury-Lane, they there had the impudence to drink the Pretender’s health, by the title of James the Third, and the healths of other traytors. On the Sunday following I went with ’em to a bawdy house in one of the courts going out of Drury-Lane into Wild-Street, where when they were in bed, I packt up all their cloaths, and sent them to their masters, in the pockets where they found several of their goods stoln, as pieces of lace, silk stockings, and other things, so coming all in a body to the bawdy house, with good oaken plants [i.e. clubs] in their hands, they came and surprized their prentices in beds with their whores, whom they thrasht after a severe manner, some running one way naked, some another, and some up the chimnies, making them as black as so many devils; so now ’tis that this discovery of these young fellows’ unlawful doings will bring them also to an early conversion, in the mean time.
     I rest Your humble Servant unknown,
[Weekly Journal, or The British Gazetteer]

Thursday 6 August 1724   On Tuesday evening about half a dozen Pleasure Ladies of Drury, took it into their heads to pass up the river in a boat to Hammersmith-Creek, where stripping to their buffs, they all very fairly took the water, in the view of a numerous crowd of boats which stopt to see the diversion, and having frisk'd and refresh'd themselves for about two hours, they return'd to their lodgings in the Hundreds, between 10 and 11, and, as we are inform'd, saw company the same night. (The Daily Journal)

26 April – 3 May 1718
LONDON, May 3,
Five persons were try’d for the Murder of Mr. Motteaux. It appear’d that Mr. Motteaux in his way to White’s Chocolate-House pick’d up Mary Roberts, one of them, and carry’d her thither, and staid two hours, leaving her in the coach, and she sending for him, he went in the same coach with her to Star-Court, where it appear’d he went in and was seen to kiss the said Roberts in the kitchen, and then was lighted with her up the stairs, the others being present. At one of the clock a surgeon was sent for, and told a Gentleman was at this bawdy-house, and dead in a fit, who coming to view the body found he had been srangled, as appear’d by others coming afterwards. The prisoners alledged he dy’d in a fit, but several marks about his neck and breast were found to be occasion’d by violence. One of the witnesses living at the next door, with several others, prov’d the house to be a common disorderly house, where several tumults and disorders are committed, and all the evidence [i.e. witnesses] agree, that he went out in health, and was seen to be well in the house till he went up stairs, which the prisoners deny’d, pretending he was ill, and was help’d out of the coach and plac’d in a chair, and afterwards remov’d up stairs. The Jury brought them in Not Guilty. (Original Weekly Journal)

8 May 1725   From York, last Sunday 7-night, just as divine service was done, and the people going out of one of the churches of that city, a great quantity of stone and rubbish fell down from the steeple, thro’ the roof, into the body of the church; but, as it happen’d, did no other damage than breaking down some of the pews. — Three young ladies of pleasure were last week, ordered by the pious Magistrates to be whipp’d out of the different gates of that city; but the nature of the crime was such, that they met with as many friends as spectators, so that the executioner durst not perform his duty. A young tradesman of the same city waited without the gate, with a horse and servant, and carry’d off one of them, and, ’tis said, all three are come for London; if it be so, I may venture to say, it is sending coals to Newcastle. [Mist’s Weekly Journal]

16 October 1725   On Monday last several Bailiffs were busily employ’d in besieging some nymphs of Drury, in their castle in Colson’s Court, who defy’d them for some hours from their windows, with a great deal of sharp raillery and good humour; but were, at last, basely betray’d by a next door neighbour, who, ’tis suppos’d, ow’d a spite to some of the poor defendants, and therefore privately let two of the Officers through her house, and so getting over a party-wall, storm’d the castle backwards and got in, bringing all the ladies down, who still kept their good humour, for they sung and danc’d all along Drury-Lane to the Spunging-House [temporary lock-up]. [Mist’s Weekly Journal]

27 November 1725   From Oxford, That there was one night last week a disturbance at an inn where the stage coaches put up, occasion’d by a fat country widow, having taken her nephew, as she call’d him, to her embraces, a Wapping Gentlewoman being in bed with her, and another lying in the same room; the company being to part in the morning the quarrel was soon at an End, but the Story will be told for some time without ceasing. [Mist’s Weekly Journal]

29 January 1726   A maid servant near Chelsea, has been committed to the Gate-house for secretly putting a quantity of Spanish Flies into some ale, and giving it to her sweetheart, a poor glazier, by way of Love-Powder, to encrease his passion, whereby his life is in great danger. A young woman, who was assisting in the mischief was bound over to answer it at the Sessions. [Weekly Journal, or The British Gazetteer]

16 November 1728   Wednesday two night-walkers were committed to Tothill Bridewell, for misdemeanors; one was so drunk, that it was thought proper to provide a wheel-barrow for her; but the ground caught her so often in her passage, that she was all of a colour before she came to her journey's end. (Weekly Journal, or the British Gazetteer)

3 September 1730   Late on Saturday night an Irish man was surprized in an indecent manner with a woman on a shop window near the George-inn in Drury-lane; and yesterday morning was carried before Sir John Gonson, and by him both were committed to Tothill-fields Bridewell.
     Also the same night, about seven young women, who walk the streets in the neighbourhood of Drury-lane, and could give no satisfactory account of their manner of living, were, by the said Gentleman, who sate at the Vestry house in S. Clement’s Church-yard on Sunday morning, committed to the same place, there to be kept to hard labour. [Grub-street Journal]

8 October 1730   Monday, Oct. 5. Friday night died at her house in Park Place S. James’s, a woman notoriously known in that part of the town by the name of Mother Needham. Daily Post.I think my brother speaks too disrespectfully of this venerable matron: he might have said well known to the young Quality in, &c. The Even. Post justly calls her the famous Mother Needham. [Grub-street Journal] [See also the separate site on Mother Needham]

22 October 1730   Thursday, Oct. 15. Thursday . . . the master of a night-house without Temple-bar, went to a lewd house in Parkhurst-lane, and there hanged himself dead in his garters. — Our unfortunate brother The Weekly Register has here corrupted the original, instead of lewd house inserting Nanny-house; and abused a great ornament of our society, the late learned Mr Motteaux, with the opprobrious appellation of a hanging-cull. A moral Mahometan would have forborn such a vile reflection upon the dead. [Grub-street Journal]
[Note: The reference is to Peter Motteux, a magazine editor and translator of Rabelais who met his accidental death by means of erotic strangulation in 1718, which gave rise to several satires. See also news reports above for 1718.]

27 October 1752   On Friday last many idle women of the town were taken up in St James’s Park, and put on the Guard to be sent to Bridewell, for making a great disturbance near the Palace; and strict orders will be given to the centinels that are placed round the said Park to take up all persons whatsoever that shall be found there after the gates are shut; and, for their encouragement to detect all such idle persons, they will be entitled to five shillings for every one so taken up. (General Advertiser)







(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, "Women of Pleasure", 19 November 2001, updated 25 February 2007 <http://grubstreet.rictornorton.co.uk/prostitu.htm>

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