The Crusade Begins: The Criminal Law Amendment Act and London’s ‘Brothels’ before the First World War

  • Julia Laite
Part of the Genders and Sexualities in History book series (GSX)


In a quiet Chelsea neighbourhood in 1885, a row of white cottages stood behind a bank of trees on the corner of Church Street and Elm Park Road. Number 125, the cottage on the corner, was the home of Mary Jeffries, who kept numbers 127 and 129, and another house farther up the street, as high-class houses of introduction where she arranged for young women to meet and provide sexual services for wealthy and influential men. The brothel specialized in ‘perversions’, though it is unclear precisely what these ‘perversions’ were: there was one allegation by a servant that Jeffries allowed a thirteen-year-old girl to be raped on the premises around 1874, but the brothel was best known for offering sadomasochistic services like whipping, caning and bondage (usually performed on the men by the women).1 Jeffries, who was said to have been a former high-class prostitute herself, was in her seventies by this time and her long career in commercial sex had taught her to manage her houses carefully. Clients, who usually heard about the houses at West End gentlemen’s clubs, wrote to request sex, and Jeffries arranged for one of the women or girls who worked for her to be brought to the house in a brougham from where they lived in houses that she also provided. The business was discreet and the service was expensive: clients left their payment of five pounds on the table of the house as they departed, and the cottages were connected by communicating doors.2


Ordinary Citizen Sexual Service Massage Parlour Street Prostitution Street Prostitute 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 5.
    See, for instance, E.J. Burford, Bawds and Lodgings: A History of the London Bankside Brothels C. 100–1675 (London, 1976);Google Scholar
  2. Tim Harris, ‘The Bawdy House Riots of 1668’, The Historical Journal 29, no. 3 (1986): 537–56;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Fergus Linnane, Madams: Bawds and Brothel-Keepers of London (Thrupp, 2005);Google Scholar
  4. G.L. Simons, A Place for Pleasure: The History of the Brothel (Lewes, 1975).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Julia Laite 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Julia Laite

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations