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Wrong Side of the River: London's disreputable - page 16 / 25





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with imprisonment and fine. The woman is taken to Bridewell, the King's palace, situated near the river, where the

executioner scourges her naked before the populace." He admitted, however, that although close watch was kept on them,

"great swarms of these women haunt the town in the taverns and playhouses."72 Campaigners for moral reform,

unsurprisingly, held such chastisements to be too lenient and called for more stringent measures. Stubbes, regretfully

concluding that his ideal punishment was unacceptable -- that convicted prostitutes should be "made to drinke a full draught

of Moyses cuppe, that is, tast[e] of present death" -- went on to suggest the next best thing: branding, on the cheek or

forehead, "to the end [that] honest and chast Christians might be discerned from the adulterous Children of Sathan."73

It is perhaps fortunate for all concerned that Stubbes' rather draconian correctives were never adopted. It is likely, however,

that the loud condemnation voiced by Puritan censurers heightened popular and official consciousness of the existing

problems on the Surrey side and elsewhere. In any event, City authorities increased their efforts to suppress prostitution. In

the days of the public stews there had been strict regulations for those plying their trade on Bankside, based on the

ordinances passed by Parliament in 1162 and "old customs that had been there used time out of mind." The partial list of

ordinances given by Stow reflects such concerns as public health ("No stew-holder to keep any woman that hath the

perilous infirmity of burning [i.e. pox]), religion ("Not to keep open his doors upon the holidays"), law and order ("The

constables, bailiff, and others, every week to search every stew- house"), and exploitation ("No single woman to be kept

against her will that would leave her sin"). There had also been heavy penalties against enticing men into the stews, and

some means of discouragement was afforded, at least to the furtive clandestine client, by

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the regulation which forbade watermen to convey customers to the stews during hours of darkness.74 From the closing of

the public stews in 1546, however, all brothels were unlicensed and illicit establishments, and from time to time raids were

made. According to Thomas Nashe, some of the tricks used by bawds to evade the law involved considerable ingenuity:

"back-doores, to come in and out by vndiscouerd. Slyding windowes also, and trappe-bordes in floars, to hyde whores

behind and vnder, with false counterfet panes in walls, to be opened and shut like a wicket."75 Not all attempts to evade

dissolution, however, required trickery. In December and January of 1631-32 the most famous of London brothels,

Holland's Leaguer, located in the old manor house of Paris Garden and run by "a woman of ill repute," Elizabeth Holland,

successfully withstood what amounted to a state of siege by the forces of law and order -- a feat made possible, incidentally,

by its fortified position, complete with moat, drawbridge, and portcullis. In the end, Bess Holland escaped the City

authorities, in spite of two summons to the Court of High Commission, and re-established her business elsewhere.76 But

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