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The Contagious Diseases Act
Prostitution in Deal & Walmer


Down the centuries there have been various attempts to control and prohibit prostitution, often on religious grounds but also to keep social order. Nature though has given us that instinct to be drawn to the opposite sex, to have that sexual encounter, to pass on our genes to the next generation. So wherever there is a large body of men who have been denied access to the opposite sex for long periods of time, such as soldiers, sailors, or even young men needing to ‘spread their wild oats’, mix that with poverty then the trade of prostitution will establish itself and provide for that need.  

In the cities, seaports and military towns, areas of what we may describe as ‘red light districts,’ grew. Here there were brothels, pubs, beer-houses or other establishments where prostitutes could be found.

The Vagrancy Act

Prostitution, which Kipling’s On the City Wall  suggest is  “…the oldest occupation in the world…” along with homelessness, had for  nineteenth century Britain become a wide-scale problem so in 1824 the Vagrancy Act was passed. It was in this act that  the term ‘common prostitute’ first came into legal use.


Section 3  of the Act stated  “…every common prostitute wandering in the public streets…and behaving in a riotous or indecent manner…shall be deemed an idle and disorderly person…” and further that a Justice of the Peace could commit the offender “…to the House of Correction there to be kept to hard Labour for any Time not exceeding One Calendar Month”

One of the main causes at this time for both vagrancy and prostitution was the increase in population and the fact that employment, for women in particular, was limited to poorly paid jobs which barely covered living expenses so, even if they did find employment, there was often a need to find a way of making extra money. 

For some women prostitution could be an occasional activity born out of desperation to feed themselves and or their families, to pay the rent, to keep them out of the workhouse. For others well, they knew little else and with little societal understanding opportunities were rarely offered to help to improve their situations.

Female servants often lived in and for most this meant food in their bellies and a roof over their heads. But not all employers were reasonable and young girls and women were easy targets for abuse. When this became unbearable or an employer turned them out there were few available choices. Prostitution could beckon.

A study carried out in Millbank prison into the prostitutes interned there in the late Victorian period suggests that over 50 percent had been general servants the others having worked as laundresses, char women and other menial low paid jobs. Data collected from various sources during this time showed a high proportion of young women who had lost one or both her parents or were from broken homes leaving them with a duty to provide for the rest of the family or even just for themselves; prostitution and crime were two of the few choices available to them.

The examples given here as to why women turned to prostitution are rather simplistic and for us looking back through modern eyes, living in a society where women’s rights are championed even sacrosanct, where we have the welfare state and the N.H.S. it is hard to imagine what these women lived through.

Sexually transmitted diseases for these women, which they would know as the pox or the clap, was a particular hazard that without modern medicines could lead to long-term illness, deformity, madness and death.

The Contagious Diseases Acts 

By the early 1860s the government in Britain was concerned with the prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases in “…certain Naval and Military Stations…” and  following the recommendation of an 1862 inquiry looking into venereal disease among the military, the Contagious Diseases Act was passed in 1864. 

Initially it was only enforced in the towns of Portsmouth, Plymouth, Woolwich, Chatham,  Aldershot, Colchester, Shorncliffe, The Curragh, Cork and Queenstown and a five-mile area surrounding each town.

The Act extended its reach in 1866 to include Windsor,  and for the last time in 1869 when Deal, along with Canterbury, Dover, Gravesend, Maidstone, Southampton, and Winchester became one of  the eighteen districts who were “subjected” to the Acts. 

Deal appears listed under Shorncliffe perhaps because this was the Lock Hospital used for the area.

The initial introduction of the act in 1864 went fairly unnoticed and was solely aimed at those women who were suspected of prostitution and therefore likely to be infected with a sexually transmitted disease. The only way to find this out was to subject the women to an internal examination. If found to be infected she would then be sent to a ‘Lock Hospital’ for treatment. 

There had been an attempt to bring in periodic examinations of enlisted men who, quite naturally, objected to it and the officers feared demoralising them so by the 1850s it was all but abandoned. It was however reintroduced in W.W.1. No such objections were to be allowed from the women as they apparently lacked “…self-respect…”
These double standards of the day meant that by imposing the medical inspections solely on the prostitutes where the acts were in force, the effectiveness of the acts in reducing the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases amongst the men serving in the garrison and port towns, were totally undermined from the start. 

Public opposition

Public opposition gradually grew against the Acts, and the National Association was founded in 1869  which, believe it or not,  initially excluded women! This resulted in the formation of the ‘Ladies National Association’. The LNA denounced the acts as a blatant example of class and sex discrimination. They argued that the acts deprived poor women of their constitutional rights and forced them to submit to a degrading internal examination.

Printed in the ‘Daily News’ on December 31st 1869, the LNA manifesto was signed by over one hundred women including  Josephine Butler, Harriet Martineau, Elizabeth Wolstenholme and Florence Nightingale all leading social reformers of their day.

Ladies National Association

From 1870 various challenges were made against the Acts. As these came largely, though it has to be sad not solely, from a middle-class group of women in organisations such as the LNA, it caused one MP to comment  “We know how to manage any other opposition in the House …..but this is very awkward for us – this revolt of the women. It is quite a new thing; what are we to do with such an opposition as this?”

At the end of 1870 through to 1871 a Royal Commission sat to hear evidence. The resulting inquiry changed almost nothing.  It did however recommend that the age of consent be raised from 12 to 14. This led to the Offences Against the Person Act in 1875 being raised to 13. But this still was a long way for the age of consent being raised to today’s age of 16.

The LNA’s 1871 Report for the Repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts includes their objections against the acts.

The resulting action was to produce, in their words, “a monster petition signed by women” This petition was in the end signed by a quarter of a million women.

At the end of this report is a list of Local Secretaries and Correspondents and although there is no one listed from Deal a Miss Poulter of Pencester Street, Dover is included.

Pressure finally came to bear and a Select Committee was appointed to inquire into the ‘Administration, Operation and Effect’ of Acts in 1879. Four more inquiries were to follow, each producing exhaustive reports.

The Introductory page to the 1882 Report states that the inquiry “… extended over a period almost unprecedented in the history of Parliament…” Since 1879 the committee had examined 71 witnesses. One of these witnesses was William Pittock, a tailor from Deal.

The Select Committee On The Contagious Diseases Acts

The Select Committee had the “…power to send for persons paper and records…”, but how William came to be called is not evident. But by taking two days off work and receiving £2 10s of expenses in June 1881 he travelled to London to give his testimony in favour of the Acts. 

The committee, made up of seventeen men, were instructed to gather and receive evidence.  Those interviewing William Pittock were Mr. James Stansfeld,  Mr George Osborne Morgan and the final question was put to him by a Mr. Cobbold, probably the MP for Ipswich Thomas Cobbold.

Of the twenty-three men who were interviewed by this Select Committee they were either of the medical profession, borough or metropolitan police officers, clergymen, or held local office. William alone came as ‘an inhabitant’ of his town. His testimony makes for interesting reading.

William Pittocks Testimony

By following the line of questioning put to William and using other available sources we tell the story of prostitution in Deal during the mid 1800s and the effect the CD Acts had upon it.  

We also look at some of the known prostitutes who worked in Deal who, for whatever their reasons, turned to prostitution.

On 23 June 1881 Mr. Osborne Morgan started off proceedings for William by asking how long he had lived in the town to which he replied “For the last thirty years.” It was in fact thirty-eight years by that time, but accuracy on this point was not a necessity. But then maybe it was a typo!

When asked his opinion on how beneficial the Acts were in Deal and in what respect? He responded that he certainly thought that the town had improved since the acts had been in operation. In fairness to him he does say that the improvements to town in regards to the decrease in “lewdness” came from both men and women.

He also considered that the Licensing Act of 1874, that brought in the closing of public houses on a Sunday, “had a very desirable effect”. More about that later.

When asked if he was aware that the acts empowered and made “…it the duty of the police who are entrusted with their administration, when they see a woman conducting herself as a prostitute, or carrying on the business of a prostitute, to bring her before a magistrate with a view to her being examined ?…”  he responded  “If they will not voluntarily submit to an examination.” William had obviously read the acts.

Mr Osborne Morgan continued “They may compel her either voluntarily to submit to an examination or, if she refuses, to do so, bring her before a magistrate.”  

In William’s opinion the powers given to the police were that they acted as a deterrent preventing women from entering into prostitution. He went on to give an example of a gentleman visiting Deal who had two young female servants with him. On finding these young ‘girls’ with two soldiers in his kitchen, he jumped to conclusions and immediately dismissed them.

Where the girls went he does not say but they were soon seen walking about with other soldiers and, he explains, unaware that these soldiers could not marry them and that by “walking  out” with soldiers they became known by others.  He goes on to say that the police officer heard about the girls, so made inquiries and on finding that they were once in “respectable service” the police officer, then came and informed him. 

He then took it upon himself to“…follow one of these young women, when I saw her speaking to a soldier, and told her that the Acts were in force, and I asked her to allow me to speak to her , as a married man, for her advantage. She assured me she had never done anything wrong but found that after speaking to one soldier, others took the liberty of coming up and speaking to her.”  What happened next he did not say but he felt that this young girl might have fallen into prostitution had not the “officer under the Acts prevented that. The officer he describes as a “…kindly dispositioned man, who would not wish to make prostitutes but rather tried to help any young girl from going wrong…” 

Mr Osborne Morgan  asked if there was a hospital in Deal, meaning a Lock Hospital. William replied there was not but that the women were sent to Shorncliffe and he reveals that he had known the Matron for several years. 

This was probably Matron Fanny Anne Anderson who, William felt, favourably influenced the women in her charge to be “reclaimed.”  Reclaiming meaning to bring her back from her life of vice.

Mr. Osborne Morgan asks if he knew of any cases of ‘fallen women’ in the hospital who had been reclaimed and about their conduct. Although William could give no names, he explained that their language, conduct and dress were improved and that on leaving the hospital, under the surveillance of the police officer, this continued. Some had been ‘returned’ to their families or friends, others had gone into service. 

It seems that on at least one occasion William took further interest in these ‘reclaimed’ young girls as he says that “I went twice to see a lady, by her special wish, as a young person was sent to her was in her employ at New Cross” He explains to Mr. Osborne Morgan that the  ‘young person’ was being watched as, it had become known, that she was acting as a decoy keeping the police from a married woman. The story behind this is not given, but the ‘young person’ was apparently found in the kitchen of a home with a man either side of her! The police officer, William says, brought her straight to him. The tale of this particular ‘young person’ seems to end happily as he says she later married a city missionary.

Although we can find no evidence for this William, in a small way, may have set himself up as a local missionary providing a temporary safe house and going on to find employment or if possible returning these young women to the care of their families or friends. In some cases though, there was little choice but to send them to Eastry Union Workhouse.

Mr. Osborne Morgan then asked William if any meetings had been held in Deal in regards to repealing the Acts. There were apparently two both of which he attended. The outcome of the first was that there was little support for repeal. This must have been the meeting held in the Public Rooms on Park Street in 1873 at which Mr James Coutts from the National Association spoke and where “ All Classes are invited”

The second meeting that took place William says was  an “utter failure” with only about ten people in attendance including himself. When this meeting took place we don’t know, nor do we have an inkling of the outcome as like the first meeting no newspaper report followed. William does say that “ …The gentleman representing the authorities asked if any present were in favour of the acts to leave the room…”, which he of course did. How many stayed he did not say but he felt that those in favour of repeal had ‘ little encouragement.’

The earliest mention of the CD acts in the town appears in the Deal, Walmer and Sandwich Mercury on the 22nd of January 1870 announcing the fact that the Town was now subject to the Contagious Diseases Acts and that a member of the Metropolitan Police Force was now present in the town. 

The Acts actually came into full force on the 2nd February 1870. From the Metropolitan Police Returns for 1870 there were 26 known prostitutes in Deal; by the end of the year there were only 15. This is by far the lowest numbers recorded with Portsmouth, during the same period, having 1,355 known prostitutes dropping to 590 in the same time period.

Prior to this the local people must have gained their information and formed their opinions about the acts from the county or national newspapers as the Deal Walmer & Sandwich Mercury seems to have, as a letter to the editor printed in March 1870 “..totally abstained from taking part in the discussion now going on with regard to the Contagious Diseases Acts…” signed the Watchman the author states he is in favour of the acts but wanted it extended to “…the seducer…” who, he asks “…why should he not be regarded as a criminal … and be banished from society like his unfortunate victim…?” 

Questioning was then taken up by Mr. Stansfeld who asked about the powers that the Metropolitan Officers in Deal actually had and what if there was no such officer in Deal ? 

Williams’ response to this line of questioning was that although the Contagious Diseases Acts did not give the Metropolitan Officers powers to deal with drunken and riotous behaviour, in such circumstances the officer called upon the Borough Police to deal with this or use the Police Acts that empowered police officers to intervene. He felt that the women did not know about the different acts and that they simply looked upon the Metropolitan officer as  “…specially charged to look after them… to drive them to the examination room…” That, the very fact that he was there prevented solicitation and had improved the behaviour and dress of the women. In fact William stated that before the Act came into force in Deal it was not uncommon to see “...loosely dressed women …who you term the lower order of prostitutes on the streets, without any hat or even boots, soliciting men…  

Mr. Stansfeld then put it to William, who agreed, that he believed that intercourse had decreased because the number of prostitutes had decreased and that the influence the officer had in turning out the women from public houses, beer houses being used as brothels had lessened prostitution in the town by reducing “…the temptation of fornication…” 

Mr. Osborne Morgan and Mr. Stansfeld had both touched on the subject of the compulsory examination of women including the provision the plain clothes metropolitan officers had in the sending or taking the women to the examination room. The last question was again of that nature, was from Mr Cobbold who asked if “…there could be no way of looking after the decency of the town, except through the examination of women…?”     “Not that I have seen” William concluded. 

The  statistical evidence, of which there are masses collected right up until the CD act was repealed in 1886, suggests that the Contagious Diseases Acts being in force did actually reduce the number of prostitutes.

Perhaps, though in Deal at least, it was just as much to do with the ‘kindly nature’ of the Metropolitan Officer Charles Duntrin and indeed William Pittock himself.

Deal, Walmer & Sandwich Mercury – Saturday 02 February 1884

Prostitution as you may rightly assume did not go away nor did the contagious diseases associated with it. In May 1883 the Contagious Diseases Acts and therefore the compulsory examinations were suspended and Dr Mason, local G.P., Superintendent of Deal Fire Brigade and Medical Officer for the area was in no doubt that this was the cause of the increase in Venereal Disease when he reported to the Urban Sanitary District in February 1884.

Trying to deal with the rise in Sexually Transmitted Diseases was no doubt the right thing to do, but by targeting one small sector of society most definitely was not. Until the twentieth-century men firmly held the power in government and in the home. What came out of this whole saga was the voice of women. Some were from the so-called  ‘respectable or upper classes’  who were expected to stay quietly at home, marry, have children and support their husbands. Women such as Florence Nightingale, Josephine Butler, Elizabeth Wolstenholme & Harriet Martineau shouted loudly for women’s rights and their voices can still be heard today.  Others were of a different class, the poor and often ill educated who perhaps had little choice but to prostitution to support themselves and their families. Their voices are often only recorded because, for whatever reason, they ended up in front of the magistrates. Their stories and their voices deserve no less to be heard too. 

That ‘Certain Class of Women’

With the Barracks at Walmer and having both Merchant and Royal Naval presence in the towns, the area was a magnet for some of the often termed  “ .. certain class of women…” who were wanting to earn a crust or two.

All, but a few, of the named prostitutes found in the records were actually born in Deal or Walmer. There must have been more local women but it seems that they, well their names at least, like many others down the centuries have simply slipped through the fingers of time. 

With the lack of named ‘local’ women to research and to tell their stories, we have focussed on those who are named in the records and newspapers as either being in or from the Deal area as well as those named alongside them.


Mary Jane Orrick was born in Deal in 1847. She was the daughter of a Deal boatman Thomas Orrick, though until his wife’s death he earnt or supplemented his living as a shoemaker. Mary Jane was the sixth of their eight children, four boys and four girls. Through want of care she and her sisters were soon in trouble.

Temperance, the elder sister, got off lightly; she made just one court appearance, in 1861, for being drunk and disorderly but soon met a soldier and moved to Fanborough in Hampshire. By this time Mary Jane  aged just fourteen had already been to prison eight or nine times!

In 1858 Mary Jane with sisters Elizabeth and Maria, then  aged ten, seven and five respectively, were charged with stealing clothes from a house in Water Street. In court their father was described as “…a widower having no person in his house to take charge of his children, was at sea pursuing his usual avocation…”  so the magistrate ordered that the children be taken to Eastry Union until their father could be summoned. The girls, it was said, “…were almost in a state of near nudity without shoes, stockings or bonnets….”

On another occasion Thomas told the court that the girls had left his house three weeks before and he had not seen them during that time.  When asked  if he would be “…bound for their good behaviour for twenty-one days…” he declined to make himself responsible for their behaviour, ”…as his occupation called him away to sea….”. So the magistrate sentenced the poor girls to six weeks, and this time it was with hard labour in Sandwich gaol.

Deal, Walmer & Sandwich Mercury – Saturday 24 August 1867

Their life of crime, which could be described as a cry for help, continued and they were soon described as ‘Juvenile Delinquents’ more can be read about the Orrick Sisters here

In 1867 Mary Jane had just returned from a reformatory when she was arrested with Frances Harrison; read about her next. They had been found sleeping in a corn field near the cemetery with a young man. Both were described as prostitutes in a miserable dirty appearance.

Three years later she was accused of stealing 3s. 6d. from a man who had accompanied her to a house and on leaving her had found that his purse had been robbed of the money; totally denying all knowledge of the purse, the case was dismissed. 

Later that year Mary Jane found herself subjected to the Contagious Diseases Acts. Registered as a ‘common prostitute’ she underwent at least one so called voluntary examination but by failing to attend she found herself arrested and before the Police Courts in Canterbury. Her experience of the examination appears not not to have been a good one as she declares in court, where she is described as “…very contumacious…” that she “…would never attend examinations anymore…” Yet again Mary Jane found herself sentenced to fourteen days with hard labour.

Mary Jane soon made her way to Hampshire though she continued to get into trouble. In October 1873, when she was already on remand for riotous behaviour, she took a Marine home to her house on Gosport’s South Street, once there she threatened to kill him and took up the fire shovel with which she hit him on the head. He though, despite being badly injured, managed to take her to the police. For this she received twenty one days with hard labour.  

This is the last recorded evidence we have for Mary Jane. After that, she completely disappears from the records.

Frances Harrison  

Hampshire Telegraph – Saturday 18 December 1869

Born in Sedlescombe near Brighton, Sussex in 1847, Frances Harrison was the eldest daughter of John and Charlotte Harrison.  Her baptism record declares that the family were travelling and that John was a labourer. By 1851 the Harrison family were in Southampton where John was an Ostler, ten years later they were in Armory Lane, Portsmouth where he was employed as a Stableman, possibly at the nearby Two Jolly Brewers Public House. Although the case was dismissed in December 1869 the landlord faced charges of Harbouring Prostitutes by allowing them to assemble in his house. With numerous accounts of riotous behaviour, drunkenness, theft, assault as well as prostitution in Armory Lane let alone in the area, it can be little wonder that Frances fell into prostitution.  

Aged just seventeen in 1864 Frances was already making her living as a prostitute. Throughout 1864 she appeared in court and was charged with theft and for breaking the windows of a public house each time she received a short sentence with hard labour. In October that year she was charged with sleeping in an outhouse and with no visible means of support she was again sentenced, this time to two months with hard labour. 

Deal, Walmer & Sandwich Mercury – Saturday 27 July 1867

One Frances Harrison appeared in July 1867, at Deal Police Court. We assume this to be the same Frances who maybe followed the Royal Marines from Portsmouth. She was found sleeping in a boat store in Kingsdown and was described as “…one of a class who were in the habit of sleeping in outhouses and such like places…” For this she was charged and sentenced to seven days in Sandwich Gaol. By August she was back in court alongside Mary Jane Orrick as already described.

A month later she is back in court but this time she was the victim of an assault in which her arm was broken. However, having lied in court over the supposed theft of money tied in a hanky, by her assailant a marine named Thomas Letchford, no charges were brought against her assailant.

By the 1870s, if this was the same Frances Harrison, was back in Hampshire where yet again she was in trouble. Then in 1884 she stole £5 from a house earning her another three months with hard labour. After this Frances also disappears from the records.

 Louisa Wanstall 

George Wanstall was found “…quite dead on the deck of the barge…” following an accident in Ramsgate harbour. He had only been married for just under six months; his wife Louisa nee Page had already lost her mother in early 1861. By the time the census was taken, her father and three younger siblings were in the Eastry Union Workhouse.  Her three elder siblings had all married at around this time, this left a brother in service and Louisa staying with friends. How Louisa survived for the next four years on her own is not known, on her marriage certificate she gives no occupation, she must though have been relieved to have a future to look forward to. 

Quite why Louisa fell on to such hard times after George died we will never know. Did she feel unable to move in with one of her siblings or in-laws? Did they offer? Whatever the reason, we know that by 1869 she was known to be a prostitute.

The Deal, Walmer & Sandwich Mercury reported, in some detail, on her case when it was brought before the Deal Police Court in May 1869, when she and Elizabeth Ellis were both accused of stealing nine sovereigns and a watch from one Daniel Ratcliffe who was described as being “…a grey headed old man apparently close upon seventy years of age…” In his statement he told the court that one Saturday afternoon he went into the Nelson Public House in Short Street ”… to have some beer…”

He sat down to enjoy his beer and Elizabeth, who had been scrubbing the floor, joined him and they continued to drink together into the evening with Louisa occasionally joining them. At 10 O’clock he went upstairs with Elizabeth. He was later woken by Henry Blyth the Landlord telling him that those young women are going for a walk and they want you to go with them. Not finding his trousers where he had left them he asked Henry Blyth for them. On putting them on he realised his money and his watch was missing. Nonetheless, he went in search of the women who he didn’t find but was told that they both lodged at the Lord Nelson. Superintendent Parker was eventually called, and the lodging rooms were searched. In Louisa’s room he found some money tied up in a handkerchief which she identified as hers but admitted that Elizabeth had given it to her. Elizabeth, who was not in The Lord Nelson at the time was later found singing and dancing in West Street and arrested there along with Henry Blyth.

Following their appearance in the Police Court, they were sent to Sandwich Gaol to await trial at the Quarter Sessions which occurred  in July, their cases were heard and Louisa and Henry Blyth were acquitted with no case to be heard and Elizabeth was also eventually found not guilty.

By 1872 Louisa was living in Sandwich with her brother Thomas who went by the name of Thomas Ryan, rather than Page. Why the use of a different surname is not clear but in January, their sister Caroline Smith saw him assaulting Louisa in Market Street, Sandwich. Coming to her sister’s defence Thomas turned on her knocking her to the ground where he kicked her brutally in the stomach. Thomas was eventually sentenced to six months with hard labour.

By 1881 Louisa was living in Dover with labourer Thomas Welch, as his wife. In 1885 they had a son who they named Thomas George Welch. When they registered him, Louisa gave her maiden name not as Page but as Ryan. Thomas and Louisa eventually married in 1891, as for Caroline in 1901 she was living with Louisa and Thomas in Folkestone.

Thomas died in 1905 Louisa outlived him by thirty-seven years, dying in 1942.

Of course we can not know what Louisa’s life was really like but it seems that, perhaps, she was able to leave prostitution behind her and live to a grand old age of 98.


Folkestone Express, Sandgate, Shorncliffe & Hythe Advertiser – Saturday 18 March 1876

Elizabeth Ellis 

Elizabeth Ellis, according to the Quarter Sessions, Calendar of Prisoners awaiting trial at Sandwich Gaol for 1869 when she appeared with Louisa Wanstal and Henry Blyth, was born in 1844 but where we have not been able to confirm. 

Elizabeth, it seems, continued earning her living as a prostitute to at least 1876 when she was brutally assaulted and raped by Joseph Avery a Private in the 12th Lancers in Folkestone. He and artilleryman William McKay met with Elizabeth when she was walking home at 11 pm early in March that year. They approached her and when she refused to take them back with her Joseph Avery threw her to the ground and with William McKay standing by he raped her. The evidence was, according to the Folkestone Express, unfit for publication. You might think this would mean a custodial sentence for at least the assailant but no, Joseph Avery was found not guilty of rape and William McKay was acquitted.

What happened to Elizabeth after this is not known. She certainly doesn’t appear in the newspapers suggesting she at least kept out of trouble.

Kentish Gazette – Tuesday 26 April 1870

Eliza Bing

According to her prison record Eliza was born in 1852 but even knowing that, as with Elizabeth Ellis, her origins have proved elusive. The first mention we have found for her is in the Kentish Gazette in April 1870 when she appears with Sarah Waters who we come to next. She had by then already been subject to at least one medical examination and possibly spent time in the lock hospital as the Kentish Gazette report states she was refusing to submit to another examination saying that she would rather go to prison for twelve months than “…go to that place again…” This time she was sentenced to seven days in Maidstone Gaol.

Sarah Waters 

In late March 1879 Sarah Waters signed the form agreeing to the ‘voluntary’ medical examination. On April 1st she duly  appeared and was ordered to appear again on the 14th but failed to do so, and an order was made for her arrest and she was brought before the Magistrates at Canterbury.  In court Inspector Whelan was cross-examined by Mr. West, a London solicitor engaged by several gentlemen in Canterbury to defend Sarah and the other women accused with her of failing to comply with the acts. 

Mr West put it to Inspector Whelan that although Sarah had signed the document she had not been told that if she did not comply, that is to attend again, she would be imprisoned. That he, Inspector Whelan, had not supplied her with food during her enforced initial incarceration before she was examined. Sarah and the other women on that day had been “…kept in a room from 12.30 to six o’clock…” they were then taken to Dover and from there to the hospital at Shorncliffe arriving at 8.30pm. Alison Wilson and Eliza Bing both appearing with Sarah confirm this treatment and that they “had suffered great pain” 

Mr Fielding for the prosecution objected to this and Mr Drury, one of the magistrates asked  “I suppose the object is to reduce punishment?”

Mr West had already pointed out to the Bench that “…these people are of a very ignorant class…” and that it could be argued that they had signed these documents in ignorance.

Given that in April 1870 the Acts in Canterbury had only been in force since the beginning of the year it does seem a very reasonable argument.

Sarah was ordered to be sent to Maidstone Gaol for seven days but Inspector Whelan stated he did not want to press for imprisonment and would be satisfied if Sarah would consent to be examined in future. Sarah agreed to this but whether the whole experience brought about a change in her life it is hard to say. There are several assault charges relating to Sarah Waters following this but then nothing further. So again we can find no evidence of Sarah’ subsequent life. 

Interestingly Mr West, the defending solicitor, worked for Messrs Shaen and Roscoe of London. They were connected with the Associate Institution for enforcing and improving the law for the protection of women. Mr. William Shaen, the head of the firm also gave evidence to the same Select Committee as William Pittock.


Julia Gilbert

Julia appears to have travelled around East Kent. The first mention we have for her is in 1881 when we found her paying a fine for being drunk and disorderly and lodging at 22 Duke Street, Deal. A year later she was charged with ‘interfering with the Military Police.’  A Royal Marine Sergeant was endeavouring to get a marine, a little worse for drink, back to the Barracks. Julia herself in a similar state, considered the Sergeant a little heavy handed and was ‘frog-marching’  the drunken man and decided to intervene and in so doing used ‘…obscene and filthy language…”  as well as shoving the Sergeant and spitting in his face. For this she was fined 5 shillings which she immediately paid, saying she meant no harm.

Deal, Walmer & Sandwich Mercury – Saturday 17 September 1881

After this event she appears to leave the town moving up to Sheerness, a big draw for prostitutes and where her behaviour did not improve. In 1883 she was summoned by Martha Stimpson for assaulting and beating her for which she was fined 10s with 11s costs. 

In February 1884 Julia married Sergeant Evan Rowlands of the Royal Artillery  in Sheerness. The last possible record we can find for Julia is in 1887 when she was held in Canterbury gaol for unlawfully wounding Thomas Douglas in Sheerness for which she was acquitted. She gave her occupation as a servant, so it could be that she and Evan had separated by this time. After that Julia and indeed Evan disappear from our sights.

Eliza Whitewood

Eliza Whitewood was born in 1853 in Nonington where her father, Thomas, was a mIller. In 1859 Eliza’s mother, Mary Ann died in Great Mongeham leaving her husband with the care of their five daughters aged between seven and fourteen years; Harriet Elizabeth, or Eliza as she became, was the youngest. The 1861 census shows that Thomas and his daughters were still living in Chalk Hole, Great Mongeham but by 1866 Thomas too had died. Two of the girls somehow end up in New Zealand perhaps sent to live with their Uncle who they had never met. The eldest, rather confusingly named Elizabeth may have spent a good deal of her time in Eastry Union and possibly, after working in the Hop fields, died in Bridge Union Workhouse in 1881. 

Deal, Walmer & Sandwich Mercury – Saturday 21 May 1870

The Deal, Walmer and Sandwich Mercury in May 1870 reports an Elizabeth Whitewood as “ inmate of the idiots ward…” from which she absconded by climbing over the wall. With our Eliza and her sister both at times using the same name, it is hard to say with certainty if this Elizabeth is actually our Eliza or her sister.

Eliza though was by 1871 definitely  in Chatham Lock House. We know that by 1881 she was back in Deal lodging at 22 Duke Street with her sister Frances Amelia. The same lodging house that a few months later Julia Gilbert gave as her address when she was arrested for drunkeness. The census records both their occupations as dressmakers. A year later though on the 29th May Eliza died in Eastry Union soon after she had been admitted. The cause of death was ‘supposed apoplexy’ could this though, have been ‘syphilitic apoplexy’? Who knows?

Mary Hagar

Kentish Express – Saturday 13 August 1870

Mary Hagar failed to appear for the examination when ordered and failed to turn up for her court appearance on the same day as Eliza Bing and Mary Jane Orrick in August 1870. Her date and place of birth have both eluded us. But she is described as a “…child…” according to the report by the Association for Promoting the Extension of the Contagious Diseases Acts dated 1872. In the report Josephine Butler is quoted from the evidence she gave to the Royal Commission looking into the operation of the Acts in 1872.

A Repeal Association had been established in Canterbury soon after the acts came into force in the town. This would account for Mr. West being employed by those “..several gentlemen in Canterbury…” in the Sarah Waters and Elizabeth Bing cases and for Josephine Butler’s visiting the city. Her presence enabled  Mary Hagar and her mother to call on her.  

According to her mother Mary Hagar was an innocent girl who had been sent out on an errand and had been taken by the police to the examination room and examined from where she was sent to the hospital. Here she claimed her daughter was refused permission to contact her friends. A  complaint of ‘gross oppression’ had been made by Josephine Butler to the Secretary of State for War, under whose orders the Select Committee enquiries were later made. Mr. Sloggett, the Inspector of Certified (Lock) Hospitals, visited the Lock Hospital and spoke to the other women there who confirmed that “..this girl…” was indeed a prostitute. Mr. Sloggett described Mary as of dirty appearance, half clad and a prostitute of the low kind. This differs from the “..nice innocent looking girl of eighteen years…” as described by Josephine Butler. It seems there was a case of misidentity, perhaps in part caused by the Inspector, on whose evidence of identification of the girl in this case, that Mr. Sloggett relied upon. Interestingly this inspector was dismissed soon after.  Josephine, it seems, had written Hagar in her letter of complaint instead of Hagan!

By 1875 Mary Hagar appears to have moved to Essex where she was reported with fellow prostitute Amelia Richards  to have been drinking with soldiers in the Britannia Public House on Brentford’s High Street. They this time are not in trouble, the landlord though was fined for letting them stay for too long in his establishment! When he asked if he was to keep“…these women…”  out of his house altogether he was rather usefully  told he, “… should use his discretion and not allow them to stay too long…”!! The trail then goes cold on Mary Hagar. There are various newspaper reports of women with the same name,  in trouble in various parts of the country, but none that we can definitely link with our Mary. 

Margaret Howard

A ‘sensational robbery’ occurred at the Barracks of the 6th Depot Battalion in Walmer in March 1863. Mess Master George Emstell realised that both his cashbox and his mess assistant were missing. The box itself contained £100 in gold and cheques, bills and drafts to the value of £1,600. Police Constable Ralph with George Emsell finding the destination of the supposed thief, one John Kean, to be Canterbury, soon made their way there. Whereupon John Kean was found in bed with a Deal prostitute named Margaret Howard. 

£93 was recovered, and the cash box was found on Deal beach near the Naval Yard.

Margaret and John both appeared before Maidstone Lent Assizes a few days later. John Keane was sentenced to four years and Margaret to four months for receiving £7 5s.

 knowing it to have been stolen.  Margaret may have actually been a laundress from Newcastle and after her release she may have not returned to Deal but moved on to Gravesend where she was in trouble for drunkenness then as with most of the other women whose stories we have tried to tell she too disappears from verifiable records.

Matilda Burton

PC Chapman was called  one evening to 9 King Street in May 1892 where he found Widow Matilda Burton lying on the floor of the back room of the house totally drunk and incapable. She had earlier in the evening told Mr Tookey that she ”… intended to be locked up…” and used bad language. Matilda had been lodging at the house helping Mrs Tookey with housework for her keep. That morning Matilda had been sent out for groceries but when she returned with the groceries at eight that evening  she was the worse for drink. As this was not the first occasion Mr. Tookey told her he would not put up with her behaviour any longer. As this was Matilda’s first offence, she was simply reprimanded. 

November found Matilda in court again, now living in West Street she was charged with indecent behaviour in Church Walk and sent to gaol for fourteen days in default of paying a fine. By June 1893 she had turned to prostitution and was charged with “…unlawfully soliciting prostitution…” and sentenced to fourteen days. Yet again no further definitive records can be found to tell us where Matilda came from or where she went after 1893.

Hannah Mary Griggs and Ann Rogers

Hannah Mary Griggs and Ann Rogers in 1856 are named as prostitutes from Deal when they were charged with stealing a silver watch. The owner, Edward Summers had left the watch behind, in his house on West Street, while he went bathing in the sea. Hannah must have been known in the area as Edward immediately suspected her and informed Inspector Redsull, who had often seen Hannah and Ann together. In court Hannah finally admitted that she took the watch “…but should not have done it, but my parents were in want of bread…”  Ann, she said, knew nothing of it. Hannah was sentenced to four months, and Ann with insufficient evidence was “…discharged with some seasonable advice…” With no further leads to go on finding what became of Hannah or Mary also remains out of our grasp. 

Ella Parker

Ella Parker, the daughter of Butcher George Parker and his wife Susannah, was born in Deal in 1861 the youngest of six; the 1881 census records her as a prostitute while she was a patient at Chartham Lunatic Asylum. She is the only one of three recorded as such at the time so there may be no reason to doubt that they believed this. She was still a patient there in 1891 and by then she is recorded as a ‘lunatic’ of no occupation. However a year later in November 1892 the register for Chartham states that she had recovered and discharged. But where and into whose care she was placed let alone her death is so far not been found.

Elizabeth Spratt

Elizabeth Spratt in 1867 described herself as a prostitute when she was arrested for obtaining, under false pretences, a bottle of pickled onions from the grocer, Mr. Thompson, on Middle Street. However, having no sufficient evidence, her case was dismissed. By 1871 there was no trace of Elizabeth in Deal. 

Sarah Castell and Sarah Spencer

Widows Sarah Castell and Sarah Spencer give their place of birth as Deal while they were in Chatham Lock Hospital when the 1871 census was taken. In 1870 Esther Harris, Jane Ralph, Emma Taylor and Jane Connor were summoned for absenting themselves from periodical examinations along with Mary Hagar. No definitive records have been found to say if these women were ever in Deal or if they knew  Eliza Bing or Mary Jane Orrick who were also summoned at the same time.

In Conclusion

The lives of many of these women, indeed most of them, are hidden in the past. Unless they behaved badly, failed to turn up for medical examinations or were themselves victims of a crime against them, we would have no idea of their existence as prostitutes.

Many of these women either had or went on to have children but for those written about here we have not been able to find any records for them. For the children of women who were infected with a sexually transmitted disease then a life with the self-same disease and its consequences could perhaps be expected. For others, unless their mother found a different way of life, then perhaps at best, they would simply have had a hard life.

Sources and further reading:
On the City Wall – Rudyard Kipling
The Vagrancy Act–An Act for the Punishment of idle and disorderly Persons and Rogues and Vagabonds, in that Part of Great Britain called England
The Contagious Diseases Acts : the Contagious Diseases Acts, 1864, ’66, ’68 (Ireland), ’69, from a sanitary and economic point of view : being a paper read before the Medical Society of University College, London, on Thursday, November 30th, 1871
The extension of the contagious diseases acts to Liverpool and other seaports, practically considered By Lowndes, Frederick Walter
https://archiveshub  –YWCA
The Working of the “Contagious Diseases Act, 1866,” at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, Chatham by A. W. Nankive (MEDICAL)
Prostitution and Victorian Society by Judith R Walkowitz
Dictionary of Victorian London