Tuesday, 25 April 2017

A Cardiff Brothel: The History of 31 Charlotte Street

Cardiff, Late 1830's Source: Glamorgan Record Office

The Victorian brothels of Charlotte Street and Whitmore Lane no longer form part of Cardiff's remembered history. They are long gone and forgotten. This is the story of one of those brothels at 31 Charlotte Street. It was the scene of sex (obviously), drugging, violence, burning, intrigue and theft.

Number 31 Charlotte Street was built circa 1838, it's marked on the map above with the yellow dot. It was a spacious town terrace with a parlour and a kitchen downstairs, three bedrooms and an attic room upstairs with possibly a smaller house or outbuildings in the garden. It was built for a working clientele in a steadily expanding Cardiff before a massive population explosion turned it into something else. See my earlier post for a short history of the notorious isle of villainy that was Charlotte Street.
The house next door was up for sale in 1843
If you walked out the front door of number 31 in 1861 and took a right turn you'd find The King's Head Tavern next door, The Irishman's Glory next door to that, the Dinas Arms next door to that and finally the Caledonian Tavern. If you turned left there were four residential houses then The Excavators Arms, The Pembrokeshire Arms, a lodging house and then you'd run out of street after The Red Lion.

Being surrounded by beerhouses meant it was a good site for a brothel. The girls would meet their marks either out on the street or in the beerhouses and, if required, take them back to number 31. As we'll see there was the 'owner', who rented the house from the real owner, and took 'bed money' from the four or so working girls renting beds there. There were also sometimes bullies at the house (now we'd call them pimps) who 'protected' the girls, assisted in robberies and kept any violent clients in check.

Don't think of 31 as a hedonistic Victorian boudoir with drapery, fancy red wallpaper, chaise longues and decanters of whisky on thin legged tables. This was still a very poor area so it's more a warm fire, floorboards, a table, straw filled mattresses on wooden beds, rag rugs, candles and woollen blankets. The toilet was a shared one in the lane out the back and there's no running water, that's what the beer is there for. Oh, and I should mention that there's also a family sleeping in the downstairs rooms and the outhouse and they share the rent, kitchen and toilet. In 1861 a Mr and Mrs Thomas and their four young children lived in number 31 with Mr Thomas making and mending shoes on the premises as well. This arrangement was not unusual as space became a premium.

31 was one of many, many brothels on Charlotte Street and Whitmore Lane and it has a rich history. I'll take you through what I know about it and remember this is one of the quieter, higher end brothels on Charlotte Street!

At the 1841 census number 31 is lived in by a three families. It only comes into the records as a brothel from 1851 onwards. It probably was one before this but early records rarely record house numbers.
1850 map, Glamorgan Record Office

In 1851, when the above map is dated, William Hoskins and his wife Sarah live there. The giveaway is the four female 'spinster' lodgers living with them all aged 20-25, one from Ireland and three from the south of Wales.
1851 31 Charlotte Street.
Now William and his wife Sarah seem to have been a working couple but the house is being used as a brothel or, a better description, a lodging house for prostitutes. Their lodgers were all working girls. Jane Atkins from Chepstow had been working on the next street Whitmore Lane since she was 14. Margaret McCarthy was also working girl. Interestingly there are no bullies living at the brothel.
The prostitute lodged wherever they wanted to, and, as they paid by the night or week, the large prostitute population was highly mobile and constantly shifting. The census is just a snap shot of who slept there on the night of March 30th. 

To illustrate this within four months in July 1851 a Emma Hiscock is lodging there, a 'gaudily' dressed prostitute who hit a man in the face with a brick when he tried to assault her:
Here Mrs Elizabeth Burridge is named as the 'landlady' of 31 at this time. She was the owner of the brothel as well as being landlady of The Gloucester Arms, three doors down at 28 Charlotte Street. There are still four working women in the house. The rental of 5 shillings a week for a room is quite high but they were guaranteed a room of their own when most other working class people were sharing beds and floors. I'd say the two girls sharing the room for 1 shilling each had the smallest of the three bedrooms upstairs or the garret room. Mr and Mrs Hoskins would have had the downstairs rooms. Mrs Burridge's profit would have come from getting 12 shillings rent from the girls alone and another 4 or 5 from the couple, normal house rent at this time was 7 shillings a week.

By November 1851 there's another two new girls at number 31; Sarah Austin and Mary Lawson aka 'The Grenadier'. They take a valley boy for £8.

Mary Lawson was nicknamed 'The Grenadier' due to her height and build. Six months ago she was working in Mrs Prothero's brothel about 60 yards away, which shows how much the women swapped and changed accommodation to suit themselves.

The Gloucester Arms link continues with this from August 1852. It shows the close symbiotic links between the brothels and the beerhouses as jugs of beer were taken into the brothels for the clients at all hours of the night, for inflated prices of course. When the coppers this time caught Catherine Jones (aka Kitty Pig's Eyes) taking a jug of beer over red handed the owners came up with the excuse they were taking beer to the wake of the recently deceased John Widdle who, as far as I can make out, never existed!:

In July 1854 the prostitute Ellen Slack used violence against a client at number 31, whether for robbery or personal protection is unknown.
Ellen Slack July 14 1854
The Burridge's property was up for sale in July 1854 after Mrs Burridge died at the end of 1853. This is when Mrs Caroline King of The Ship Hotel at 1 Charlotte Street bought it.

Margaret Sullivan aka 'Irish Meg' is based at number 31 in September 1856. Her and Jane Allen spot a recent arrival off a ship who is loaded with money (which he cleverly hides in his cap) and they make his acquaintance. They then waylay him into Polly Allen's brothel on Charlotte Street and as he goes up the stairs Irish Meg snatches his cap off his head and runs back to her brothel at number 31. Her extremely violent bully Thomas John stops him following her by grabbing his throat and pushing him against a wall. The three girls are picked up by the police later on but the sailor has drank so much he makes no sense and they're released, netting £4 between them.
Interestingly Irish Meg marries her bully a month later when she's living at 24 Charlotte Street, like I said the whole street was the women's domain and she'll be back involved soon enough.

It wasn't just physical violence that the women used against clients at number 31. The more subtle approach of drugging their drinks was also adopted, the women were very familiar with what the chemists sold and they could drug with a range of opiates freely available over the counter. In January 1857 Ann Casey takes down her mark in this way and robs £9 16 shillings from a ship's master, a huge amount of money. 
1857 is the first mention of bullies living at number 31. Henry Davies lodged at number 31 with the prostitute Mary Williams and another bully George Nind alias 'Dusty'. In May Henry committed a highway robbery on a man at Cardiff train station, he hit him once and crushed one of his eyeballs inside its socket. Henry got a death sentence as he was out of prison on a ticket of leave, it was commuted to life of course.

Roll onto the start of August 1858 and Elizabeth 'Lizzie' Davies is doing her thing and getting 12 shillings from 'a fool':

Lizzie Davies is on a roll. At the end of August she's in the Farmers Arms at number 37 doing a group robbery of a dupe. Watches and handkerchiefs were fenced at the Farmers Arms so they wouldn't have to walk far to sell them on:
In December 1858 one of the women of number 31 was assaulted by a labourer and he got seven days inside.

In February 1859 Dan Ryan is bullying at 31 Charlotte Street when he is arrested for fraudulently enlisting in the 'India Military Forces'. This was a scam as he was already enrolled with the Naval Coast Guard and presumably could not have done both. Dan Ryan is a very notorious bully of Charlotte Street and is one of the people in my book.

In March 1859 Lizzie Davies is still at number 31, which means she worked there for at least 7 months. She got two months hard labour for robbing a ring worth 7 shillings from a shop.

The bully George Nind is also still living at 31 Charlotte Street in June 1859. He goes fishing on the river Taff with George Nethway, landlord of the Irishman's Glory at 29 Charlotte Street. As they dragged a net along the river he fell into a deep pool and drowned.  

In November 1859 we are back to more conventional stories of robbery at number 31:

Sailors formed part of the brothel's clientele but local men are also well represented. In June 1860 another young man loses his money at number 31, again he gets a lot of sympathy in the press:

Theft was an important part of the prostitutes income in these times. For a little risk they could make serious money and not all the thefts were recorded, the mark often too ashamed or intimidated to complain. In August 1860 there are two more robberies in the same week, netting the girls around 50 shillings.

In September 1860 a Cardiff man John Phillips was enjoying number 31 on a Sunday night when he was robbed of 2 shillings and sixpence, he made out at first that two militia men had attacked him but really he was robbed by the girls.

In October 1860 the brothel was used by two girls who stole a watch in The King's Head beerhouse next door. Here Susan and Hannah have Richard Davies as their 'crimp', a not often used alternative name for a bully.

I think this article from January 1861 sums up the opinions of the police and the newspapers, it was a 'serve them right' attitude a lot of the time, the will to investigate and prosecute in these robbery cases was very low at times. There was also little willingness to shut down the brothels, although by this time the moral panic had begun and church groups were getting more vocal in their opposition and also bringing private prosecutions against the worst offenders. 31 Charlotte Street was well under their radar for the moment.

In March 1861 Ellen Leary, who is probably the partner of the bully John Leary's (see below), gets three months for stealing ten shillings at number 31. The men could hide their money in their boots but that was one of the first places the girls looked. Why she confessed is unknown.

On Monday April 1st 1861 Mary Ann Leyshon, a 17 year old prostitute who hadn't been working on the streets for long, came home after a night of working. She fell asleep in front of the fire and at five in the morning her clothes caught fire. She was burnt horrifically on her legs, thighs and back and languished in the workhouse infirmary until she finally died on the 12th April. No inquest was held. 

1861 Mary Ann Leyshon burnt
Incredibly on April 2nd, the day after Mary Ann Leyshon set herself on fire, it was business as usual at number 31 and Margaret John alias 'Irish Meg' stole a whooping £33 from a man in ten minutes and walked away from court a free woman, even when he identifies her.

On the evening of April 7th 1861, while Mary Ann Leyshon suffered in the workhouse and Irish Meg celebrated her windfall, a census taker knocked on the door of number 31. He recorded the inhabitants as Anne Owens aged 23, Mary Lichton age 17, Ann Lewen age 19, Ellen Hall age 21, Margaret Hanvey age 30, all prostitutes, and the bullies John Leary and William Gregory. The five prostitutes were all from the south of Wales: Swansea, Merthyr, Carmarthen, Llantrisant and Monmouthshire. The bullies from Cardiff and Swansea. Welsh was probably spoken among the women as much as English. They are all aged 23 and under apart from Margaret. Margaret Hanvey had been abandoned by her husband and as a depressing aside she dropped dead three years later in total destitution at Number 13 Charlotte Street. Even more depressingly her four year old son fell into a saucepan of boiling water two years after that and was scalded to death, also at Number 13.

1861 number 31 Charlotte Street

Somehow in September 1861 Ellen Hall and her bully William Gregory pulled off another huge £33 pound theft from a cattle dealer at number 31 Charlotte Street, a massive amount of money that would have almost bought a house on Charlotte Street.

Mrs Caroline King died on Tuesday 7th February 1862. By November 1862 the big guns came out. 31 Charlotte Street was then run by Mary the Cripple's daughter Ann Yarwood, aka Annie the Cripple. Mary Yarwood, her 'husband' Bill Thomas and her four children first ran a large criminal network in Newport before moving to Charlotte Street in 1854 to run many beerhouses and brothels. Annie evades prosecution by saying she rented it from someone else. A common defence in brothel charges was to muddy the waters as much as possible, making it unsure who actually rented it.
These two reports appeared in the same paper on the same day on different pages, which is very unusual. It turns out that Annie Yarwood, vilified in the press for years for running brothels and being corrupt and morally repugnant, was actually renting the house from Emma Davies who rented it from Mr William Stanley.

One report says Emma was imprisoned, another that the charges against Annie Yarwood were dropped and Emma wasn't imprisoned. What's key here is Mr William Stanley.

Mr William Stanley, now 74 years old, builder of Stanley Street and owner of many houses on Charlotte Street was a 'respectable ratepayer'. He has been on the Board of Guardians for the Union and has stood for office in Cardiff council. He has possibly been the house owner for a long time and would have received all the rent from Mrs Burridge, Mrs King and now Annie Yarwood, pretending that they 'owned' the house. He made a tidy profit from prostitution in Charlotte Street.

Mr William Stanley has a long history of being a vile man however. The Stanley Street that he built and owned was the cause of the death of many poor people from Cholera. In the June outbreak of 1849 for example 16 people died in tiny Stanley Street, the most in any other street was 6. He also neglected to disinfect number 13 Charlotte Street, where my relatives were living at the time, after three cholera deaths in the house. He just emptied them out for a few days then moved them back in. He also had unknown ties to Jack Matthews, one of Cardiff's biggest gangsters. His son was also a Customs Officer, a post open to massive abuse in the hands of the wrong person.

Stranger still is the report below. The prostitute Emma Davies, who you can see above was imprisoned for running the brothel at number 31 in November 1862 somehow managed to steal two brooches from 74 year old Mr Stanley and got nine months in prison in February 1863. How would she have got that close to him to do this? Was he having a taste of her wares at the time and was she getting revenge?

The police did eventually catch up with Annie Yarwood. She was given three weeks to leave on December 12th 1862. Here is the police report from the various visits to number 31. I give a transcription below as the handwriting can be hard to read:
"Police Sergeant William Rollins: On Friday the 5th December I visited 31 Charlotte Street kept by Ann Yarwood. I found three prostitutes in bed- one other in bed with a man upstairs, the other two prostitutes sitting downstairs by the fire. I went again Sunday morning found two girls upstairs and downstairs David Rees and dependent in bed. A man said in his hearing that he had given the girl five shillings to pay the mistress. I went again Tuesday last and found two prostitutes in bed and one man and woman in bed. Went again at a quarter to two last Wednesday morning, there had been a robbery there that night, and the man went with me and said in defendants presence that he had paid her a shilling for the bed. She did not deny it. Defendant always appears to me to act in the management of the house. Adjourned for three weeks."

Annie Yarwood does take a back seat after this but by January 17th 1863 number 31 continues making money as before, a ships captain loses a lot of money and the unnamed suspect hides in a toilet to escape detection.

Two weeks later the law goes after the keepers of number 31 again, this time Jemima Davies and Margaret John (Irish Meg) are brought in but it is Jemima who takes the rap.

The brothel's card is very much marked though and when Irish Meg takes over on the Thursday she gets charged with keeping number 31 on the Friday 30th January 1863, only running it for one night!

The sergeant obviously catches the brothel at the changeover- and this is interesting to see how the brothel operated in this regard. Irish Meg is removing some women that she doesn't want in the house and allowing another, Jenny Piano, in.

At the same time in January 1863 I have the only known example of how the girls were procured to the Charlotte Street brothels. Ellen Madden meets a girl who has newly arrived in Cardiff after she is refused entry to The Servant's Home. She takes her first to 31 Charlotte Street presumably to engage her in the prostitute life:
In March 1865 a Mary and John Higgins were living at 31 Charlotte Street. It was still continuing as a brothel as they paid £25 sureties for Jack Matthews, a notorious brothel and beerhouse keeper at number 34, when he was charged with abusing a policeman. By this time it is likely that Jack Matthews was taking the rents from 31 Charlotte Street.
After this the brothel itself is not named specifically in any robberies or disturbances though.

The brothels were contracting at this time as the town council tightened up their policing so number 31 was probably one of the first to be abandoned at the expense of the more established and 'hardcore' brothels and those either in beerhouses or physically attached to them.

On April 5th 1865 my Nan's grandfather, who was living next door at number 32, was baptised, so I hope it was quiet by then so they all got some sleep!

By 1871 it had reverted to being a 'normal' house, better housing conditions meant there were only two couples living there.

Number 31 1871 census, a quiet respectable house.
The final end for number 31 as a house came when it was knocked down in 1878 after the passing of the 1875 Cardiff Improvement Act which meant obliterating the majority of the housing in Charlotte Street and Whitmore Lane.

So there we are, a Cardiff brothel that ran for at least 15 years in the same modest terraced house.


Internal furnishings see: Cardiff Times 1864 Oct 7 when Ann Lewis and Susan Stanton steal horse rugs for their houses, Ann has moved to 12 Whitmore Lane by this point.
House Advert for Number 32: Glamorgan Monmouth and Brecon Gazette and Merthyr Guardian 1843 April 1 p.2
Jane Atkins:
Monmouthshire Merlin 1844 Dec 7th p.3.
MM 1842 Aug 20th p.3.
Margaret McCarthy:
'Unfortunate Girl': Cardiff and Merthyr Guardian 1852 Oct 2 p.4.
Termagant- CMG 1852 Dec 4th p.3.
Woman of Ill Fame and violent in court again- CMG 1854 April 7th p.3.
Emma Hiscock assault: CMG 1851 July 26 p.4.
Gloucester Arms links: CMG 1852 Aug 21 p.4.
Mary/Ann Lawson 'The Grenadier':
Indecent: CMG 1846 June 6th p.3.
Drunk: CMG 1849 Sept 1st p.4.
Drunk again: CMG 1852 April 3rd p.1.
Suicide Attempt: CMG Aug 2nd p.5.

Burridge's selling up: CMG 1854 July 28 p.2.
Ellen Slack assault: CMG 1854 July 14 p.3.
Margaret Sullivan robbery: CMG 1856 Sept 26th p.8.
Thomas John Violence: CMG 1856 Dec 13th p.6.
Henry Davies knocking man's eye out: Monmouthshire Merlin 1857 Dec 26 p.6.
Elizabeth Davies Theft: CMG 1858 Aug 7th p.6.
Elizabeth Davies with three other girls: CMG 1858 Aug 28th p.6.
Leah Edwards kicked: CMG 1858 Dec 4th p.8.
Daniel Ryan: GRO DCONC/3/3 Entry.748.
Elizabeth Davies ring robbery: CMG 1859 March 19 p.6. Charge entry is from GRO DCONC/3/3 Entry 831.
Henry Davies criminal records: Millbank Prisoner Register Sept Quart 1858. Prisoner number 7531
George Ninn drowning: CMG 1859 June 11 p.5.
John Talbot robbery: CMG 1859 November 5th p.6.
James Clarke robbery: CMG 1860 June 30 p.5.
Two robberies: CMG 1860 August 25th p.5.
Robbery of John Phillips: Cardiff & Merthyr Guardian: 1860 Sept 15 p.5.
Susan Walker and Hannah Davies at number 31 CMG 1860 Oct 6 p.6.
Ellen Leary theft: CT 1861 March 15th p.5.
Margaret John 'Irish Meg' theft: CT 1861 April 5th p.8.
Mary Ann Leyshon burning: CMG 1861 April 6th p.5. Aberdare Times 1861 April 13 p.4. CT 1861 April 19th p.5 & 6.
Gregory and Hall theft: MM 1861 Sept 7th p.8.
For the brothel closures see for example MM 1859 Dec 24th p.3.
Death of Caroline King CT 1862 Feb 7th p.7
Ann Yarwood at Number 31 CMG 1862 Nov 15 p.6. CMG 1862 Nov 14th p.4. & p.8.
William Stanley:
State of Stanley Street: CMG 1848 Feb 5th p.2.
State of Stanley Street again: CMG Nov 4th p.3.
State of Stanley Street yet again: CMG 1849 April 21 p.3.
Refusing to disinfect a cholera house he owned: CMG 1854 Oct 13th p.3.
Emma Davies William Stanley theft: CMG 1863 Feb 21st p.6
William Stanley Census: 1861 Cardiff St Mary 11 RG09/4034/f36/p.12
Link with John Matthews: 1861 CMG Jan 26 p.8. 1861 CT Jan 5th p.6.

Ann Yarwood court transcription PSCBO/1/36 Annie Yarwood 12th December 1862.
Robbery: CMG 1863 January 17th p.5.
Jeremiah Davies keeping brothel: CT 1863 January 31st p.6.
Margaret John keeping brothel: MM 1863 Jan 31 p.8. CMG 1863 Jan 31 p.7.
Procurement: CMG 1863 January 31st p.6.
Bail for Jack Matthews: CT 1865 April 7th p.7.
Benjamin Hanvey Scalding The Cardiff Times 1866 Jan 26 p.5.

Census 1851: Cardiff St Mary HO107/2455, district 4lFolio 536 p.23
Census 1861: Cardiff St Mary RG9/4033 p.50
Census 1871: Cardiff St Mary RG10/5360, district 11 folio 86 p.21
Maps are from Glamorgan Record Office and are reproduced in part. Newpaper images are from the excellent Welsh Newspapers Online site run by the National Library of Wales.

Article as a whole is copyright Mr Anthony Rhys April 2017

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