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Dan Cruickshank reveals at Lit festival how wages of sin helped fund Georgian bricks and mortar

PUBLISHED: 15:55 10 December 2009 | UPDATED: 15:22 05 October 2010

Dan Cruickshank speaks at Whitechapel Idea Store

Dan Cruickshank speaks at Whitechapel Idea Store

by Julia Gregory THE WAGES of sin helped build Georgian London. Money from the oldest profession was used by some prudent prostitutes and pimps to invest in property. Arc

by Julia Gregory

THE WAGES of sin helped build Georgian London.

Money from the oldest profession was used by some prudent prostitutes and pimps to invest in property.

Architectural historian Dan Cruickshank was so fascinated by the links that he has studied court reports, pamphlets, records from foreign observers, paintings and literature of the day to uncover just how much of that money helped create the city.

He is talking about his book The Secret History of Georgian London at the Idea Store in Whitechapel Road at 7.30pm tonight (Thurs), just a stone's throw from the site of notorious Whitechapel brothels well before the days of Jack the Ripper.

The book is a fascinating and well researched exploration of how money makes the world go round and an introduction to some of the less salubrious places and decidedly seedy characters involved in the Georgian underworld.

Mr Cruickshank has lived in a 1720s house in Spitalfields for more than 30 years and

said: "I wanted to look at how much money from the sex industry went into bricks and mortar."

He said that people seemed to spend a lot of money on prostitution, way beyond the dreams of the average worker.

But unlike the moral atmosphere of the Victorian era he said: "It was not shameful, it was expected."

There are tales of leading politicians marrying former prostitutes and some women found ay out of destitution though others fell into degradation.

Mr Cruickshank said the moralistic Tower Hamlets Society for the Suppression of Bawdy Houses and Reformation of Manners was active in trying to clear the streets of vice.

"Spitalfields was always a chaste area, with the Calvinist French Huguenots here, but Shoreditch was somewhat different near St Leonards."

He added: "The area round Tower Hamlets had quite a reputation for vice, with the theatres starting to open in the 1740s and the first society for the reformation of vice started here."

Some of the activists were vigilantes or agents provocateurs, so anxious were they to clean their streets, often preferring to remain anonymous, said Mr Cruickshank.

He has made a film about some of the country's first parks, including Victoria Park which will be shown on BBC4 in the New Year.


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