[This document comes from Helena Wojtczak's English Social History: Women of Nineteenth-Century Hastings and St.Leonards. An Illustrated Historical Miscellany, which the author has graciously shared with readers of the Victorian Web. Click on the title to obtain the original site, which has additional information.]
There is little information about prostitution in mid-nineteenth century Hastings, and none about it in St Leonards. It seems that prostitutes were left in peace until they fell foul of the law, so the only evidence available is that gleaned from Court reports, one of the earliest of which mentions Sarah Mitchell, "a prostitute who was wandering in the streets" one day in 1826. She was committed to the watch-house, then discharged the next morning. The following are all taken from Magistrates' Court reports.
Paraphrased from: Hastings & St Leonards News, 26 Jan 1855
Two days later he found a man in the yard outside the same room "in a very indecent position with a drunken prostitute." The police halted their congress, but later returned to find the same pair engaged in the same act, again outside in the yard. The police inspector said "I consider it to be a worse place than a common brothel" and his sergeant added that he had often found prostitutes in the room behind the Ship.
Huggett was fined 10 shillings and 19 shillings 6 pence costs, with a week to pay.
Paraphrased from Hastings & St Leonards News, 6 July 1855
He returned with reinforcements, and the Morrises immediately assaulted all four of them. One managed to tie Mr. Morris up; another held Mrs. Morris while she tried to bite him. It took all four to drag the struggling pair to the lock-up, and once there they continued to assault the officers, kicking one in the arm.
In Court, the pair denied assault. As witnesses to their peaceful character they called Sarah Mann, a self-confessed prostitute, and Letilia Clayton, who gave her occupation as "boxmaker."
Mr. Morris was fined £3 or two months' imprisonment on one charge, and £2 or six weeks' imprisonment on another. Mrs. Morris was fined £1 or one month in prison. They declined to pay and were both sent to Lewes gaol accordingly.
Paraphrased from: Hastings & St Leonards News, 19 January 1856
Richard Wood, landlord of the Privateer in Wellington mews was summoned for allowing persons of notorious bad character to assemble in his house." Sergeant Brazier went to the pub between 12 and 1am and found "fiddling and dancing" and found inside two known prostitutes "Dover Lizzy" and "Sally Bates", two other young women and several young men, "including four from the railway station". The young men claimed to be ignorant of the women's occupation, the latter being "well-dressed and well-behaved."
As Wood was a repeat offender he was fined 10 shillings plus 15 shillings and 5 pence costs.
Verbatim report from: Hastings & St Leonards News, 7 February 1852
A short time previous to this, the prosecutor changed half-a-sovereign at the Roebuck Inn, to pay for a pot of ale, and put the change (9s. 6d.) in his watch pocket. He had other money in his pockets, but he could not tell the amount, as he was in liquor at the time (from the effects of which he had evidently not yet recovered). On finding that he had been robbed, he gave information to the police.
Police-constable Furminger deposed that be saw the parties in company about the time in question; and witnessed the prisoner take two handkerchiefs from the pockets of the prosecutor, which she returned. Witness apprehended the prisoner about three hours afterwards at a house in the Creek, and took her to the watchhouse, where, on being searched, 9s. 6d. and some coppers were found in her possession. Prisoner stated that the money found upon her was her own. She had been several times in the prosecutor's company, and had never had a similar charge brought against her before.
Prosecutor - No; because then I had nothing to lose.
The evidence not being sufficient to connect the prisoner with the robbery, the case was dismissed; and the prosecutor received a caution from the Mayor to keep better company in future.
Illustrations: Top: The Ship Inn, corner of 24 Great Bourne st & Post Office-passage. (Drawing by W H Brooke 1841). Bottom: Hastings police in 1854. The police station behind them is now the Old Town Museum, High Street, Hastings.
Last modified 2000