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So you want to open a brothel...

You will need:

  1. a premises in which to operate

  2. a selection of pre-coitus entertainments

  3. person(s) to carry out the services

  4. clients to avail - and pay for - the various ministrations.

Let's have a look at how Peg operated her business.


Peg tells us of three bawdy houses that she ran over the years. Her first was in Drogheda Street (now lower O'Connell Street). Her second was in Wood Street (near St Patrick's Cathedral). Her third, and finest establishment, was in Pitt Street (now the site of the Westbury Hotel).

Her actual houses are long gone. However, on Longford Street, near to what used to be Wood Street, some of the new buildings have sympathetically retained elements of the earlier structures. We can see how the exteriors may have looked.

Above - the remains of the front doors and carriage entrance from buildings on Longford Street.

Below - The same houses, early twentieth century

A wonderful map from 1846 gives us an idea of the exterior of Pitt Street, The facade appears similar to those above.

The interiors would have been decorated in the fashions of the day. There is a print in the British Museum of a working girl waiting for her client. Both the woman and room are beautifully presented. This is no back street establishment offering a 'wham, bam, thank you mam' style of encounter. This is a Marks & Spencer whorehouse.

Peg tells us that she decorated Pitt Street

in the most superb and luxuriant style, with lustres, gerandoles, branches, elastic beds, lascivious prints and paintings,

Lascivious prints are self-explanatory and were perhaps hung in the bedrooms. The parlours and drawing rooms would have been decorated in the latest Neo Classical style which was lighter and brighter than the fashions of previous years. Lustres, a type of pottery with an irridescent glaze, would have added to the light. As would the gerandoles (ornamental candelabra) and branches - the taper-bearing part of a chandelier.

Peg's rooms would have been sparkling.


Once you have enticed your gentleman into your glittering rooms, how will you amuse him?

While we all know he is in your home for one purpose only, in high-class establishments some initial entertainment is usually on offer. In fact, the Georgian luxury brothel was more like a gentleman's club with a serving of debauchery on the side.

An inventory of a brothel run by a Mistress Haddock in London, shows that there were thirty-two beds and fourteen dining rooms. The contents of the wine cellar was valued at £165 8s 5d, about £48,000 in today's money. The silverware was valued as twice as much.

Charlotte Hayes, another London bawd, had a fondness for themed evenings. One of her most famous was a 'Tahitian Feast of Venus' inspired by the Captain Cook's recent discovery of Tahiti. Cook reported that the natives copulated in public and Charlotte thought it could be fun to recreate this delight. Twenty three select gentlemen paid for the privilege of watching 12 young women and 12 young men 'interact' "with passion and dexterity". Overcome with excitement, the select gentlemen joined the proceedings, and once they were fully satiated, they all adjourned to supper.

Peg also threw lavish evenings of entertainment. She tells us of one such night in Wood Street. In a typical Peg move she held her party not only to entertain her clients, but to cock a snoot to the establishment:

An order had been given by government, that there should be no more Masquerades, on account of some disturbances that had happened. This spirited me up to have one of my own, at my own house, to show how much I disregarded all law or order, let the consequences be what they might. I sent and got two hundred tickets printed, and gave them away amongst my male and female acquaintance, and fixed the night for the first of May.

She ensured her house was looking it s best with " five hundred coloured lamps, of blue, lilac and green". This was advertising at its finest. The whole town was abuzz with news of Peg's party. Her house was ablaze of light, drawing guests and spectators like moths to a flame.

And came they did. In fact, by six o clock that evening the street was packed from one end to the other with a large, restless crowd all wanting to catch a glimpse of Peg and the party. The guest list included Lord Westport who came as a blind fiddler and Lord Molesworth as a coachman. Peg hoped the Duke of Leinster would show and kept her bed free especially for him, but it seemed the Duke had other plans. Nevertheless the evening was a splendid success

The supper consisted of everything the season afforded and money could purchase; it was elegantly laid out in the two-pair of stairs street-room, and with the wines, gave general satisfaction. After supper we all came down into the drawing-room, where a band of music struck up, and we danced till six in the morning.

Brothel life wasn't all extravagant parties. Most evenings saw fewer callers. Peg's policy was to admit only those gentlemen with whom she was already aquainted. New clients were introduced by existing 'beaux'. Many brothel owners employed a bully-boy to admit - or refuse - visitors. Peg had a man on her door and she and her business partner, Sally Hayes, were also equal to uninvited guests. rushed Captain F——e, of the Castle, with Mr. Dicky D—— n, and two more sparks, with whom I was unacquainted. I told them it was a select party. The Captain returned a very rude, impertinent answer, and put out one of the candles. Sally Hayes seeing this behaviour, seized a horse-whip, with a long lash, whipped the Captain round, and round the table, which was pretty large; and then turned him and his comrades out and locked the street door.

Another evening with unexpected guests had a more pleasant outcome. This time Peg and her ladies were unoccupied, the visitors were handsome and the door was opened. Peg even decided to create a game of the encounter with each young man depositing ten guineas with each lady. For every 'perfect enjoyment' the lady experienced she would return one guinea to the man. The fun and games continued the following morning when Peg, Mrs. M'Clean and two of the gentlemen decided to take a trip to the Lakes of Killarney. The four travelled as a pair of married couples and on arrival in Kerry met with some further friends.

next morning, early, the same party, with the addition of a Mr. and Mrs. Gunn, betook ourselves to our boat, and after visiting all the islands, a whimsical motion was made by Mr. Gunn, i.e. that each married couple should be landed on different islands, and left there to amuse themselves in the best manner they could for three or four hours.

Luckily for someone in her line of work, Peg wasn't overburdened by the supposed sinfulness of her situation. She had her own views on morality and refused to acquiesce to the prevailing ideas on feminine virtue.

She was good at her job. Men loved her. They respected her. She too seems to have been very fond of most of her gentleman. In fact she even married one of them.

And I will tell you about that next time.

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