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Prostitution

The title page of The Swell's Night Guide to the Bowers of Venus illustrated with a fold out coloured engraving showing The Royal Saxe-Coburg Saloon showing mixed couples dancing in ornate surroundings.The New Swell's Night Guide to the Bowers of Venus [1847]The temptations of local brothels remained a problem for the College authorities. Prostitutes plied their trade along the Strand and the Headmaster of the School complained to the Council in 1838 that they were using one of the houses backing on to the playground.

The illustration is taken from The New Swell's Night Guide to the Bowers of Venus (see BL website) listed as published in Holywell Street in about 1847. This street was barely a minute's walk north of King's. The book is a guide to pubs and bars in which prostitutes could be found. One, the Star Coffee House at 44, Wych Street, would have been, again, very close to King's.

Lunchtimes were a particular problem as the bored prostitutes passed the time by 'endeavouring to attract the notice of the pupils'. One of the masters, the Rev T O Cockayne, was even dismissed after his warnings to pupils on the subject were deemed too frank and explicit.

Older students faced temptations, too. Medical student, Shephard Taylor, for example, recalled a visit to the Haymarket during the 1860s when he encountered 'at least a thousand ladies of easy virtue… of all nationalities, some of whom were anxious to do business with me, which honour, however, I naturally declined… met Messrs Everett and Atkinson there, who will no doubt class me as a moral reprobate in future.'

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