Skip to main content

Lady Astor and the Ladies of the Night: The Home Office, the Metropolitan Police and the Politics of the Street Offences Committee, 1927–28


Section 54 (11) of the Metropolitan Police Act 1839 criminalized the act of a common prostitute causing annoyance by soliciting in public.2 For the police to implement this legislation was no simple matter, as no definition of “prostitute,” or indeed “annoyance,” was scribed in statute law. Although common law aided the interpretation of this offense—the case of Rex v. de Munck (1918): “We are of the opinion that prostitution is proved if it is shown that a woman offers her body commonly for lewdness of payment in return”3—in practice, identifying a “common prostitute” and defining “annoyance” was left to the discretion of the individual police officer. Although specific squads were deployed to target streetwalkers in West End police divisions, where the presence of prostitutes was more likely to cause public offense, a “blind eye” was often turned to women soliciting in the less salubrious streets of the metropolis. Local knowledge gained on the beat and the informal advice of colleagues shaped an unofficial police policy of containment and toleration.4

Corresponding author
Hide All

1. Conrad Joseph, The Secret Agent: A Simple Tale (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004 [first pub. 1907]), 67.

2. Public General Acts, 2 and 3 Vict., cap. 47.

3. The King v. de Munck (1918) 1 KB 635, cited in Self Helen J., Prostitution, Women and Misuse of the Law: The Fallen Daughters of Eve (London: Frank Cass, 2003), 117.

4. Slater Stefan, “Containment: Managing Street Prostitution in London, 1918–59,” Journal of British Studies 49 (2010): 332–57.

5. Ibid., 341–42.

6. The National Archives, Kew (hereafter TNA), SOC 13, February 18, 1928, 5–6, qq. 6542–50, evidence of Dr Morton, governor of Holloway Prison.

7. Women's Library, London Metropolitan University (hereafter WL), 3/AMS Box 43, Special MEC (Minutes of the Executive Committee) May 31, 1928.

8. The Times, August 6, 10, 13, 23 and 30; and September 12, 13 and 15,1928.

9. For a recent examination of the AMSH's campaign to reform the solicitation laws see Laite Julia A., “The Association for Moral and Social Hygiene: Abolitionism and Prostitution Law in Britain (1915–1959),” Women's History Review 17 (2008): 207–3l.

10. Report of the Street Offences Committee, Cmd. 3231 (London: HMSO, 1928–29), 3.

11. Ibid., 28–29. For a discussion of these two proposed offences see Self, Prostitution, 7.

12. Logan Anne, Feminism and Criminal Justice: A Historical Perspective (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillian, 2008), 9799 and Self, Prostitution, 6–8.

13. Laite, “The Association for Moral and Social Hygiene,” 218.

14. Laite Julia, “Taking Nellie Johnson's Fingerprints: Prostitutes and Legal Identity in Early Twentieth-Century London,” History Workshop Journal 65 (2008): 96116.

15. Pym Bridget, “The Making of a Successful Pressure Group,” British Journal of Sociology 24 (1973): 448–61.

16. Although it was remarked over 30 years ago that the civil service receives less historical attention than Parliament (Beloff Max, “The Whitehall Factor: The Role of the Higher Civil Service, 1919–39,” in The Politics of Reappraisal, 1918–39, ed. Peele Gillian and Cook Chris [London: Macmillan, 1975], 209. A similar comment is reiterated in Vincent David, The Culture of Secrecy: Britain, 1832–1998 [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998], viiiix), the sole monograph-length study of the civil service in the early twentieth century remains Gail Savage's examination of the social service ministries in the interwar years: Savage Gail, The Social Construction of Expertise: The English Civil Service and its Influence, 1919–39 (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1996). A number of historians have begun to address historians' relative ignorance of magistrates courts in early-to-mid twentieth century England: Behlmer George, “Summary Justice and Working-Class Marriage in England, 1870–1940,” Law and History Review 12 (1994): 229–75; Logan Anne, ‘“A Suitable Person for Suitable Cases’: The Gendering of Juvenile Courts in England, c. 1910–39,” Twentieth Century British History 16 (2005): 129–45; Logan Anne, “Professionalism and the Impact of England's first Women Justices, 1920–50,” Historical Journal 49 (2006): 833–50; Logan Anne, “In Search of Equal Citizenship: The Campaign for Women Magistrates in England and Wales, 1910–39,” Women's History Review 16 (2007): 502–18; and Donavan Pamela and Lawrence Paul, “Road Traffic Offending and an Inner London Magistrates' Court (1913–1963),” Crime, Histoire & Société 12 (2008): 119–40. For an overview of policing issues in the interwar years see Emsley Clive, “Police Forces and Public Order in England and France During the Interwar Years,” in Policing Western Europe: Politics, Professionalism and Public Order, 1850–1940, ed. Emsley Clive and Weinberger Barbara (London: Greenwood Press, 1991), 159–86; and Emsley Clive, The Great British Bobby: A History of British Policing from the 18th Century to the Present (London: Quercus, 2009), 202–30. A detailed study of policing in London during the 1920s is contained in Jonathan B. Lopian, “Crime, Police and Punishment, 1918–29: Metropolitan Experiences, Perceptions and Policies” (PhD diss., University of Cambridge, 1986). More specialist studies on the Met's history include Clayton Huw, “A Bad Case of Police Savidgery: The Interrogation of Irene Savidge at Scotland Yard,” Women's History Magazine 61 (2009): 3038; Houlbrook Matt, ‘“The Man with the Powder Puff’ in Interwar London,” Historical Journal 50 (2007), 145–71; Jackson Louise A., “‘Lady Cops’ and ‘Decoy Doras’: Gender, Surveillance and the Construction of Urban Knowledge, 1919–59,” London Journal 27 (2002): 6383; and Jackson Louise A., “Care or Control? The Metropolitan Women Police and Child Welfare, 1919–69,” Historical Journal 46 (2003): 623–48. For a study of relations between the police and public following the turbulent late 1920s, see White Jerry, “Police and Public in London in the 1930s,” Oral History 11 (1983): 3441.

17. Ball Stuart, “Parliament and Politics in Britain, 1900–1951,” Parliamentary History 10 (1991): 243–76.

18. Sugarman David, “Writing ‘Law and Society’ Histories,” Modern Law Review 55 (1992): 292308.

19. For a recent synthetic account of life in the interwar years see Pugh Martin, “We Danced All Night:” A Social History of Britain between the Wars (London: Bodley Head, 2008).

20. Bristow Edward J., Vice and Vigilance: Purity Movements in Britain since 1700 (Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 1977), 190; Jeffreys Sheila, The Spinster and her Enemies: Feminism and Sexuality, 1880–1930 (London: Pandora, 1985), 45; and Mort Frank, Dangerous Sexualities: Medico-Moral Politics in England since 1830 (London: Routledge, 1987), 141.

21. For the campaign between 1870 and 1886 to fight the double standard by opposing the operation of the Contagious Diseases Acts, see Judith R. Walkowtiz, Prostitution and Victorian Society: Women, Class and the State (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 90–112.

22. Kean Hilda, “Searching for the Past in Present Defeat: The Construction of Historical and Political Identity in British Feminism in the 1920s and 1930s,” Women's History Review 3 (1994): 5780.

23. For example, Catriona Beaumont stresses that despite the split within NUSEC in 1927, new and egalitarian feminists continued to work side by side as opposed to in conflict: Beaumont Catriona, “The Women's Movement: Politics and Citizenship, 1918–1950s,” in Women in Twentieth-Century Britain, ed. Zweiniger-Bargielowska Ina (Harlow: Longman, 2001), 262–77. Cheryl Law highlights the fluidity of the women's movement, yet demonstrates that a system of affiliations allowed various groups and societies to coordinate their actions: Law Cheryl, Suffrage and Power: The Women's Movement, 1918–28 (London: I.B. Tauris, 1997). In a similar vein, Pat Thane argues that the proliferation of women's organizations was not a sign of weakness, but indicated the growing presence of women in different aspects of public life: Thane Pat, “What Difference Did the Vote Make?” in Women, Privilege and Power: British Politics, 1750 to the Present, ed. Vickery Amanda (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001), 252–88.

24. Pugh Martin, Women and the Women's Movement in Britain, 1914–59 (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1992), 50.

25. Jeffreys, The Spinster and her Enemies, 57–58.

26. WL, 3/AMS Box 42, MEC May 16, 1919, September 19, 1919.

27. Law, Suffrage and Power, 99–100.

28. WL, 3/AMS Box 42, MEC June 20, 1922, September 15, 1922.

29. Reading University Library, Astor papers (hereafter RUL), MS 1416/1/1/751, press release of Consultative committee of Women's Organizations to the provincial press; Daily Graphic, July 9, 1921; Smith Harold L., “British Feminism in the 1920s,” in British Feminism in the Twentieth Century, ed. Smith Harold L. (Aldershot: Elgar, 1990), 51. The CCWO had the support of male MPs and campaigned against parliamentary candidates hostile to women. The group also served as a forum for networking: Thane, “What Difference Did the Vote Make?” 269.

30. Law, Suffrage and Power, 56.

31. WL, 3/AMS Box 42, MEC November 19, 1920; ibid., Box 43, MEC December 15, 1922, November 16, 1923.

32. Cited in Pugh, Women and the Women's Movement, 245.

33. Masters Anthony, Nancy Astor: A Life (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1981), 1104. The quotation is cited at 115.

34. Harrison Brian, “Women in a Men's House, the Women MP's, 1919–45,” Historical Journal 29 (1986): 623–54.

35. Harrison Brian, Prudent Revolutionaries: Portraits of British Feminists between the Wars (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987), 73; see also 73–97.

36. Pugh Martin, “Nancy Astor,” in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, vol. 2 ed. Matthew H.C.G. and Harrison Brian (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 800.

37. Slater, “Containment,” 343.

38. WL, 3/AMS Box 42, MEC November 17, 1922, letter from Alison Neilans, AMSH secretary, to all leading daily, Sunday, and provincial newspapers, November 11, 1922. To be fair to the police, Fitzroy had previous form for “annoying women.” Sir Almeric was arrested for a similar offence in 1917; however, “proceedings were (with the then Commissioner's approval) withdrawn in view of the defendant's social position”: TNA, MEPO 10/9.

39. Logan, Feminism and Criminal Justice, 98.

40. WL, 3/AMS Box 43, MEC April 24, 1925, May 15, 1925.

41. HC Debates, 5s, vol. 186, July 8, 1925, cols. 423–5. For the rallying of the cause see: RUL, MS 1416/1/1/517, Neilans to Astor, 3 July 1924; WL, 3/AMS Box 43, MEC 24 April 1925.

42. HC Debates, 5s, vol. 186, 8 July 1925, col. 424; RUL, MS 1416/1/1/555, Lord Astor to Earl Dunsmore, July 16, 1925.

43. TNA, HO 45/12663, L.N. Blake Ogders, Home Office acting principal secretary, to C.J. Harris, private secretary to the parliamentary secretary to the Treasury (Chief Whip) Rt. Hon. Bolton Meredith Eyres-Monsell, July 20, 1925.

44. Ibid., June 22, 1926: signature illegible.

45. The Times, July 9, 1925; Lord Desborough speaking for the government, 65 HL Debates, 5s, December 9, 1926, cols. 1401–2.

46. RUL, MS 1416/1/1/558. Conference on the solicitation laws held at Lady Astor's house, 4, St. James's Square, November 30, 1926.

47. RUL, MS 1416/1/1/555, Lady Emmott, convenor of the Parliamentary and Legislation Committee of the NCW, to Lady Astor, July 22, 1925.

48. TNA, HO 45/12663, unsigned letter from the Magistrates' Association to the Home Office, June 12, 1925.

49. RUL, MS 1416/1/1/555, Canterbury to Astor, July 31, 1925.

50. See The Times, February 19, 1927.

51. Logan, Feminism and Criminal Justice, 98.

52. RUL, MS 1416/1/1/555, Joynson-Hicks to Mr Robert Hudson, July 21, 1925; WL, 3/AMS Box 43, MEC April 16, 1926; and RUL, MS HL 1926, cols. 1401–2.

53. Cited in Jones Enid H., Margery Fry: The Essential Amateur (London: Oxford University Press, 1966), 156.

54. Daily Herald, December 11, 1928.

55. RUL, MS 1416/1/1/556, Joynson-Hicks to Astor, March 23, 1926, Astor to Joynson-Hicks, March 27, 1927.

56. WL, 3/AMS Box 43, MEC 8 Nov. 1927. For the details of the membership of the Committee see The Times, October 15, 1927.

57. WL, 3/AMS Box 43, MEC October 11, 1927. On August 23 1927, Francis Henry Bateman Champain was convicted at Bow St. Police Court for “persistently importuning male persons.” His sentence of 3 months hard labor was quashed at quarter sessions. Six days later, Graham Bell Murray was convicted for a drunk and disorderly offence at Marlborough St. Police Court; his fine of 40/- and 5 guineas costs was quashed later: Report of the Street Offences Committee, 7.

58. Report of the Street Offences Committee, 28–29.

59. Bingham Adrian, Gender, Modernity and the Popular Press in Inter-War Britain (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2004), 169.

60. See December 11, 1928 for both newspapers. Furthermore, the Daily Mirror and the Star (December 11, 1928), Spectator, and the New Statesman (December 15, 1928), and the Observer, Sunday Pictorial and The Sunday Times (December 16, 1928) were strong supporters of the recommendations. The Times and the Daily Sketch (December 11, 1928) just reported the findings. Reynolds's Illustrated News (December 16, 1928) was supportive, although it believed that some of the anomalies in the Report would need tightening in Parliament. The Morning Post (December 11, 1928) commented upon the difficulties in defining such offenses in law, whereas the Daily Telegraph (December 11, 1928) believed that the Report would have the backing of public opinion, although the crux of the matter concerned administration of existing laws as opposed to reform itself. The Daily Express (December 11, 1928) believed that the Report would be shelved, whereas the Sunday News (December 16, 1928) was of the opinion that the forthcoming Royal Commission on Police Powers and Procedure would marginalize Macmillan, as the former had wider terms of reference.

61. TNA, HO 45/24902, A. Locke, Home Office assistant secretary, memorandum, July 5, 1929.

62. Helen R.E. Ware, “The Recruitment, Regulation and Role of Prostitution from the Middle of the Nineteenth Century to the Present Day,” (PhD diss., University of London, 1969), 571.

63. RUL, MS 1416/1/1/555, Miss Matheson, political secretary to Astor, to Miss West, June 22, 1925.

64. Walkowtiz Judith R., Prostitution and Victorian Society: Women, Class and the State (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980), 99.

65. Mort Frank, Capital Affairs: London and the Making of the Permissive Society (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2010), 148.

66. TNA, HO 45/12663, minutes on a deputation by the ASCPWC, November 10 1925.

67. RUL, MS 1416/1/1/558, conference on the solicitation laws, November 30, 1926.

68. TNA, HO 45/24902, Locke memo., July 5, 1929.

69. WL, 3/AMS Box 43, MEC, March 16, 1923.

70. Ibid., MEC, December 18, 1925; and RUL, MS 1416/1/1/520. “Report of the conference on the Street Offences Committee,” January 15, 1929; and Vigilance Record ns, nos. 1 and 2 (1929).

71. Bland Lucy, “‘Purifying’ the Public World: Feminist Vigilantes in Victorian England,” Women's History Review 1 (1993): 397412.

72. This view fits in with the work of a group of scholars who “elaborate on the thesis that politics in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries ‘was not primarily about the individual's rights, but the representation of the community’”: Biagini Eugenio F., “Introduction: Citizenship, Liberty and Community,” in Citizenship and Community: Liberals, Radicals and Collective Identities in the British Isles, 1865–1931, ed. Biagini Eugenio F. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 1.

73. Law, Suffrage and Power, 29–30.

74. WL, 3/AMS Box 43, MEC October 9, 1928.

75. RUL, MS 1416/1/1/520, “Report on the Conference on the Street Offences Committee,” January 15, 1929. For the view of the AMSH on the Report, see RUL, MS 1416/1/1/558, memorandum by Helen Wilson (president), W.C. Roberts and Neilans, December 11 1928.

76. Thane, “What Difference Did the Vote Make?” 281–82.

77. Jones, Margery Fry, 157.

78. Jackson Margaret, The Real Facts of Life: Feminism and the Politics of Sexuality, c. 1850–1940 (London: Taylor & Francis, 1994), 3438.

79. Crawford Elizabeth, The Women's Suffrage Movement Reference Guide, 1866–1928 (London: UCL Press, 1999), 444; and The Times, August 13, 1942.

80. WL, 3/AMS Box 42, “Strictly private and confidential: for information of AMSH Executive only,” n.d., c. March 1922.

81. Bland Lucy, Banishing the Beast: English Feminism and Sexual Morality, 1885–1914 (London: Penguin, 1995), 98. For context see Kent Susan K., Sex and Suffrage in Britain, 1860–1914 (London: Routledge, 1990), 6079.

82. Walkowitz, Prostitution and Victorian Society, 138.

83. Harrison Brian, “State Intervention and Moral Reform in Nineteenth Century England,” in Pressure from Without in Early Victorian England, ed. Hollis Patricia (London: Edward Arnold, 1974), 312.

84. WL, 3/AMS Box 43, MEC November 16, 1923, December 14, 1923.

85. Ibid., MEC November 20, 1925.

86. RUL, MS 1416/1/1/556, Neilans to Matheson, June 29, 1926. He had responded to a letter dated May 21. A month later, Miss Neilans “pointed out that public attention had been drawn […] in the House of Commons to the fact that Lord Meston had, some three years ago, been appointed Chairman of a Government Committee on Education Grants and apparently the Committee had ceased to function and had not yet produced a report”: WL, 3/AMS Box 43, MEC, July 16, 1926.

87. RUL, MS 1416/1/1/556, Neilans to Matheson, December 15, 1925.

88. TNA, HO 326/7 SOC 12, 68, q. 6365.

89. Ibid., 59, q. 6297.

90. Ibid., 19–20, q. 5954. See also E.H. Kelly, “Some notes on the Report of the Street Offences Committee,” The Magistrate, supp. 6 (June 1929).

91. TNA, HO 326/7 SOC 12, 3–4, qq. 5820–21. There was an assumption that the Committee had already made their mind up on the subject and had treated the AMSH “with marked discourtesy”: WL, 3/AMS Box 43, MEC, March 13, 1928.

92. Mort Frank, Capital Affairs: London and the Making of the Permissive Society (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2010), 140.

93. Ibid., 145–46.

94. Pellew Jill, The Home Office, 1848–1914: From Clerks to Bureaucrats (London: Heinemann, 1982), 1.

95. Colley Linda, Lewis Namier (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1989), 28, 75; Evans Richard, In Defence of History (London: Granta, 1997), 33. There is a danger in this approach. Colley reminds historians that Namier's “word pictures of politicians [or officials in the context of this essay] always reveal a great deal about their character and intrigues, but often fail to show how they used their power to govern”: Colley, Namier, 32–33.

96. Lowe Rodney and Roberts Richard, “Sir Horace Wilson, 1900–35: The Making of a Mandarin,” Historical Journal 30 (1987): 641–62.

97. TNA, HO 326/7 SOC 1, November 17, 1927, 14, 17, 26, qq. 108, 132, 203.

98. Ibid., 21, q. 172.

99. Ibid., 25, q. 194.

100. Wheeler-Bennett John W., John Anderson, Viscount Waverley (London: Macmillan, 1962), 8990.

101. The separation between law and morality, while owing its origins to utilitarian thought, was also a side-effect of the extension of summary jurisdiction from 1847: “Trial by jury was not only a ‘bulwark of English liberty’ but also, as Fitzjames Stephen and many others realized, a traditionally effective instrument for ratifying and reinforcing public moral standards—for, in short, blaming. As trial by jury became rarer, so did the moral function of the law; in turn, as the need for the moral function of the law was less felt, so was the need for the jury,” in Wiener Martin, Reconstructing the Criminal: Culture, Law and Policy in Victorian England, 1830–1914 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 264–66.

102. TNA, HO 45/12663, H.B. Simpson minute, March 5 1925. Blackwell agreed on March 20, and the permanent undersecretary, Sir John Anderson on March 23.

103. Ibid., Blackwell minute, April 9. 1923.

104. TNA, HO 326/7 SOC 12, 6, q. 5832.

105. Hennessy Peter, Whitehall (London: Secker & Warburg, 1989), 561.

106. Middlemas Keith, ed. Thomas Jones, Whitehall Diaries, Vol. 2: 1926–30, (London: Oxford University Press, 1969), 263.

107. Wheeler-Bennett, John Anderson, 85.

108. Fry Geoffrey K., The Changing Civil Service (London: Allen & Unwin, 1985), 11.

109. Fry Goffrey K., Statesmen in Disguise: The Changing Role of the Administrative Class of the British Home Civil Service, 1853–1966 (London: Macmillan, 1969), 57.

110. Wheeler-Bennett, John Anderson, 85.

111. TNA, HO 45/24902, Anderson to Macmillan, February 28, 1929.

112. Davis Jennifer, “A Poor Man's System of Justice: The London Police Courts in the Second Half of the Nineteenth Century,” Historical Journal 27 (1984): 309–35.

113. Ibid., 333.

114. Cancellor Henry L., The Life of a London Beak (London: Hurst & Blackett, 1930), 133, 139–40. See also Chapman Cecil, The Poor Man's Court of Justice: Twenty-Five Years as a Metropolitan Magistrate (London: Hodder, 1925).

115. Behlmer, “Summary Justice,” 238.

116. Chapman, Poor Man's Court of Justice, 58, 91–92. Chapman was censured in the House of Commons for remarks that he made when the campaign for female suffrage was at its most violent level: The Times, June 24, 1938.

117. The Times, April 25, 1934.

118. WL, 3/AMS Box 43, MEC November 14 1926; RUL, MS 1416/1/1/555, Lankester to Astor, July 28, 1925. In this he was in agreement with Sir Chartres Biron. See the latter's comments to the Street Offences Committee: TNA, HO 326/7 SOC 12, 41, q. 6153.

119. See, for example, his comments to the Street Offences Committee: TNA, HO 326/7 SOC 4, December 2, 1927, 4, q. 1546.

120. Cited in Thomas Keith, “The Double Standard,” Journal of the History of Ideas 20 (1959): 195216.

121. TNA, HO 326/7 SOC 4, 4, q. 1837.

122. Ibid., SOC 2, p. 33, q. 775. Cancellor, also a Marlborough Street magistrate, agreed: see ibid., 51. q. 931.

123. Ibid., SOC 2, Graham-Campbell evidence, November 18, 1927, 33–35, qq. 787, 790.

124. Radzinowicz Leon and Hood Roger, A History of English Criminal Law and its Administration from 1750, Vol. 5: The Emergence of Penal Policy (London: Sweet & Maxwell, 1986), 18.

125. Report of the Street Offences Committee, 10–11.

126. TNA, HO 326/7 SOC 6, 20–1, qq. 2428, 2433, evidence of Horwood .

127. TNA, MEPO 2/1902, “Royal Commission on Police Powers and Procedure, Horwood memorandum, final copy submitted to commission,” n.d.

128. Mort, Capital Affairs, 169–70.

129. TNA, HO 326/7 SOC 6, 40, q. 2644, Biron statement.

130. Ibid., SOC 1, 38, q. 274.

131. Public General Acts, 5. Geo. V., Cap. 83.

132. TNA, HO 45/12663, Horwood to the Home Office undersecretary, February 4, 1925.

133. TNA, MEPO 2/2290, Biron to Horwood, August 4, 1924.

134. TNA, HO 45/12663, Muskett to the secretary of the Metropolitan Police Office, October 27, 1927.

135. TNA, MEPO 2/2290, Superintendent? [signature illegible], “Summary of Superintendents' reports submitted by verbal directions of Deputy Commissioner, respecting the question of the practice adopted by magistrates and Justices at various Courts in dealing with cases of prostitution,” August 25, 1924.

136. Lopian, “Crime, Police and Punishment,” 120–22.

137. TNA, HO 326/7 SOC 6. December 20, 1927, 21–22, qq. 2439–40.

138. For the “repressive hypothesis” see Dixon David, From Prohibition to Regulation: Bookmaking, Anti-Gambling and the Law (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991), 243; Laite, “Taking Nellie Johnson's Fingerprints,” 101. This view has been argued against strongly in Slater, “Containment,” 340–41. To support the notion that overzealous policing did not feature high on the list of concerns of the prostitute see Slater Stefan, “Prostitutes and Popular History: Notes on the Underworld,” Crime, Histoire & Société 13 (2009): 2548.

139. Emsley Clive, “Sergeant Goddard: The Story of a Rotten Apple or a Diseased Orchard?” in Crime and Culture: An Historical Perspective, ed. Srebnick Amy G. and Lévy René (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005), 85104; Slater Stefan, “Pimps, Police and Filles de Joie: Foreign Prostitution in Interwar London,” London Journal 32 (2007): 5374; Slater, “Containment,” 343; Wood John Carter, “‘The Third Degree’: Press Reporting, Crime Fiction and Police Powers in 1920s Britain,” Twentieth Century British History 21 (2010):464–85); and John Carter Wood, “Press, Politics and the ‘Police and Public’ Debates in Late 1920s Britain” (unpublished paper).

140. Lopian, “Crime, Police and Punishment,” 53.

141. Williams Jeffery, Byng of Vimy: General and Governor General (London: Leo Cooper, 1983), 332, 336.

142. Falls Cyril and Williams Jeffery, “Julian Hedworth George Byng, Viscount Byng of Vimy,” in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, vol. 9, ed. Matthew H.C.G. and Harrison Brian (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 318–22.

143. Jix Collection, in the possession of Sir Crispin Joynson-Hicks, 4th Viscount Brentford of Newick, J4/.B–11, Byng to Joynson-Hicks, September 12, 1930.

144. TNA, MEPO 3/739, Byng to Lord Riddell, Newspapers Proprietors' Association, May 23, 1929.

145. Ibid.

146. Boyle Andrew, Trenchard (London: Collins, 1962), 608–43.

147. Howgrave-Graham Maurice Hamilton, Light and Shade at Scotland Yard (London: John Murray, 1947), 16.

148. Samuel Herbert, Memoirs (London: Cresset Press, 1945), 219.

149. Biron Chartres, Without Prejudice: Impressions of Life and Law (London: Faber & Faber, 1936), 335–36.

150. Taylor Howard, “Forging the Job: A Crisis of ‘Modernization’ or Redundancy for the Police in England and Wales, 1900–39,” British Journal of Criminology 39 (1999): 113–35.

151. Troup Edward, “Crime,” in The New Survey of London Life and Labour, Vol. 1: Forty Years of Change, ed. Smith Hubert Llewellyn (London: P.S. King & Sons Ltd, 1930), 389403.

152. TNA, HO 45/24910, Sir Edward Troup to Arthur Locke, April 17, 1929. “Recorded crime” refers to indictable offences counted in official statistics, known popularly as the “crime rate.” Indictable offences have been garnered from the annual Reports of the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis. References to “crime rates” in the text more accurately refer to a crime ratio in order to account for population change.

153. Morris Robert M., “‘Lies, Damned Lies and Criminal Statistics’: Reinterpreting the Criminal Statistics in England and Wales,” Crime, Histoire & Société 5 (2001): 111–27.

154. TNA, HO 45/24910, Locke to Troup, April 16, 1929.

155. Ibid., Committee of Statistics of Crime Known to Police, minutes of the second meeting, evidence of Divisional Detective Inspector Henry Helby Marylebone Lane station, June 10, 1929, 5; ibid, evidence of Sub-Divisional Inspector Henry Smith, Marlborough Street Station, 34.

156. Ibid., Helby evidence, 6, 16–17, Smith evidence, 28.

157. TNA, MEPO 2/2399, “Return showing the number of Crimes committed and Persons apprehended during the month of November, 1931, as recorded on the Morning Report of Crime.”

158. Wood, “Press, Politics and the ‘Police Public’ Debates.”

159. Stevenson John, British Society 1914–45 (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1984), 373.

160. Report of the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis for the Year 1929, Cmd. 3600 (London: HMSO, 1930), 17.

161. White Jerry, “‘Penniless and Without Food’: Unemployment in London between the Wars,” in Outsiders & Outcasts: Essays in Honour of William J. Fishman, ed. Alderman Geoffrey and Holmes Colin (London: Duckworth, 1993), 119.

162. Report of the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis for the Year 1930, Cmd. 3929 (London: HMSO, 1931), 67.

163. Ruck S.K., “Crime,” in The New Survey of London Life and Labour, Vol. 9: Life and Leisure (London: P.S. King & Sons Ltd, 1935), 351.

164. Ibid., 351–52. The raw rise in male first-time offenders 1927–32 was from 5,158 to 6,507, whereas the respective figures for registrable offenses were 12,481 and 17,546.

165. Ibid., 354.

166. “Young Bandits,” John Bull, April 15, 1933.

167. Report of the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis for the Year 1932, Cmd. 4294 (London: HMSO, 1933), 17.

168. Wood, “Press, Politics and the ‘Police Public’ Debates.”

169. Taylor Henry A., Jix, Viscount Brentford: Being the Authoritative and Official Biography of William Joynson-Hicks, First Viscount Brentford of Newick (London: Stanley Paul, 1933), 220.

170. Stephenson Percy R. and Egan B., Policeman of the Lord (London: Sophistocles Press, 1929), n.p.

171. Thomas Donald, Freedom's Frontier: Censorship in Modern Britain (London: John Murray, 2007), 105.

172. Thompson F.M.L., “William Joynson-Hicks,” in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, vol. 27, ed. Matthew H.C.G. and Harrison Brian (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 3839.

173. Jix Collection, J1/.B-1a.

174. J.M. Hopkins, “Paradoxes Personified: Sir William Joynson-Hicks, Viscount Brentford and the Conflict between Change and Stability in British Society in the 1920s” (MPhil diss., University of Westminster, 1996), 101.

175. Blythe Ronald, Age of Illusion: England in the Twenties and Thirties (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1963), 31.

176. Macmillan Hugh P., A Man of Law's Tale: The Reminiscences of the Rt. Hon. Lord Macmillan (London: Macmillan, 1952), 192.

177. Stevens Robert, “Hugh Pattison Macmillan,” in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, vol. 35, ed. Matthew H.C.G. and Harrison Brian (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2004), 898.

178. TNA, HO 45/24902, Macmillan to Anderson, March 1, 1929.

179. Report of the Street Offences Committee, memorandum 2, 30–31.

180. TNA, HO 45/24902, Blackwell minute, March 13, 1929.

181. Vigilance Record (January–February 1929), ns, nos. 1 and 2.

182. Self, Prostitution, 6–7, 136.

183. Justice of the Peace and the Local Government Review, 51, December 22, 1928; TNA, HO 45/24902, Locke minute, January 14, 1929; and ibid., Blackwell minute, January 21, 1929.

184. Dale Harold E., The Higher Civil Service of Great Britain (London: Oxford University Press, 1941), 95.

185. Fry, The Changing Civil Service, 21.

186. Troup Edward, The Home Office (London: G.P. Putnam Sons, 1925), 105.

187. Cited in ibid., 106. A recent study confirms that the Home Secretary lacked the practical means to control the Metropolitan Police: Robert M. Morris, “The Metropolitan Police and the Government, 1860–1920” (PhD diss., Open University, 2004).

188. TNA, HO 45/24902, Anderson minute, January 23, 1929 and his letter to Viscount Byng of Vimy, commissioner of police of the metropolis, January 25, 1929.

189. Ibid., R.L. Bicknell, Home Office assistant principal, minute, February 8, 1929.

190. Wilson James Q., Thinking About Crime (New York: Vintage Books, revised ed., 1985), 8386.

191. Lopian, “Crime, Police and Punishment,” 18–29.

192. Ascoli David, The Queen's Peace: The Origins and Development of the Metropolitan Police, 1829–1979 (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1979), 208–9.

193. RUL, MS 1416/1/1/558, Neilans's comments at a conference on the solicitation laws, November 30, 1926.

194. Intensified police action against prostitutes is covered by Bland, Banishing the Beast, 109. For the public reaction and police response to the D'Angely case see Bartley Paula, Prostitution: Prevention and Reform in England, 1860–1914 (London: Routledge, 2000),164–65. An excellent, although top-heavy, analysis of policing during the late-Victorian and early twentieth centuries may be found in Petrow Stefan, Policing Morals: The Metropolitan Police and the Home Office, 1870–1914 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995).

195. TNA, HO 326/7 SOC 2, 50, q. 919, evidence of Cancellor; Waddy H. T., The Police Court and its Work (London: Butterworth & Co, 1925), 188. For a contemporary belief that the streets did deteriorate following the Fitzroy case, see TNA, HO 45/12663, London Public Morality Council, “Committee of Inquiry: Women's Courts,” 1924.

196. Slater, “Containment,” 343, 350.

197. Lopian, “Crime, Police and Punsihment,” 12–14; and Taylor Howard, “The Politics of Rising Crime Statistics in England and Wales,” Crime, Histoire & Société 1 (1998): 528.

198. Jones, Margery Fry, 156–57. Non-indictable offences refer in general to petty crimes tried by magistrates at the London police courts. These figures were extracted from the London County Council's annual abstract, London Statistics. As with indictable offences, the percentages refer to a crime ratio modified by population change.

199. Emsley, “Sergeant Goddard,” 93–9.

200. Houlbrook Matt, Queer London: Perils and Pleasures of the Sexual Metropolis, 1918–1957 (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2005), 32; and Slater, “Containment,” 344.

201. Report of the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis for the Year 1931, Cmd. 4137 (London: HMSO, 1932), 12.

202. Metropolitan Police Historical Collection, Charlton, “Anecdotes: Memoirs of Charles James Hanslow” (unpublished, 1986), 12.

203. Browne Douglas G., The Rise of Scotland Yard: A History of the Metropolitan Police (London: George G. Harrap & Co. Ltd, 1956), 341.

204. HC Debates, 5s, vol. 256, September 11, 1931, col. 450.

205. Daily Herald, September 10, 1932.

206. Daily Express, October 31, 1932.

207. Daily Mail, November 8, 1932.

208. Ware, “The Recruitment, Regulation and Role of Prostitution,” 569.

209. Ramsden John, An Appetite for Power: A History of the Conservative Party since 1830 (London: Harper Collins, 1998), 268. For more detailed treatment see: Williamson P., “‘Safety First’: Baldwin and the Conservative Party, and the 1929 Election,” Historical Journal 25 (1982): 385409.

210. Evening Standard, November 24, 1928.

211. Jix Collection, J3/.C-1f, Baldwin to Joynson-Hicks, January 10, 1928.

212. See letter by Miss Neilans in The Times, April 23, 1929. The concerns of the Labor Party are covered in Thorpe Andrew, A History of the British Labour Party (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1997), 69.

213. WL, 3/AMS Box 43, MEC, April 14, 1924.

214. Thorpe, A History of the Labour Party, 64.

215. The literature on the feminist movement during this period is vast. For the difficulties that they faced see Alberti Johanna, “The Turn of the Tide: Sexuality and Politics, 1928–31,” Women's History Review 3 (1994): 169–90; Kean, “Searching for the Past,” 74; Martin Pugh, “Domesticity and the Decline of Feminism,” in British Feminism in the Twentieth Century, 144–64; Smith, “British Feminism in the 1920s,” 61; Pugh Martin, “British Feminism and the Equal Pay Issue,” Women's History Review 5 (1996): 97110; and Thane, “What Difference Did the Vote Make?” 286.

216. TNA, HO 45/24902, G.R. Hill, counsel at the Parliamentary Counsel Office, to Blackwell, April 23, 1929, Hill to Brass, June 24, 1929.

217. Stefan Slater, “Street Sex for Sale in Soho, 1918–39: Experiences, Representations and Attempts at Control” (PhD diss., University of London, 2007), 213–16.

218. TNA, HO 45/24902, Hill to Brass, July 5, 1929.

219. Ibid., Brass minute, March 26, 1926

220. WL, 3/AMS Box 44, Extraordinary meeting of the Financial Committee, April 24, 1933.

221. Bingham, Gender, Modernity and the Popular Press, 113, 141.

222. TNA, HO 45/24902, the Dowager Lady Nunburnholme, convenor of the Moral Welfare Committee and president of the National Council of Women, to the HO, June 25, 1935.

223. HC Debates, 5s., vol. 338, cols. 2209–12.

224. Ibid., vol. 341, col. 693.

225. WL, 3/AMS Box 46, MEC December 13, 1938.

226. TNA, HO 45/24902, K.B. Paice, private secretary to the parliamentary undersecretary, Geoffrey William Lloyd, minute November 22, 1938.

227. WL, 3 AMS Box 46, MEC February 14, 1939.

228. TNA, HO 45/24902, Paice minute, February 18, 1939.

229. Report of the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis for the Year 1938, Cmd. 6073 (London: HMSO, 1939), 910.

A truncated version of this essay was presented to the Institute of Historical Research's Parliament, Representation and Society Seminar on May 20, 2008. The author is particularly indebted to Penelope Corfield, Bob Morris, Heather Shore, and John Carter Wood for agreeing to read various drafts of this manuscript following the helpful suggestions made to him by David Tannenhaus and three anonymous reviewers for Law and History Review. Any errors in fact or interpretation remain the sole responsibility of the author. Stefan Slater works as a barman, and may be contacted at <>.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Law and History Review
  • ISSN: 0738-2480
  • EISSN: 1939-9022
  • URL: /core/journals/law-and-history-review
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 2
Total number of PDF views: 14 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 229 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 24th November 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.