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The Spinning House girls: Cambridge University's distinctive policing of prostitution, 1823–1894

  • JANET OSWALD (a1)
Abstract:
ABSTRACT:

This article explores the regulation of prostitution in nineteenth-century Cambridge by an appraisal of the committal books of the university prison. Each evening in term-time the university proctors arrested and imprisoned local ‘streetwalkers’ in an attempt to protect the students’ morals. This research offers insight into the ways in which Cambridge's geography and its dual system of governance influenced the policing of prostitution in the town centre. The former compelled students and townspeople to share the same crowded space and the latter enabled the university to enforce traditional patterns of class and gender to control sexuality in the town.

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2 Winstanley D.A., Early Victorian Cambridge (Cambridge, 1940), 122.

3 Atkinson T.D., Cambridge Described & Illustrated (London, 1897), 356.

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9 University/Collect.Admin.9, 154–69.

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19 University/Collect.Admin.9, 154–69.

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21 J. Marriott, ‘A study in the changing relationship between class structure and culture in a community undergoing rapid growth and urbanization: Barnwell 1790–1880’, unpublished MA dissertation, 1985; Cambridge Central Library, 52.

22 University/T.VIII, Spinning House Committal Books 1–3 (Cambridge University Archives).

23 University/T.VIII.1.

24 Porter, Josiah Chater's Diaries, 31.

25 Romilly's Cambridge Diary, 1848–1864, Selected Passages from the Diary of the Rev. Joseph Romilly, ed. M.E. Bury and J.D. Pickles (Cambridge, 1994), 353.

26 Bryan, The Shaping of the City, 106.

27 University/Min.VI.6/13, 1860–63.

28 Romilly's Cambridge Diary, 338.

29 Mansfield, ‘Grads and snobs’, 184–98.

30 Wilcox P., ‘Marriage, Mobility and domestic service in Victorian Cambridge’, Local Population Studies, 29 (1982), 32.

31 Howell P., Geographies of Regulation, Policing Prostitution in Nineteenth-Century Britain and the Empire (Cambridge, 2009), 126.

32 Fifteenth Report of the Inspectors of Prisons of Great Britain, Northern and Eastern Districts, Parliamentary Papers (House of Commons), 1167 (1850), XXVIII, 215.

33 A.J. Engel, ‘Immoral intentions: the University of Oxford and the problem of prostitution, 1827–1914’, Victorian Studies, 23 (1979), 100.

34 Ibid., 81.

35 Times, 15 Dec. 1846.

36 Times, 11 Dec. 1846.

37 Gunn S., The Public Culture of the Victorian Middle Class: Ritual and Authority and the English Industrial City, 1840–1914 (Manchester, 2000), 14.

38 Winstanley D.A., Later Victorian Cambridge (Cambridge, 1947), 97.

39 Finnegan F., Poverty and Prostitution: A Study of Victorian Prostitutes in York (Cambridge, 1979).

40 Walkowitz J., Prostitution and Victorian Society: Women, Class, and the State (Cambridge, 1980).

41 Luddy M., Prostitution and Irish Society, 1800–1940 (Cambridge, 2007).

* I thank Professor Clive Emsley and Dr Donna Loftus of the Open University for their help and encouragement when I was writing my Ph.D. thesis, Dr Loftus and my husband Philip Oswald for their constructive comments on earlier drafts of this article and my son Christopher Oswald for creating the map.

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Urban History
  • ISSN: 0963-9268
  • EISSN: 1469-8706
  • URL: /core/journals/urban-history
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