The History of Sex Work in Leeds

This timeline covers the history of sex work in the city of Leeds, from the earliest surviving records to the present day.

The history of charitable organisations supporting sex workers in the city, police initiatives, outreach programmes, court records, media reports, and incidents of violent crime against sex workers are detailed. ;xNLx;;xNLx;The data has been collated through local archives held at Leeds Central Library, the Brotherton Library, Police Records at West Yorkshire Archives, newspaper archives, and the archives at Basis Yorkshire.;xNLx;;xNLx;This is a joint research project between Basis Yorkshire and researchers at Leeds Trinity University.

1807-10-10 01:17:13

Jane Blinkhorn is Sentenced to One Month Imprisonment for Running a Brothel

'Jane Blinkhorn, the matron of a celebrated house, known by the ominous name of Byeonos Aires. the residence of a number of dashing Cyprians of the first order, was enjoined to abate the nuisance, and sentenced to one month's confinement in the house of correction'. (Leeds Mercury - Saturday 10 October 1807)

1813-10-01 10:12:12

Harriet Collins Convicted at New Leeds Court House

Harriet Collins, a 'girl of the town,' is convicted for stealing money from a William Robertshaw.

1821-01-01 10:12:12

The Leeds Guardian Society is Established

The Society’s founding aim was to provide ‘asylum for females who have been devoted to vice, but who are desirous of returning to the paths of virtue’.

1821-10-01 00:00:00

Public Meeting held to Discuss a Temporary House for 'Lewd' Women

A meeting was held at the courthouse for the purpose of considering the property of establishing a house for those 'unhappily victims of prostitution'.

1822-06-01 01:17:13

Leeds Guardian Asylum Opens

Leeds Guardian Asylum opens its doors

1823-12-02 01:17:13

Leeds Guardian Society 2nd AM - link with Edinburgh Magdelene Asylum

The second anniversary meeting of the Leeds Guardian Society was held on 2 December 1823 (Leeds Intelligencer 4/12/1823).

1824-01-01 11:09:46

The Vagrancy Act 1824

The first law which made reference to the term 'common prostitute' was the Vagrancy Act of 1824. Subsection 3 of this Act stated that 'any common prostitute behaving in a riotous or indecent manner in a public place or thoroughfare' was liable to a fine or imprisonment.

1824-12-06 01:17:13

Third annual meeting of the Guardian Society

The third annual meeting of the Leeds Guardian Society was held on 6 December 1824 (Leeds Mercury 11/12/1824). It was reported that at the last published report there were ten inmates. At the beginning of the year there were three in the probationary ward. During the year there had been fourteen applicants, thirteen were admitted as probationers and five fully admitted ‘after the usual’, some were given extended probation. Over the course of the year six were expelled, two departed ‘clandestinely’, three discharged at their own, of friends, request, two ‘completed their allotted period with credit’ and were placed in service and nine remain in the house. The greatest number at any one time was seventeen. Those who went into service and their conduct so far had been good. One woman was excluded for ‘great misconduct’ though it was discovered that she was influenced by another who was ‘more wicked and artful than herself’. After her expulsion, however, her behaviour showed that she had taken on the advice and instruction of the institution and behaved well enough to ‘conciliate the fortified esteem of her family’. Her father was surprised and grateful to the institution for this change. The earnings of the inmates - for washing and needlework - was read out. They regularly attendant religious service and behave with ‘decorum and propriety’. The Society paid tribute to the ladies who visit. The report indicates that the Society considers it’s work and presence absolutely necessary due to a great problem with ‘sinning’ in their town and that this problem is growing. •Chair – Benjamin Sadler, Esq. •Report read by Rev Thomas Scales. •Abstract of the cast account read bt Mr. William Wilks (?). •Mr. Tottle moved to thank the patron, president and other officers of the Society and this was seconded by Mr. Samuel Clapham.

1825-12-05 01:17:13

4th Annual Meeting of the Guardian Society

The fourth annual meeting of the Leeds Guardian Society was held at the Courthouse on 5th December 1825 (Leeds Intelligencer 8/12/1825). The report states that two inmates of the Asylum had been expelled, two had elopes, on had been discharged at her own request and three probationers had been removed. One inmate had conducted herself so well, the Committee allowed her to go into service before the usually required two years of probation. Another woman had conducted herself ‘well in place’ and was then married. Another had respectably married. One was so happy in the house (noted that she enjoyed the order and religious privileges) she asked and was given permission to stay for another year after her two years. One other inmate was conducting herself well and her future looked ‘favourable’. One young woman died but repented before she passed away. The report concludes, ‘Your Committee doubt not that the Magistrates will readily co-operate with them in endeavouring to efface the impression from the minds of the unfortunate women, that the Institution partakes, in any degree, of the character of the prison. It is understood and believed that many would readily renounce their unhappy manner of living, did they know of the comforts of the Penitentiary. The difficulty in making the acquainted with these arises from that of gaining proper and unsuspicious access to them’ Several resolutions were passed. These are not detailed in the newpaper. •Address by Henry Hall, Esq. •Report read by Rev. T. Scales (might be Seales), Mayor.

1826-12-04 01:17:13

Guardian Society 5th Annual Meeting

The fifth anniversary meeting of the Guardian Society was held on 4th December 1826. Details were published in the Leeds Intelligencer (7/12/1826) and the Leeds Mercury (9/12/1826). The meeting was not well attended but those present were ‘very respectable’. The number of females who had entered the asylum since its opening was ‘about 50’. A great number who had left it had ‘little improved’ but others had been ‘decidedly reformed’, favoured amongst their friends again and of respectable character. At the beginning of the last year there were four inmates, one of whom was dismissed for refusal to comply with rules. Two inmates were sent into service and one remained in house. Only one of the two in service had retained her place. There had been eighteen applicants over the year. Three were refused as they were ‘improper objects’, two were excluded for improper conduct, one was dismissed on her own desire and one had escaped in ‘a clandestine manner’. There were eight inmates at the time of the report and they were well behaved. The Committee had agreed to take inmates from other towns for a sum per week. Two were received from York over the year. These individuals were paid for by ‘benevolent’ benefactors. These benefactors had previously sponsored inmates who were sent to the Penitentiary at Hull (Text visually unclear here, it is possible that the individuals received from York had already been to Hull). The report read the amount earned for needlework and washing over the year. ‘Appropriate resolutions’ were passed. The Mayor ‘pledged himself, that in his magisterial capacity, he would, to the utmost of his ability, favour the views and designs of the Society.’ A letter from the Right Hon. Sir John Beckett, Bart. The Judge Advocate was read in which he accepte the office of President. The office had ben held by his father since the establishment of the Institution and he had recently died. •Chair: Thomas Beckett, Esq. •Report read by: Rev Thos (?) Scales (might be Seales). •Treasurer: W. Wicks, Esq. •Also present: Rev. (?) Jackson.

1827-12-03 01:17:13

Leeds Guardian Society Sixth Annual Meeting

The sixth annual meeting of the Leeds Guardian Society was held on 3rd December 1827 at the court house. (York Herald 8/12/1827 and Leeds Intelligencer 6/12/1827). The report, read aloud, spoke of the ‘hardihood’ that the ‘miserable females’ exhibited and the ‘great difficulty’ of reclaiming them. An example was given of two inmates whom, after being in the Asylum for one year or more, ‘turned out exceedingly ill’ and were in the House of Correction at the time of the meeting. Three inmates have been ‘fitted for useful service in families’. There were eleven inmates at the time of the report, nine of whom ‘promise extremely well’. The earnings of the inmates from washing and needlework was read out. The report concludes by emphasising the importance of the work of reforming ‘unhappy females’. •Chair: Thomas Blayds, Esq, Mayor. •Report read by: Rev. Miles Jackson. •Chairman: Rev. T. Scales. •Also present: Rev. R.W. Hamilton. •Patron: Sir John Beckett, Bart. •Treasurer: Mr. Willim Wilks. •Physician: Dr. Thorp. •Surgeon: Mr. Wm. Hey, jun.

1830-03-11 10:12:12

John Blein is Robbed by a 'Party of Lewd Women' on Briggate

Sailor, John Blein, is robbed of a gold watch, a pocketbook and other articles by a 'party of lewd women and their bullies' (pimps) while walking up Briggate.

1837-01-07 15:08:41

16 Year Old Jane Hawkins Sentenced to Transportation

16 year old Jane Hawkins is brought before Leeds Borough Sessions on charges of stealing two shawls. Fifteen of Jane's friends and family petition the court for clemency on the grounds she has a weak intellect, poor health, is extremely young and has been led astray by older criminals. The Gaoler's report states that Jane is of character bad, and is a known sex worker. Jane is sentenced to transportation.

1837-10-30 02:26:57

'Folly and its Rewards' (Leeds Times)

The following report was published in 'the Leeds Times' (02/09/1837).

1839-01-01 10:12:12

Leeds Statistical Society Report on Sex Work

The Leeds Statistical Society recorded 98 brothels in Leeds, 72 of which were in the poorest areas of the township.

1839-06-22 15:04:38

Ellen Coleman and Catherine Spencer

'Lewd Women' Ellen Coleman and Catherine Spencer appear before Leeds Court House charged with stealing a silver watch and three shillings from William Price.

1839-09-28 20:21:02

Probationary Penitentiary Opened

In September 1839 it is reported that a new Probationary Penitentiary has been opened in Leeds for 'the reception of unfortunate young females who have been seduced from the path of virtue.' The women held at the Penitentiary are then referred to the Guardian Asylum, after 'satisfactory examination.'

1840-01-01 00:00:00

'An Exposure of Female Prostitution'

William Logan a report into the sex trade in Leeds in 'The Leeds Mercury'. He wrote 'it refers to the third-class houses ; the population of Leeds is about 160,000'.

1840-12-05 10:12:12

Jane Pratt and Mary Wood are Committed for Trial

'Lewd women' Jane Pratt and Mary Wood are committed for trial at Leeds Court House for picking the pocket of Robert Dowson.

1841-12-06 01:17:13

Annual meeting of Guardian Society

The Leeds Guardian Society held their annual meeting on 6 Dec 1841 (Leeds Mercury 24/12/1841).

1842-08-01 10:12:12

Opening of the Leeds Lock Hospital

The Leeds Lock Hospital was situated in York Street, and opened its doors in August, 1842.

1843-01-01 00:00:00

'An Exposure, from Personal Observations, of Female Prostitution in London, Leeds, and Rochdale, and Especially in the City of Glasgow' by William Logan

William Logan's book, 'An Exposure Of Female Prostitution' discusses what can be done to abolish the sex trade.

1843-04-14 00:00:00

'A Monster in Human Form'

Mother from Leeds intoxicates children in order to sell them on the streets.

1843-08-30 01:17:13

General Meeting of Lock Hospital Subscribers

A general meeting of subscribers to the Lock Hospital was held on Weds 30th August according to a report in the Leeds Mercury (2/9/1843). The purpose of the meeting was to appoint medical and other officers. The chair was Rev. J.A. Rhodes. The following were appointed: •Richard Hobson MD as consulting physician, •T.P. Teale, Esq. as consulting surgeon, •Dr. Mayne and S. Hey, Esq. as surgeons in ordinary, •John Heaton, Esq.of Little Woodhouse as Secretary, •John Blackburn, Esq, solicitor as Treasurer, •The Clergyman of the District as Auditor.

1845-08-02 10:12:12

Notice of Annual Meeting of Lock Hospital

The Leeds Times (2/8/1845) reports that the third annual meeting if the trustees of the Lock Hospital is to take place on the 4th August at noon. The notice was placed by Dr Maine (probably a misspelling of Mayne who was one of the trustees/committee members.)

1846-09-19 00:00:00

Lock Hospital Committee Letter to Leeds Times

The Leeds Times (19/9/1846) features a letter to the editor from ‘One of the Committee of Management’ of the Leeds Lock Hospital.

1847-07-22 10:12:12

Town Police Clauses Act

The Town Police Clauses Act consolidated multiple acts required to regulate a town. Many of the acts relate to obstructing the street. It was under this law that sex workers were prosecuted as loitering in the street was considered an offence.

1847-08-27 17:33:27

'A Notorious Brothel' - The Ship Inn

The landlord of the Ship Inn is charged with keeping a disorderly house, after being previously cautioned for harbouring thieves and allowing sex workers into the premises. He is fined £5 and told that, in the event of another offence, he will have his license revoked.

1847-10-29 15:04:38

Exploited Young Girls

A large number of sex workers in Leeds and surrounding areas under the age of 17

1851-01-01 12:23:28

Leeds Music Halls

Joseph Hobson's 'Casino' in Land's Lane came under severe attack from the Baptists and the Leeds Mechanics Institute, who accused him of harbouring prostitutes and criminals.

1852-01-01 22:54:52

Workhouse Girls Turn to Prostitution

Mr T. B. Browne reported on the state of the parochial union schools. .

1852-07-17 10:09:42

Chief Constable of Leeds Annual Report

Extracts from the Chief Constable of Leeds' annual report.

1855-09-01 00:00:00

Temporary Closure of the Lock Hospital

The Lock Hospital closed temporarily for reasons unknown at some point in September 1855. This was reported at the annual meeting of the Leeds Guardian Asylum and Penitentiary (Leeds Mercury Jan 1856). All eight of the inmates were transferred to the Asylum after the medial officer reported that their health did not ‘render such a step improper’.

1856-01-15 10:12:12

Leeds Guardian Asylum Committee Meeting - Links to Lock Hospital

A report of the thirty-fourth annual meeting of the Leeds Guardian Asylum and General Penitentiary appears in the Leeds Mercury on 15/1/1856.

1856-11-22 00:00:00

Mary Macarty Charged with Stealing

Sex worker Mary Macarty was charged with stealing a silver watch and gold chain from John Race, who she had been drinking with at a 'low public house in Bridgegate.'

1858-03-27 02:12:04

Police Raid Boar Lane Brothels

Police records show that 35 prostitutes were arrest in sweeps made across the Boar Lane / Albion Street areas of the city.

1859-11-18 05:59:22

Frederick Johnson is Charged with Murdering John Fletcher in a Brothel

The following was reported in 'Leeds Mercury' - Saturday 19 November 1859.

1861-01-10 22:54:52

Death of 24 Year Old Sex Worker Margaret Coleman

Margaret Coleman was burnt to death, after being locked in her house by her partner, George Purdy.

1863-01-20 00:00:00

Leeds Guardian and Female Refuge Society

A meeting for the supporters of the Leeds Guardian Society was held in the grand jury room at the tower hall. The Mayor called upon the Rev. J. Blomefield to read the report, which stated that the society aimed to restore the morally and spiritually fallen.

1864-01-01 00:00:00

Contagious Diseases Act is First Introduced in the UK

The first Contagious Diseases Act was passed in Britain in 1864 with the aim of regulating prostitution and stop the spreading of sexually transmitted diseases.

1866-06-28 22:54:52

Leeds Improvement Act

'An Act for amending the Acts for Improvement of the Borough of Leeds, and for conferring further Powers on the Corporation of Leeds for the Improvement of the Borough; and for other Purposes'.

1869-01-01 00:00:00

Extending the Contagious Disease Act

In 1869 the third act was passed which allowed The Contagious Diseases Act to be implemented over 18 towns in the UK. It also allowed to prolong the imprisonment of diseased sex workers from 6 to 9 months.

1870-05-20 00:00:00

'The Great Social Evil'

Annual reports show the number of brothels and sex workers in Leeds.

1870-07-25 00:00:00

'The Great Social Evil'

Chief Constable of Leeds, Mr Wetherell, recieves a query in reference to his annual report about the number of sex workers in Leeds.

1871-10-11 00:00:00

Contagious Diseases Act

A public meeting is held in Leeds Corn Exchange to demand a repeal of the contagious diseases act.

1872-01-26 23:46:15

Leeds Constable Dismissed for Accepting Bribes from Sex Workers

A Leeds constable was dismissed in 1872 `for gross misconduct, namely, having been detected in receiving money from Prostitutes, almost in the nature of a weekly allowance'.

1872-01-26 23:46:15

'Disorderly House' found at 75 Bridge Street, Leylands

The following court record is reported in 'Yorkshire Evening Post' - (Wednesday 10 December, 1890)

1875-01-12 00:00:00

The Reformation of Fallen Women in Leeds

'At the fifty- third annual meeting of the supporters of the Leeds Guardian Asylum the means of reclaiming fallen women came under consideration.'

1875-01-24 10:12:12

The Leeds Mission Establish a Home for Fallen Women and Send Female Missionaries to the Known Houses of Fallen Women

The Leeds Mission, a Christian organisation led by a committee of clergy representing parishes across the city of Leeds, start to offer outreach to 'fallen women'.

1876-03-18 00:00:00

Petition to Repeal the Contagious Diseases Act in Leeds

A public meeting is held at the Albert Hall in Leeds in support of the motion to repeal the contagious diseases act.

The History of Sex Work in Leeds

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