Category Archives: Booze

Booze Prostitution Sex

Winchester Geese or Bankside Whores

Today’s fragments come from Robert Greene’s A Notable Discovery of Cosenage, Conie-catchers and Crossbiters published in 1592, a pamphlet written as a cautionary warning to innocents abroad in London.   Greene’s practical advice details the perils awaiting the unwary in the streets, taverns, brothels, and gaming dens, of London.

The pickpockets are ‘apparelled like honest civil gentlemen or good fellows, with smooth faces, as if butter would not melt in their mouths…[they] walk up and down Paul’s, Fleet Street, Holborn, the Strand, and such common-haunted places, where they attend only to spy out a prey.’  Their most popular location is St Paul’s, and their favoured victim ‘some plain man that stands gazing about, having never seen the church before.’ The preferred time to strike ‘is at divine service, when men devoutly go up to hear either a sermon, or else the harmony of the choir and organs. There the nip and foist [cutpurse and pickpocket], as devoutly as if he were some zealous person, standeth soberly with his eyes elevated to heaven, when his hand is either on the purse or in the pocket.’

Then there are the whores, known on Bankside and Southwark as Winchester Geese. Greene was an expert on whores, having been kept by one for several years. He warns that ‘a shameless hussy has honey in her lips and her mouth is as sweet as honey, her throat as soft as oil; but the end of her is more bitter than aloes and her tongue is more sharp than a two-edged sword.’ ‘End’ here had a double meaning; loose women would no doubt come to a bad end, but there was also the substantial risk that the whore’s ‘end’ was quite liable to give her gentleman companion the clap.

Greene particularly warns against a practise known as ‘cross-biting’: ‘Some unruly mates that place their content in lust, let slip the liberty of their eyes on some painted beauty, let their eyes stray to their unchaste bosoms til their hearts be set on fire.’ Having set his cap at the object of his desire, the young man is quickly embraced by the scheming harlot, who either leads the way to the tavern ‘to seal up the match with a bottle of Hippocras, or straight away she takes him to some bad place.’ But once the couple are in bed and have ‘set to it’, there enters ‘a terrible fellow, with side hair and a fearful beard, as though he were one of Polyphemus cut, and he comes frowning in and says ‘What has thou to do, base knave, to carry my sister, or my wife?’ The accomplice then rounds on the woman and calls her nothing better than a whore and threatens to haul them both before a local justice. ‘The whore that has tears at command, immediately falls a-weeping and cries him mercy’. The hapless victim, terrified that the publicity will get back to his wife and family, or his employer, has no choice but to pay whatever it takes to persuade the ‘husband’ or ‘brother’ to keep quiet.

© 2009-2013 All Rights Reserved


Booze Crime Propaganda Sex Vice

Drinking, fiddling, prostitutes, hangings

Final snippets from Thomas Platter’s observations of London in 1599.

There are a great many inns, taverns, and beer-gardens scattered about the city, where much amusement may be had with eating, drinking, fiddling, and the rest, as for instance in our hostelry, which was visited by players almost daily. And what is particularly curious is that the women as well as the men, in fact more often than they, will frequent the taverns or ale-houses for enjoyment. They count it a great honour to be taken there and given wine with sugar to drink; and if one woman only is invited, then she will bring three or four other women along and they gaily toast each other; the husband afterwards thanks him who has given his wife such pleasure, for they deem it a real kindness.

In the ale-houses tobacco or a species of wound-wort are also obtainable for one’s money, and the powder is lit in a small pipe, the smoke sucked into the mouth, and the saliva is allowed to run freely, after which a good draught of Spanish wine follows. This they regard as a curious medicine for defluctions, and as a pleasure, and the habit is so common with them, that they always carry the instrument on them, and light up on all occasions, at the play, in the taverns or elsewhere, drinking as well as smoking together, as we sit over wine, and it makes them riotous and merry, and rather drowsy, just as if they were drunk, though the effect soon passes — and they use it so abundantly because of the pleasure it gives, that their preachers cry out on them for their self-destruction, and I am told the inside of one man’s veins after death was found to be covered in soot just like a chimney. The herb is imported from the Indies in great quantities, and some types are much stronger than others, which difference one can immediately taste; they perform queer antics when they take it.

This city of London is not only brimful of curiosities but so populous also that one simply cannot walk along the streets for the crowd.  Especially every quarter when the law courts sit in London and they throng from all parts of England for the terms to litigate in numerous matters which have occurred in the interim, for everything is saved up till that time; then there is a slaughtering and a hanging, and from all the prisons (of which there are several scattered about the town where they ask alms of the passers by, and sometimes they collect so much by their begging that they can purchase their freedom) people are taken and tried; when the trial is over, those condemned to the rope are placed on a cart, each one with a rope about his neck, and the hangman drives with them out of the town to the gallows, called Tyburn, almost an hour away from the city; there he fastens them up one after another by the rope and drives the cart off under the gallows, which is not very high off the ground; then the criminals’ friends come and draw them down by their feet, that they may die all the sooner. They are then taken down from the gallows and buried in the neighbouring cemetery, where stands a house haunted by such monsters that no one can live in it, and I myself saw it.  Rarely does a law day in London in all the four sessions pass without some twenty to thirty persons — both men and women — being gibbeted.

And since the city is very large, open, and populous, watch is kept every night in all the streets, so that misdemeanors shall be punished. Good order is also kept in the city in the matter of prostitution, for which special commissions are set up, and when they meet with a case, they punish the man with imprisonment and fine. The woman is taken to Bridewell, the King’s palace, situated near the river, where the executioner scourges her naked before the populace. And although close watch is kept on them, great swarms of these women haunt the town in the taverns and playhouses.

More from Thomas Platter on Bears and Cock Fighting here, and on attending the theatre here 


Very fashionable coffins & Dr Butler’s Ale

Snippets from advertisments circa 1680:

‘At Tobias’s Coffee-house, in Pye Corner, is sold the right drink, called Dr Butler’s Ale, it being the same that was sold by Mr Lansdale in Newgate Market.  It is an excellent stomack drink, it helps digestion, expels wind, and dissolves congealed phlegm upon the lungs, and is therefore good against colds, coughs, physical and consumptive distempers; and being drunk in the evening, it moderately fortifies nature, causeth good rest, and hugely corroborates the brain and memory.’

‘Whereas John Pippin, whose grandfather, father, and himself have been for above 190 years past famous throughout all England for curing the rupture, making the most easie trusses of all sorts, both for men, women, and children, being lately deceased; This is to certifie to all persons that Eleanor Pippin, the widow, who in his lifetime made all the trusses which he sold, lives still at The Three Naked Boys near the Strand Bridge, where she makes all manner of trusses.  She also hath a gentleman to assist in the fitting of them upon men, he being intrusted by the said Julin Pippin in his lifetime.’

‘At the sign of the Golden Ball and Coffin, a coffin-maker’s shop, at the upper end of the Old Change, near Cheapside, there are ready made to be sold, very fashionable laced and plain dressings for the dead of all sizes, with very fashionable coffins, that will secure any corps above ground without any ill scent or other annoyance as long as shall be required.’

‘The much approved necklaces of Joynts, of the great traveller J. C., which absolutely eases children in breeding teeth, by cutting them, and thereby preventing feavers, convulsions, &c., are sold by Barrel, at the Golden Ball, under St Dunstan’s Church, in Fleet Street.’

‘One Robert Taylor, a dancing-master, being in company of several neighbours in Covent Garden on Monday night last, about 10 of the clock, upon occasion of some words, killed one Mr Price, of the same place, at the Three Tuns Tavern, in Shandois Street.  The said R.Taylor is a person of middle stature, hath a cut across his chin, a scar in his left cheek, having two fingers and a thumb of one hand burnt at the ends shorter than the other, round visaged, thick lipt, his own hair being of a light brown under a periwig; he lived in James Street, in Covent Garden. Whoever apprehends him, and gives notice thereof to Mr Reynolds, bookseller, in Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, shall have 10 pounds reward.  And whereas it was printed in last week’s Intelligence that he was taken, you are to take notice that it is most notoriously false.’

© 2009-2012 All Rights Reserved

Booze Court Entertainment Vice

Booze & Chaos at Court

A hilarious snippet from an account of the festivities held to entertain the King of Denmark on his visit to England in July 1606. Christian IV, like many monarchs at the time, enjoyed drinking and carousing, and  Sir John Harington, courtier and author, wrote an account of some of the livelier activities:

I came here a day or two before the Danish king came; and from the day he did come, until this hour, I have been well-nigh overwhelmed with carousals and sports of all kinds. The sports began each day in such manner and such sort as well-nigh persuaded me of Mohammed’s paradise. We had women, and indeed wine too, in such plenty as would have astonished each sober beholder. Our feasts were magnificent, and the two royal guests did most lovingly embrace each other at table. I think the Dane hath strangely wrought on our good English nobles; for those, whom I never could get to taste good liquor, now follow the fashion, and wallow in beastly delights. The ladies abandon their sobriety, and seem to roll about in intoxication.

One day a great feast was held, and after dinner the representation of Solomon’s temple, and the coming of the Queen of Sheba, was made, or was I may better say, was meant to have been made before their Majesties, by device of the Earl of Salisbury and others. But, alas! As all earthly things do fail to poor mortals in enjoyment, so did prove our presentment thereof. The lady who did play the Queen’s part, did carry most precious gifts to both their majesties; but, forgetting the steps arising to the canopy, overset her caskets into his Danish majesty’s lap, and fell at his feet, though I rather think it was in his face. Much was the harry and confusion; cloths and napkins were at hand, to make all clean. His Majesty then got up, and would dance with the Queen of Sheba; but he fell down and humbled himself before her, and was carried to an inner chamber, and laid on a bed of state; which was not a little denied with the presents of the Queen, which had been bestowed upon his garments: such as wine, cream, beverages, jellies, cakes, spices, and other good matters. The entertainment and show went forward, and most of the presenters went Kickward, or fell down: wine did so occupy their upper chambers.

Now did appear, in rich dress, Hope, Faith, and Charity. Hope did essay to speak, but wine rendered her endeavours so feeble that she withdrew, and hoped the King would excuse her brevity; Faith was then all alone, for I am certain she was not joined with good works, and left the court in a staggering condition: Charity came to the King’s feet, and seemed to cover the multitude of sins her sisters had committed: in some sort she made obeisance, and brought gifts; but said she would return home, as there was no gift which Heaven had not already given his Majesty. She then returned to Hope and Faith, who were both spewing in the lower hall. Next came Victory, in bright armour, and presented a rich sword to the King, who did not accept it, but put it by with his hand; and by a strange medley of versification, did endeavour to make suit to the King. But Victory did not triumph long; for, after much lamentable utterance, she was led away, like a silly captive, and laid to sleep on the outer steps of the ante-chamber. Now, did Peace make entrance, and strive to get forward to the King; but I grieve to tell how great wrath she did discover unto those of her attendants; and, much contrary to her semblance, most rudely made war with her olive-branch, and laid on the pates of those who did oppose her.

© 2009-2013 All Rights Reserved

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