Thursday 13 October 2011

Islington Peep Shows

Another example of why Upper Street, Islington, was known as 'The Devil's Mile' in the 1880s and 1890s:

At Clerkenwell, George Reid, described as a purveyor, living at Harrow-road, who had been apprehended on a warrant, was charged on remand with having, on the premises, 24, Upper-street, Islington, carried on an exhibition of pictures of a depraved and indecent charavter, contrary to public morals. Mr. C.F.Gill appeared for the prosecution on behalf of a society called the National Vigilance Society; and Mr. Westcott, solicitor, appeared for the defence. Evidence had been given by detectives of the N Division that in consequence of complaints they visited the premises in question, the shop of which was used as a cheap show, admission being one penny. The exhibition was a sort of peep-show, photographs being shown through lenses, which enlarged them. The magistrate, having inspected some photographs produced as samples of those at the show in question, said that, under all the circumstances, he felt bound to decide that the exhibition was of an indecent character, and fined the prisoner £20, or two month's imprisonment in default.

Times, 29 August 1892


  1. Amusingly enough, 24 Upper Street is today (with number 23) occupied by Vision Express, so it's still in the business of looking through lenses, though I don't doubt that the objects viewed, to wit sight testing cards, are rather less racy.

    Incidentally, the report says the case was heard at Clerkenwell. Would that have been Clerkenwell County Court, I wonder, which is not a stone's throw from 24 Upper Street, and is now (its business having been transferred elsewhere) undergoing conversion, presumably into flats?

  2. The numbering on Upper Street has changed over the years, I think, but it could be the same place, amusingly enough. [I don't know the date of the old County Court building, I'm afraid]

  3. It would have been Clerkenwell Police Court, later Clerkenwell Magistrates' Court (and now a hotel) on King's Cross Road.

    I love the vagueness of 'purveyor' as an occupation!