Wednesday 9 March 2016


The question of massage will, 'ere long, have to be very seriously taken in hand. That a number of these establishments are run purely in the interests of vice, is a well known fact; while the business of those few which are conducted in the interest of medical science, is very seriously interfered with, owing to the growing impression of the public that the whole of them are tarred with the same brush. So flagrant and daring are some of their advertisements, that even the wayfaring man cannot misunderstand their real import.
    The British Medical Journal has recently been calling the attention of its readers to the real, as apart from professed, objects of these establishments, and has printed the following, directly bearing on the subject:-


"The subject of illegitimate massage which falsely pretends to be a sort of pseudo-medical treatment, is once again attracted a good deal of attention, and there is a general consensus of opinion that before long some decisive action will have to be taken to limit the operations of the so-called massage establishments, which infest the vicinity of St. James's Street, the Haymarket and Piccadilly Circus. The columns of advertisements which appear in certain financial and society papers are of so glaring a character, that it is impossible for the most casual reader to mistake their purport. A daily contemporary quotes the freely expressed opinion of many that the massage house is too often simply another name for a lupanar or a bagnio, and that the 'sisters' and 'nurses' who carry on their ministrations under the guise of medical treatment, are capable of giving lessons to the heroine of Lesbos. Discipline treatment is now 'run' as a speciality and there is no doubt that it is too often simply another name for flagellation. The much advertising nursing nymphs, who, clad in the flimsiest of costumes, minister to the desires of elderly gentlemen, are alleged to be recruited from the nursing staff of one of the principal London hospitals, but it is difficult to credit this statement. One thing is perfectly clear, that those who are invited to patronise such places should be subject to no kind of delusion as to their true nature, and above all that the profession of medicine should be relieved from the stigma of even the faintest connection with the disgusting practices which are at the root of the whole matter."

    No stronger indictment could be formulated. To some of our readers it may seem incredible that these things can possibly be. From our own personal experience, however, we can vouch for the accuracy of every statement made in the foregoing paragraph.
    Our contemporary is naturally anxious that the "profession of medicine should be relieved from the stigma of even the faintest connection with the disgusting practices which are at the root of the whole matter."
    Knowing that these things are carried on under the guide of medical science, why do not the members of the medical profession protect against massage being made the opportunity for these "disgusting practices" and ask Parliament to licence and inspect such places in the interests of the public needing to resort, under medical advice, to massage.
    The whole question can be easily settled by the medical profession. Why not insist upon the necessity of those who desire to practice massage as a profession, undergoing certain examinations, and, on proof of efficiency, let them become possessors of a duly qualified certificate from the College of Physicians? Having aroused sufficient interest in the medical profession, it would be a simple matter to ask Parliament to pass a short Bill making it illegal for any but those duly qualified to practice massage. No one could complain, for the value of the treatment depends upon the technical knowledge of the maseur; without which, those who practice it are frauds, and, in taking their fees, are obtaining money under false pretences.
    Since writing the above, three very strong articles have appeared in the London Figaro, by one of the staff who has been personally investigating the character of several massage establishments.
   The statements there made, prove conclusively that something should be done to put a stop to these place. In our opinion, the only course to adopt would be to bring pressure to bear on the College of Physicians in the direction indicated above. Although some of the practices brought to lights are unquestionably criminal, yet owing to the methods adopted by the proprietors, the legal proof required to establish a case in court is next to impossible to obtain.
    Nevertheless the best thanks to all true citizens are due to the manly and outspoken way in which the Figaro has called attention to the infamous doings of the owners of these dens of iniquity. One thing is certain, after such an exposure those who visit them will know exactly the kind of "treatment" they are likely to receive.
    We heartily congratulate the Figaro on the fearless and thorough way in which it has attacked this growing evil.

Vigilance Record, May 1897 p.6


A sensational prosecution was before Mr. Curtis Bennett at Marylebone Police Court yesterday when the provision of the new Act for the suppression of the practice of men living on the immoral earnings of women were put into force and a conviction record.
    The person in the dock was a well-dressed man of colour, giving the name of James Davis, aged 32, describing himself as a bath attendant, residing at 120, Marylebone-road. He was at first charged on a warrant with having unlawfully assaulted and beaten Sophia Ella Cheshire, and at a subsequent period he was further charged under the first section of the new Act for "knowingly or in part living on the earnings of prostitution."
    Mr. Palmer, who prosecuted, said that at the above address the prisoner kept what was known as a massage establishment which was described as a "Balneopathic Institution for the treatment of rheumatism, gout, sciatica, and neuralgia, by day hot-air baths, massage, and discipline, &c.' The Prosecutrix would tell the court that the women who attended the institution as nurses had, most of them, been servants in the prisoner's employ, whom he afterwards took advantage of, and then turned them into nurses, they being provided with the usual uniform of persons following that calling. The fees charged for massage ranged from 10s 6d., but the witness would tell the court that stockbrokers and rich gentlemen often came, who paid as much as £3 or £4. This money, of course, went to the prisoner. It was not difficult to imagine what these large sums were for. He had never earned a shilling except in this wretched way, while the prosecutrix had provided funds by millinery work. The lease of the premises in question was in the name of the prisoner, but the furniture belonged to the prosecutrix. On the arrest of the prisoner, amongst the numerous letters found was one which ran as follows:

Dear Mr. Davies, - I cannot come to-day as I have an engagement. I was sorry I was out when you called. I should like to see you, so will you pop down at 4.30 and bring the birch with you?

The Magistrate would recollect the description given of this establishment and the form of "discipline". In the letter the term used was the "birch".
   Sophie Ella Cheshire said she had known the prisoner for three years and had lived with him as his wife. She had earned her living by book-keeping and as a milliner and had spent her money on the prisoner. She left him last Christmas because he was living with a servant as his wife in the same house. He induced her to return to him again last Easter, she paying the rent and taking her furniture back to the house. There were prostitutes living in the house who had been servants and whom he had been intimate with and then turned into nurses. The ordinary fee charged to patients was half a guinea, but she had known the women to come downstairs with £2 or £3 which they had handed to the prisoner.
    Mr. Palmer: Were the women allowed anything out of that? - Yes. A commission or percentage.
    Were those women prostitutes? - Yes, they were.
    By the Magistrate: The massage took place in a bedroom where none but the nurse and the gentleman were present.
    Prosecutrix continuing, said the prisoner brought home another woman last Monday. She remonstrated with him for so doing when he assaulted her, gave her a black eye, and knocked three of her teeth out.
    Mr. Palmer: Has he ever earned any money? - No, not 1d.
    Has he lived on what you have given him and what he has received from these women? - He has.
    Cross-examined: When she first knew the prisoner she kept the Richmond Hotel, Gray's-inn-road. Afterwards she become bookkeeper and milliner at a firm in Hanover-square. It was not true that she drank and fell about. He had assaulted her every day. She claimed to be a highly respectable woman.
    Police-constable Butler, 170D, spoke to the arrest of the prisoner on a warrant at the house in Marylebone-road. He denied the charge of assault. This was the outcome, he continued, of jealousy through her seeing women at the house who came to him professionally. At the police station were found upon him a large number of letters, all from women.
    For the defence, Mr. Hill called Maud Edwards, a stylishly-dressed blonde, who said she was a married women, and lived at 3, Northumberland-mansions. She did not see the prosecutrix on the night in question, but had known her twelve months. She (prosecutrix) had had an illegitimate child. Nine out of every ten days she was drunk.
    Cross-examined: She did not live at Marylebone-road, but visited there.
    Are you one of the nurses? - No. What did you go for then? - When they are short of nurses.
    When they are short of a lady, I suppose? - Yes.
    You go there to meet gentlemen? -  Yes, if a patient comes for a hot-air bath.    You meet gentlemen there for the purpose of immorality? - No.
    What do you know about massage? - Nothing. What is the discipline you give? -  Well, it is a treatment. 
    Yes, but what is it? Is it the birch? - Yes, it is flagellation, of course. (Sensation)
    Mr. Curtis-Bennett: Ah, you need not go any further. It is quite clear what this place is. He asked if the police intended to prosecute and Inspector Wale replied that the house had been under observation.
    By direction of the Magistrate the prisoner was further charged under the new Act. This having been done, the witness, Mrs. Edwards, was recalled and further examined. She said she had never had more than one guinea given her. She was often alone in a room with gentlemen.
     Inspector Wale said he had often seen the women Edwards dressed as a nurse in a showy white and pink dress covered with lace and frills at the first floor front window, evidently with the object of attracting gentlemen. Complaints had been made to the Vestry and the police that the house was a brothel, and he believed it was one.
     Mr. Curtis-Bennett remarked that this was an exceedingly bad case. The prisoner had led the prosecutrix a life of misery. It was perfectly clear that this house, which was advertised in certain papers as a massage establishment, was in reality a brothel. Some of the letters found on the prisoner and in his own handwriting show that he had enticed young girls to London, he promising to pay their fares and make them happy. A more horrible state of things one could not imagine. The priosoner had behaved the part of a scoundrel. Fortunately an Act had two days ago come into force which enabled him to deal with the prisoner as a rogue and a vagabond which he was. It was curious that the first prosecution under the Act should be at Marylebone, when a shocking state of things existed in an adjoining district. Fortunately for justice the prisoner had stayed here while others like him had, he understood, fled the country. He sentenced him to six months' hard labour for the assault and three months on the second charge, nine months in all. (Applause in court).

Reynolds's Newspaper, 16 October 1898


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