Spanking flappers and pease pudding sellers in London


A flapper spanked on honeymoon in the Bavarian Alps in 1929

In the course of research for Portraits of a Marriage, many interesting things were uncovered. It seems that the ‘spanking vice’ has never been far from the surface and today’s proliferation of web-based spanking horseplay is nothing new. As can be observed from the picture above.

The curious thing is that it seems to have steadfastly clung on in people’s imagination as an English vice. For instance, there was an article on about a Restoration villain called Whipping Tom. Tom was described as a ‘Tall Black Man’ of Fleet Street during the late 1670s. Black man in this context is unlikely to mean that he was black in modern parlance, although Georgian London felt duty bound point this out, saying that it was unlikely that an immigrant would pursue a peculiarly English perversion.

Here and elsewhere, Whipping Tom is portrayed as a figure of fun, although to us he seems nothing more than a sex offender.

Tom had the habit of skulking in dark alleys and pouncing upon passing women and spanking them. He is even alleged to have shouted out ‘spanko’ has he did so.

Although he is not known as doing anything other an administering a spanking to any woman who crossed his path, some of his attentions were such that his victim could not ply her trade, in the case of a prostitute, for many days.

A contemporary account, according to the misnamed (remember this happened in 17th century) Georgian London, follows thus:

“Another time the woman that cries hot Gray Pease about the streets, coming up Ram Alley in Fleet Street … a cold hand was laid upon her, and up flew her heels, and down fell the pease tub, when (as she has further related) her senses were so charmed, that she lost all power of resistance, and left him to tyrannise over her posteriors at pleasure, which when he had done, he left her to scrape up her wares as well as she could.”

At the time, London was all agog at Whipping Tom’s exploits, but the mania reached its height in 1681 when Tom and another were arrested. Although his fate is unknown, it was quite possible that he was released without charge. This is because there was no specific crime and sexual assault or indeed spanking was not considered one without penetration.

The problem for the authorities was demonstrated in later years when a man apprehended for a similar crime was deemed not to have committed a capital offence or any offence at all, so it was finally decided to arraign him on charges of damage to clothing – a crime for which he was subsequently hanged. Property it seems was considered more valuable than a woman’s honour.

There were many other such villains infesting London during the centuries and most seem to have been regarded as figures of fun, although undoubtedly most were not.

A Frenchman of the time went so far as to allege that the women of London walked the streets alone in the hope of meeting a spanker. The irony is that for every brothel in London that offered spanking services, there were “a score of such places in Paris.”

There are few more unusual snippets that include pictures that were uncovered that do not readily fit his article. Maybe they will get an airing in a slow day over the summer.

One Response to “Spanking flappers and pease pudding sellers in London”

  1. 1 O.H.M.

    Most likely the term ‘black’ in England would refer to a dark haired, swarthy skinned Irishman.

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