Priss Fotheringham: The 'Second Best Whore In The City'

Priss Fotheringham: The 'Second Best Whore In The City'

If you ever find yourself wandering through the London Borough of Islington and arrive at the corner of Whitecross Street and Old Street, have a glance above Jane Roe Kitchen. You will see a commemorative blue plaque, dedicated to Priss Fotheringham, 'the second best whore in the city'.

Photo: Rob @ SONICA

The story of Priss, and how she came to be London's 'second best whore', and most notorious madam, is now largely forgotten, but it's a story well worth remembering.

Priss turns up in a number of bawdy works published in 1660 that detail her life and her novel party trick: The Wandering Whore (1660), Strange and True News from JackaNewberries (1660), the Strange and True Conference between Two Notorious Bawds (1660), and Man in the Moon (1660) all describe Priss's whorehouse as 'one of the liveliest' in London.

Little is known about Priss's early life, but in 1652, parish officers entered an establishment they suspected of being a house of ill repute, and found Priss "sitting between two Dutchmen with her breasts naked to the waist and without stockings, drinking and singing in a very uncivil manner". Priss was sent to the infamous Newgate Jail in an effort to curb her notoriety. It didn't work.

In 1658 one 'Priscilla Frotheringham' was bound over by a Middlesex Justice of the Peace:

For being a notorious strumpet, a common field walker and one that hath undone several men by giving them the foul disease, for keeping the husband of Susan Slaughter from her ever since December last and hath utterly undone that family, and also for threatening to stab said Susan Slaughter whenever she can meet her, the woman being very civil woman, and also for several other notorious wickedness which is not fit to be named among the heathen.

Her looks faded with illness and gin, Priss needed a new cash revenue. Eventually, she set herself up as madam of 'The Six Windmills' in the Moorfield district of London. Under her incumbency, the establishment came to be known as 'Priscilla Fotheringham's Chucking Office', as this is where Priss showcased her party piece.

According to The Wandering Whore, Priss would "Stand upon [my] head with naked Breech, and bare belly, spread legs, with the orifice of her rima magna open, whilst several Cully-Rumpers chuck sixteen half-crowns into it for their pleasure and my profit."

Priss's 'chucking' trick proved incredibly lucrative, and her 'commodity' would be filled with "French dollars, Spanish pistols, and English Half-crowns" several times a day. The money is described as being "as plentifully poured in as Rhenish wine".

She taught the trick to all the girls who worked at The Six Windmills and it became one of the most famous brothels in London.

Priss retired a wealthy woman, but died of advanced syphilis around 1668.

Taken from A Curious History of Sex, by Dr Kate Lister. Help get the book published here.

Last Updated 09 November 2017