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TOUR OF THE MONTH
ON THIS DAY IN LONDON
Mother Clap's Molly House
This is where Mother Clap's Molly House used to be.
Location: Shoe Lane, Holborn, London
Description: This is the area where Field Lane used to be before the Viaduct construction demolished the road.
Margaret Clap owned and ran the most notorious of these houses, which was located here in Field Lane.
Sunday evenings were often its busiest night, when sometimes close to fifty customers filled her rooms. Men there often dressed in women's clothing, took on female personae, and affected effeminate mannerisms and speech.
In February 1726, Margaret Clap's molly house was raided, and more than forty people were arrested. This house and others like it had been under surveillance by agents from the Societies for the Reformation of Manners, an organization that had formed to rid London of sodomites, prostitutes, and breakers of the Sabbath. The arrests led to a series of trials, after which several of those arrested were hanged for sodomy.
At a trial in July of 1726, Samuel Stevens, the agent who had spent a number of Sunday evenings at Clap's house, described the sexual activities that took place there: I found between 40 and 50 men making love to one another, as they called it. Sometimes they would sit in one another's laps, kissing in lewd manner and using their hands indecently. Then they would get up, dance and make curtsies, and mimic the voices of women . . . . Then they would hug, and play, and toy, and go out by couples into another room on the same floor to be married, as they called it.