The Harlots of Haverstock Hill
'Moll' King and her Belsize Houses
David S. Percy
Foreword by Dan Cruickshank
Hampstead, Belsize, Covent Garden, St Giles and Bloomsbury local history from the early 18th century.
The captivating account of the remarkable life of ‘Moll’ King, an 18th century madam or brothel-keeper, an ambitious and opportunistic woman who rose from humble beginnings in the streets of London to become one of the first settlers in Belsize Park.
Moll became a wealthy landowner with several properties on Haverstock Hill in the days when there were no more than a handful of houses along this country road to Hampstead. Her legacy remains there to this day.
Bold and opportunistic, Moll King was a woman who mixed with harlots, courtesans and lords of the land, who was painted by Hogarth and defied the norms and restrictions of the day to pursue wealth and success on her own terms. This account of her life, written in part in the first person as she might have recorded it, includes new information and facts which have never before come to light regarding what happened to Moll King’s Belsize houses – especially her villa.
This feel-good story demonstrates that strong women were around in business even 300 years ago. Moll King was a woman who did incredibly well trading in a man’s world in Georgian London. Here is a story of a really gutsy, determined individual who made her own way – surviving lovers, a couple of husbands, plus a great deal more.
After running a highly successful business in Covent Garden Moll King made property investments seeing opportunities where others didn’t, remaining undeterred and succeeding against all odds. A compelling story of the 18th-century London sex trade. The extensive cast of characters includes Sir Richard Steele, Joseph Addison, Daniel Defoe, Henry Fielding, John Gay and Alexander Pope.
Illustrated throughout in full colour.
‘This is an important book because it gives substance to one of the legends of Georgian London and brings to life one of the city’s fascinating and enigmatic characters … it tells the story of this building enterprise in unprecedented and riveting detail.’
From the Foreword by Dan Cruickshank
Art historian and author of
The Secret History of Georgian London: How the Wages of Sin Shaped the Capital
Random House, 2009
‘David Percy has homed in on an amazing tale of sex and scandal in Georgian Belsize. This is more than a local history, painting a vivid and at times jaw-dropping picture of sexual mores in Georgian London. Framed as Moll’s autobiography this is as breezily engaging as a picturesque novel.’
Michael Wood, historian and BBC broadcaster
‘David Percy’s lively account of the life of an 18th-century brothel-keeper focuses on the importance of the sex trade to the wider economy. It stimulates one’s curiosity about what was really going on at various Hampstead establishments at that time. Beautifully designed and illustrated as one would expect from a distinguished award-winning media professional.’
Helen Lawrence, former Chair, The Heath and Hampstead Society
'Moll' King in her later years
The book will be available in Waterstones Hampstead, Daunt Books and the Owl Bookshop, and from Amazon as a printed book plus a fully-illustrated Kindle version in colour.
£10.99 – 128 pages – publication September 2020
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