In the mid nineteenth century the army camp was built just outside Colchester and soon it was the largest garrison in the country. The town benefitted from an economic boom but with It came problems. There was drunkenness, brawling and, with only 7% of soldiers allowed to marry, prostitution rocketed. Colchester’s existing red-light district could not cope. The ladies of the night spread all over town. Records show that half the pubs and beer houses were associated with prostitution. And outside town into the countryside – the expression police had for those activities in places like Abbey Field was ‘flattening the corn’!
A report in 1857 recorded the number of soldiers incapacitated by an ‘insanitary condition’ across the country. Colchester Garrison came bottom of the table with almost half soldiers at some time hospitalised – the equivalent of the loss of two regiments.
This fascinating and well researched book looks in detail at the lives of some of the 350 women working as prostitutes at the time and explores the medical, religious and social impact on the life of Victorian Colchester.
University of Hertfordshire Press paperback £18.9