The House of Margaret Clap

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The House of Margaret Clap was a Molly House, though not a brothel, next to the Bunch of Grapes in Field Lane in Holborn. It ran from 1724-1726 and was probably Margaret Clap’s own house. Mother Claps hosted 30 or 40 persons every night, but more on Sundays. All rooms had beds. Two men, William Griffin and Thomas Phillips, who were convicted of sodomy, were lodgers for nearly two years at Clap’s House.

Gabriel Lawrence and William Griffin were convicted for the crime of sodomy after being caught in a raid at Mrs Clap’s House. Both were hanged at Tyburn (along with Thomas Wright).

Part of Field Lane survives today as the southern end of Saffron Hill, and the smaller branch of Shoe Lane, parallel to Farringdon Road. The actual site of Mother Claps may have been buried in the redevelopment of Holborn Viaduct. In Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist, Oliver is led down a hill and is pushed through the door of “a house near Field Lane”: Fagin's kitchen. This area had been one of prostitution and criminality for over four hundred years.

Books

Rictor Norton wrote a book Mother Clap’s Molly House – The Gay Subculture in England 1700-1830 in 1992.

Mark Ravenhill wrote a musical play Mother Clap’s Molly House in 2001.

External sites

http://www.oldbaileyonline.org/browse.jsp?id=t17260420-64&div=t17260420-64&terms=Molly#highlight
http://rictornorton.co.uk/molly.htm
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mother-Claps-Molly-House-Subculture/dp/0854491880/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1313259112&sr=1-5