News August 2020: New Book on Belsize Park

The Harlots of Haverstock Hill
'Moll' King and her Belsize Houses

David S. Percy

Foreword by Dan Cruickshank

Harlots is currently running on BBC Two, but did you know that we had harlots of our own on Haverstock Hill in Georgian times?
Hampstead, Belsize, Covent Garden, St Giles and Bloomsbury local history.

The Harlots of Haverstock Hill

A captivating account of the remarkable life of ‘Moll’ King, an 18th-century madam, an ambitious woman who rose from humble beginnings in the streets of St. Giles to become one of the first settlers in Belsize Park.

Moll King 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.

Dame Janet Suzman brings Moll King to life as she reads excerpts from the book here
Read the full review by Michael Wood here

Harlots of Haverstock Hill
'Moll' King in her later years

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.

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"I really enjoyed this book. It's lively, rich in story and images, and such a joy to be able to see the tangible traces of the early history of the area and glimpse the lifestyle of our Georgian forbears. Congratulations!"

– Malcom Lewis

"Riding the bus, biking or on foot in London, have you ever wondered what stories lie behind those bland old terraces you see beside the road? In The Harlots of Haverstock Hill local historian David S. Percy serves up a rollicking tale about his favourite Belsize neighbourhood, one of the bijou spots of the capitol, where property development from the eighteenth century onwards was surprisingly fuelled by the new wealth of an unusual group of people – fan dancers, prostitutes, and the queens of Georgian hanky-panky.

"This lavishly illustrated book (a perfect gift) gives a lively picture of the growth of London from the Restoration period, as Londoners yearned to leave the stink of Covent Garden and breathe some country air. They took their gambling, drinking, and playtime with them to resorts like Belsize House (now demolished) and the surrounding houses of ease and entertainment run by the likes of Moll King. An introduction by architect Dan Cruikshank sets the historical context, and the main narrative, often in the voice of Moll herself, provides a lively read. Highly recommended."

– Dorothy Connell

‘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
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. It is more than a local history – painting a vivid and at times jaw-dropping picture of sexual mores in Georgian London. Laced with sympathetic imagination the book is framed as Moll’s autobiography and is as breezily engaging as a picaresque novel.'

Michael Wood, historian and BBC broadcaster
Read the full review by Michael Wood here

‘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

Products Order Belsize books & videos here

The book will be available in Waterstones Hampstead, Daunt Books and the Owl Bookshop, and from Amazon plus a fully-illustrated Kindle version in colour.

£10.99 – 128 pages – publication September 2020


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