As a commercial and political centre, London could offer sailors and merchants a range of maritime services that was unrivalled by other British ports. Important institutions like Lloyd’s of London and The Baltic Exchange began their insurance and ship-broking activities in its coffee houses.
The port was also a major centre for shipbuilding and the making of scientific instruments. However, the port also provided services of a less respectable nature.
As we shall see, the reality for many prostitutes was a long way from this cheerful stereotype. For most prostitutes, life was highly unpleasant. They were in constant danger of contracting sexually transmitted diseases and were frequently subjected to male violence.