A week ago I asked readers whether they knew the answer to a quiz question: What was the function of this establishment (see photo) and what was its name?
A week later, no-one has come up with the correct answer, so I keep my tenner. (Unless the correct answer was in a couple of emails which I mistakenly deleted. In which case, let me know.)
The establishment in question was at 31 Elvaston Place, London SW7, and it was a brothel called Ma Feathers … named after the woman who ran it. It was probably the smartest one in London. They employed only the very nicest girls … so much so that various peers of the realm were – apparently – surprised to be offered their own sisters or daughters as playmates.
In the late 1950s my father lived almost directly opposite the place. It was interesting to see who emerged in the morning, he told me. “Chaps one knew in the Army,” he said. “Also a few boys whose godfathers had taken them there to learn the ways of the world.”
And here’s another thing. A certain sort of man of my father’s generation has, on the whole, heard of Ma Feathers. A racehorse was named after her, one presumes in gratitude for services rendered. But no woman I have spoken to has ever heard of the place. This includes a distinguished biographer who specialises in chronicling aristocratic (mainly female) lives in the first half of the twentieth century. One might have though that she would know. On the other hand, perhaps not. It was a well-kept open secret.
Rest in peace, Daddy.