Trying To Ruin A Girl

In March, 1888, a story broke in the newspapers that demonstrated the potential dangers faced by young girls by the procuresses and the brothel keepers of the East End of London.

The Lancashire Evening Post, broke the story to its readers in its edition of Wednesday, 7th March, 1888:-


“At the Thames Police Court, today, Eliza Ann Smith, 26. a married woman, of Worcester, was charged, on remand, with attempting to procure a girl, named Kate Spencer, under 21 years of age, for immoral purposes; and Eliza Millings, of Mile End, was charged with aiding her.

The Treasury prosecuted.

It appeared that the first named prisoner was a woman of ill-fame in Worcester, and took Spencer to London, ostensibly to see some friends, and then told her to solicit.

Prisoners were again remanded.”


The East London Observer went into more detail about what had occurred in its edition of Saturday, 10th March, 1888:-

“At the Thames Police Court on Wednesday, Eliza Ann Smith, 26, described as a married woman, of 17, John-street, was brought up, on a warrant charged with attempting to procure a girl, named Kate Spencer, under 21 years of age, to become a prostitute; and Eliza Millings, alias Rea, a married woman, of Ernest-street, Mile End, was also charged with being concerned with the above prisoner in the commission of the offence.

Mr. Sims prosecuted on behalf of the Treasury, while Detective-Inspector Reid watched the case for the Criminal Investigation Department.


Mr. Sims, in opening the case for the prosecution, stated that the prisoner Smith was a prostitute in Worcester, and it was thought right that the other prisoner should be charged with her, as it was to her house that the girl was taken on her arrival in London.

As the case was likely to last some hours, he (Mr. Sims) proposed to simply read over the information and then to have the prisoners remanded.

Mr. Marsham said that would be the best course, as he (the magistrate) would only sit there that day.


The information was as follows:-

Lizzie Smith induced her to leave home on the 1st February, saying that it was her intention to go to London to seek her husband.

Smith paid her fare, and, when they arrived in London, she paid for some refreshment for her.

They walked about for a little time, and, afterwards, they took a train to Aldgate.


They then went to a house in Ernest-street.

Mrs. Smith knocked at the door, which was opened by a girl. Smith asked for Mrs. Girling. The girl said that she was not living there, and they walked away.

They got to the corner of the street, when the girl followed and said that Mrs. Girling did not now go under that name.

They went back and saw Rea (Millings).

Smith said – “You see whom I have brought you.”


They then went into the kitchen. There were two girls and a young man there. Millings said, “Take your things off,  my dear. You’ll be all right.”

Millings then went out of the room.

One of the girls asked her (Spencer) if she would not remain there, but she made no reply.

Mrs. Millings came in, and they had tea together. Smith sent for some rum, and they each had some.


Smith said to Lucy (one of the girls there), “You ought to take her out tonight.” The girl said, “I might get collared, and what could I do then.” Millings said to her (Spencer), “You had better go out and get men and get money.”

She (Spencer) then went with Smith to the Paragon.


Afterwards, she would not take any notice of Smith, and when a policemen came up, she asked the way to a relieving officer’s house. She was afterwards taken to the police station.

Inspector R. Towling, H division, said that when he arrested Millings on Wednesday morning, she said, “What do you think of that now?”


The Cardiff Times, on Saturday, 17th March, 1888, published a fuller account of Kate Spencer’s ordeal:-

“The story of Kate Spencer’s experience was again told at the Thames police-court on Saturday.

Eliza Ann Smith (26), described as a married woman, of 17, John-street, Worcester, and Eliza Millings, alias Rea, of 9, Ernest-street, Mile End, were brought upon remand charged with attempting to procure a girl named Kate Spencer – who is under 21 years of age – for an immoral purposes.

Mr Sims, who prosecuted on behalf of the Treasury, said that the girl Kate Spencer was 18 years of age, and bore a high character in Worcester. Her mother was a widow in that city.

The woman Smith had been an unfortunate in London and Worcester, but was now married.

The prisoner Millings was a brothel-keeper and a woman of very bad character, and had suffered 12 months’ imprisonment.


Eliza Spencer, sister to Kate Spencer left home in January under the pretence of taking a situation. The prisoner Smith afterwards went to Mrs Spencer and said that her husband had taken her daughter (Eliza) to London.

The prisoner Smith afterwards persuaded Kate Spencer to accompany her to London, under the pretence of looking for her husband, and under the express understanding that she should return to Worcester the same night.


On the way to London, Smith said to Kate, “It is hardly any use us going to London, as we might as well try to find a needle in a haystack as to find them.”

Smith then told her that she knew a very respectable place in the East-end, and they would go there. That respectable place turned out to be the house kept by the other prisoner.

There she met two other women and a man. Later on, it was proposed that they should go to the Paragon Music-hall – some brandy being given her before they started.

The poor girl was now in a very distressed condition, and when at the music-hall she was crying in such a manner as to excite the attention of the attendants.


In spite of the entreaties of the prisoners, the girl refused to go back to the house, and she spoke to a constable, who took her to the police station.

When Millings was arrested she said, “All I did was for the girl’s good.”

Evidence was given at some length, and the case was again adjourned.”


Smith and Mannings appeared at the Central Criminal Court (The Old Bailey) on Monday, 19th March, 1888, where they were charged with:- “Unlawfully endeavouring to procure Catherine Spencer, a girl under 21 years of age, for an immoral purpose.”


The Evening Star reported o the case in its edition of Friday, 23rd March 1888:-

“At the Central Criminal Court before Mr. Justice Hawkins, two women, named Eliza Jane Smith, 26, and Eliza Millings, 47, have been convicted of attempting to procure Kate Spence, a girl under the age of 21 years, to lead an immoral life.

The woman Smith was married to a man who was employed in the post-office at Worcester.

The girl, Kate Spencer, was the daughter of a widow who earned her living as a seamstress in a woollen factory.


It was alleged that Smith’s husband had induced the sister of the girl Spencer to go with him to London, and that the woman Smith induced Kate Spencer to go with her to find the runaways.

On getting to London, however, Mrs. Smith made no effort to find her husband, but took the girl to the residence of the other prisoner, Millings, in Mile End, where improper overtures were made to her.

She indignantly refused, got the assistance of the police, and had the prisoners taken into custody.

These facts coming to the knowledge of the Public Prosecutor, the case was taken up by the Treasury.


On Millings being arrested she said, “Why, the girl ought to have known where she was coming to, for she (Smith) is the daughter of a woman who keeps a house of this kind in Bristol, and she ought to be pretty well known in Worcester.”

Mrs. Spencer proved that her daughter, Kate, was under 21 years of age. She also stated that her other daughter, Eliza, had disappeared and she did not know where she was.


The jury, after a short consultation, returned a verdict of guilty against both the prisoners.

Mr. Justice Hawkins said that he could not conceive any crime more deserving of punishment than that of stealing a decent, respectable, and poor girl from her mother’s side, and bringing her to London to ruin her.

He sentenced the prisoner, Eliza Millings – who, it was proved, had already undergone a term of 12 months’ imprisonment for robbing a man in a house of ill-fame, which she had kept for a considerable time – to two years’ imprisonment with hard labour.

The younger prisoner, Elizabeth Smith, he sentenced 18 months’ imprisonment with hard labour.”