From brothel to biography – Cynthia Payne is on list of cultural achievers


The internet has made extreme behaviour normal, so vice has almost become like another hobby.

But if you do commit a misdeed, everyone knows about it pretty quickly. So it is hard to convey the global impact of ‘Madam Cyn’ – the Streatham woman who seemed to be keen to offer her clients as many of the seven deadly sins as possible – in exchange for Luncheon Voucher.

Cynthia Payne’s hose in Ambleside Avenue, Streatham, south London, where her sex-parties were held.

Now, in an era when the seven most wicked things you can do involve gluten, twerking and selfies, madam Cynthia Payne, of Ambleside Avenue, has become the latest entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography – a collection of names of the people who are said to have shaped British culture – along with Geoffrey Howe, Cilla Black and Val Doonican. Her  visitors were said to include MPs, vicars and peers of the realm, and has therefore officially become a part of the establishment.

Mrs Payne’s house became of source of national fascination after it was raided in 1978, and details of the scandals inside revealed.

The entry reveals: “Her monthly ‘parties’ at the ‘House of 1001 Delights’ would begin with a pornographic display and enough food and drink to lift the spirits. A friend suggested she should charge, so she innovated with counterfeit-proof 20-year-old Luncheon Vouchers, for which men paid up to £25, according to services required.”

A joke circulated saying that a vicar caught in the raid said: “I demand to see my solicitor, who is in the next bedroom.”

Mrs Payne, who was sentenced to 18 months in prison, later reduced to six, maintained she would not disclose the names of her clients, reportedly replying to such questions with: “Me morals is low. But me ethics is high.”

She wrote a book, Entertaining at Home, and two films were made of her life in 1987 – Wish You Were Here and Personal Services.

She also stood unsuccessfully for Parliament under the banner of the Pleasure and Payne Party.

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