"The Berkeley Horse"
Mrs Theresa Berkeley ran a well-known brothel in Soho, London, in the 19th century. Of her many and varied achievements, the best known is probably her invention of the Berkeley Horse, a strong wooden frame to which a man could be firmly secured and then manoeuvred into almost any angle or position.
Mrs Berkeley was undoubtedly one of the most successful ladies in her profession, attracting clients who were wealthy and whose interests went beyond the services provided by others at a time when it was said that in parts of London as many as one in five houses was a brothel.
The story that follows is complete fiction. Probably.
"So you're back, Mr Edwards. Nice to see you." Mrs Berkeley beamed at her client.
"Will it be Susan for you again?"
"Yes please, Mrs Berkeley. I found her most..........entertaining."
Mrs Berkeley nodded. "Yes, she has such a delicate touch, does she not? So many of my girls are so vigorous with the whip when it's really not called for."
"And I wonder, Mr Edwards, if I might persuade you to try the Horse this time? It provides such a unique experience, and so beautifully restraining to enhance even the skills of young Susan."
"If you say to, Mrs Berkeley. I am completely in your hands. You are, after all, the true expert in this matters."
"Indeed I am. Yes, indeed I am."
With a swirl of her long dress Mrs Berkeley turned and led him from the entrance hall down the winding stairs into the basement where Susan was waiting. In the centre of the room stood a tall, rectangular frame held up at its sides by heavy triangular mountings with a single metal bolt at the top of each fastened through the frame to act as a hinge. At each side of the base of the frame, which was about a foot off the floor, were supports for a man to stand on. Next to these were leather cuffs to attach his ankles firmly in place.
At the top corners of the frame were similar cuffs for his wrists, so that once in place he would be held firmly in a star shape and would not fall off no matter to what angle the device was tilted on its hinges. More importantly, once attached the man was unable to reach the buckles on the cuffs, had no way of freeing himself, and his whole body, front and back, was completely exposed.
"Now, Mr Edwards, if you will get undressed and up onto the horse, please."
He hesitated, looking from Susan to Mrs Berkeley. She raised her eyebrows.
"Mr Edwards, I need to help Susan to get you onto the Horse. We can't have you falling off and hurting yourself, can we?" said Mrs Berkeley, then seeing his still-doubtful expressions, "Oh Mr Edwards, don't be so silly. You haven't got anything I haven't seen a thousand times!"
Reluctantly he shed his clothes, keeping his eyes firmly fixed on the floor and carefully avoiding looking at either Susan on Mrs Berkeley. He stepped up onto the Horse and stood there as the two women buckled the straps round his wrists and ankles to secure him to the frame.
"Now, Susan...." Mrs Berkeley started, but he interrupted her.
"Aren't you going to leave now?" he demanded loudly.
She stood directly in front of him, her hands on her hips. "No, Mr Edwards, I am not. I want to see Susan's delicate technique you seem to like so much."
"No you're not," he retorted angrily, "I'm paying for Susan and I don't want you as well."
"You're paying?" Mrs Berkeley raised her eyebrows. "Mr Edwards, I do believe you haven't paid for your last three visits, and from what I hear your business affairs are in such a lamentable mess you couldn't afford to pay for a threepenny whore in the meat market."
"I.......," he started to say.
"No, Mr Edwards," she went on, "It seems we won't be having any money from you, so YOU, MR Edwards, are in no position to argue. In fact, Mr Edwards, you are in no position right now to do anything at all. I strongly suggest you remain polite and obedient, otherwise............"
She nodded at Susan, who picked up a riding crop and lightly slapped him across the buttocks with it. He flinched, more from instinct than from discomfort.
Mrs Berkeley moved closer to him. "Enjoying that?" she hissed at him. "I'm afraid Susan hasn't quite got the idea of what is required here."
Mrs Berkeley took the crop from Susan.
"Now," she said, "Let me show you how it should be done.........."