diamond geezer

 Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Somewhere retail: 32 Ambleside Avenue, Streatham
You wouldn't guess from the down-at-heel High Road today, but Streatham used to have real class. The UK's first Waitrose supermarket was opened here in 1955, along what is still reputedly the longest shopping street in Britain. So maybe it's no surprise that something entirely exclusive was once on sale in a detached house around the corner, for luncheon vouchers.

This is 32 Ambleside Avenue, formerly the home of Madam Cynthia Payne [photo]. To this detached villa she invited bank managers, high court judges and other gentlemen of impeccable breeding to indulge themselves at one of her notorious sex parties. This wasn't playtime at the Playboy mansion, it was a pinstripe tea party with prostitutes and plumped up cushions. Middle-aged men had their fantasies indulged, so long as they were nothing too heavy. All of this Home Counties hedonism took a knockback in 1978, however, when police broke into the house during one of Madam Cyn's sexual shindigs. They must have enjoyed themselves because they were back again in 1986, although this time they were unsuccessful at bringing a conviction.

Number 32 is just an ordinary home today. It's large and rambling, with a well-kept front garden and a creamy-white porch. It's the sort of house which might easily have been converted into a doctor's surgery (ooh, nurses) or a dental clinic (mmm, fillings). You can get some idea of the interior and back garden from the website of the bed and breakfast nextdoor (although obviously nothing dodgy goes on there either). The road outside is now a residential offshoot of the town's one-way system, rather busier than it must have been when city gents sidled up to the front door with a guilty grin on their face. And dearest Cynthia has long since moved on (although she is available for after dinner speeches, and I bet she's a scream).
by train: Streatham;   by bus: 133, 249, 315, 319, G1

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