Cynthia Payne

Cynthia Payne (24 December 1932  15 November 2015) was an English brothel keeper[1] and party hostess who made headlines in the 1970s and 1980s, when she was convicted of running a brothel at 32 Ambleside Avenue, in Streatham, a southwestern suburb of London.[2][3]

Cynthia Payne
Born(1932-12-24)24 December 1932
Bognor Regis, Sussex, England, UK
Died15 November 2015(2015-11-15) (aged 82)
England, UK
OccupationMadam, brothel keeper
Notable work
Entertaining at Home


Payne first came to national attention in 1978 when police raided her home while a sex party was in progress. Men paid with luncheon vouchers to dress up in lingerie and be spanked by young women.[4] Police found 53 men at her residence, in varying levels of undress, which included "a peer of the realm, an MP, a number of solicitors and company directors and several vicars". A cartoon in the press at the time, according to Sarah Baxter in The Sunday Times, "showed a vicar in bed with a prostitute, confronted by a policeman. 'I demand to see my solicitor,' said the vicar, 'who is in the next bedroom.'"[5]

When the case came to trial in 1980, Payne was sentenced to 18 months in prison, reduced to a fine and six months on appeal.[6] She served four months in Holloway prison.[4]

In 1986 the police raided Payne’s home again, this time during a "special party" she was hosting after shooting of the film of her life had been completed. Although she was acquitted on this occasion,[6] the resulting court case in 1987 made headlines for several weeks with lurid tales, some details of which she aired on The Dame Edna Experience in 1987, with co-guests Sir John Mills and Rudolf Nureyev, on which she also launched her book, Entertaining at Home. The court case ended Payne’s career as a party giver.

On the programme, Payne expressed an interest in becoming a Member of Parliament in order to change Britain's sex laws, which she followed through by standing for Parliament as a candidate for the Payne and Pleasure Party in the Kensington by-election in July 1988, followed by her standing in her own area of Streatham for the Rainbow Dream Ticket in the 1992 UK General Election. She did not gain a parliamentary seat.

There are two films that are loosely based on her life, both released in 1987: Wish You Were Here, about her adolescence, with Emily Lloyd in the lead role, and Personal Services, about her adult life, starring Julie Walters. Both were written by David Leland, who directed Wish You Were Here.

Payne made appearances as an after-dinner speaker and launched a range of "adult" services and products in 2006.

Payne died on 15 November 2015, aged 82.[7] Her family celebrated her life a month later with a colourful humanist funeral, in accordance with her wishes.[8]

Selected works

  • Paul Bailey; Cynthia Payne (1982). An English Madam: Life and Work of Cynthia Payne. Jonathan Cape. ISBN 978-0-224-02037-4.
  • Cynthia Payne; Terence Blacker (1987). Cynthia Payne's Book of Home Entertainment. Penguin. ISBN 978-0-14-010618-3.
  • Gloria Walker (1987). Sexplicitly Yours: Trial of Cynthia Payne. Penguin Books Ltd. ISBN 978-0-14-010543-8.

See also


  1. "Brothel keeper Cynthia Payne dies". BBC News. 15 November 2015. Retrieved 16 November 2015.
  2. "Cynthia Payne trial". London: The Times. 12 February 1987. Archived from the original on 5 May 2013. Retrieved 4 April 2008.
  3. "On This Day - The Times, February 12, 1987". The Times. 12 February 2003. Retrieved 20 February 2013.
  4. Hugh Davies "Payne's sex party souvenirs for sale", Daily Telegraph, 14 December 2004
  5. Baxter, Sarah (22 November 2015). "So long, Madam Cyn, a spanking, ethical example to us all". The Sunday Times. London. Retrieved 22 November 2015. (subscription required)
  6. "1987: Mrs Payne is no brothel Madam", BBC On This Day, 11 February
  7. "Notorious Brothel Owner Cynthia Payne Dies". Sky News. 15 November 2015. Retrieved 15 November 2015.
  8. "Monty Python's Terry Jones leads tributes at funeral of Cynthia Payne". 9 December 2015. Retrieved 10 December 2015.
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