Victoria’s secrets are shared again

A book that scandalised Bristol nearly fifty years ago and was banned from the city’s libraries has been republished privately.

   Ladies Mile is the title of the memoirs of the late Victoria Hughes who was a toilet attendant on Clifton and Durdham Downs for more than thirty years until the 1960s.   

  “She kept detailed notes of the women, many of whom were ‘working girls’ who used the toilets and cried on her shoulders,” said Kerris Harrop, who has just republished the book. 

“She would engage in the latest gossip amongst the girls or just enjoy a welcoming cup of tea. “Victoria’s book has long been out of print but it is much requested. It was regarded by the libraries as ‘too shocking’ to put on their shelves” said Kerris. 

It has taken her 18 months to get permission to reprint it. “Firstly, I had to find out if Victoria had left the copyright of the book to anyone. It meant checking her will. I also checked with her relatives and the relatives of her editor, the late David Foot, a journalist and author.”

When she was satisfied that no one had the copyright Kerris approached the Intellectual Property Office for a licence to reprint the book.  She then had to type the entire text ready for the printer.

Kerris set up a fundraising page on the internet to meet her costs. “I shall not be getting anything out of this.  All the proceeds from the book sales will go to towards the refurbishment of the toilets which are administered by the Downs Committee of the city council.”

Victoria Hughes, who died in 1978 aged 80, is honoured by a blue plaque above the toilet entrance which says she “befriended and cared for prostitutes when she worked here”. She is the first toilet attendant to have an entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

Ladies Mile is the name of one roads crossing Clifton and Durdham Downs which in the 1930s was used by local society ladies to ride their horses. 

 Copies are available from BristolRead Books.