The area bounded by Little Lonsdale, Spring, Lonsdale and Exhibition Streets was once notorious as the site of many of Melbournes brothels, opium dens and less respectable pubs. Reformers, educators and missionaries were very concerned about the people living in and using this area.

The madam and the mace
Diagonally opposite Punch Lane, one of the alleys which once honeycombed the area, at 32-34 Lonsdale Street is the site of the brothel run by Melbourne's most fashionable madam, German-born Caroline Pohl, or ‘Madame Brussels’. In 1891 the gold-plated Mace of the Legislative Assembly mysteriously disappeared — the rumour, never confirmed, was that it had been left in a Lonsdale Street brothel by drunken parliamentarians.

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Madame Brussels and her establishments
Mother Fraser and Madame Brussels were well known prostitutes who has houses in the Lonsdale Street area. Madam Brussels main establishment was at 32 and 34 Lonsdale Street. She had eight brothels in the area She made a lot of money and Sergeant Dalton of the Police said she has two splendid houses in [Lonsdale] Street that cost her 1,300 pounds plus two cottages and another nearby house let out for prostitution.brothels.jpg

Madame Brussels was born Caroline Baum in Potsdam, Germany in 1851 Her first husband was an English remittance man called Hodgson, who had come from an aristocratic family.
Madame Brussels was always well dressed, drove in a smart carriage, and educated her daughter at a respectable private school while they resided at 39 Beaconsfield Parade, St. Kilda.

In 1879 Madame Brussels opened her first brothel in the study area by leasing 8 Lonsdale Street. She was 28 years old. Business must have been good, as in the following year she purchased 32 Lonsdale Street, a brick house having seven rooms. She bought the adjoining six-room house at No 34 in 1889 from Samuel Nathan, having been his tenant for some years. She connected the houses and retained ownership of both until her death in July 1908.
She married engineer and fellow German Jacob Pohl at St Patrick's Cathedral on 10 April 1895; she was 44, he was 27. They lived at 32 Lonsdale Street for 10 months before travelling to Germany for a holiday, but Pohl soon deserted her and went to South Africa. She returned to Australia and two or three years later he did also. They lived for a while in East Melbourne.
In 1889 moral crusaders tried to close her brothels but even though there were a lot of investigations of her houses and though she was charged several times, she was never found guilty. Many powerful and influentual men spoke up for her in court. Some people accused these people of being her customers.

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C.J.Dennis' poetry did much to give Little Lonsdale Street its low-life reputation. This is what he said about life in that street: "But when they deals it out wiv bricks an’ boots
In Little Lons., they’re low, degraded broots".


What sort of picture does Dennis give of life in Early Melbourne in this poem:

THE SENTIMENTAL BLOKE by C.J. Dennis

II. THE INTRO
'Er name's Doreen ...Well, spare me bloomin' days!
You could er knocked me down wiv 'arf a brick!
   Yes, me, that kids meself I know their ways,
   An' 'as a name for smoogin' in our click!
I just lines up 'an tips the saucy wink.
But strike! The way she piled on dawg! Yer'd think
   A bloke was givin' back-chat to the Queen....
      'Er name's Doreen.
 
I seen 'er in the markit first uv all,
Inspectin' brums at Steeny Isaacs' stall.
   I backs me barrer in - the same ole way --
   An' sez, "Wot O!  It's been a bonzer day.
'Ow is it fer a walk?" ... Oh, 'oly wars!
The sorta look she gimme! Jest becors
   I tried to chat 'er, like you'd make a start
      Wiv //any// tart.
 
An' I kin take me oaf I wus perlite.
An' never said no word that wasn't right,
   An' never tried to maul 'er, or to do
   A thing yeh might call croook.  Ter tell yeh true,
I didn't seem to 'ave the nerve -- wiv 'er.
I felt as if I couldn't go that fur,
   An' start to sling of chiack like I used...
      //Not intrajuiced!//
 
Nex' time I sighted 'er in Little Bourke,
Where she was in a job.  I found 'er lurk
   Wus pastin' labels in a pickle joint,
   A game that -- any'ow, that ain't the point.
Once more I tried to chat 'er in the street,
But, bli'me!  Did she turn me down a treat!
   The way she tossed 'er head an' swished 'er skirt!
      Oh, it wus dirt!
 
A squarer tom, I swear, I never seen,
In all me natchril, than this 'ere Doreen.
   It wer'n't no guyver neither; fer I knoo
   That any other bloke 'ad Buckley's 'oo
Tried fer to pick 'er up.  Yes, she was square.
She jest sailed by an' lef me standin' there
   Like any mug.  Thinks I, "I'm out er luck,"
      And done a duck.
 
Well, I dunno.  It's that way wiv a bloke.
If she'd ha' breasted up ter me an' spoke.
   I'd thort 'er jist a common bit er fluff,
   An' then fergot about 'er, like enough.
It's jest like this.  The tarts that's 'ard ter get
Makes you all 'ot to chase 'em, an' to let
   The cove called Cupid get a 'ammer-lock;
      An' lose yer block.
 
I know a bloke 'oo knows a bloke 'oo toils
In that same pickle found-ery.  ('E boils
   The cabbitch storks or somethink.)  Anyway,
   I gives me pal the orfis fer to say
'E 'as a sister in the trade 'oo's been
Out uv a jorb, an' wants ter meet Doreen;
   Then we kin get an into, if we've luck.
      'E sez, "Ribuck."
 
O' course we worked the oricle; you bet!
But, 'struth, I ain't recovered frum it yet!
   'Twas on a Saturdee, in Colluns Street,
   An' - quite by accident, o' course -- we meet.
Me pal 'e trots 'er up an' does the toff --
'E allus wus a bloke fer showin' off.
   "This ere's Doreen," 'e sez.  "This 'ere's the Kid."
      I dips me lid.
 
"This 'ere's Doreen," 'e sez.  I sez "Good day."
An' bli'me, I 'ad nothin' more ter say!
   I couldn't speak a word, or meet 'er eye.
   Clean done me block!  I never been so shy,
Not since I was a tiny little cub,
An' run the rabbit to the corner pub --
   Wot time the Summer days wus dry and 'ot --
      Fer me ole pot.
 
Me! that 'as barracked tarts, an' torked an' larft,
An' chucked orf at 'em like a phonergraft!
   Gorstrooth!  I seemed to lose me pow'r o' speech.
   But 'er!  Oh, strike me pink!  She is a peach!
The sweetest in the barrer!  Spare me days,
I carn't describe that cliner's winnin' ways.
   The way she torks!  'Er lips!  'Er eyes!  'Er hair! ...
      Oh, gimme air!
 
I dunno 'ow I done it in the end.
I reckerlect I arst ter be 'er friend;
   An' tried to play at 'andies in the park,
   A thing she wouldn't sight.  Aw, it's a nark!
I gotter swear when I think wot a mug
I must 'a' seemed to 'er.  But still I 'ug
   That promise she give me fer the beach.
      The bonzer peach!
 
Now, as the poit sez, the days drag by
On ledding feet.  I wish't they'd do a guy.
   I dunno 'ow I 'ad the nerve ter speak,
   An' make that meet wiv 'er fer Sundee week!
But strike!  It's funny wot a bloke'll do
When 'e's all out ... She's gorn, when I come-to.
   I'm yappin' to me cobber uv me mash....
      I've done me dash!
 
'Er name's Doreen....An' me -- that thort I knoo
   The ways uv tarts, an' all that smoogin' game!
An' so I ort; fer ain't I known a few?
   Yet some'ow ... I dunno.  It ain't the same.
I carn't tell wot it is; but all I know,
I've dropped me bundle -- an' I'm glad it's so.
   Fer when I come ter think uv wot I been....
      'Er name's Doreen.