Cynthia Diane Payne (1932–2015), madam, was born Cynthia Diane Paine on 24 December 1932 at 67 London Road, Bognor Regis, Sussex, the elder daughter of Nelson Arthur Paine (1904–1979), hairdresser, and his wife, Elizabeth, née Light. Her father was mostly absent, working as a ladies’ hairdresser on the Union Castle Line.
To clear debts, and provide for her son Darrell, Payne soon supplemented her income from waitressing. A regular customer, who proved to be a prostitute, asked to rent her flat when she was out in the evenings. Payne soon joined the profession herself. Her preferred advertisement in telephone boxes was ‘Erections & Demolitions’. Her property empire grew to four flats and then to a small house in Edencourt Road, Streatham, where she adopted the style ‘Mrs’.
She bought Cranmore, a substantial house in Streatham at 32 Ambleside Avenue, Payne had established the style of business that was to bring notoriety. Her monthly ‘parties’ at the ‘House of 1001 Delights’ would begin with a pornographic display and enough food and drink to lift the spirits. The men would ask a girl to ‘go upstairs’. A friend suggested she should charge, so she innovated with counterfeit-proof twenty-year-old Luncheon Vouchers for which men paid up to £25, according to services required. There were discounts for the old, the disabled, and the impotent. She tried to restrict ‘guests’, as she called them, to the over-forties; they were more appreciative and less trouble than their unleashed juniors. She booked a suitable girl to make a man of son Darrell on his sixteenth birthday. He made a career in accountancy.
Cranmore grew busy. No neighbours complained, but the police observed the house and counted 249 men and 50 women going in. They were distracted by the dustbins, where they had spotted ‘a “female type” of a notably masculine disposition bringing out the refuse’ (Bailey, 2). On 6 December 1978 the police arrived with a warrant to investigate what they believed to be the illicit sale of alcohol. Payne’s instinct was to invite them in, but they were transfixed by the sight of a naked black woman coming down the stairs and a queue of men going up, with many more huddled in the hall in various stages of undress—in all, fifty-three men and thirteen women. The men included local worthies such as the vicar. When the police asked his reverence some questions, he said, ‘I demand to see my solicitor’, adding, ‘who is in the next bedroom’ (The Independent, 17 Nov 2015). It was later alleged the partygoers included some of the highest in the land. Mrs Payne was affronted when asked for names: ‘Me morals is low. But me ethics is high’
She died at King’s College Hospital on 15 November 2015, of heart problems exacerbated by diabetes. She received a humanist funeral at Streatham Park Cemetery on 9 December. Her wealth at death £1,269,315 net: probate, 25 April 2016, CGLPA England & Wales
Source: Christine Hamilton.