My train to work the other morning passed through the grand Victorian platforms of Bolton railway station.

Etched in the smokey glass windows of one room was the phrase: ‘Gentlemens First Class Waiting Room’. Next door was the more humble ‘General Waiting Room’. (Ladies? 1838? Stay at home…)

I pictured the scene: pretty young lasses in maids’ uniforms serving cups of tea and scones, on the finest bone china. And when one of them spilt drink, or maybe dropped strawberry jam, over a local mill owner? Then I’m sure none of the other gentlemen would have objected in the least to him taking her over his lap and administering a blisteringly hard spanking.

For good measure, I suspect he’d have made the tearful girl stand in the corner afterwards, too, her bare bottom on display. Her mortification each time the door to the platform opened is easy to imagine: would anyone outside have seen her when they glanced in, even before the inevitable enquiry – “And what’s happened to this young lady?” – perhaps accompanied by the newcomer inspecting her glowing backside…