London in 1763 is booming, and one in five women makes a living selling sex. Women's opportunity for economic advancement is to marry well or be a prostitute. The city's brothels are run by canny, cruel businesswomen such as Margaret Wells and Lydia Quigley. The prostitutes are reviewed in Harris's List of Covent Garden Ladies, which some of the women are seen reading in the premiere episode.
Margaret's move to Greek Street puts her into conflict with Lydia Quigley whom she had previously worked for as a prostitute. Lydia Quigley operates a high class brothel in Golden Square, serving rich highly influential people in the judiciary and police, and blackmails a religious reformer into opposing Margaret.
Harlots - Series 1, Episode 3 Synopsis and Schedule