A Case of Identity: Leadenhall Street

In Sir Aurthur Conan Doyle’s short story, A Case of Identity, Sherlock Holmes mentions Leadenhall Street. For this particular case, Holmes helps a woman who claims that her fiancé has disappeared. In order to figure out this mystery, Holmes questions the woman, Miss Sutherland, about her fiancé, Mr. Hosmer Angel. She recounts to him how they met and their correspondence afterword. However, not much is known about the mysterious Mr. Hosmer Angel and where he lived, except that he seemed to take up residence on Leadenhall Street. Miss Sutherland, had been exchanging letters with Mr. Angel, but did not know where he lived, only that it was somewhere on Leadenhall Street.

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According to “British Histories”, Leadenhall Street was the home to the India House, which was the location of the East India Company. Although histories do not know where the first East India Company first transacted their business, it is assumed that after the Great Fire in London the India House was placed in Leadenhall Street. Originally the home of Sir William Craven of Kensington, in the year 1701, it is believed that he leased to the Company his large home in Leadenhall Street (Thornbury). The East India House was sold in 1861, and then torn down in 1862. For A Case of Identity, Mr. Windibank, who is discovered to by Mr. Angel in disguise, was a wine importer. The East India Company was a trade company, so it is interesting that Mr. Windibank, a wine importer, would be having his letters be mailed to Leadenhall Street, the location for a highly important trade company. Although Miss Sutherland claims there is a Leadenhall Street Post Office, I could not find any mention of one in my research.

The original Leadenhall Market was also located on Leadenhall Street. It was originally a mansion that was owned by Sir Hugh Neville in 1309, and later was converted into a granary, and then a market for the City by Sir Simon Eyre, a draper and Lord Mayor of London in 1445. Interestingly, on “Charles Booth Online Archive”, Leadenhall Market appeared to be located in a very poverty stricken area.

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An old church, called St. Andrew Undershaft is located on Leadenhall Street as well. This church could be found nearly opposite the site of the old East India House. One of the most interesting churches in London, Sr. Andrew Undershaft was named from “‘a high or long shaft or Maypole higher than the church steeple’ (hence under shaft), which used, early in the morning of May Day, the great spring festival of merry England, to be set up and hung with flowers opposite the south door of St. Andrew’s” (Thornbury).

Even today, Leadenhally Street has many important and major headquarters for many companies. Leadenhall has a lot of history, and many distinct and interesting facts can be found about it. In this post, I hope I pointed out some of the more significant and famous facts about Leadenhall.

Fun Fact: In 1803, found across the street from the East India House was the “most magnificent Roman tessellated pavement yet discovered in London” (Thornbury). A “tessellated pavement” is a floor covered in mosaic designs. Laying nine and a half feet below the street, the third side had unfortunately been cut away for a sewer. The mosaic had Bacchus riding a tiger placed in the center with three borders circling him; these borders were serpents, cornucopia, and squares diagonally concave. Drinking cups and plants were found at the angles, and surrounding the whole piece of art was a square border of a bandeau of oak, lozenge figures, true lover’s knots, and on the outer margin plain red tiles. Unfortunately, many pieces of this mosaic were unsalvageable, as owners allowed pieces of it to be stored in open air, deteriorating them. The image below is what has managed to be resorted (British Museum).

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Works Cited

“Leadenhall Market.” Charles Booth Online Archive: Booth Poverty Map. London School of Economics and Political Science. Web. 9 November 2014.

Thornbury, Walter. ‘Leadenhall Street and the Old East India House’ Old and New London: Volume 2. British Histories, 1878. Web. 9 November 2014.

“The Leadenhall Street Mosaic”. Roman Britain, 1st or 2nd century AD Found in Leadenhall Street, London (1803). British Museum. Trustee of the British Museum. Web. 9 November 2014.

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