Mapping Holmes Project by Kristen Warfield

The street that I chose for my mapping project was Brixton Road from “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle.”

As we had read in class, the basis of this story investigates the theft of a jewel, a “blue carbuncle.” Holmes and Watson find the missing jewel due to an honest gentleman that realizes it was hidden in the neck of a goose he was going to make for dinner. Our detectives then went out to find the source of the goose, which they figured out were supplied by a woman named Mrs. Oakshott – a resident of Brixton Road in London!

Here’s a screenshot from the Victorian Google Map of my location (right).

Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 8.43.59 PM

To learn about the past crimes involving this road, I set off to the Old Bailey archive of London’s Central Criminal Court. I really liked using this database because it provides an in-depth look into public documents of the past.

There were 10 entries involving Brixton Road, mostly involving grand larceny, theft and burglary – but I did come across two rather peculiar findings… two instances of animal theft! Upon looking into these cases more, one particular case of a shepherd stealing someone’s sheep and butchering them lead me to believe that this could possibly be a source of inspiration to the story due to the seemingly rural nature of the area.

In the story, the man who had the jewel (Ryder) had traveled to his sister (Mrs. Oakshott)’s house on Brixton Road to “pick out his Christmas goose.” He picked a goose and shoved the jewel down it’s throat, both relating the case of animal theft found in the Old Bailey archive – he put an item of theft, essentially, into an animal! By learning of the past crime documented in the area, the fictional occurence in the Holmes story does not seem out of character at all for the road.

Now onto another aspect of my research: Charles Booth’s Poverty Map. By plugging in Brixton Road, I learned that the road proper was generally a middle class, “well-to-do” population. However, when we look at the upper left of my screenshot of the data, we see that there is a small region that is indeed classified as “very poor” and “poor.”

Brixton Road is the large road on the right hand side of the image encased in red coloring.
Brixton Road is the large road on the right hand side of the image encased in red coloring.

I thought that it was rather interesting for such a huge gap in income over what essentially is just a block worth of space. I continued to do some further research to figure out why this may be on British History Online.

According to this database, a various number of estates resided on Brixton Road : most of which were parcels of land or homes inherited from other seemingly wealthy family members. I chose to investigate even further by reading an entry about a specific family’s role in the development of the road.

The Angell Estate had been passed down through family members since the near 17th century on and some family members inherited acres upon acres of land on Brixton Road. From reviewing the materials, I learned that this land later included areas for farming.

Though farmers are wrongly stereotyped as not the wealthiest of individuals, it may very well be possible that the industry that brought this area it’s status of wealth was in fact farming. Based off of the evidence that I have found about the amount of estates on this road, I can conclude that this was somewhat of a small plantation area, and the small portion of the “poor-very poor” classification area next to the road could possibly be where some of less-wealthy workers of these estates or plantations lived.

Sources:
Charles Booth Online Archive (http://booth.lse.ac.uk/, 08 April 2015) 1898-99 Map, search:”Brixton Road.”
Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 7.2, 08 April 2015), October 1807, trial of JOHN KING , alias BENJAMIN GIBBS
‘Brixton: The Angell estate.’ Survey of London: Volume 26, Lambeth: Southern Area. Ed. F H W Sheppard. London: London County Council, 1956. 125-131. British History Online. Web. 2 April 2015.
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