Tottenham Court Road

My designated area to study was Tottenham Court Road, which is briefly referred to in “A Case of Identity.”

Tottenham Court Road Currently
Tottenham Court Road, modern view
Tottenham Court Road, Victorian view
Tottenham Court Road, Victorian view

According to the Charles Booth Archive map, Tottenham Court Road itself was mostly red/middle class, or well to do. The surrounding areas contain mostly pink, purple, and dark blue: “fairly comfortable, good ordinary earnings”,”some comfortable,others poor”, and “very poor.” Nearby Bedford Square is colored yellow, signifying an upper class area.

DHM Booth Pic

Booth’s journal notes from walks with Constables around District 3 (which included Tottenham Court Road) in 1898 include descriptions of prostitutes, drunkenness, crime, and broken windows. These descriptions seem to match Booth’s harsh judgements under the “dark blue” poverty category on the map that surrounded Tottenham Court Road. A brief search on The Old Bailey database (starting in 1881 when the story was published) revealed crime clustering around theft.

Old Bailey Info

It seems that the centrally located area was used for business establishments, commerce, and travel rather than residency. Travel is still a huge part of Tottenham Court Road Hustle and bustle come to mind. In almost every movie, a heavily populated London area overflowing with all of the above is “the” scene for activity. More often than not, the “catch that thief!” line jumps out within a business area rather than a residential one. There’s more stuff happening due to the constant foot traffic and people. Also, it’s probably more noticeable because it isn’t hidden inside the home.

I looked up information on Victorian plumbers via Lee Jackson’s Victorian London Dictionary. I found a slightly sad story about a poor “Jobbing Plumber,” which does not correspond much with the Holmes story. Still, the information on plumber’s wages did relate to Mr. Sutherland. In the piece, this is the wage info: “The usual wages of a London plumber are said to be 9d. an hour, and the weekly hours of labour 56½ generally, in the suburbs, 53 in the “City,” and large suburban firms.”

From the Holmes story, Mary Sutherland’s father seemed to be a part of the the “middle class” or “fairly comfortable” category. His plumbing business was on Tottenham Court Road. After the father’s death, the business sold for $4,700. Miss Sutherland has money, which is a prime motivation for her stepfather to lie about his identity and trick her into marriage within the story.

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