Simanaitis Says

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HOLMES’ (AND OUR) SCOTLAND YARDS—ALL OF THEM, PART 1

SHERLOCK HOLMES and we recognize Scotland Yard as exemplifying London’s Metropolitan Police. But describing the whereabouts of this place makes for a three-pipe problem, even for the world’s greatest consulting detective. It’s a tale of Scottish royalty, Harry Potter, John Milton, Christopher Wren, a back door, a move to Victoria Embankment compromised by a dismembered corpse, a relocation to a high-rise office block, and, bringing matters up to date, a return to Victoria Embankment, this one complicated by an Islamic terrorist. In fact, it’s quite enough for Part 1 today and Part 2 tomorrow.

According to The Annotated Sherlock Holmes: The Four Novels and the Fifty-Six Short Stories Complete (2 Volume Set), edited with commentary by William S. Baring-Gould, Clarkson N. Potter, 1967, London’s Great Scotland Yard street had been “the site of a palace where, in Saxon times and later, the Kings of Scotland resided when they came to London to do homage to the Kings of England….”

Great Scotland Yard exists to this day. It’s in London S.W.1, the St. James district of Westminster, a ten-minute walk north of Big Ben. A modern tidbit: The street appears in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows—Part 1, 2010.

Great Scotland Yard, S.W.1, London. Image by R. Sones.

Long before this, in 1829, the Metropolitan Police established headquarters at No. 4, Whitehall, London S.W.1. Just around the corner, the building’s public entrance was on Great Scotland Yard, and soon “Scotland Yard” became synonymous with the Metropolitan Police. By the way, the cops gained the nicknames “Bobbies” and “Peelers,” honoring Home Secretary Sir Robert Peel, who was instrumental in Parliament’s Metropolitan Police Act.

Above, original headquarters of the Metropolitan Police in Great Scotland Yard, c. 1881. Below, a Victorian bobbie, his bull’s eye lantern affixed to his belt. Images from The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes: The Novels (Slipcased Edition) (Vol. 3), edited with commentary by Leslie S. Klinger, W.W. Norton, 2005.


Sherlockian scholar Baring-Gould describes No. 4, Whitehall as “a handsome building of three stories, of mellow London brick with Portland Stone dressings.” Previous occupants in the neighborhood included 17th-century poet John Milton and architect Christopher Wren.

Sherlock Holmes began his investigative endeavors in the mid-1870s. He and his chronicler Dr. John H. Watson met in 1881. Thus, they both would have been familiar with the No. 4, Whitehall locale of Scotland Yard.

Entrance to Scotland Yard from Whitehall. Image from Sherlock Holmes in London: A Photographic Record of Conan Doyle’s Stories, by Charles Viney, Houghton Mifflin, 1989.

Tomorrow, Holmes, Watson and others will encounter several New Scotland Yards. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2017

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This entry was posted on September 24, 2017 by in The Game is Afoot and tagged , , , , .
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