Simanaitis Says

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HOLMES’ (AND OUR) SCOTLAND YARDS, PART 2

BY 1887, the Metropolitan Police ran out of room in its original Scotland Yard, even with expansion to buildings near its No. 4 Whitehall location. New headquarters, logically named New Scotland Yard, were built along the Victoria Embankment, about a mile downstream from Whitehall on the Thames. This locale would have become well known to Holmes, Watson and, of course, Inspector G. Lestrade. (Curiously, Watson never chronicled more than his initial.)

New Scotland Yard, Victoria Embankment, 1890. Image from 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.

During construction of the new building in 1888, excavation uncovered a dismembered torso of a woman. A right arm and shoulder had previously been discovered further upstream. Later, a left leg severed above the knee was found near the Embankment site. Based on these grisly remains, a culprit with medical knowledge was suspected.

This “Whitehall Mystery” became part of the “Thames Torso Murders of 1887–1888.” Similarly dismembered females appeared in the Thames River Valley’s Rainham, at Horsleydown opposite the Tower of London, and in the Whitechapel district of Jack the Ripper notoriety.

Investigations of these and other Thames horrors of the period proved less than Sherlockian in effectiveness. Details are shared at the University of Leicester’s The Power of the Criminal Corpse.

New Scotland Yard c. 1897. Image from Sherlock Holmes in London: A Photographic Record of Conan Doyle’s Stories, by Charles Viney, Houghton Mifflin, 1989.

New Scotland Yard expanded into an adjacent building in 1906, still within Holmes’ career. The two are now known as the Norman Shaw Buildings, after their architect Richard Norman Shaw. Norman Shaw also designed homes for what’s considered the world’s first “garden city” suburban development, London’s Bedford Park, 1879–1882.

A modern view of the Norman Shaw Buildings. Image by King of Hearts.

New Scotland Yard remained there until 1967, when office efficiencies dictated a move to a Victoria Street high-rise complex at No. 10 Broadway. Originally grey granite, the 20-story building was clad in stainless steel in 1984–1986. This new New Scotland Yard housed Britain’s national computer system, artfully named the Home Office Large Major Enquiry System. Its training program was known as “Elementary.”

New Scotland Yard, No. 10 Broadway. It was sold in 2014 for £370 million ($580 million) to the Abu Dhabi Financial Group. Image from costar.co.uk.

The Metropolitan Police sold its No. 10 Broadway building to the Abu Dhabi Financial Group and moved back to the Embankment. Its current location, in the Curtis Green Building, is adjacent to the Norman Shaw Buildings.

A pre-refurbishment photo of the Curtis Green building (the white one) next to the Norman Shaw Buildings. Image by Bill Henderson.

For a while, plans were to name the Embankment relocation merely Scotland Yard. However, No. 10’s signage was retained, as was the New Scotland Yard name.

The refurbished, newest New Scotland Yard along the Victoria Embankment, architect William Curtis Green. Image by David Holt.

In November 2016, the Metropolitan Police moved into its newest New Scotland Yard. A formal opening of the facility by Queen Elizabeth II was planned for March 23, 2017. On that day, however, Islamic terrorist Khalid Masood drove his car into pedestrians on the south side of London’s Westminster Bridge; four were killed, more than 50 were injured. The terrorist then crashed into the Palace grounds and killed a police officer. He in turn was killed by police.

The official opening was canceled. Yet, the British are known to Keep Calm and Carry On, just as they did after the Thames Torso Murders of 1887–1888. Today, the newest of New Scotland Yards thrives near the first New Scotland Yard’s location. And, I suspect the spirits of Holmes and Watson inhabit each of its locales. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2017

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