Scotland Yard Detectives in the Victorian Era; Online and other Digitised Resources

As is clear from several of my blog posts, one of my principal research interests is the history of the Scotland Yard Detective Department during the mid-Victorian period;  from its establishment in 1842 until the creation of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in 1878.  Of particular interest to me are the careers of the individual detective officers who served during that era. Having  written a number of online articles on several  of Scotland Yard’s senior detectives during the mid-Victorian era (the majority of them being household names in their time), I felt that it might be of interest to start developing a catalogue of the principal online and other digitised sources of information  for individual detectives. This blog post represents a starting point, which I would propose to update as new information becomes available.

The cult of the fictional Victorian detective, including Sherlock Holmes, has tended to obscure the achievements of those publicly-employed detectives operating in the real world of Victorian London.  Indeed Conan-Doyle and other authors, despite writing some hugely-enjoyable books, have wittingly or otherwise created an image of the Scotland Yard detectives of their day as, bumbling, and frequently unsuccessful agents of the Crown .  They were much more interesting than that. The fictional picture has also been further compounded by some non-fiction  authors in the late 19th and early-mid 20th centuries who have developed their own ‘true-crime’ parodies of Victorian crime-detection.  To some extent one can almost forgive these  later authors as, in their day, they had little or no access to the original Victorian crime reports (many of which had not been released into the public domain before the mid 1960s), or to readily-accessible archives of contemporary newspapers.  However, some of the texts  produced during this period (which almost invariably do not cite their sources) contain so much misinformation that they are little better in defining the reality of Victorian crime detection, than fictional accounts. However, since the mid 1960s, the release of contemporary Victorian documentation into national and regional archives and particularly, within the last 5 years, the increasing availability of digitised newspapers, and court proceedings (e.g. Old Bailey Online), has transformed the accessibility of primary sources of research material. As a result, other on-line and other digitised accounts of the realities of Victorian crime detection are becoming more readily available.

The digitised sources of information that I have assembled below, concentrate on those senior detectives who served at Scotland Yard between 1862 and 1878.  The information is presented in alphabetical order of surnames.  The ranks attributed to the individual officers are the most senior rank that they achieved during their service  (to the best of my knowledge). Naturally, I would welcome comments, corrections and suggestions of additional sources of information that I should include.

Where substantive published accounts (e.g. e-books) are available, links have been set up to the relevant Amazon.co.uk webpages; these books are also available from most other bookshops and online book retailers. Direct links to courtroom and newspaper accounts of individual crimes have not been included in this short catalogue as that information can readily be accessed by searching existing online databases including Old Bailey Online, The British Newspaper ArchiveThe Times Digital Archive, and British Library 19th Century Newspapers (the last two archives  being accessible free via many public libraries  in the UK)

SENIOR SCOTLAND YARD DETECTIVES 1862-1878

Detective Chief Inspector George Clarke

Detective Chief Inspector George Clarke of Scotland Yard, 1877

Detective Chief Inspector George Clarke of Scotland Yard, 1877

Short biography: http://chrispaynebooks.com/blog/?p=929

Published biography: ‘The Chieftain available as e-book and as paperback.

Some career highlights: 1864, North London Railway Murder; 1864, Plaistow Marshes Murder ; 1868 and 1876, Suspicious Death at Lymm and the Austrian Tragedy (Henri de Tourville); 1870, Arrest of the Fenian, Michael Davitt ; 1871, Arson in London ; 1877, Clarke’s Arrest and Trial; 1878, Clarke’s Retirement

Other online information sources: Unpublished cases involving George Clarke.

Detective Chief Inspector Nathaniel Druscovich

Chief Inspector Nathaniel Druscovich (1877)

Chief Inspector Nathaniel Druscovich (1877)

Short biography: http://chrispaynebooks.com/blog/?p=999

Books: Druscovich is frequently referred to in: ‘The Chieftain‘. Also referenced in ‘The Victorian Detective‘.

Some career highlights: 1867, Fenian Surveillance in Paris ; 1872, Murder of Marie Riel by Marguerite Dixblanc ; 1876, Mutiny and Murder on the Lennie ;  1876-77, The Great Turf Fraud; 1877, The Trial of the Detectives .

Detective Inspector John Meiklejohn (1877)

Detective Inspector John Meiklejohn (1877)

Detective Inspector John Meiklejohn

Books: Meiklejohn  is frequently referred to in ‘The Chieftain‘. Also referenced in ‘The Victorian Detective‘.

Some career highlights: 1877, The Trial of the Detectives

Detective Chief Inspector William Palmer

Chief Inspector William Palmer, 1877

Chief Inspector William Palmer, 1877

Short biography: http://chrispaynebooks.com/blog/?p=976

Books: Palmer is frequently referred to in: ‘The Chieftain‘. Also referenced in ‘The Victorian Detective‘.

Some career highlights: 1877, The Trial of the Detectives

Detective Inspector Richard (Dick) Tanner

(No image available)

Books: Tanner was the lead detective in the North London Railway Murder investigations (1864) and receives comprehensive coverage in that context in ‘Mr Briggs’ Hat‘. Tanner  is also frequently referred to in: ‘The Chieftain‘, referenced in ‘The Victorian Detective‘ and mentioned in the context of his participation in the Road Hill House murder investigations, in ‘The Suspicions of Mr Whicher‘.

Some career highlights: 1864, North London Railway Murder

Superintendent James Thomson (Scotland yard detective department 1862-1869; Superintendent of E Division (1869-1887)

Superintendent James Thomson (Scotland Yard Detective Department 1862-1869; Superintendent of E Division 1869-1887). Photo courtesy of Frederic Le Marcis

Superintendent James Jacob Thomson

Short biography: http://chrispaynebooks.com/blog/?p=899 and http://victoriandetectives.wordpress.com/2014/07/01/james-jacob-thomson-and-the-ottoman-connection/

Books: Thomson is frequently referred to in: ‘The Chieftain‘. Also referenced in ‘The Victorian Detective‘. Thomson was the arresting officer  in 1871 of ‘Fanny and Stella‘, the  transvestites, Boulton and Park. (The ‘Inspector Thompson’ [sic] referred to in this book was Superintendent Thomson). ‘Fenian Fire’ [no digitised version available] mentions Thomson’s involvement in Fenian surveillance and other ‘undercover’ activities after his retirement from the police force in 1887.

Some career highlights: 1867, Arrest of Ricard Burke, the Fenian arms-organiser.

[I will be presenting further information about Thomson in a talk at the Police History Society Conference, Hallmark Hotel, Derby, UK, 19-21 September 2014]

Detective Inspector Jonathan (Jack) Whicher

Detective Inspector Jonathan Whicher, c 1860 (Wikipedia)

Detective Inspector Jonathan Whicher, c 1860
(Wikipedia)

Short biography: Wikipedia: Jack Whicher

Books: Whicher  is  mentioned in: ‘The Chieftain‘, and  in ‘The Victorian Detective‘. He was the lead detective in the Road Hill House murder investigations, and is described in much detail in this context in ‘The Suspicions of Mr Whicher‘.

Chief Constable Adolphus Frederick Williamson

Chief Constable Adolphus Frederick Williamson

Chief Constable Adolphus Frederick Williamson

Short biography: http://chrispaynebooks.com/blog/?p=852

Books: Williamson  is  frequently referred to in: ‘The Chieftain‘, referenced in ‘The Victorian Detective‘ and mentioned in the context of his participation in the Road Hill House murder investigations, in ‘The Suspicions of Mr Whicher‘.

Some career highlights: 1867, Fenian Surveillance in Paris ; 1872, Murder of Marie Riel by Marguerite Dixblanc ; 1876, Mutiny and Murder on the Lennie ;  1876-77, The Great Turf Fraud; 1877, The Trial of the Detectives .

 

 

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One Response to Scotland Yard Detectives in the Victorian Era; Online and other Digitised Resources

  1. Hi Chris

    The blogs getting better and better well done very infoirmative. I may be able to help you with some images of E Division Victorian police stations to add to Thomson’s story. Also I have been corresponding on your blog with Randal James who would like my email. Could you pass it onto him please. He wishes to ask me a few more questions.

    Best wishes

    Peter
    Dr Peter Kennison
    University of Brighton

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