Happy New Year.
This is the 560th Crime Scraps post!
Back in the early days when Crime Scraps was a young baby blog [born in September 2006] I explained how I had arrived at the URL
www.Camberwell-crime.blogspot.com and name Crime Scraps.
I was born in London although after a few weeks I spent the next 18 months of my life in North Wales. This was mainly due to the efforts of Robert Lusser of the Fiesler Company and the product he designed, the Vergeltungswaffe 1. But I spent the next 13 years or so living in Camberwell. Our garden backed on to the 'Scrap' metal yard owned by the notorious Charlie and Eddie Richardson. The Richardsons with their enforcer Mad Frankie Fraser [known as the dentist for reasons I leave to your imagination] were more notorious in South London than the now better known Krays especially after the Torture Gang Trial in 1967.
The Richardsons speciality was 'long firms' [long term fraud] and I remember that everyone in Camberwell seemed to know what they were doing. My father explained the technicalities to me when I was about 12 and I could not believe that people fell for this very simple financial swindle.
It was a local joke that after Charlie's associates set up a 'long firm' and paid cash for a few orders, the suppliers [victims] virtually begged them to open a credit account. For several months the accounts were paid promptly, surely a warning sign, until a very much larger order or multiple orders were placed and then of course 'the firm' disappeared with the goods.
I have been reading The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, a superb book, that has sold 95,000 copies and won the £30,000 Samuel Johnson Prize. Jack Whicher was one of eight policemen chosen in 1842 to be detectives in the first Scotland Yard squad, and in 1860 was already a celebrity.
The book is a brilliant analysis of a real life Victorian murder case at Road Hill House in 1860. A child murder case that inspired sensational interest from the newspapers of the time.
Whicher's investigation into the identity of the killer caused uproar and he is said to have inspired a generation of writers such as Wilkie Collins, Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle.
Kate Summerscale has written a briliant account of the murder investigation while also giving the reader a wealth of information about Victorian England, the growth of modern media and the early history of detection and crime fiction.
But I digress from the main point of my post:
Jonathan 'Jack' Whicher was born in Camberwell on 1 October 1814, and in the mid 1830s was still living in Camberwell, in Providence Row, a small terrace of cottages. The cottages lay on Wyndham Road ........in a wretched neighbourhood- 'as proverbial for its depravity as for its ignorance'....
Wyndham Road was frequented by shifty types-hawkers, costermongers, chimney sweeps- and by outright villains.
I have to admit that 120 years on during the 1940s and 1950s I lived directly opposite Wyndham Road at 186 Camberwell Road.
Did my early interest in crime fiction relate to some ghostly presence of Mr Whicher, the most celebrated detective of his day, or the villainous atmosphere of Wyndham Road?
[Image of Jack Whicher from the Telegraph]