Charing Cross: The Center of the City

Charing Cross

While Charing Cross is not exactly the central point of The Sherlock Holmes story The Man with a Twisted Lip, it is (as some would say) the central point in London and specifically refers to a junction of interconnecting streets. Here, the Strand, Whitehall, The Mall, Cockspur Street, and a few other smaller roads all flow into a roundabout that is located due south of Trafalgar Square. If you were to look at a zoomed out map (like the one seen below), this roundabout seems to be the geographical center of London and though the center could refer to many locations around the same area, it stands to be said that Charing Cross is has been used as a primary indicator of how far one is from the city since the early 1600s. For example, if you were to live in Brighton, one would measure the distance between the two cities by each’s midpoint: London’s being Charing Cross. In fact, because it was so central, coaches could be taken from here to many major cities in England such as Brighton in the south, Dover in the east, Cambridge in the north, and Bath in the west.

Charing Cross modern

As indicated by the Booth Poverty Archive, Charing Cross and the surrounding area is primarily middle class with few wealthy citizens and fewer in the low class. Because of this I assumed that the primary type of criminal activity would be petty larceny—those without money coming to take from those with—but I forgot about the main purpose for Charing Cross: the roadway. I have seen murder and theft time and time again but this was the first time I ever saw any accounts of vehicular manslaughter. Interestingly enough, some were deemed guilty and some were not even though I could not figure out why.

In the Sherlock Holmes story we read, the duo was out in the country (in an area called Lee) and Watson makes a note that they have already been through three other counties. Later on, Sherlock says: “I think, Watson, that you are now standing in the presence of one of the most absolute fools in Europe. I deserve to be kicked from here to Charing Cross.” This is the only mention of Charing Cross in the story, however it explains the importance of location. According to himself, Sherlock’s stupidity should send him walking straight back to London—referred to by its geographical center because they are out in the country.