The Mystery Team

London

Setting Information

For generations, London and its suburbs have comprised the greatest city known to man. Approximately seven and a half million people live in the Greater London area. Not only the largest, but London is also the wealthiest city in the world. In later generations, New York overtakes the sprawling city on the Thames but, just now, London is the queen of civilization and the heart of the British Empire—but the cracks are beginning to show.

A dark scar lies beneath the fields of England. The Great War claimed a generation, with most families losing two of their number in the conflict. For many of the aristocracy, heirs have been lost, servants no longer serve, and the power once guaranteed by bloodline is being usurped by nouveau riche industrialists. Behind the facade of the Roaring Twenties, the British class system is slowly bleeding to death. Laborers strike for more pay and better conditions, and those going about London’s streets are likely to see picket lines from time to time.

The County of London covers approximately 116 square miles (300 square km). It is ridiculously easy to hide (and get lost) in its warren-like streets. The wealthiest portions of the city are north of the Thames: the West End and most of Westminster, extending into Chelsea, Kensington, Paddington, and Marylebone. Within Westminster rest, the palaces and government offices are commonly thought of when the word “London” is mentioned. The most fashionable addresses include Mayfair (just east of Hyde Park), Belgravia (south of Hyde Park), Kensington (west of Belgravia), and Chelsea (to the south of Belgravia and Kensington). The district of Soho, an area bounded by Oxford Street, Regent Street, Charing Cross Road, and Piccadilly, is among the most ethnically diverse areas of London. It is home to the Berwick Street Market (one of the oldest street markets in the capital), where flappers can find ready-made dresses next to all manner of other items and produce. Truly cosmopolitan, Soho is also beset with crime, prostitution, and other urban vices.

The actual City of London covers about one square mile just north of the Thames, within London’s medieval walls. Rail terminals funnel commuters and travelers to the commercial heart of the British Empire. Further north, the districts are predominantly artisan or middle-class. The mean streets of the East End: Stepney, Bethnal Green,
Limehouse, Shoreditch, and so on, form a distinct and abruptly contrasting poverty, a state also normal along the south bank of the Thames from Battersea to Greenwich. A writer of the time noted, “Even in the richest quarters, in Westminster and elsewhere, small but well-defined areas of the poorest dwellings occur…” Further south of the Thames, the districts become progressively more middle-class and suburban.

The Great War interrupted the growth rate of London but building construction and renovation have since renewed despite ongoing labor unrest (that comes to a head in 1926 with the General Strike). The period between 1920 and 1930 sees rapid expansion and modernization of transport networks, with the further development of the London Underground and electrification of commuter railways. War rationing has ended and nightclubs and cocktail bars flourish, both frequented by the Bright Young Things.

While modernization grips London, the overall economic position of England is not so good. Immediately following the Great War the economy boomed but, by 1920, the economy has slumped and industries like coal are in decline. Unemployment rose when servicemen returning from the front found no jobs, which only added to the general rise of joblessness that would not dissipate until the onset of the Second World War. Signs of unemployment and poverty are most noticeable in the East End working-class areas of London but the jobless may be seen on many London streets, sometimes agitating for political change.

LONDON FOG:
London in the 1920s is famous for its fogs, known as “London peculiars,” caused by coal fires and factory pollution. Also called “pea-soupers,” the fogs were often so dense and unpredictable that people caught in them found navigation very difficult, if not impossible. Due to industrial pollution, the fog came in a range of colors, from yellow-brown to green, as well as being damp and cloying. While not recognized in the 1920s, it was estimated (in 1954) that such fog had actually claimed the lives of around 12,000 people (total) due to the fatal properties of the chemicals contained within them.

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