CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Surrey Life today CLICK HERE

A history of local detectives in Untold Surrey

PUBLISHED: 12:41 08 November 2013 | UPDATED: 12:41 08 November 2013

Surrey sleuths

Surrey sleuths

Archant

Amateur ‘historian’ Morris Otley bring us outlandish tales from our county’s past, with a healthy disregard for historical accuracy. This month, Surrey’s sleuths...

With more drawing rooms and conservatories per acre than any other county in the country, it’s not surprising that Surrey has witnessed more than its fair share of fiendishly plotted murders. As you’re doubtless aware, the Victorian age in England was a particularly trying time in this regard. Indeed, why anyone would choose to stay in a large country house during the 1800’s is a bit of a mystery in itself. Very few weekends would pass without one police officer or another scratching his head and muttering: “Why the devil would anyone want to top someone in that ridiculous fashion!”

Fortunately, the 19th century crime detection environment was somewhat different from today’s. For one thing, a lighter regulatory touch meant that the men in blue were able to avail themselves of the services of an astonishing number of amateur detectives of independent means. And nowhere was this resource more greatly appreciated than in cases of posh murder. For it’s a sad yet inescapable fact that a detective’s powers of concentration are not improved if he is quietly fretting about his accent, the cut of his cravat or whether milk should precede or follow tea into a teacup. This is where the sleuth of high social rank can have an edge. Or so was the theory.

The big names in the field are of course still well known – principally because they wore something eye-catching and had devised a pithy catchphrase. However, apart from those families whose innocent forebears were sent to the gallows because of them, most people today will be totally unaware of Surrey’s two main contenders.

A dubious double-act
Sir Sexley Blithe, one of the aristocratic breed of amateur detectives, possessed an accent so plummy and demeanour so haughty that many people found it impossible to tell whether he’d said yes to a cup of tea or suddenly remembered something unpleasant. By contrast, Miss Dotty Marbles was a meddlesome old biddy whose thirst for any brew served in bone china was impossible to quench.

Whilst they both cut figures not easy to miss, neither one of them had perfected a decent catchphrase. Sir Sexley’s “I don’t like the look of him” and Miss Marbles’ “You big fibber!” probably help explain why neither has featured in Sunday evening television series. This and the fact they didn’t actually solve many crimes. However, on the one occasion they worked a case together, they did score a notable success.

“Oh, for heaven’s sake!” exclaimed 
Lord Cheam. “How could it possibly have been Davinia? She was playing croquet with Father Rupert in the arboretum. Look, do you see this toasting fork? And have you never heard of strychnine? Honestly, a cunningly trained rattlesnake my ar – oops!”

Yes, the pair’s ridiculous speculations had prompted the culprit to give himself away out of sheer frustration. Fortunately for Lord Cheam, both detectives judged him a jolly good sort and were happy to keep schtum.

***

For another taste of questionable Surrey history, visit morrisotley.co.uk

More from Surrey Life

Yesterday, 16:06

Education expert Dr Ryan Hinchey, Coordinator of College Counselling at ACS International School, with campuses in Cobham, Egham and Hillingdon, answers your questions

Read more
Yesterday, 11:34

Surrounded by reservoirs and located on the banks of the famous river from which it takes its name, Staines-upon-Thames (as it is now called) is a town working to reshape its future and celebrate its picturesque riverside setting

Read more
Mon, 16:30

She may have recently moved to the seaside, but Surrey still holds a uniquely “precious” place in the heart of legendary children’s author Dame Jacqueline Wilson – not to mention the crucial role the county played in bringing everyone’s favourite and newly-returning feisty foster-kid to life

Read more
Mon, 11:59

Great things to do in Surrey this weekend (23, 24 and 25 November): art exhibitions, walks, concerts, theatre, places to visit and other events and ideas.

Read more
Thursday, November 15, 2018

Surrey is full of secret hideaways and hidden gems. Slades Farm on the Wintershall Estate is definitely one of them

Read more
Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The new hotel is set to open in spring 2019 and will be located in the heart of the vineyard, offering sweeping views over the North Downs Way.

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

From Santa’s Grottos, to Victorian Christmas markets and late-night shopping, we’ve covered what’s on in Surrey this season

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Whether you're looking for fine dining, pub grub or exotic dishes, eating out in Surrey has something for everyone. Here's our guide to the best local restaurants and pubs

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Having bloomed in Brighton’s restaurant scene over the past decade, The Chilli Pickle opened its second site in Guildford this summer

Read more
Monday, November 12, 2018

Historic Royal Palaces and IMG have announced that Kylie Minogue is the first headliner confirmed for Hampton Court Palace Festival 2019. These will be her only London shows of summer 2019. Here’s how you can get tickets

Read more
Monday, November 12, 2018

Enjoy this linear rail to ramble section of the Thames Down Link route taking the short train-ride from Box Hill & Westhumble to Ashtead before walking back

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

It’s that time of year when our beautiful countryside is alight with the colours of autumn. Here, we pick out some of her favourite spots to enjoy the seasonal splendour – as well as some perfect places for a post-walk refresher

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Found on the stretch of the River Thames between Weybridge and East Molesey, Sunbury-on-Thames is blessed with a village feel where it meets the water. From antique hunts to the joys of river life, here are a few of our favourite reasons to visit

Read more
Monday, November 5, 2018

Verity & Violet are Loui and Jess – a singing duo from Surrey who specialise in blending vintage classics with modern favourites. The two have achieved success in the capital, but are now hoping to attract an audience closer to home

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest


Follow us on Twitter


Like us on Facebook

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search