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Holborn, the City
District Traits
Interactive: Access x, Information x, Prestige x
Reactive: Safety x, Awareness x, Stability x
Notable Locations

Class: x

On the north side of Holborn Street is the eponymous district. Crossing into Holborn from New Oxford Street or High Holborn, the character of the place does not change drastically from that of Covent Garden. The rst few small streets are primarily commercial in nature, but as one moves north from the boundary with Covent Garden and St. Giles, more residences are in evidence. Many of the homes here have been broken up into ats, and many of the small shops have apartments above the businesses. Despite the middle-class character of Holborn, sections of the district are extremely dangerous at night. The rookery of St. Giles lurks south of New Oxford Street and much of the police coverage disappears at night, leaving the area near the British Museum the heaviest patrolled portion of Holborn after dark. Conveniently, this is also close to the fancy neighbourhoods of Bedford, Bloomsbury, and Russell Squares.

Holborn is a miniature of the city, in many ways. It is dominated by middle-class families that work in the City, but toward St. Pancras, the houses and businesses become more respectable and expensive. Going east toward Farringdon Station, the opposite occurs; many of the buildings are new, but of middling quality, and often older, poorer structures are crammed between them. The place is a patchwork; one street can be well-to-do, with middle-class families living in the ats and houses along the road, while the next street can see dilapidated slums, some still around from before the Great Fire n 1666. Many of these buildings have been deemed hazardous by the various Parliamentary studies that have been chartered to review poverty, but only a few have been removed at the beginning of 1880.

By the end of the century, most of these old buildings have been torn down to make way for government sponsored housing, or the Improved Industrial Dwellings Company. Otherwise known as ‘Associated Dwellings,’ these tenements were the rst experiments in housing the poor in clean and healthy conditions. The buildings are apartment-styled, with shared sculleries and lavatories. The poor, of course, could not afford the buildings, so much of the tenantry are skilled labourers and their families (but it makes for a very successful-looking effort, and hence the IIDC is still throwing up these buildings). Holborn is also home to a wealth of small factories, covering practically every kind of industry known.

Holborn was the area that saw the most social experimentation in the middle of the century, and many of these programs are still in effect. Some have been very successful, like the Associated Dwellings, others...not so much. There is a glut of hospitals in the region, including the Alexandria Hospital (named for the Princess of Wales), the Homeopathic, and the Children’s Hospital, all crowding the blocks along Guilford Street. The massive Foundling Hospital tends to the children that are often left on the stoops of churches around London. There is a Working Man’s College on Great Ormond Street where poor men are taught skilled labour at the expense of contributing businesses in the metropolitan area. If one is lucky enough, and is humble, eager, and has a good character, the college can give a man a second chance. The Holborn Union is a workhouse on Gray’s Inn Road. One of the largest workhouses, it provides a place and a meal for its residents, in exchange for hard labour and harsh discipline. Compared to the Working Man’s College, it is supremely unsuccessful and many would rather risk starvation that stay in the workhouse.

At the top of Gray’s Inn Road is Kings Cross Station. It is in the nal phases of construction in the 1880s, but by the 1890s is the main terminus of the Great Northern Railroad. Kings Cross is also just next to St. Pancras Station, another heavily traf cked rail station, and they are linked to the rest of the city by an underground station at Kings Cross and tramways that fan out across the main roads leading from the rail termini. By the 1890s, there is an effort to bring electric lighting the rail station area.

Notable Locales

British Museum (x)

Dominating an entire city block, the British Museum is on Great Russell Street. It is an imposing neo-Classical building that acts as national library, as well as museum. The displays are broken into different departments. It covers the prehistoric, with dinosaur displays, to the modern. Egyptian Antiquities and the Greek & Roman Antiquities displays are the most famous and the most visited. The Rosetta Stone, which helped decode the mysteries of the Egyptian hieroglyphs, is in the Egyptian department, while the Elgin Marbles reside in the Greek & Roman. Romano-British and Medieval Antiquities follow the history of Britain. Oriental and West Asiatic Antiquities are also quite popular. Coins and Metals, Prints and Drawings are the categories that round out the displays, each housed in their massive halls.

The museum is open from eleven in the morning until ve in the afternoon, although researchers can use the laboratories after the display halls close until eight in the evening. The laboratories and library are on the oors above the Public Floor, along with the museum of ces, and are closed to the public save on invitation from the Museum Secretary. Members of the Royal Society and Royal Geographical Society have preference for time in the library and labs. On Sundays, from two until ve in the afternoon, ‘Workingman’s Day’ costs only a tuppence and draws a surprising number of patrons from the lower classes.

Grand Lodge of the Freemasons (x)

Built in 1768 by Thomas Sandby, the Grand Lodge is the premier Masonic lodge for the British Isles. It is classic Georgian period with lots of straight lines and a vaguely neo-Classical appearance. The lodge is three stories high, with the upper story acting as a gentleman’s club; there is a library and of ces for the brothers. Lunches are served to the brothers, but not dinners. It is rare that non-masons are allowed into the lodge, and never during ‘communications’, as the monthly meetings are called. The Freemasons Tavern is part of the building, and is open to the public and brethren alike. Often policemen from the nearby Bow Street station can be found here at lunchtime.

Communications occur on the rst Monday of the month. The brothers will meet in the main hall to conduct rituals that are morality plays, mostly biblical in nature. The main oor is two-storied, with viewing galleries on the balcony. The oor of the hall has a checkerboard pattern in black and white and laid out on the cardinal points of the compass. The Grand Master or Worshipful Master conducts the communications from the East, bringing illumination to the brothers as the sun rises in the east. The secretary, treasurer, and chaplain of the lodge also occupy the east. In the West, the Senior Warden heralds the close of the meetings, just as the sun sets in the west. The north and south are where the brethren are seated for communications. The Senior Deacon is positioned in the centre seats to the north, the Junior Deacon and other of cers in the south central seats.

Becoming a Freemason is much like joining any other gentleman’s club. One must be nominated by a brother, and voted on by the membership of the lodge one is applying to. The applicant is investigated by a pair of brothers, who will ask family and friends about the man’s character, and they will interview him about his beliefs, both spiritual and temporal. It is, contrary to conspiracy theorists’ opinion, necessary for a prospective Mason to believe in (a) God. While most Masons are Christians, this is not a requirement. Jews and Hindus are be made Freemasons (the latter mostly in military ‘travelling lodges.’) Membership fees and annual dues are £1 a year. Members in bad standing are not thrown out, as per the saying, once a Mason, always a Mason. Most of the well-connected in society are Masons, but in the Lodge all Freemasons are equal, brothers under the All-Seeing Eye of God. Here the Prince of Wales can be approached by a commoner as a friend and peer.

This aspect of Masonry has drawn the suspicions of those outside the lodge. It is said that a criminal, if he is a Mason, often can avoid arrest or trial if collared by a fellow brother. There have been incidents where just this sort of thing has happened, even though the Freemasons frown on it. It is not uncommon for the lodge to handle matters internally, if this sort of thing occurs; a secret trial and some form of punishment are rendered to those who break the law in such a way that Masonry is implicated. Above all, the secrecy of ritual, communication, and lodge activities are to be maintained. The up-side to Freemasonry – the member has a network of contacts for business dealings, investigations, or political favours. When in trouble, shouting “Will no one help the widow’s son?” will often bring aid, should there be Mason’s around.

Awakened Locales

  • The Grand Masons' Hall: Sanctum (Acknowledged) • Sublime Lodge. The center for British Freemasonry is also the sanctum for the Sublime Lodge. While the interior of the lodge is open only to Freemasons, a set of public offices provide the space for the Sublime Lodge's use.
  • The British Museum: Athenaeum • The Hans Sloane Foundation (Mysterium Caucus). The British Museum houses the Athenaeum of the Mysterium in London. Its exact expanses and vaults are largely unknown outside the Order - those who visit and receive lore are always escorted to private reading rooms, with a Mysterium attendant nearby to both assist them and guard the materials they are lent.
  • Dunwich House: Sanctum (Acknowledged) • Seekers of the Cenacle. A house that overlooks Bedford Square near the museum, the Dunwich House is open to visitors who wish to speak with the Seekers of the Cenacle. It is also generally the point of reference for mages interested in availing themselves of materials from the Athenaeum.