George Edalji


54 Newhall Street
Birmingham, B3 1LP
United Kingdom
52° 28' 55.0848" N, 1° 54' 10.8252" W
Great Wyrley , WS6 6NT
United Kingdom
52° 39' 58.9824" N, 2° 0' 32.742" W
Date of birth: 
01 Jan 1876
Precise DOB unknown: 
City of birth: 
Great Wyrley, Staffordshire
Country of birth: 
Date of death: 
17 Jun 1953
Location of death: 
Welwyn Garden City, England

George Edalji became infamous in Britain when he was convicted in 1903 for the mutilation of a horse and for writing a number of malicious anonymous letters in the parish of Great Wyrley in Staffordshire.

Edalji was the eldest son of Shapurji Edalji, the vicar of Great Wyrley. Shapurji was of Parsee origin but practiced as an Anglican vicar, having received the parish from his wife's uncle in 1875. Shapurji had married Charlotte Stoneham in 1874. George was born in 1876, followed by Horace in 1879 and Maud in 1882. George Edalji was educated at Rugely Grammar School and then Mason College, Birmingham, where he studied law. In 1893, Edalji began a five year articleship with a firm of Birmingham solicitors and then set up his own law practice in 1899. He wrote a guidebook called Railway Law for the "Man in the Train" in 1901.

The Edalji family began to receive anonymous letters from about 1888, many of them threatening. The Chief Constable of Staffordshire, George Anson, alleged that George was the author of these letters. Then in 1903, a number of livestock were mutilated in Great Wyrley, and anonymous letters were circulated accusing Edalji of these crimes. Edalji was arrested for these crimes and despite an alibi was found guilty and sentenced to seven years in prison. His father worked tirelessly to publicize the case and his son's innocence. Suddenly, in 1906, Edalji was released from prison with no explanation or pardon. He was unable to return to work and therefore sought to clear his name after his release.

Edalji gained the help of Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes books, who wrote two non-copyright articles in The Daily Telegraph. Edalji's case became notorious and was widely discussed. In 1907, Herbert Gladstone, the Home Secretary, appointed a Special Committee of Inquiry. The Committee cleared Edalji of the crime of mutilation but upheld the claim that he was author of the anonymous letters. Under pressure, Gladstone awarded Edalji a free pardon but did not allow Edalji to be compensated. The case was instrumental in shaping public opinion about the fallacies of the British justice system. On 28 August 1907, the Criminal Appeal Act established the Criminal Court of Appeal. After his release from prison, Edalji moved to London and practised again as a lawyer. He died in 1953.


Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Shapurji Edalji

Published works: 

Railway Law for the "Man in the Train" (London: E. Wilson, 1901)

Contributions to periodicals: 

The Umpire (November 1906)


The Daily Telegraph; see also Arthur Conan Doyle, The Case of Mr George Edalji (London: Blake & Co., 1907) [reprints of articles from The Daily Telegraph]

Edalji, Shapurji, A Miscarriage of Justice: The Case of George Edalji (London: The United Press, 1905)

‘The Edalji case and the home office’, The Spectator (26 Jan 1907), pp. 131–2.

The Times

Secondary works: 

Barnes, Julian, Arthur and George (London: Jonathan Cape, 2005) [For a fictional realisation]

Doyle, Arthur Conan, Memories and Adventures (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1924)

Visram, Rozina, Asians in Britain: 400 Years of History (London: Pluto Press, 2002)

Weaver, Gordon, Conan Doyle and the Parson's Son: The George Edalji Case (Cambridge: Vanguard, 2006)

Whittington-Egan, Richard and Molly (eds), The Story of Mr George Edalji, by Arthur Conan Doyle (London: Greyhouse Books, 1985)

Archive source: 

Report of Home Office departmental committee on papers relating to the case of George Edalji (session 1907, Cd 3503)

Letters and papers, 1902 - 1904, collected by Sir Benjamin Stone concerning the trial of George Edalji, 370797 [IIR 89], ff. 163 -168., Birmingham Central Library, Birmingham

Papers relating to the George Edalji Case, Staffordshire Record Office, Stafford