Still working on learning about Portia’s London, so I started a map (available here).
In Book 4 she makes her way out to a farm that has recently been burned to the ground. I need it to be in Sheep-farming land, so I picked Sussex county as a location where Southdown sheep grazed. Read more about Sussex county on Wikipedia here.
The Chalk Downlands (also called the South Downs) area seems to be decent farmland for sheep farming.
The Amberley railway station was built in 1923, so she could have taken a train from Victoria station in London to Amberley to get to the Coombs farmhouse. It would have taken about an hour to get there.
There was this product called 20 Mule Team Borax made in the States and ‘commonly available’ for usage as a household cleaner.
Borax, also known as sodium borate, sodium tetraborate, or disodium tetraborate, is an important boron compound, a mineral, and a salt of boric acid. It is usually a white powder consisting of soft colorless crystals that dissolve easily in water.
Borax has a wide variety of uses. It is a component of many detergents, cosmetics, and enamel glazes. It is also used to make buffer solutions in biochemistry, as a fire retardant, as an anti-fungal compound for fiberglass, as an insecticide, as a flux in metallurgy, a texturing agent in cooking, and as a precursor for other boron compounds.
Interestingly, there was a lot of arson going on in the early 1900s but the angle I wanted to pursue was the accelerant. Turns out that is the wrong term to use for what makes the fire burn..
Some fire investigators mistakenly use the term “accelerant” to mean any substance that initiates and promotes a fire without differentiating between an accelerant and a fuel. The terms are not, in the truest sense of chemical science, interchangeable. To a chemical engineer, “gasoline” is not at all considered an “accelerant”, it is more accurately considered a “fuel”, but usage by laymen is considered popularized if incorrect.