His Dark Materials
His Dark Materials
This article is about the organisation called Oakley Street. You may be looking for the thoroughfare of the same name in Chelsea.

Bud Schlesinger: "Oakley Street..."
Lyra Silvertongue: "Where is Oakley Street?"
Bud Schlesinger: "Oakley Street is not in Chelsea."
Lyra Silvertongue: "That's true as far as it goes."
Bud Schlesinger: "It goes as far as the Embankment."
Lyra Silvertongue: "So I've heard..."
— An Oakley Street shibboleth used by Bud Schlesinger and Lyra Silvertongue when they met in Smyrna.[src]

Oakley Street, formally known as the Intelligence Division of the Office of the Private Purse[1] and previously known as Office for Special Enquiry,[2] was a secret agency of the Brytish government that operated largely in opposition to the Holy Church. It was named after the throughfare of the same name in Chelsea.[3]


Originally known as the Office for Special Inquiry, Oakley Street was established in 1933, for the purpose of defending Brytish democracy, then evolved into protecting freedom of thought and expression after the Swiss War.

Brytish Parliament knew very little of the organisation, as it was funded through the general defence fund to conceal it from public knowledge, as many in public office, who suspect of its existence, would prefer its destruction. The Brytish monarchy was largely in support of its activities, as the head of the agency was always a Privy Counselor of the Privy Council, whose members were appointed by sitting monarchs.

Oakley Street was considered to be fighting a secret war against the Consistorial Court of Discipline and the Magisterium as a whole.

In the flood of 1986, Oakley Street made recovering a missing Lyra Belacqua before the CCD its top priority.

When Eliot Newman was the chancellor of the Private Purse, he planned to have Oakley street shut down in one to two years.[1]


Oakley Street made use of various methods of tradecraft, such as the employment of dead drops (using specially made acorns), cut-outs, cryptography, and disinformation techniques referred to as green paper in reference to the agency's early days methods of planning. These dead drops would be placed in hidden locations known as left-luggage boxes. The person who left them here and took them to the directors of the organisation were known as insulators.[3] They also use blackmail to flip agents of opposing organisations.

Oakley Street employed the use of several alethiometrists, including readers of the instrument in Uppsala, Bologna, and Oxford. Hannah Relf worked under their instruction for two years in secret during her time with the Bodleian alethiometer in Oxford before resigning from her official work and relying solely on the instrument from Bologna, after its reader was murdered and the alethiometer stolen, before being intercepted by an Oakley agent and brought to Brytain.[2]

Coram van Texel taught Lyra an Oakley Street shibboleth that she later used with Bud Schlesinger in Smyrna as mutual identification.[4]

In the case that Oakley Street was dissolved, its members had a plan known as Christabel which involved withdrawing and concealing the most important papers from the division. These projects would then be kept in a number of secure locations including a laundry in Pimlico, a diamond safe in Hatton Garden and a church in Hemel Hempstead.[1]

Position and funding[]

Oakley Street sat beneath the Cabinet Office in the Brytish hierarchy of departments. It received funds from the Gold Reserves and was backed by the King of Brytain and the Private Council.[5]


Thomas Nugent was the director of Oakley Street in the year of the great flood, and Adnan Al-Kaisy was his deputy director. Around twenty years later, after Thomas had died, Glenys Godwin succeeded him as director of the organisation.[6]

Behind the scenes[]

  • The location Oakley Street appears in Pullman's The Shadow in the North, when the magician Alistair Mackinnon gives Oakley Street, Chelsea as his address.