The author of the Sherlock Holmes stories was a big celebrity in his lifetime. He believed passionately in spiritualism and lectured to large audiences on making contact with the dead and other spiritualist topics.
In 1920-21 Conan Doyle travelled to Australia with his wife and two children, visiting Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney, meeting with Spiritualists and giving lectures.
He wrote about his journey to Australia in a book called ” The Wanderings of a Spiritualist” (available as an e-book).
In the book he describes many aspects of life in Australia including this comment on Sydney beaches.
“We all devoted ourselves to surf-bathing, spending a good deal of our day in the water as is the custom of the place. It is a real romp with Nature, for the great Pacific rollers come sweeping in and break over you, rolling you over on the sand if they can catch you unawares. It was a golden patch in our restless lives”.
Arthur Conan Doyle’s visit to Sydney is remembered with a plaque in the Writers Walk at Circular Quay.
Upstairs, inside the Sherlock Holmes pub (see previous post) is a replica of the fictional detective’s fictional apartment. This replica was originally an exhibit at the 1951 Festival of Britain.
The Sherlock Holmes pub in Northumberland Street, near Trafalgar Square is another place to soak up some of the atmosphere of late 19th century London. Decorations in the downstairs bar, that serves Sherlock Holmes ale, include reproduction book covers, old pipes and photographs.
The interior of the Sherlock Holmes Museum is so tiny, that only a few visitors at a time are allowed to enter. Hence the mock London policeman in charge of crowd control, standing at the front door in the previous post.
Inside, the museum is set up as Sherlock Holmes’ apartment just as it is described in the stories, plus wax figures and Holmes memorabilia. The famous study overlooking Baker Street is the highlight of the museum.
The fictional Sherlock Holmes lived at the fictional address of 221B Baker Street. When the Sherlock Holmes stories were first published, street numbers in Baker Street did not go as high as 221. Now, the Sherlock Holmes Museum is in a townhouse very similar to the 221B described in the stories, but is actually located at 239 Baker Street. However, in March 1990, the Westminster City Council reassigned the museum’s street number to be 221B.
Visitors to the Sherlock Holmes Museum in Baker St, should also look out for all the connections to the famous detective around the Baker St tube station. This is one of the oldest Underground stations, opening in 1863 as part of the Metropolitan Railway, which was the world’s first underground railway. Now the station is one of the largest and busiest in London with five lines passing through it and with ten platforms.
Tiles with a Sherlock Holmes motif decorate the walls of the station and there is a bronze statue of Holmes at the Marylebone Road exit.
Arthur Conan Doyle, who virtually invented the crime writing genre, died 85 years ago today. Before becoming a successful writer of the Sherlock Holmes stories, Doyle studied medicine at Edinburgh University and later ophthalmology in Vienna.
In 1891, he set up a practise as an opthamologist at 2 Wimpole Street, London W1. A green plaque on the building now commemorates his short stay there.
Walking from Wimpole St to the home of Sherlock Holmes in Baker St, takes you past Daunt Books. This bookstore, arranges books by country not category, so everything about Italy for instance, such as travel, history, fiction, architecture and cooking will be in the same section. Inside the beautiful Edwardian building is a long gallery with arched windows.
When the National Theatre company was formed in 1963 under the direction of Sir Laurence Olivier (see previous post), it staged productions at the Old Vic Theatre in Waterloo until a new theatre was built on the South Bank.
The Old Vic Theatre is one of London’s most historic theatre’s, first opening in 1818. The theatre was rebuilt in the early 1980s, copying the 1830 exterior and 1871 interior.
Further west along the Thames, at Waterloo Bridge is another Shakespeare connection. On the pavement in front of the National Theatre there is a statue of Sir Laurence Olivier as Hamlet. After a distinguished career in film and on the stage, from 1963 to 1973, Olivier was the founding director of the National Theatre.