Saturday, 15 January 2011

What's to become of it Watson ?

I am certain that I am one of several million who have read Sir Arthur's Conan Doyle's famous Detective Books telling the life, times and adventures of Sherlock Holmes & Dr John Watson.

Now to my horror I find that the home that Conan Doyle and his family lived in and were he and several other famous authors of the time wrote their now famous books has been allowed to full into decay, sorrowfully empty, neglected and worse of all vandalised.

Undershaw in Hindhead, Surrey, United Kingdom, is the former residence of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his family. A fine example of Edwardian architecture, it was built in 1897 in an era when few houses were actually designed by the occupier.    

Undershaw in 1897 with Mary and Kingsley in the driveway

Here he wrote ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ and ‘The Return of Sherlock Holmes’ and entertained many notable people, including Bram Stoker, the author of ‘Dracula’, J M Barrie, the creator of ‘Peter Pan’, and the young Virginia Wolfe.                     
‘Undershaw’ was built by Conan Doyle so that his invalid wife Louise, who was suffering from tuberculosis, could benefit from Hindhead’s healthy microclimate and glorious views down the Nutcombe Valley to the South Downs. Nestling in its three acre plot, Doyle himself drafted the first designs of the house, before passing them on to architect and friend Joseph Henry Ball to complete. Doyle had many inspired ideas for his family’s new home, especially the installation of an electric plant (somewhat a rarity in those days) and a magnificent railway in the grounds that proved a constant joy to his children.                     
Undershaw’s location added a few more years to Louise’s life, but she eventually died in 1906 and is buried in Grayshott churchyard, later being joined by her daughter Mary, who died unmarried in the 1970s, and son Kingsley, who died in the 1918 flu pandemic after surviving his wartime duties as a young doctor.                     
After Louise’s death, Conan Doyle wanted to keep Undershaw for his son. But once Kingsley had also died, he saw no reason to hold on to the house and sold it in 1921 for £4,000 …. a considerable loss on the original £10,000 cost of the building and land. From 1924 the house became a hotel, closing its doors in 2004 when Des Moore/ Neil Caffrey of Fossway Ltd purchased the building for development.                    
Conan Doyle outside Undershaw

Today, Undershaw stands sorrowfully empty, neglected and vandalised,  Waverley Borough Council having granted the owners planning permission to carve up the literary, historic house into three flats, with five more homes built on its side.  Modern town houses ….or maintained as the single dwelling that Conan Doyle designed and had built? The Undershaw Preservation Trust is vigorously working towards the latter.                    
Undershaw today as it stands sorrowfully neglected

The preferred vision of the Undershaw Preservation Trust is to restore, in period style, the house, stable, well and grounds ….. all of which have survived 113 years. Trees could be thinned to open up views from the garden down the Nutcombe Valley to the South Downs and, with permission, a bronze statue of Sherlock Holmes (or Conan Doyle) could be appropriately placed at the Hindhead crossroads. Undershaw could become a self supporting Sherlock Holmes/Conan Doyle Museum (with refreshment area for visitors) and exhibits could be in conjunction with the Portsmouth Museum’s 50,000 item Doyle collection of John Gibson’s late friend, Richard Lancelyn Green. The Museum could then become part of a Conan Doyle tour, including visits to his London connections, Portsmouth Museum and his grave in the New Forest’s Minstead Churchyard. 

The blog

Help to Save Undershaw

Is well worth a looks see and maybe like me you will decided to become a friend of Undershaw and help save one more little bit of our history that we are going to lose if we don't fight for it.

The Games is a Foot.



  1. Oh my, thank you so much for posting this. Cant believe it has just been left to fall apart. Wish you a wonderful weekend

  2. Thank you for posting this. The Undershaw Preservation Trust appreciate your help with raising an awareness of our cause.

    If people are genuinely interested in what we believe in, then our website is: from which our facebook page can be accessed.

    With our new patron Mark Gatiss, help from the cast of the new Sherlock Holmes II movie, a steady growth of fans and a Judicial Review at the High Court, we hope that Undershaw will be saved from development.

    With grateful thanks
    Asst Director UPT

  3. I had no idea! I get so frustrated with the decay of historic properties who belonged to everyday civilians, but for a house with such literary historic value, someone really should be looking after it before it just falls in. Such a shame. I hope the efforts are successful!!