A study in scarlet

Everyone knows that Sherlock Holmes lived at 221b Baker Street, but, there is a problem when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle penned his first Sherlock Holmes ‘A Study in Scarlet’ in 1887 number 221b didn’t exist.

Nor for that matter was there a 219, 221 or 223. In the 1890s Baker Street’s numbering only went up to number 85, it then became York Place and eventually Upper Baker Street.

[S]herlock Holmes’ researchers suggest that the author based the great detective’s house on either number 21, 27 or 61, and the latest theory, after many, is that number 109, as it is today retaining it Victorian façade and sandwiched between a post office and a betting shop depicts how the author visualised the great detective’s house.


109 Baker Street

Now, researcher, Bernard Davies has suggested number 31 Baker Street. He discovered an 1894 map showing all the front doors and lamps. Using forensic analysis of the books and maps he concluded number 31 was the most likely candidate.

Alas nowadays this location is now the headquarters of House of Fraser, the original having been demolished in the last century.

Baker Street was renumbered in the middle of the 20th century and now extends all the way up to 247 Baker Street, which now places the location of 221b at a grand Art Deco building once the Abbey National headquarters.

At that time a letter writer was employed to reply to all correspondence addressed to a Mr Sherlock Holmes replying as his secretary.

After the Abbey National vacated the property in 1990 the new owners didn’t wish to keep up the tradition of responding to correspondence. An ex-boarding house at 239 Baker Street got special permission from the City of Westminster to re-name itself 221b becoming The Sherlock Holmes Museum.

For more Holmes’ curios:
In 1951 Abbey National hosted a Sherlock Holmes exhibition for the Festival of Britain. It featured much Holmes’ ephemera including crumpets supplied each day by a local baker and left on a plate with two different sets of bite marks.

When the exhibition was over, it went on a world tour before returning to London. A publican of a Charing Cross pub, the Northumberland Arms (the re-named The Sherlock Holmes), bought it exhibits and put them on display in an upstairs room where it remains to this day. It features what Holmes’ study would have looked in Victorian London and naturally, the walls are scarlet – yes a Study in Scarlet.

The pub has another strong connection to the detective. In Victorian times, the site was part of the Northumberland Hotel, which features in the early chapters of The Hound of the Baskervilles.

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