Rakshita (Raks) Patel (rakspatel) wrote in mycroft_brolly,
Rakshita (Raks) Patel

Holmes’s Home: Saving Undershaw by D E Meredith

Photo credit: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/news/sherlock-holmes-and-the-curious-case-of-the-authors-ruined-mansion-6283413.html

A couple of weeks ago, I took D E Meredith around Undershaw as she was keen to write about the plight of Undershaw and to try and help us save Conan Doyle's house.

D.E. Meredith is the author of the historical crime series The Hatton and Roumande Mysteries, featuring the first forensic scientist, Professor Adolphus Hatton, and his trusty French morgue assistant, Albert Roumande. She was thrilled when someone compared her work to Doyle’s.

Her piece has now gone live on criminalelement.com and can be found here:

Selected highlights copied and pasted from what she has written:

Last week, I went on a literary pilgrimage to a rambling manor house called Undershaw House.

Undershaw, in Hindhead, was the residence of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Built in 1897 and designed by Doyle himself (with more than just a nod to late Victorian fashions for high gothic), it’s set in an elevated spot in an area known back then as “Little Switzerland.” Doyle chose this particular location for his new home because he believed that the fresh breezes of this hilly part of Surrey would cure his poor wife, Louise, of her ill health. Louise suffered from the terrible disease of consumption (or as we now call it, TB).

Whilst Undershaw is a handsome house, it’s not deemed architecturally distinguished enough to earn the right to be preserved by the likes of the National Trust or English Heritage, charities dedicated to saving important British buildings and estates. Which is a problem, because forces of evil are at work, casting a looming shadow over the house darker than the mind of Moriarty, and threatening the very integrity and survival of Undershaw.

Meanwhile, forces of good have gathered themselves into a campaign to save Undershaw. This group is supported by actors, academics, writers, historians and descendents of the Conan Doyle family, who, quite rightly, want Undershaw turned it into a Museum and visitor’s centre for Sherlock Holmes fans, everywhere. And of particular interest to authors like myself, there are aspirations to turn Undershaw not only into a shrine to Conan Doyle, but also a living creative hub for writers to come and work, exploring their genre and honing their craft.

It was here at Undershaw that Conan Doyle produced some of his greatest works, including my personal favourite, the gothic masterpiece, The Hound of the Baskervilles, and I suppose the mystery is how this grand yet forlorn-looking building became so neglected in the first place.

Today, Undershaw has an air of melancholy with its broken windows, boarded up doors, chipped and yellowing woodwork. Beneath my feet, in addition to cigarette ends and discarded sweet wrappers, I could see a thousand tiny shards of glass littering what must have been the most intricate herringbone brick work, now sullied and overgrown with rusty-coloured moss and feathering bindweeds. But what really upset me, as I wandered around Undershaw’s extensive grounds, were the signs nailed up everywhere, in that officious and municipal CAPITAL LETTERING property developers are so enamoured with, warning trespasses like me, because I had no permission to be there, “Oi you! Woman in the buttoned up coat”.... “DANGER: KEEP OUT!”

It’s a crying shame that we might lose this house. That it will be wrecked from the inside and have its soul stripped out. I really hope this doesn’t happen. I think this would be a crime against our literary heritage.

Undershaw circa 1900 with Doyle’s children playing in foreground.
Photo credit: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/news/sherlock-holmes-and-the-curious-case-of-the-authors-ruined-mansion-6283413.html

Obviously, I couldn't agree more!
Tags: arthur conan doyle, sherlock, sherlock holmes
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