[A version of this essay originally appeared in "Proceedings of the Pondicherry Lodge", the newsletter of The Sherlock Holmes Society of India (Vol. 6, No. 1, June 1, 2018)]
England has called to me as long as I can remember.
I’ve always been fascinated by all of it. If something comes on television about England, I’ll stop and watch. I look at maps and old photos, and wonder about the various pieces of history that have happened in so many corners. And I like stories set there – especially mysteries from approximately the 1870’s to the late 1930’s.
I sometimes wonder if it’s hard-wired into me. I was born, raised, and still live in eastern Tennessee, which was settled to a large extent by English, Scottish, Welsh, and Irish immigrants. In almost any direction that it’s traced – and people in my family have done some pretty extensive genealogical detective work – my background is English and Scottish. “Marcum” is derived from “Markham”, and in that direction, the path has been established all the way back to Nottingham in the 1400’s. (Interestingly, my father, John Marcum, had a lifelong career in law enforcement, and was even a sheriff for a brief period – and we’re related to Sir John Markham, who was a Sheriff of Nottingham.)
Other names in my family have similar English and Scottish roots. My mother’s maiden name was “Rathbone”. Her mother was a “Russell”. My father’s mother was a “Smith” and his paternal grandmother (and thus my own great-grandmother) was a “Watson”. (The first American Watson in our line came over from England in the early 1800’s.) Thus, I have both Watson and Rathbone blood in me. And one might recall the radio show “The Case of the Very Best Butter” from The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Radio Show (April 18, 1948), in which Holmes tells Watson that he is distantly related to the Rathbones.
With an interest in England deriving from many directions, a love of The World of Sherlock Holmes only feeds the fire.
I first started reading about Holmes in 1975, when I was ten years old. Since that time, I’ve collected, read, and chronologicized literally thousands of Holmes adventures, both Canon and pastiche. In the mid-1990’s, I went back to school for a second degree in civil engineering. At that time, several things happened. I had access for the first time to good fast internet, and so I was able to track down many new pastiches that I hadn’t known about before. I was also able to print hundreds of them – really good stories – that I found hidden online. (It’s good that I did archive those, since many have vanished since then.)
At the same time, I was working some really terrible night jobs while going back to school during the day, but there were great chunks of time when I could do my homework, and then – when that was finished – read for fun. I’ve always loved Holmes, and during that period when I had time on my hands at those three p.m.-to-midnight jobs, I started reading – yet again – the various Holmes stories in my collection, accumulated since I was ten years old. But I discovered that I was simply re-reading the same ones that I’d always visited before – The Canon, and some favorite pastiches. Along the way, I’d acquired quite a few that I hadn’t actually ever read at all. So I decided, as long as the mood was upon me, to read all of them – at long as my interest held out before pivoting to something else.
As I read, I became curious about places mentioned in the stories – both real and disguised. I started checking maps. It became helpful to make Xeroxes of some basic maps of England and Scotland and keep them with me in a small binder. I carried that binder everywhere as I read and re-read the various Holmes adventures – work and school and home – understanding in a way that I hadn’t before about Holmes and Watson’s world. I also began to make detailed notes about the dates when each adventure occurred, and the more I read and listed, the more I began to see how it all fit together, both Canon and pastiches, into a Great Holmes Tapestry.
Chronologies and Maps
I used Baring-Gould’s chronology as a jumping-off place for my own Chronology, but there were times that I disagreed with him, and I never felt that his assertions were set in stone. As I continued to read, I refined and expanded my binder – both with better maps and listings of stories by dates. I also had various annotations for each story, pastiche and Canon, including places in stories that didn’t fit with the overall Big Picture, and other cases that were mentioned along the way in the different pastiches, the “Untold Cases” like the Giant Rat and Viggo the Hammersmith Wonder in The Canon, and the equivalents in the pastiches.
After about a year, I’d finished reading through everything that I had about Holmes - several hundred books - and had a very solid start on a true Chronology. And I found that I wasn’t tired of reading about Holmes yet at all. There had never been a need or desire to pivot to something else, and I had still been finding new stories all the time to add to what I’d just finished reading. It was an easy decision to turn around and start re-reading again, plunging right back in at the beginning, with a fan-fiction story set in 1844 that relates how Holmes’s father, returning from military service in India, met, wooed, and married Holmes’s mother. It's the earliest in my Chronology that stretches from 1844 to 1957, when Holmes passed away on the cliffs above his Sussex villa at the age of 103.
Since then, I’ve continued to live in Holmes’s World, right to the present – still reading and re-reading both old and new stories, and refining my Chronology further and further. It’s now over 750 dense pages, in a rather small font, containing thousands of adventures from novels and short stories, radio and television episodes, movies and scripts, comics and fan-fiction, and unpublished manuscripts. I only include traditional stories – nothing where Holmes is more Van Helsing than Consulting Detective; nothing that is a parody, or with actual supernatural occurrences; and absolutely nothing where Holmes and Watson are set in Alternate Universes or modern settings, acting as defective and broken villains rather than heroes and calling each other “Sherlock” and “John”, and having nothing to do with the True Holmes.
As I’ve explored this world over the last nearly-quarter-century, building The Chronology as I go, I’ve also refined my maps, and added a great deal of Holmes-related travel information to my own personal library – which was of incredible help when I was finally able to go to England on my three (so far) Holmes Pilgrimages in 2013, 2015, and 2016.
British Travel Books
When I was still a very young teenaged Sherlockian, I discovered the related Solar Pons adventures by August Derleth. Set in the 1920’s and 1930’s, Pons is the successor to Holmes, solving mysteries using the same methods. He’s assisted by his friend and biographer Dr. Lyndon Parker. His landlady is Mrs. Johnson, and his associate at Scotland Yard is Inspector Jamison. His brother Bancroft Pons sometimes is the British Government. He resides at 7B Praed Street, near Paddington Station in London, and has many Holmesian aspects: He wears a dressing gown and plays the violin and conducts chemical experiments in a corner of his sitting room. His recorded adventures – over seventy of them – cover events from 1919 to 1939, and he is called “The Sherlock Holmes of Praed Street”.
I mention Solar Pons because, early on, I read something interesting about his creator, August Derleth, a famed author from Wisconsin who wrote historical novels and Lovecraftian tales, in addition to the Pons stories. I was amazed to learn that Derleth never actually traveled to England. However, he did have a huge collection of British travel books, which he would use when constructing a Pons story.
Never knowing if I’d be able to get to England, I also began to collect British travel books, and Holmes travel books as well.
Shown here is my ongoing selection of general British travel books:
The books are displayed in a line across my fireplace mantel – which isn’t where they normally reside. [A side note: Hanging on the left, in a permanent place of honor, is my first deerstalker, a gift from my parents for my nineteenth birthday in 1984. I’ve worn a deerstalker as my only hat ever since, and I had this one for years until it nearly wore out and had to be replaced. Since then, I’ve collected nearly two-dozen other deerstalkers, most of them bought at various locations in England. (Spoiler Alert: I finally made it to the Holmesland!) I’ve had several deerstalkers over the years that were my everyday hats, and others that are pulled out for special occasions. But this one – the first one, and one of my most prized possessions – hangs in a place of honored retirement by the fireplace.]
Here’s a closer view of the general British travel titles:
A few of these various travel books, such as London for Dummies and Scotland for Dummies, were gifts from my wife and son when I was in the planning stages of getting to England. Others were purchased new, but many were happily discovered over many years at used book stores or at library sales. If a person is planning a very specific trip, and wants to find the coolest new restaurant, or figure out the rates for the latest high-rated five-star hotel, it’s likely necessary to locate the most current and up-to-date travel books. But when daydreaming about going to England, and having years to do so, slightly out-of-date books cause no difficulties at all. The types of places that I’d be interested in seeing in England don’t really change from year-to-year, and having all of these books as go-to sources was quite useful – even if some of the data is a little worn. The previously mentioned Dummies books were very helpful, as were Rick Steves’ England, and different titles from Fodor.
All of these books have been useful, even if simply used to pass the time, flipping through and reading about this-or-that small village or obscure historical site.
Traveling to the Holmesland
From early wishing to go to England, and planning in general, my interests quickly circled in upon Holmes-related travel. There are quite a few specialized books that are very useful when laying out a Holmes Pilgrimage, as shown here, from my more specific Holmes travel collection. (More about these books in a moment . . . .)
By 2010, I began to think that I should get serious about planning my trip-of-a-lifetime to England. At that point, I’d been really deep within my Holmes studies for well over a decade, and I found that more and more I wished to see specific Holmes-related sites if I ever made it to England, and not just the usual tourist venues. Baker Street, and specifically The Sherlock Holmes Museum, was the place I most wanted to go in the whole world. I began to seriously compile a list of all the Holmes-sites that I planned to visit.
For the next couple of years, I was quite involved in professional endeavors related to my day job as a civil engineer, as well as caring for elderly parents. I thought that I might get to go to England for the first – and maybe only – time in 2012, but it ended up being delayed until 2013. One day in the spring of that year, I finally took the plunge and applied for a new passport, mine having expired several years earlier. I felt like I was committed at that point, and that this was real. I continued to revise my plans, deciding what was most important, and where I could visit in the two-and-a-half weeks that I had allotted. My wife and son were invited, but they both realized that this would be something of a religious experience for me, and that I would be at a dead run while there, seeing all that I could see. They didn’t want to hold me back, and frankly, they didn’t want to have a trip like that be completely about Holmes, which was what I had planned. So my final plan was for me to go alone, with only a backpack, able to travel at great speed to visit as many places as possible on my list.
I purchased airplane tickets and train tickets, and arranged for a rental car (to explore Dartmoor) and made hotel reservations. I picked a backpack and some good walking shoes. It was becoming ever-more real. At the travel agency where I arranged for the plane tickets, they tried to set me up in a number of pre-planned tours, going up and down the country and seeing the sights through big bus windows. I was appalled – I knew exactly where I wanted to go, and it wasn’t where they were suggesting. (To clarify: I would love to also go to all the places that they were suggesting . . . someday, since I want to see all of England, every square foot. But I want to see these places on my own terms. And anyway, this was a Holmes Pilgrimage, not a bus ride.)
Finally, in September 2013, my deerstalker and I flew to England for my amazing Great Hiatus. I was finally able to visit the Holmesland.
Finally . . . I make it to England
I wore my deerstalker everywhere while I was over there – but that wasn’t anything unusual or a hardship, because I wear it everywhere at home too. For a few weeks in September 2013, a man in a deerstalker roamed Baker Street once again. Of course, I went to The Sherlock Holmes Museum in Baker Street multiple times, starting with the first day that I was there.
I tried to visit the sites of all the other possible theorized locations for 221b up and down Baker Street as well. I stayed in the Sherlock Holmes Hotel on Baker Street on every night that I was in London during that first trip, and it was there that MX Publishing held a book-signing event for my first books. (To be honest, I didn’t actually wear the deerstalker during that event, but I had it with me, and it sat on my lap while I did a reading from a previous book.)
I went to as many Holmes-related sites as I could. If it wasn’t connected to The Master one way or another, I pretty much didn’t do it. I didn’t ride upon the London Eye, for example, because it wasn’t something that was there in the good old days. (The few exceptions to my Holmes-only rule included visits to Hercule Poirot’s lodgings, James Bond’s house in Chelsea, and most of all, 7B Praed Street, the residence of Solar Pons and Dr. Parker. It certainly doesn’t look the same now as it did in the old pictures – what a loss!)
My deerstalker and I went to the Sherlock Holmes Pub – and through the courtesy of a kind Sherlockian friend, was actually able to go into the exhibit room and museum and touch many of the Sacred Objects. When I was around ten in 1975, not long after I discovered Holmes, I convinced my father to let me borrow ahead on my allowance so that I could by the Doubleday edition of the complete Canon. On the back was a photo of the 1951 Marylebone Exhibit, which featured a number of authentic Holmes artifacts.
A few years after the exhibit closed, the Sherlock Holmes Pub opened, with an upstairs museum containing many of these artifacts. To me, that room shown above from the 1951 exhibit was the perfect representation of 221b Baker Street, and to be able to be around and even touch some of those same items, including Holmes’s bust, damaged by Colonel Moran’s bullet, was an unforgettable experience!
During my travels, I went to Montague Street and visited the exact building – No. 24 – that Michael Harrison identified (in The London of Sherlock Holmes – 1972) as the one where Holmes lived in the 1870’s, when he first came up to London. (On subsequent Pilgrimages, I stayed in the hotel that’s now located there.)
I roamed Pall Mall, visiting the Diogenes Club. (For more information about the location of the Diogenes Club at 78 Pall Mall, see my essay, “Pall Mall: Locating the Diogenes Club” in The Baker Street Journal, Vol. 67, No. 2, Summer 2017). Here’s what it looks like now . . .
. . . and here I am in the doorway . . . .
I went to both of the old Scotland Yards. Here’s a photo from one of my many visits to New Scotland Yard on the Embankment:
As with all of the Holmesian locations visited, it’s amazing to walk in the spots where Holmes and Watson trod, as seen when they visited this same spot at Scotland Yard over one-hundred years earlier:
I visited the front doors of each of Watson’s identified residences – Paddington, Kensington, Queen Anne Street – based on information culled from the Holmes travel books in my collection. My deerstalker and I ate well at Simpson’s. I journeyed up to Hampstead to visit Milverton’s house. I went to Paddington and King’s Cross and Charing Cross and Victoria. I explored up and down the river and around “Upper Swandam Lane”, and sites within the City. And my deerstalker and I roamed The Tower (not for the historic or tourist aspect, but rather because it’s the location of many wonderful Holmes pastiches.)
Since Holmes has been in so many pastiche encounters with Jack the Ripper, and I have dozens of them in my collection (so far), I went through Whitechapel on multiple occasions – the first time on a drizzly night with the Ripper expert Donald Rumbelow (shown below), who added some extra Holmesian content to his tour because I was wearing my deerstalker.
The second time was by myself on a quiet Sunday morning, when the deerstalker and I went to each murder site in order, as well as other related locations, such as the Juwes doorway, and the Ten Bells pub, where I had lunch. Possibly the man in the deerstalker making his way up and down those streets caught someone’s attention.
In all, spread over my three Holmes Pilgrimages so far, I’ve been able to visit and explore Whitechapel six times – three by day, and three by night. Here’s a link to an entry on this, my own Irregular blog, A Seventeen Step Program, that provides more information about that, and also some notes about Holmes versus The Ripper – possibly his finest hour!
The deerstalker and I made our way into the lab at Barts, where I pulled out the copy of The Complete Sherlock Holmes that I’d brought with me and re-read about the first meeting there between Our Heroes. I went west by train to Dartmoor, where I explored the Moor and read “The Man on the Tor” and the “Second Report of Dr. Watson” from The Hound while sitting atop Hound Tor. Here’s what that looked like . . . .
. . . and here’s me and my deerstalker at Hound Tor:
. . . and here's one of just my deerstalker:
I went to Edinburgh, because I wanted to go to Scotland while I was there, and where better than to visit the Holmes statue at Sir Arthur’s birthplace, and also The Conan Doyle Pub? (Some excellent pastiches are set in Edinburgh, too.)
Back in London, I took a river tour, trying to imagine chasing Jonathan Small and Tonga after departing from the very same dock that Holmes and Watson and Athelney Jones used, below Scotland Yard.
I also spent a couple of days in and around East Dean, Birling Gap, and Beachy Head in Sussex, because Holmes actually lived the majority of his lifetime in his retirement cottage there on the South Downs. (If you believe Baring-Gould – and I mostly do, since I'm a Baring-Gouldist to a great degree – Holmes resided there from the fall of 1903 until his death in 1957, having lived to the ripe old age of 103 years, thanks to Royal Jelly!)
In East Dean, I stayed at the Tiger Inn, a smuggler’s inn from hundreds of years back, where I encountered a ghost – one of the few events of the trip that wasn’t strictly Sherlockian. The inn is across the village green from a building that has a historical plaque, supposedly identifying it as Holmes’s retirement villa. I don’t agree with that location, as my research led me to decide that my personal choice for Holmes’s retirement villa is nearby Hodcombe Farm at Beachy Head near Birling Gap, as shown below. (I went all around there too.) The building that can be seen on the right side of the photo is actually an out-building, while the house itself is concealed within the grove of trees.
While in that area, I found a seat on the ground at the top of the cliffs of Beachy Head, directly across from Hodcombe Farm, and re-read “The Lion’s Mane,” while looking down at the farm and “Fulworth” (Birling Gap – over to the left, nearer the white cliffs) and Maud Bellamy’s house, The Haven. (That house is actually there, just as described in the story! One can see it at the end of the road leading to the top of the hill in Birling Gap, “the one with the corner tower and slate roof,” just as Holmes describes it in “The Lion’s Mane”). While there, I also re-read the final chapter of Baring-Gould’s Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street describing Holmes’s death there on that spot on January 6th, 1957. Very moving, I assure you.
Throughout my travels, I kept my eyes open for fitting souvenirs. I wasn’t buying the usual tourist items. I purchased some Holmes trinkets, and a bust of Our Hero, and Holmes-related books that I couldn’t find in the U.S. But mostly I bought some more deerstalkers. A lifetime supply of them from various spots in London (The Sherlock Holmes Museum, The Sherlock Holmes Pub, a shop on Baker Street, a shop in Whitehall, a shop across from the British Museum around the corner from Montague Street) and even a really nice one in Edinburgh. A couple were obviously souvenir quality, but others are definitely the real thing, solid heavy wool. In each case, the vendors where I shopped looked oddly at me, a man already wearing a deerstalker, as I would take mine off in order to try on one of theirs. What could I possibly need with another deerstalker? (I’m sure that my wife has asked herself that question many times over by this point.)
On my first Great Hiatus in 2013, I crammed in more Holmes-related sites than I can possibly list here, and took literally thousands of photographs, because I didn’t know if I’d ever get back. (One can fit a lot of photos on a memory card. I took thousands more on Pilgrimages 2 and 3.)
But . . . in early 2015, I had the idea of assembling a book of new Holmes pastiches, which I would edit. What started as a modest concept of one- or two-dozen stories in a small paperback grew to the ongoing series, The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories, now at twelve massive volumes, with more in preparation. Author royalties for the books go to support the Stepping Stones School at Undershaw, one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s former homes. So far, the books, through the very kind support of the authors, have raised over $30,000 for the school.
As the books were being edited throughout 2015, it became apparent that the first three volumes would be the biggest of their kind ever produced. Publisher Steve Emecz planned a massive release party in London, and for a time, I was quite sad when it seemed as if I wouldn’t be able to attend, since I was so personally invested in the birth of these books. But then, it was arranged that I would get to go back to England for the party and my second Holmes Pilgrimage. (Many thanks to everyone who helped make that possible!) The party was incredible, as was meeting so many of the contributing authors.
It was at that party that I was able to meet the great-niece of the First Literary Agent, Cathy Doyle Beggs:
And while I was there, my deerstalker and I were able to revisit many of my favorite sites from before, as well as adding new ones to the mix. I was able to spend a couple of hours longer this time in the Holmes Museum in the Sherlock Holmes Pub than I had on the first occasion. I travelled east to Chelmsford and Colchester. One special aspect of that trip was that I was able to actually stay at 24 Montague Street, where Holmes lived when he first came up to London in the 1870’s. (And I stayed there again during Holmes Pilgrimage No. 3 in 2016.) It’s now a hotel, and its Holmesian connections should not be ignored. (For more information about this location, and other nearby Holmes sites, please refer to my essay, “A Neglected Stop on the Sherlockian Pilgrimage”, The Baker Street Journal, Vol. 66, No. 2, Summer 2016).
Of course, I (again) paid multiple visits to The Sherlock Holmes Museum. The Museum has received a good deal of criticism over the years, as it was originally started simply as a money-making scheme, with little thought to Holmes. For instance, in the early days it was apparently filled with cheap used furniture from the wrong period. Even now, it has a really terrible wax museum on the top floor that seems to appeal to the casual visitor – which is useful to someone like me, because it serves to quickly distract them from the important parts. When a group is allowed to enter the museum, they go up the seventeen steps – and there really are seventeen steps! – and then explore the exactly-right layout of the sitting room and Holmes’s adjacent bedroom on the first floor. But this wave of tourists quickly goes on up to the next floor, with Watson’s bedroom in back and various exhibits in the front room, and then from there to the top floor wax museum. That seems to capture their attention, leaving the sitting room quiet for an extended period of time – and that’s when I take advantage of it. A word with the staff to explain my Holmes passion has allowed me sit quietly undisturbed in that room for several generous periods, either in Holmes or Watson’s chairs, looking around the correctly proportioned room, or even pulling out my complete Canon and reading something from an original story. It’s an amazing experience.
As before, I thought that the second trip in 2015 would be my last. But soon after I returned home, it became apparent that what I had believed to be a one-time three-volume anthology project could be an ongoing series. So further volumes were planned, edited, and published, providing more traditional Holmes stories – of which there can never be enough! – and more money was raised for the school. By autumn 2016, the Stepping Stones School at Undershaw was ready to open, and I was invited to be a guest at the Grand Opening Ceremony by the DFN Foundation, which had funded the renovation. Holmes Pilgrimage No. 3 was happening!
Once again, it was an amazing trip, and of course I sought out Holmes-related sites old and new. I spent more time at The Sherlock Holmes Museum, of course, and made further explorations all over London. While at Stepping Stones in Hindhead for the school’s grand opening, I was able to gain a better appreciation for Undershaw, as related in this blog entry maintained on the Undershaw website:
While at Undershaw and Stepping Stones, I was able to spend some time in Sir Arthur’s former study, in the exact same spot where he was the Literary Agent responsible for The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Return of Sherlock Holmes. I was even able to start writing a new adventure right there as well, as shown here . . . .
I got to meet and spend some time with Richard Doyle, great-nephew of the First Literary Agent:
I had a chance to visit with Roger Johnson and his wife, Jean Upton. Here is Roger and me in Sir Arthur's study:
As of right now, those are my three Holmes Pilgrimages, and no more are immediately planned . . . but I’m always open to possibilities!
Therefore, planning always continues, and that involves repeated visits to my Holmes travel books – old friends that I view with a different perspective, having now been to England.
Holmes Travel Guides
Each of the Holmes travel books that I’ve collected provides a different and valuable aspect to planning a Holmes Pilgrimage. A couple of useful books showing then-and-now photographs of Holmes’s London are Charles Viney’s Sherlock Holmes in London (1988) and Sherlock Holmes’s London – Following the Footsteps of London’s Master Detective (1984) by Tsukasa Kobayaski.
Kobayaski’s book was useful when identifying certain areas, such as the laboratory in Barts Hospital where Holmes and Watson met. He included a photograph of an office where a memorial plaque was kept, and I carried a Xerox copy of that page with me when I explored Barts. I was able to identify the office and show the occupant a photo of what the room had looked like several decades ago when the book was written . . .
. . . and now:
There is quite a bit of Holmesiana at Barts if one knows where to look – the Barts Museum has the plaque that used to hang upstairs in the office by the lab, commemorating Holmes and Watson’s first meeting . . .
. . . and the back (non-public) stairway leading to the office adjacent to the upper gallery of the laboratory has several Holmes illustrations adorning the walls.
I don’t think that this area is open to the public, but I was bold, and my deerstalker and I simply marched in as if we belonged there. I expect that I wasn’t afraid because, in a previous life, I was a U.S. Federal Investigator with an obscure (and now defunct) federal agency, and thus walked with confidence.)
Another set of invaluable books are the two volumes collecting Bernard Davies’ essays, Holmes and Watson Country (2008).
Through painstaking Canonical research presented in amazingly convincing essays, Davies satisfactorily identifies many original locations. For instance, he lays out the definitive route taken by Holmes and Watson in “The Empty House”, based on the best available possibilities gleaned from the story:
I was fortunate enough to be taken on this walk by the wonderful Roger Johnson on my first Holmes Pilgrimage, and I’ve repeated it on my own on each of the other two as well. As is true when visiting the locations from The Canon, one can never read the original stories the same way again, because it’s never like one has imagined it.
Here's a shot of my friend Roger Johnson, along with my deerstalker and me, taken during that first walk in 2013 at Harley Street and Queen Anne Street. (Photo courtesy of Bonnie MacBird, who was also there.)
An American Sherlockian who has used his frequent trips to England to construct travel guides is author and attorney David Hammer. His books also use The Canon to find clues as to where Holmes-related sites may be found. Some of his decisions are controversial, and I can’t say that I agree with all of them, but they were the first specifically Holmes-related travel books that I purchased, and I’m very glad to have them. Titles include The Game is Afoot (1983), For the Sake of the Game (1986), To Play the Game (1991, covering Canonical sites in the United States), The Worth of the Game (1993), A Dangerous Game (1997, examining Continental Canonical locations), and "A Deep Game” – The Traveler’s Companion to the London of Sherlock Holmes (2002 – A general summary of sites covered in previous books).
A couple of more recent titles are The London of Sherlock Holmes (2012) by John Christopher and Sherlock Holmes’s London (2015) by Rose Shepherd. Each book is quite colorful and attractive, but they only hit the high points of obvious sites. I was rather disappointed by Shepherd’s book – It’s a heavy and handsome book, but she serves up too many photographs of Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, instead of showing actors who have actually portrayed Sherlock Holmes, apparently as a sop to modern fans of these recent Alternate Universe versions.
More recently, Rose Shepherd has also published Sherlock Holmes's London, which also misses the mark, as it uses generic photos and facts without ever really presenting something for the true Sherlockian:
For the much more serious traveler who really wants to visit these places, Thomas Bruce Wheeler has several volumes wherein he ties Sherlockian sites to nearby Underground Stations for ease of travel. Shown here are Finding Sherlock’s London (2004, with later editions) and The London of Sherlock Holmes (2011).
More recently, he has published The Mapped Sherlock Holmes. Additionally, he has e-book and online versions of these titles, so that one can use the books in real time using GPS coordinates while walking the streets of London.
A very useful book when visiting Devon is Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes, and Devon (2010) by Brian W. Pugh, Paul R. Spring, and Sadru Bhanji. However, I personally wish that this one had a little more Holmes and a little less Doyle. Alistair Duncan’s survey of various London sites, Close to Holmes (2009), provides good thumbnail sketches of basic Holmes locations, and is invaluable when making a standard list of sites to visit.
Books that aren’t necessarily Holmes travel volumes, but do have nuggets of where real locations can be found, are those by famed Sherlockian Michael Harrison. Those titles include In the Footsteps of Sherlock Holmes (1960, as shown here in three editions from my collection) . . .
. . . and also The London of Sherlock Holmes (1972), The World of Sherlock Holmes (1973), and London by Gaslight 1861-1911 (1963, 1987):
There are numerous walking tours of London related to Holmes, but my experience has been frustrating, as the guides often make some basic mistakes about The Canon – although they do it with great confidence! Also, some seem to have based their research on one source, and not always the best, meaning that some location fallacies are reinforced over and over again, instead of being corrected.
For a sample of what one of these tours is like, Sherlock Holmes’ London: The Investigation with host Mark Conroy (2011) is available on DVD. Additionally, the DVD of In the Footsteps of Sherlock Holmes (1996), hosted by Patrick Macnee, is also available.
If you’d prefer to do some planning for yourself, there are several “Sherlock Holmes Walks” volumes available, including Watson’s Wanderings Again! (1999) by The Friends of Dr. Watson, Five Sherlockian Walks in London (1996) by William S. Dorn, and The Sherlock Holmes Walk from Louis’ London Walks (2000).
The gold standard of Holmes travel books so far, in my humble opinion, are Sherlock Holmes’s London (2009) by David Sinclair, and Hot on the Scent (1999) by Arthur M. Alexander. Sinclair’s book is full of amazing color photos and well-reasoned explanatory text, and Alexander’s book is dense with both walks designed for certain areas to see the maximum number of Holmes sites, along with anecdotes and explanations as to why a certain location really is what it is.
As I’ve gathered a number of different generalized volumes over the years, I’ve been lucky to find a few curiosities that have somehow made their way to this eastern corner of Tennessee, where there is apparently no Sherlockian interest besides mine. One such item that I found at a library book sale was A History of The Museum Tavern in Bloomsbury (1989) by John N. Henderson
As any Sherlockian knows, this is really the Alpha Inn, as mentioned in “The Blue Carbuncle”, and that fact is noted therein:
In addition to being a Sherlockian fanatic, reader, collector, chronologist, and lately editor, I’m also one of those folks who occasionally brings forth a new adventure from Watson’s Tin Dispatch Box. These travel books have been indispensable when working up one of Watson’s manuscripts for publication. As mentioned previously, I admired August Derleth, who wrote the Solar Pons books with such great detail of London and England, despite never having visited there. But in hindsight, I realize that actually being on the ground in England provides a whole new depth and perspective and legitimacy.
I wrote my first book without having ever been to England, and in doing so, I used the Derleth Method, writing from travel books and maps. At that time, in 2008, I was laid off from an engineering job, and spent part of that time preparing some of Watson’s notes. For several years, I simply kept them on a shelf, but in 2011, I was convinced to publish them, and they finally appeared publicly as The Papers of Sherlock Holmes. They were re-published by MX Publishing in 2013, the year that I was able to make my first Holmes Pilgrimage. Looking around, I realized immediately that everything that I had written about setting wasn’t quite right. Of course, the streets were where I had placed them, but seeing London and England in person made me realize how they were so vastly different from anything that I’d ever imagined in my own personal Virtual Reality Machine, generating images as I read the original Canonical stories. Nothing can beat seeing the real thing, and then having that experience in one’s head while a story percolates.
Still, that cannot be the only resource either. There must be a good balance between personal knowledge and research. That’s why I’ve continued to seek out new Holmes and England travel books, and hope for further Holmes Pilgrimages.
These research materials can take many forms. Some are very sentimental. As a gift for me one year, my son bought a pocket folding London map, several years before I was able to actually travel there, and it’s been useful on several occasions.
I’ve also picked up numerous other maps and brochures over the years, usually at book sales, donated by people who acquired them on trips of their own and then purged them:
In one instance, I came across a valuable little booklet by Nigel Nicolson, Sissinghurst Castle – An Illustrated History (1964), which coincidentally went a long way toward verifying Watson’s narrative in one of the stories in my first book, ”The Singular Affair at Sissinghurst Castle”:
I’ve found a few other interesting books along the way, such as Caernarfon Castle (1993) and Alnwick Castle (1985), which will certainly be used to verify certain aspects of Watson’s notes as they are discovered and subsequently edited by me:
I was fortunate a few years ago to come across a company selling exact duplicates of Baedeker’s from the time of Holmes’s residence in London, Great Britain 1890 and London and Its Environs 1900.
Each of these has a plethora of facts, as shown here in a sample page, and more than one of these has ended up confirming something or other in one of Watson’s manuscripts that I personally prepare for publication.
Finally, one can’t ignore amazing other resources, such as this large-scale Michelin map book that I use to verify locations and distances:
The same information is available online, and I use those sources too, but there’s something about being able to scale a distance on a real map, or to follow with your finger a route.
There are some amazing online maps that include data about England in the Holmes Era. This one, from the National Library of Scotland, has multiple maps, and has a slide bar to show then-and-now superimposed upon on another:
Google Maps and Google Earth are amazing tools, letting one not only find a location in an instant, but also allowing the user drop down through Street View and look around a village or town or country lane on the other side of the world. It’s changed the way that I write pastiches, and edit them, and also how I read the original Canon stories and pastiches. When a town or an inn is mentioned in a story, there’s a good chance that the real-life equivalent can be examined through Google Street View. A quick detour away from the story to look at its location brings incredible new levels of “You are there” enjoyment to reading a Holmes adventure.
Highly recommended . . . .
Appreciating The Great Holmes Tapestry in this way, through collecting, reading, chronologicizing, and visiting, makes visiting The World of Sherlock Holmes so much more real in every way, and I highly recommend this pursuit. Enjoy!