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The Sherlock Holmes Museum

The Sherlock Holmes Museum on Baker Street is currently "enjoying" publicity following its reaction to a job enquiry. Now seems a good time to take a look at it.

I have visited the Sherlock Holmes Museum on two occasions. In its favour are the fact that it is on the right road and near to 221. In reality the museum sits at 239 Baker Street despite the numbering on its door. The 221 is only displayed because it has been registered (as I understand it) as a company name which allows it to go on the door. It is not and never has been officially 221B.

The museum receives all mail addressed to Sherlock Holmes but has only done so since the Abbey National closed its office on Baker Street. Its former building covers a range of numbers including 221 and all letters were originally delivered there. The Abbey National famously employed a series of secretaries to Sherlock Holmes who issued the standard response to all letters addressed to the great detective.

Of course, as many people know, 221 did not exist as an address when Conan Doyle wrote the stories and there has been much debate as to where the house upon which Conan Doyle based 221 actually existed. It is generally accepted to have been much further down the street. Books such as Baker Street By-Ways have explored the theories as to the true location and much work was done by the late Bernard Davies in this field. If you read Mr Davies' work it is hard not to be convinced by it.

The former Abbey House which covered 221 Baker Street

So is the Sherlock Holmes Museum good? Well yes it is. Its layout, while far from perfect, broadly conforms to the layout described in the books and depicted by Sidney Paget. The wax  figures leave a little to be desired but, all in all, the museum does a pretty good visual job.

Inside the Sherlock Holmes Museum

It is however aided by the fact that there is no real competition. The address on North Gower Street which provides the front for 221B in the BBC series Sherlock is, ultimately, fun to visit for devotees of the series but it is no substitute for the actual Baker Street and all you can do is stand outside it before processing into the very lucky Speedy's Cafe for sustenance.

"221B" on North Gower Street

The only other Sherlock Holmes attraction is the Sherlock Holmes pub on Northumberland Street. This contains the mock-up 221B sitting room that formed part of the 1951 Festival of Britain. The set was, amusingly, on display originally at Abbey House.

Original advert for the 1951 exhibition

The 221B sitting room as originally displayed in 1951

As it appears now in its home at the Sherlock Holmes pub

There is now talk of an attraction situated in Portsmouth. I very much hope this comes to fruition as more is needed but, being based in Portsmouth, it will do nothing to challenge the position of the Sherlock Holmes Museum.


Written by Alistair Duncan
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