The Sherlock Holmes Museum, at 221B Baker Street, is housed in a Grade II listed former boarding house at the north end of Baker Street, and was the world's first museum dedicated to the fictional character created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It is filled with stage sets from several TV productions of Sherlock Holmes and covers the time period of 1881 - 1904 when Holmes and Watson lived there with Mrs. Hudson as their landlady.
It is possible that seriously minded Slow Travellers will eschew the Sherlock Holmes Museum as a tourist attraction centred on an improbable, if amazingly astute, detective of Victorian London.
It wasn’t at all clear whether those in the queue (many of whom were from overseas) realised that the whole premise of what they were about to see was quite simply based on an extremely clever and popular work of fiction.
No matter: it’s a bit of fun to see inside the 4 storey Georgian townhouse at 221B Baker Street and to look at the recreated rooms of the house “occupied” by Holmes, Dr. Watson and Mrs. Hudson.
The tour begins in Holmes’ study where desperate people begging him to take their case, beguiling him with bizarre and colourful details of the tragedy which has either occurred or is surely imminent, sit and wait in hope.
The artefacts are from the Victorian era and have been chosen to fit the text and the gaslit rooms as appropriately as possible - there are books, lampshades, candlesticks, fire irons and period upholstered chairs.
Watson’s desk is there too where he diligently took down notes of the case being discussed - which Holmes never read. Next door is Holmes’ bedroom, complete with pictures, chest of drawers and various tools of his trade laid out on the bed.
The deerstalker and pipe are there but the guide assured us solemnly that Holmes would never have worn this hat, designed for hunting, and directed us to a rather nondescript black hat instead.
One wall is lined with photographs of notorious murderers of the period which, apparently, Holmes liked to collect. We see his small table for chemical and forensic analysis which was important in solving his cases. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Holmes’ creator, had used the idea of fingerprint recovery and identification in 1890, 10 years before it was actually used by Scotland Yard.
On the floor above is Dr Watson’s study with learned books and his medical briefcase and notes, and the room of Mrs Hudson, the housekeeper. The next floor has waxworks of various characters who feature within the books, including of course the evil Moriarty.
From then on you have to be very knowledgeable about the 56 short stories and 4 novels penned by Conan Doyle, knowing both the characters and the development of the plots in order to identify the people who stand so rigidly in their allotted positions. There are plenty of gruesome scenes to decipher. Finally, there is a very ornate water closet, with a guide stationed nearby to explain to hopeful visitors that this for display purposes only.
In all honesty it is very expensive for such a short tour which has no genuine historical substance, and, with so many authentic experiences to be found nearby, it shouldn’t be high on any serious visitor’s list.
However, fans of Conan Doyle will not be deterred, particularly if they know his stories well, and the casual traveller may well find both humour and interest in the house in Baker Street, known to millions across the world.
Visiting the Sherlock Holmes Museum
Opening times, prices and directions can be found on the museum website >>
Dedicated fans can visit the grave of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in the New Forest village of Minstead >>
Why not try these Sherlock Holmes themed tours?