Sunday, 27 March 2016

An account of a visit to the Sherlock Holmes museum.

As you exit Baker Street tube station from the Marylebone road entrance you can't miss the statue; John Doubleday's 'The Great Detective' is invariably being photographed by smiling tourists and so should he be - the sculpture is quite exquisite. Exit by the Baker Street entrance, however and you only have to turn to the right, to face North-West towards Regent's Park and Lord's Cricket Ground and there, just visible to the left of the street is a town house with verdant window-boxes at every level. This is, of course, 221b Baker Street*. 

Immediately adjacent is a gift shop and be cautioned; you need to take as much as you can spare as some of the souvenirs range into the expensive. You can buy a small resin bust of Holmes for £30, should you fancy - I went for a coloured illustration of Holmes and Moriarty at the Reichenbach falls for a more modest £6 and a similarly-priced poster of Jeremy Brett in character. Mementos acquired, we spent £30 on two Adult Tickets - Children are £12, but my moustache gave me away. At the door of 221b stands an imposing Victorian Constable, who is happy to pose for a photograph and then admit you.
I brought my own pipe only to find they sold them in the gift shop. The Constable was a delightful chap and only too keen to assist me look a complete fool.

The house is, from top to bottom, as well preserved a Victorian dwelling as you could hope to find, from the hallway you ascend the creaking stairs to the first floor (The second to American visitors) and you are at once in the most familiar of parlours the World over. 
In the seat of greatness. Wearing the hat of second placeness.
The first thing that strikes you about 221b is the modest size of the place; each floor has only two rooms per floor and these are not large - the clutter of the time adds to the cosy feel. The people behind the museum have got this right in a way that endless film-makers have not; Holmes and Watson would hardly have the funds for some of the spacious and palatial digs seen in various incarnations. The Sherlock Holmes museum is far more believable. You can see in the photo above Holmes' scientific experimental desk, his and Watson's chairs and such familiar details as the Persian slipper in which the Detective kept his tobacco.
The dining table in the parlour set out by Mrs. Hudson. 
After the parlour comes Holmes' bedroom, his Bullseye lantern sits waiting for usage, his effects scattered around. 
Detail is, in fact the word for this place; every room is filled with obvious and subtler relics of the cases Sir. Arthur Conan Doyle wrote for his characters to solve; a porcelain lady with bicycle? - the Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist, a note pinned to the wall? - the Adventure of the Red-Headed League. 
At each level a staff member waits in period dress to answer questions (And possibly to stop the less honest attempting to make off with exhibits) and you take yet more creaking stairs to Watson's bed chamber. After this, the remaining floors are given over to more exhibits, including several tableaux of some of the more famous cases. Irene Adler stands with the King of Bohemia from A Scandal in Bohemia, Holmes and Watson stand with the corpse from Shoshcombe Old Place, Moriarty stands alone, contemplating his next crime...
Moriarty is the balding one. Ok, Moriarty is the thin one!. 
In all, we spent about half an hour poking around, but then I'm an obsessive and didn't wish to miss anything. My Wife felt the admittance price a bit steep, but for a Conan Doyle fan it's a wonderful diversion and I'd happily go again. 
Now you know what became of the Hound.
All in all, I'd recommend the Sherlock Holmes Museum, but it's not wheelchair friendly - it simply couldn't be made so either. There are, of course, a lot of steps too and it is quite a climb for the less able!.
One of many cases filled with curios, this features a letter from Holmes to Watson.
So, all that remains is the now-familiar rating. I gave the Sherlock Holmes Museum...

*For years the Abbey National Building Society occupied a building that included the address 221b - the Society even employed a staff member to answer letters from fans all over the World. After the Society sold it's building, the museum successfully lobbied to have the postal address 221b, Baker Street re-assigned to the museum's premises. 
Sherlock Holmes.

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