Sherlock Holmes was by all accounts born on 6th January 1854, and for more than a century his name has been known in every country of the world; and not only his name, but his appearance too. The hawk-like features and piercing eyes; the dressing-gown and pipe; the deerstalker cap and magnifying glass - these details are so familiar that if he were to appear amongst us today we should know him at once.
He is still however an enigmatic figure, as wrapped in mystery as the crimes he tried to solve, and as in most legends, it is often difficult to separate fact from fiction.
According to the published stories which first appeared in the Strand Magazine in 1891 and which have since been translated into every language, he practised as a consulting detective between 1881-1904, while living at 221b Baker Street with his friend and colleague Doctor John H. Watson.
Sherlock Holmes was "the most perfect reasoning and observing machine that the world has seen", but he was not without feelings, because he appreciated the opera and classical music. He was however reserved towards women, because he felt their influence a distraction to his work, so he would not allow himself (as Watson did) to become swayed by their romantic allure.
Nevertheless, Holmes took an interest in a Miss Irene Adler, whom he always referred to as 'the woman'. She was born in New Jersey in 1858 and outwitted him in the case of "A Scandal in Bohemia".
Dr Watson considered Holmes to be "the worst tenant in London', who 'keeps his cigars in the coal-scuttle, his tobacco in the toe-end of a Persian slipper, and his letters transfixed by a jack-knife to the centre of the wooden mantelpiece". Strange visitors, chemical experiments and late-night violin playing also tried the patience of their landlady Mrs Hudson.
He was however the great detective's loyal companion and Holmes was aware of his value - he said to him on one occasion: "it may be that you are not yourself luminous, but you are a conductor of light".
What are the attributes which combine to make a person a world-famous legend? His achievements must surely be unforgettable and remarkable. He must be a brilliant and credible character whom people can believe in. He must be ageless in so far as dates of birth and death become irrelevant. He must enjoy everlasting fame.
Unforgettable. Brilliant. Ageless. Immortal. Can all these qualities be attributed to Sherlock Holmes? Undoubtedly!
The best way of appreciating the real character of Sherlock Holmes is to read his published adventures and form one's own opinion. We can then accompany Holmes and Watson in their hansom cab, rattling over the cobbled streets of Victorian London, while they peer through the fog in search of adventure, justice, and criminals.
A ring comes at the bell; a step is heard upon the stair. The drooping eyelids lift, and the nostrils quiver with the thrill of the chase: "Come, Watson come, the game is afoot!"
Many actors have played the role of Sherlock Holmes over the last century. Some are famous, some obscure and some simply surprising.
"I have it here in my museum...."
Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson lived in a Victorian lodging house at 221b Baker Street between 1881-1904, according to the stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The house was built in 1815 and is listed by the Government to protect its architectural and cultural heritage.
It is open as a museum dedicated to the life and times of Sherlock Holmes, and the interior has been faithfully maintained for posterity exactly as described in the published stories.
The famous study overlooking Baker Street that has been portrayed in so many films over the years is located on the 1st floor above a flight of 17 steps. Visitors can sit in Mr Holmes’s armchair by the fireside to pose for photos, and enter his bedroom adjoining the study; but please bring your own pipe to smoke! His possessions are in their usual places: his deerstalker, magnifying glass, calabash pipe, violin, chemistry equipment, notebook, Persian slipper and disguises.
Doctor Watson’s bedroom on the 2nd floor overlooks a small yard at the rear of the house, while Mrs Hudson’s room is at the front. Mrs Hudson was the landlady of the lodging house who prepared meals and undertook household duties for her two famous tenants.
These rooms contain personal belongings and private papers of the great detective and a variety of exhibits from his published cases. The diary of Doctor Watson contains hand-written notes and extracts from the famous adventure of The Hound of the Baskervilles.
The third floor exhibit rooms contain a new and stunning arrangement of wax models of scenes from the stories. Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty are actually standing in the same room! The lumber room in the attic, where the lodgers used to store their trunks and luggage, can still be seen today.
A unique collection of gifts and antiques is available from the Museum’s interesting and rather quaint souvenir shop on the ground floor of the house, where electric lighting has recently been introduced for the benefit of our visitors.
Mrs Hudson is always in attendance to assist visitors with their enquiries!
Visitors often ask whether Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson really lived in the house, but unfortunately no official records of the lodgers who lived here in Victorian times exist. Local authority records do state that the house was registered as a lodging house between 1860-1934, and that the maids who worked in it were related to a Mr Holmes. A Doctor Watson also lived next door in the 1890's, as an ‘artificial teeth manufacturer’.
The published stories however contain all the relevant facts about the house and the lives of Mr Holmes and Doctor Watson.