Even if you’ve never read a Sherlock Holmes book, you probably have heard of this place. The house of the consulting detective is one of the most famous addresses on Earth. But, did you know you can actually visit?
At the time the Holmes stories were published, addresses in Baker Street did not go as high as 221. Baker Street was later extended, and in 1932 the Abbey National Building Society moved into premises at 219–229 Baker Street.
For many years, Abbey National employed a full-time secretary to answer mail addressed to Sherlock Holmes.
The Sherlock Holmes Museum is situated within an 1815 townhouse very similar to the 221B described in the stories and is located between 237 and 241 Baker Street. It displays exhibits in period rooms, wax figures and Holmes memorabilia, with the famous study overlooking Baker Street, the highlight of the museum. The description of the house can be found throughout the stories, including the 17 steps leading from the ground-floor hallway to the first-floor study.
According to the published stories, “221B Baker Street” was a suite of rooms on the first floor of a lodging house above a flight of 17 steps. The main study overlooked Baker Street, and Holmes’ bedroom was adjacent to this room at the rear of the house, with Dr. Watson’s bedroom being on the floor above, overlooking a rear yard that had a plane tree in it.
In this video, you can see a little of the Museum and how everything was strategically placed to look like someone actually lived there.
The street number 221B was assigned to the Sherlock Holmes Museum on 27 March 1990 (replacing the logical address 239 Baker Street) when the Leader of Westminster City Council, Lady Shirley Porter, unveiled a blue plaque signifying the address of 221B Baker Street. She was invited to renumber the museum’s building to coincide with its official opening (and because the number 221B had not been included in the original planning consent for the museum granted in October 1989).
A long-running dispute over the number arose between the Sherlock Holmes Museum, the building society Abbey National (which had previously answered the mail addressed to Sherlock Holmes) and subsequently the local Westminster City Council. The main objection to the Museum’s role in answering the letters was that the number 221B bestowed on the Museum by the Council was out of sequence with the other numbers in the street: an issue that has since vexed local bureaucrats, who have striven for years to keep street numbers in sequence. In 2005, Abbey National vacated their headquarters in Baker Street, which left the museum to battle with Westminster City Council to end the dispute over the number, which had created negative publicity.
After the closure of Abbey House in 2005, the Royal Mail recognised the museum’s exclusive right to receive mail addressed to Sherlock Holmes.
That’s it for today’s post. If you have been to the Museum, tell me what you think about it in the comments bellow. Thanks for reading.
See you in the next post.