Saturday, May 15, 2010

Locus Focus - 221B Baker Street, London

Locus Focus is a meme hosted by Shredded Cheddar. The goal is to write about your favorite settings in books. This is my very first post and I am excited to take part in this fascinating meme!

My setting for today is 221B Baker Street, London, England. This address is probably one of the most well-known fictional addresses - that of a building in London occupied by Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's fictional detective and Dr. John Watson, his friend and companion.

Holmes' residence also serves as the office where he receives clients, and therefore, features in most of the novels and short stories in which he appears. When we first meet Holmes in A Study in Scarlet, Dr. Watson is looking for a room to share and is introduced to Holmes. The first impression Watson has of 221B is as follows: "They (the rooms) consisted of a couple of comfortable bed-rooms and a single large airy sitting-room, cheerfully furnished, and illuminated by two large windows." Later, we learn that the building is a three level home, with Watson's bedroom being over the sitting room. This probably made it easier for the doctor to stay confined to his bedroom when Holmes entertains his clients.

When any of these nondescript individuals put in an appearance, Sherlock Holmes used to beg for the use of the sitting-room and I would retire to my bed-room. He always apologized to me for putting me to this inconvenience. "I have to use this room as a place of business", he said, "and these people are my clients." ( A Study in Scarlet)

The sitting room was the most frequented part of the lodging, and was used for many purposes, the most famous being of course, Holmes' brilliant deductions. Holmes also used cocaine in this very room. "Nothing could exceed his energy when the working fit was upon him; but now and again a reaction would seize him, and for days on end he would lie upon the sofa in the sitting-room, hardly uttering a word or moving a muscle from morning to night." Holmes played the violin in this sitting room when, "leaning back in his arm chair of an evening, he would close his eyes and scrape carelessly at the fiddle which was thrown across his knee." The sitting room also doubled as a dining area, and Mrs. Hudson, their landlady provided the meals for the two men. And how can I not mention Holmes spraying the walls with bullets on a whim as shooting practice? Mrs. Hudson must have been a very accomodating landlady!

While the numbers in Baker Street did not run up to 221 during Conan Doyle's time, they do now, and the Sherlock Holmes Museum is now at 239 Baker Street (though the number on the door says 221B - see picture). Numerous letters are written to Holmes at this address every year, and there have been many debates related to the location of this address and the floor plan of the flat - not many fictional addresses can boast of such fame!

Here is an interesting link to an artist's plan of the rooms at 221B Baker Street and more notes related to the flat itself.


  1. Terrific Post. Wouldn't you love to read all those letters that are written to Sherlock Holmes? People are so funny.

  2. Fans can go to extremes. Great post!

  3. i love this setting! great choice!

  4. +JMJ+

    This is such a great post! I learn so much about mysteries just reading your blog. =)

    And isn't it amazing that such a famous fictional address should have become real. I wonder who lives at the actual 221 Baker Street now. I wouldn't mind living there, even with a million bibliophile tourists!

  5. I love this post! That floor plan is so incredibly detailed. I admire fans who become that dedicated, but that's not me. It is very cool that they've created a museum on Baker Street for Sherlock Holmes.

  6. haha good address, I can quite believe letter get sent there, people are funny like that. I've walked past there a few times but I've never had time to do the museum, one day though.

  7. Back from a weekend trip - thank you all for your comments!

    Bernardette - Makes me wonder about the contents of those letters - I mean what would anyone want to write to Sherlock Holmes?

    Sullivan McPig - Thanks! Yes, fans can go crazy even over fictional characters!

    Daria - thanks, I appreciate your comments!

    Enbretheliel - I believe that address is not in use and than the museum handles the letters, but I am not entirely sure, hmm - you've made me curious now..

    Jen - I enjoyed looking at that floor plan too - someone has taken a lot of trouble over it!

    Sadako - Hello to a fellow Holmes lover!

    Jessica - I would love to go there some day too - I wonder if we get to see some of those letters!

  8. Oh what a perfect choice!! It'd be so amazing to actually go there.. and yes, I wonder what people say to Holmes :)

  9. +JMJ+

    And now I wonder what other fictional characters get a lot of mail . . .

    I know that there is a postbox in Verona in which one can drop letters to William Shakespeare's Juliet.

    Anyway, I can understand why the actual address would be "retired" in some way, either out of respect for Doyle and his fans (Holmes and his fams?) or out of consideration for whomever might want to live or put up a business there. When Stanley Kubrick filmed The Shining in a real hotel, the management asked him not to use the real number of the haunted room, because they worried that no patrons would ever want to use it after the movie came out! So Kubrik used a completely made up number. =P

  10. Jillian - thanks! I would love to go there too - someday!

    Enbretheliel - Good question. Do you think a lot of characters who get mail may tend to appear in series rather than a single book? Well, Juliet did not I guess.

    I see your logic of retiring the number - I wouldn't want people to try to get a peek into my house just because I shared a fictional address!

    Thanks for sharing the fact about the hotel in The Shining - it is one of my favorite horror movies. It may have worked the other way too - if management had allowed the use of an existing number, many horror fans may have actually requested that room!

  11. +JMJ+

    I think many Horror fans and King fans already know what the real number is, in case they ever stay there. Regular fraidy-cats just don't ask! ;-)

    And I think the owner of Carrie Bradshaw's house actually has a sign and a barrier up so that people who love Sex and the City don't sit on her front steps!

    The owners of the Goonies house in Astoria, Oregon are more friendly. Anyone may walk up their hill and take pictures around the house, as long as he leaves his car at the bottom of the hill! =)

  12. Enbrethiliel,

    I wouldn't ask the number. Not that I'm afraid ;), just don't want to see blood stained RED RUM appearing!

    That's an interesting point you make with regards to houses featured in TV. In some ways, it is harder for the owners as you have a much more varied audience there and certainly more intense traffic at peak season!

  13. I haven't read Sherlock Holmes, but these descriptions of the residence make it very appealing.

    "And how can I not mention Holmes spraying the walls with bullets on a whim as shooting practice?"

    Totally cool. I can picture a side bar lined with glass decanters and the whole bit.

    Office, sleeping quarters, dining space. A complete world.

  14. Rock on!
    What a fantastic post. Doyle did manage to creat an entire world through his selective and (sometimes) wacky details about Holmes and Watson's rooms at Baker Street.
    And I love the concept of Locus Focus...I'm going to have to go check that out!