Sherlock Holmes is famous the world-over. From Melbourne to Maine, from Singapore to Shanghai, New York to New Orleans, Paris to St. Petersburg. Everyone knows who he is and what he does, what he looks like and where he lives. Billions of people have read his exploits and wondered and mused about the places that he’s been to and to which they themselves might never go. Many famous London landmarks are mentioned in the hefty Holmesian canon (hefty? 1,408 pages in the ‘Complete Sherlock Holmes‘ published by Wordsworth), but rarely are illustrations of these great institutions ever included in any print-run of any combination of the stories contained within the Canon. So where are these places, what are they and what do they look like?
London According to Holmes…
“You know that I cannot possibly leave London!…Scotland Yard feels lonely without me, and it causes an unhealthy excitement among the criminal classes”
– Sherlock Holmes; ‘The Adventure of Lady Frances Carfax’
Holmes was addicted to London. And at any rate, as he so wisely said, it would be unwise for him to leave the metropolis for any extended period of time, and certainly never to leave the confines of the British Isles. His world was the West End of the capital of the glorious British Empire. And there he remained until he retired and became a bee-keeper. So what are these famous locations which are peppered throughout the books? Where are they and what are they all about? A great number of fictional locations and addresses such as 221B Baker Street and the Diogenes Club, of which Sherlock’s older brother Mycroft is a member, are included in the Holmesian Canon, but there is also an equally large number of actual London landmarks buildings mentioned in the five dozen stories that make up the complete Holmesian collection. This article will introduce you to as many factual London locations as are mentioned in the canon as it is possible to do. We shall start with where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself started…
A Note on Addresses
Where possible, the addresses of the buildings mentioned in this article have been supplied, together with their postcodes. London postcodes are determined by compass-direction. ‘N’ is North, ‘S’ is South, ‘E’ and ‘W’ are obviously ‘East’ and ‘West’ respectively. There are also postcodes starting with ‘C’ which stands for ‘Central’. So ‘EC’ stands for “East Central’, and so on. Additional letters and numbers indicate further subdivisions of postal districts within the main district.
The Criterion Restaurant
“…I was standing at the Criterion Bar when someone tapped me on the shoulder…”
– Dr. J.H. Watson; ‘A Study in Scarlet’
Entrance to the Criterion Restaurant
Address: 224, Piccadilly, Piccadilly W1J 9HS
The Criterion is one of the most famous restaurants in London. Founded in 1874, it has been one of the city’s greatest dining hotspots for over 130 years. Famous people such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Oscar Wilde, science-fiction writer H.G. Wells and politician Sir Winston Churchill have all dined here. The restaurant is vast, grand and luxurious and the perfect place for a down-on-his-luck army surgeon such as Dr. Watson to bump into his old friend, Stamford, who would take him to meet the legendary Mr. Sherlock Holmes. The restaurant even commemorates this groundshaking and historical meeting…
The Long Bar at the Criterion Restaurant
The Long Bar of the Criterion Restaurant as it appeared in Holmes’s day
The ‘Alpha Inn’ (the Museum Tavern)
“There are a few of us who frequent the Alpha Inn, near the Museum…”
– Mr. Henry Baker; ‘The Blue Carbuncle’
Address: 49 Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury WC1B 3BA
There is no ‘Alpha Inn’ contained within the confines of London (at least, not in Holmes’s day), however, following the directions in ‘The Red Headed League’, we do arrive at the Museum Tavern, a popular restaurant and drinking establishment across the road from the British Museum, from which the building derives its name. The Museum Tavern was one of Doyle’s favourite drinking-spots and he most likely used it as the model for the Alpha in his stories. Directly across Great Russell Street is…
The British Museum
“…we are to be found in the Museum itself during the day…”
– Mr. Henry Baker; ‘The Red-Headed League’
Address: Great Russell Street, WC1
Established in 1753, the British Museum is one of the largest museums of history and culture in the world, with over seven million display-pieces. The Museum also used to house the British Library, until 1997 when that institution moved to its own premises. The British Museum underwent many changes over the centuries and has been expanded several times. At one point due to expansion projects, the land around the Museum was the largest construction-site in Europe.
“…As to the Admiralty, it is buzzing like an overturned beehive…”
– Mycroft Holmes; ‘The Bruce-Partington Plans’
Address: 26 Whitehall, London
The Old Admiralty Building (and the nearby Admiralty Arch) were the office-buildings that up until the 1960s, housed the Admiralty, the government department that oversaw the running and management of the British Royal Navy. The Admiralty was replaced in 1964 by a new body, the Admiralty Board, which still uses the assembled Admiralty buildings today.
The Admiralty Arch
The Anerley Arms Hotel
“…I spent the night at the Anerley Arms…”
– Mr. John Hector McFarlane; ‘The Norwood Builder’
Address: 2, Ridsdale Road, Anerley, SE20 8AG
A hotel and public house in Anerley, London. This is where John Hector McFarlane stayed after his long night working with Mr. Jonas Oldacre, who tried to frame him for murder.
St. Bartholomew’s Hospital
“…I recognised young Stamford, who had been a dresser under me at Barts…”
– Dr. J.H. Watson; ‘A Study in Scarlet’
St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, London. Main Entrance
Address: West Smithfield, EC1A, 7BE
Known simply as ‘Barts’ to most Londoners, St. Bartholomew’s Hospital is one of the oldest medical institutions in London. It is the oldest hospital still in operation in London and the buildings that make up the wings of the hospital were built in the mid-18th century, even though the hospital’s existence on its current site goes back to 1123 AD. The medical college at Barts was founded in 1843 and would’ve been familiar institution to a physician such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
The Carlton Club
“…The Carlton Club will find me…”
– Sir James Damery; ‘The Illustrious Client’
Address: 69, St. James’s Street
The Carlton Club is a prominent London gentleman’s club for members of the British conservative political party. The club was founded in 1832 and has moved premises three times since its creation. The first clubhouse was too small and the members moved to another clubhouse in 1835, next door to another famous London club, the Reform Club. Here the club remained (although the clubhouse building itself was rebuilt and redesigned several times) until 1940. The Carlton Club suffered a direct hit during an air-raid of the Blitz on London during the Second World War. So complete was the destruction that the members did not bother trying to rebuild, but instead moved to their third and current location at 69 St. James’s, the building pictured above.
Charing Cross Hospital
“I would suggest, for example, that a presentation to a doctor is more likely to come from a hospital than from a hunt. When the initials C.C. are placed before that hospital, the words ‘Charing Cross’ very naturally suggest themselves”
– Sherlock Holmes; ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’
Charing Cross Hospital, London; 1939
Address: Fulham Palace Road W6 8RF
Charing Cross Hospital was founded in 1823 to serve the medical needs of the West End of London. Originally called the West London Infirmary, it received its current name in 1827. It moved from its original location near Charing Cross in London, in 1834 and moved again in the years following World War Two. The current hospital structure is built on the site of the old Fullham Hospital on Fullham Palace Road. Despite the change in location, the hospital has retained its ‘Charing Cross’ name.
Charing Cross Station
“…My collection of ‘M’s is a fine one…and here is…Matthews, who knocked out my left canine in the waiting room at Charing Cross”
– Sherlock Holmes; ‘The Empty House’
Address: Charing Cross Station, the Strand WC2N 5HS
Opened in 1864, Charing Cross Station is one of the main railway stations that service the city of London. In operation for over a hundred and forty years, Charing Cross has undergone numerous renovations and restorations in its long history, from general maintenance-work to full restorations, such as the one carried out on the station between November 2009 and August of 2010.
“You can report to me tomorrow in London, Martha, at Claridges Hotel”
– Sherlock Holmes; ‘His Last Bow’
Address: Cnr. Brook Street and Davies Street, Mayfair, W1K 4HR
Claridges is one of the most famous grand hotels in London. Opened in 1812, it received the name Claridges in 1854. The original Claridges Hotel was deemed too small and was demolished in 1894. A more modern hotel with elevators, running water and private en-suite bathrooms for every room, was opened in 1898. Claridges has had a long association with British royalty and aristoracy starting in the Victorian era, but increasing markedly after World War One. The hotel was expanded in the 1920s and enjoys patronage in more recent times, by a different kind of royalty…the kind that hails from Hollywood. Big names such as Cary Grant, Alfred Hitchcock, Brad Pitt and Audrey Hepburn have all stayed at Claridges over the years.
The Imperial Theatre
“My Father is dead, Mr Holmes. He was James Smith, who conducted the orchestra at the old Imperial Theatre.”
– Violet Smith; ‘The Solitary Cyclist’
Address: Westminster, SW1H 9NH
The Imperial Theatre (previously called the Aquarium Theatre) was opened in April of 1876. It had a seating capacity of 1,300 people. It was demolished in 1907.
St. James’s Hall
“When I saw him that afternoon, so enwrapped in the music at St. James’s Hall I felt that an evil time might be coming upon those whom he had set himself to hunt down”
– Dr. J.H. Watson; ‘The Red-Headed League’
Address: Regent Street
St. James’s Hall was a prominent concert hall in London during the Victorian and Edwardian eras. It was opened on the 25th of March, 1858 and could hold over 2,000 concert-goers for each performance. For the next forty-seven years, St. James’s was one of the most popular musical performance venues in London. Even Charles Dickens went there to give public readings of his famous novels. The hall was closed in the 1900s and was eventually pulled down in 1905. The photo above is of the interior of St. James’s as it appeared during its last concert in its closing year.
King’s College Hospital
“After I graduated, I continued to devote myself to research, occupying a minor position in King’s College Hospital…’
– Dr. Percy Trevelyan; ‘The Resident Patient’
Address: Denmark Hill, SE5 9RS
The King’s College Hospital was opened in 1840 as a small teaching hospital for medical students studying at the King’s College, London, operating out of the St. Clements Dane workhouse on Portugal Street. The hospital was overcrowded and constantly busy. Joseph Lister, the pioneer of modern safe surgery through the introduction of sterilisation, performed some of his first successful operations at the King’s College Hospital in the 1870s. Due to changing circumstances, the hospital moved to new, purpose-built facilities in 1909, with innovations such as electrical power for telephones and electrical lighting. The hospital treated several civilian injuries sustained by bombing during the Blitz of 1940-1941.
The Langham Hotel
“He telegraphed to me from London…and directed me to come down at once, giving the Langham Hotel as his address”
– Mary Morstan; ‘A Sign of Four’
“You will find me at the Langham under the name of the Count Von Kramm”
– The King of Bohemia; ‘A Scandal in Bohemia’
Address: 1C Portland Place, Regent Street, W1B
The Langham Hotel is one of the grandest and oldest hotels in London. And for its time, it was also one of the most modern. Opened in 1865, it featured innovations that wouldn’t be seen in other hotels for decades to come, things like private bathrooms, elevators and even electrical lighting, commencing in the 1870s. The hotel has proved incredibly popular throughout the decades and celebrity guests included the Duchess of Windsor, Wallis Simpson, cricketer Don Bradman, Diana, Princess of Wales, Winston Churchill, French president Charles de Gaulle and actor Charlie Sheen (not even the best five-star hotel in the world is perfect). Due to its high-class customers, the Langham very nearly went bust during the Great Depression, but survived to become one of London’s most famous hotels.
“…Drive to the Strand end of the Lowther Arcade…”
– Sherlock Holmes; ‘The Final Problem’
Address: 437 Strand, London
The Lowther Arcade was a popular shopping-arcade in London during the Victorian era (comparable with the famous Burlington Arcade), and was full of all kinds of speciality shops, from jewellery, musical instruments and children’s toys.
The Lyceum Theatre
“Be at the third pillar from the left outside the Lyceum Theatre tonight at seven o’clock…”
– Thaddeus Sholto; ‘The Sign of Four’
Address: Wellingon St, WC2E, 7RQ
The Lyceum is one of London’s most famous West End theatres. A playhouse called the Lyceum has existed on Wellington St. since 1772. At first, the theatre struggled and only by constantly changing could it hope to ever make a success of itself. Its first stroke of luck came in the year 1809. The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, caught fire and the theatre’s company moved to the Lyceum while their own theatre was being rebuilt. It was at this time that the Lord Chamberlain (the man in charge of theatres) granted the Lyceum official status as a performing theatre.
In 1830, the Lyceum burnt down and was rebuilt and reopened in 1834. Now, the theatre’s fortunes began to change. Big names started working at the Lyceum, such as W.S. Gilbert of Gilbert & Sullivan fame and most famously of all, the actor and eventual manager of the Lyceum, Sir Henry Irving, one of the greatest stage actors of the late Victorian period.
Fire ripped through the Lyceum once again at the turn of the century and it was decided that the building could not be saved. It was pulled down and gradually rebuilt, starting in 1904 and reopening in 1907. The Victorian-era facade remains, but the theatre’s interior had been completely redesigned. The Lyceum was almost demolished outright in 1939 due to plans to widen Wellington Street, but these plans fell through and the theatre survives to this day.
Northumberland Hotel (‘Sherlock Holmes’ public house)
“…The address: ‘Sir Henry Baskerville, Northumberland Hotel’, was printed in rough characters…”
– Dr. J.H. Watson; ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’
Address: 10-11, Northumberland Street, Westminster, WC2N 5DB
The Northumberland Hotel as an establishment no longer exists. The building it occupied still stands, however, and it has been transformed into the Sherlock Holmes public house, dedicated to all things Holmesian. It even has a recreation of Holmes and Watson’s sitting-room in it and a menu comprised entirely of Holmesian-style dishes and dish-names! How about trying the Thor Bridge angus burger with tomatoes, gherkins and chips for ten pounds, twenty-five pence?
“I happened to live at no very great distance from Paddington”
– Dr. J.H. Watson; ‘The Engineer’s Thumb’
Paddington Station in Holmes’s day
Address: Paddington Station, W2 1RH
Paddington Station is one of the most famous buildings in London. A station has existed on the site since 1838, but a permanent railway station called Paddington didn’t finally materialise until 1854. In popular culture, Paddington is closely tied to the children’s character ‘Paddington Bear’ and to the book ‘4:50 from Paddington’ by Agatha Christie.
Scotland Yard (Old Scotland Yard)
“We’re not jealous of you at Scotland Yard”
– Inspector Lestrade; ‘The Six Napoleons’
Address: 4, Whitehall Place.
Scotland Yard is the name of the headquarters of the London Metropolitan Police Service (which was established in 1829). The Metropolitan Police have moved their headquarters since Holmes’s day, but in Victorian times, they were located at a suite of buildings on Whitehall Place and were located there between 1887 until 1967, when they moved to their new (and current) headquarters, which had more space for the growing police-force.
Simpsons in the Strand
“When we have finished at the police station I think that something nutritious at Simpson’s would not be out of place.”
– Sherlock Holmes; ‘The Dying Detective’
“I met him by appointment that evening at Simpson’s”
– Dr. J.H. Watson; ‘The Illustrious Client’
Address: 100 Strand, WC2R 0EW
Simpsons in the Strand is probably the most famous restaurant in London. Simpsons opened in 1828 and was originally a chess-club and coffeehouse, but it quickly grew into a London dining institution, at which only the best and most notable people of their day ever sat down to have dinner. Men like George Bernard Shaw, prime ministers Benjamin Disraeli and William Gladstone, Charles Dickens, artist Vincent Van Gough and of course, famous pair of fictional sleuths, messers Sherlock Holmes and his best friend, John Hamish Watson, M.D.
The main dining-room, Simpsons in the Strand, London
The restaurant gets its name from the forward-thinking caterer, Mr. John Simpson, who had grand visions for this place and who wanted to make it more than just a simple coffeehouse. Simpsons in the Strand can give thanks to chef Thomas Davey, who insisted that only the best British food should ever be served there, although knowing the international stereotype of British food, one has to wonder what kind of ‘best’ that is. But regardless, Simpsons’ reputation has endured for nearly two hundred years. So insistent was Davey on the ‘Britishness’ of Simpsons that he refuesd even to allow the cards on the dining-tables to be called ‘menus’. Instead, they were to be known, and only known, as ‘Bills of Fare’.
10 Downing Street
“We were fortunate in finding that Lord Holdhurst was still in his chambers at Downing Street”
– Dr. J.H. Watson; ‘The Naval Treaty’
Address: Downing Street, London.
Number 10, Downing Street, has been the official Lonon residence to the British Prime Minister (who also holds the office of First Lord of the Treasury) since the mid 1700s. It has been restored and rebuilt several times over the last two-hundred odd years due to neglect, age and at least two instances of bomb-attacks. One attack during the Blitz saw the kitchen of Downing Street destroyed by a direct hit from a German bomb. Only quick thinking on the part of Winston Churchill, who had ordered all staff out of the kitchen minutes before, prevented a potentially devastating loss of life.
One of the more curious offices held at 10 Downing Street is that of Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office. That’s right…A cat! Almost continuously since 1924, a cat has been ’employed’ at 10 Downing Street, holding the office of Chief Mouser, whose job it is to keep mice away from the Prime Minister’s residence. The current chief mouser is Larry, pictured below:
“[Advise] me as to what I should do with Sir Henry Baskerville, who arrives at Waterloo Station” – Dr. Mortimer looked at his watch – “in exactly one hour and a quarter”
– Mr. James Mortimer, M.R.C.S; ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’
Address: Waterloo Station, City of London SE1 8SW
Waterloo Station was opened in London in 1848, originally called Waterloo Bridge Station. It was renamed to its current title in 1886. The main reason for naming the station ‘Waterloo Bridge’ was because there were already a number of other stations nearby also called ‘Waterloo’, which created untold and immeasurable confusion for travellers in the earlier years of the station’s operation. The station was hit heavily by bombs during the Second World War, but the limited amount of damage meant that the station was restored to its original condition with relative ease in postwar years.
Woolwich Arsenal (Royal Arsenal, Woolwich)
“The man’s name was Arthur Cadogan West, twenty-seven years of age, unmarried and a clerk at Woolwich Arsenal”
– Dr. J.H. Watson; ‘The Bruce-Partington Plans’
Address: Woolwich SE18 6SP
The Royal Arsenal, Woolwich (pronounced ‘Woolich’) has existed since Stuart times in the 1670s. It wasn’t until 1805, however, that it was named the Royal Arsenal. The Arsenal played important roles during the Crimean, First and Second World Wars. Parts of the arsenal were shut down over the years after the Second World War and the site ceased to have an active military role in 1994, after which the Arsenal was turned into a military museum.
I’d like to extend my personal thanks to my fellow members of the Holmesian.net Sherlock Holmes fan-forum who provided me with the suggestions and information which aided in the completion of this posting.