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Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's life in London


Conan Doyle's former home Undershaw House is at the centre of a campaign

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, one of Scotland's most famous writers, has ties to London aside from the famous Baker Street detective.

Conan Doyle first came to London in 1891 where he set up an ophthalmic (eye treatment) practice.

He founded the practice at 2 Upper Wimpole Street after studying the eye in Vienna and lived nearby in lodgings at Montague Place.

He previously worked as a physician in Plymouth and at his own practice in Southsea, Hampshire, after studying medicine.

Although he was a qualified physician he was also a keen writer. He began writing short stories whilst studying and the first was published before he was 20 in the Edinburgh magazine Chamber's Journal.


1891 was a pivotal year for Doyle.

Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle was born 22 May 1859
Throughout his life he visited USA, Egypt, Australia and Switzerland
He served in the Boer War in 1900
Doyle became good friends with Harry Houdini after they met in 1920
He wrote The Coming of the Fairies after being convinced by the hoax 'Cottingley Fairies' photographs
In 1916 Arthur Conan Doyle stated his belief in Spiritualism
When World War One broke out in 1914 he tried to enlist in the military aged 55 - he was refused

It was in 1891 that the first six 'Adventures of Sherlock Holmes' were published in George Newnes's Strand Magazine, a popular monthly London publication.

Although Sherlock Holmes had previously been created for short stories this fictional character captured the public's imagination. So much so that when he killed off Holmes subscriptions to Strand Magazine fell dramatically.

He resurrected the character and Holmes became known the world over as the greatest living detective.

During 1891 Doyle became very ill and decided that combining two careers was proving too difficult. His chose to concentrate on writing and later the same year moved to a house in South Norwood, south London, then a part of Surrey.

It was at Tennison Road, Norwood that many of the Sherlock Holmes stories were written.

Family life

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his family, 1922.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his family, 1922.

In 1885 Conan Doyle married Louise "Toulie" Hawkins. He met Louise after treating her terminally ill brother Jack who, along with his family, became a resident patient. Four years later they had their first child, Mary, and in 1892 their second child Arthur, known as Kingsley, was born.

Louise was later diagnosed with tuberculosis and died in 1906 at the age of 49.

Doyle married his second wife Jean Leckie a year later and had two sons in 1909 and 1910, Denis and Adrian. A daughter, Lena, arrived in 1912.

Doyle's first son Kingsley was wounded at the Battle of the Somme and developed pneumonia. He died in 1918 aged 25.

Baker Street

It was at 221B Baker Street that the fictional detective lived. At the time Baker Street only went up to 100 although there is a 221B today - home of the Sherlock Holmes Museum.

Basil Rathbone & Nigel Bruce In 'The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes' 1939
Basil Rathbone & Nigel Bruce In 'The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes' 1939

In the novels Holmes lives at Baker Street with Dr Watson and his housekeeper Mrs Hudson.

Today, there are Blue Plaques in Baker Street, Tennison Street and Upper Wimpole Street celebrating Doyle's life in London.

Doyle was knighted in 1902 after publication of a 60,000 word pamphlet about the Boer War.

Although famous for his non-fictional works Conan Doyle also had a strong belief in spiritualism. He wrote about subjects relating to the occult, mysticism and spiritualism along with many historical articles and other works of fiction. The Lost World was another famous novel released in 1912 and made into a film in 1925.

Surrey & Sussex

Undershaw in Hindhead, Surrey is another former residence of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It was built in

Undershaw, Conan Doyle's former residence in Surrey
Undershaw, Conan Doyle's former residence in Surrey

1879 as a place for the rest and recuperation for his wife Louise.

Undershaw is currently at the centre of debate after planning permission has been sought to turn it into apartments.

Later, with his second wife Jean, he moved to a place called Windlesham in Crowborough, Sussex. It was here Conan Doyle died of a heart attack on 7 July 1930.

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