When thinking about Sherlock Holmes it is never the face of Robert Downey Jr, Jonny Lee Miller or Benedict Cumberbatch that springs to mind. I have trouble watching films and TV series that are loose adaptations of the original, maybe because Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novels and short stories have always been my favourite detective tales. Therefore, when I imagined the interior of 221b Baker Street, I never quite knew exactly what to picture. Until I went to the Sherlock Holmes Museum.
Although 221b Baker Street did not exist when Conan Doyle was writing his stories, it has become a real place since the museum opened its doors to the public in 1990. It aims to reproduce the apartment in which Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson lived based on the original descriptions.
Located on the first floor of the lodging house, Sherlock’s bedroom is at the rear, while the study he and Watson shared, quite small and, as Conan Doyle puts it, “illuminated by two broad windows”, is in the adjoining room. Iconic objects fill the space, giving the impression that Holmes and Watson have just left to solve their latest case and will be back shortly: a deerstalker cap (first given to the detective by illustrator Sidney Paget), a pipe and a magnifying glass lie on the small table in the study; a book about bees and beekeeping – one of the detective’s favourite pastimes – is open on his bedside table; endless chemistry books line the mahogany library while a violin stands on a low table, waiting to be played.
…The space on the third floor is filled with wax models of famous characters and scenes…
Doctor Watson’s and Mrs Hudson’s rooms are on the second floor and are used as exhibit space. Watson’s diary, filled with stories of Sherlock’s cases, is open on an extract from The Hound of the Baskervilles, letters between Watson and Holmes are also on display, while an imposing bronze bust depicting the world’s most famous consultant detective stands in the next room. The space on the third floor is filled with wax models of famous characters and scenes from Conan Doyle’s stories: the Hound of the Baskervilles stares at the visitors from a reproduction on the wall while Irene Adler, standing next to the King, holds the photo of the two of them together which could lead to a scandal in Bohemia.
While the house is not too big and the visit might be short, calling at 221b Baker Street is a must. Giving us a glimpse into Sherlock and Watson’s world, it will be hard, when leaving, to believe that the duo was actually fictional.