Dr's Casebook: On the trail of Sherlock Holmes

​​I spent a pleasant week up in the little village of Ingleton in the Dales last week. While there I was intrigued to find myself on the trail of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his famous creation, the consulting detective Sherlock Holmes.
Silhouette of Sherlock Holmes's statue in London near Baker Street. Photo: Getty ImagesSilhouette of Sherlock Holmes's statue in London near Baker Street. Photo: Getty Images
Silhouette of Sherlock Holmes's statue in London near Baker Street. Photo: Getty Images

Dr Keith Souter writes: Arthur Conan Doyle was a doctor who grew up and qualified from Edinburgh University in 1881. It was during his student days that he started writing short stories, although Sherlock Holmes was to come much later.

Brian Waller was a lodger in the family home in Edinburgh who moved to Ingleton. Arthur’s mother, Mary Doyle later moved there to work as her former lodger’s housekeeper. One wonders if Sherlock Holmes’s housekeeper Mrs Hudson was based upon her.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

At any rate she had a house in Masongill, a hamlet two miles outside Ingleton and Arthur was a frequent visitor. To get there it is probable that he travelled by train to Ingleton, passing through Holme Head to Masongill.

Brian Waller’s father and grandfather had both been vicars at St Mary’s Church in Ingleton at the turn of the 18th century. In 1875 the Reverend Todd Sherlock was another incumbent, whose father Randal Hopley Sherlock arranged to visit him for his health. Tragically, while collecting his baggage at Ingleton station he was struck by lightning and died instantly. There is a Sherlock window in the local church dedicated to the unfortunate Randal Sherlock.

Arthur’s first two stories Uncle Jeremy’s Household and the Surgeon of Castor Fell were almost autobiographical and were based on the area around Ingleton.

In the first, the main character is from Baker Street in London and comes to Ingleton by train to meet his friend, a chemist.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Arthur’s first choice of name for his detective was Sherrinford but while visiting his mother in Masongill he changed it to Sherlock. It seems highly likely that he adopted the surname of Holmes from the area below the church still known as the Holmes.

So you see, there seem to be several clues about the Sherlock Holmes stories in Ingleton and there is a theory that a mythical saucer-eyed, wolf-like creature called the Barguest that allegedly lived in Troller’s Gill by Skyreholme was the inspiration ​​​​​​​for his famed Hound of the Baskerville’s.