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Sherlock Holmes' effect on Baker Street

Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Sherlock Holmes' effect on Baker Street

Of all the famous addresses in fiction, 221b Baker Street remains one of the most iconic. The domicile of detective Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson is well-known and continues to be remembered as new incarnations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's hero hit the mainstream.

It seems incredible that the imaginative creations of a Scottish physician should shape an entire slice of London, but it has.

Baker street then...

The super-sleuth and his sidekick were supposed to reside at 221b between the years 1881 - 1904. At that time, Baker Street was a predominantly upper-class residential area, though was the original site of Madame Tussauds (until it moved in 1884).

However, the street itself didn't extend as far as 221b in reality; number 100 was the last property on the street before is flowed into York Place. This was no doubt intentional on Conan Doyle's part and theories still exist as to where exactly the author pictured the property's location.

When Baker Street 'assumed' York Place and the adjacent Upper Baker Street in the 1930s, it created a 221b. It was encompassed within an Art Deco building that Abbey National moved into. The Sherlock Holmes museum was situated at number 239.

...and now

Things have certainly changed in the century or so since Holmes and Watson vacated their property. The street is a bustling, commercial thoroughfare. It once housed the Beatles' Apple Boutique and M&S's flagship store and carries the heavy traffic along the A41.

In 1990, the museum was officially assigned the 221b number, despite it being out of sequence with the other properties and rather upsetting Abbey National. 

The Sherlock effect

Fans from around the world - whether or the original books or the latest big screen incarnation - make pilgrimages to Baker Street regularly. The museum, complete with a blue plaque, is protected as a place of 'special architectural and historical interest'. The museum officials have maintained the first floor study as it might have been in Victorian times and visitors can even enter 'Dr Watson's bedroom'.

The effects have been more widely felt than at just 221b. Abbey National, situated in the 'real' 221b reportedly employed a secretary full-time purely to answer and correspondence addressed to Sherlock Holmes. Also, British WWII organisation, the Special Operations Executive, moved to number 64 in 1940 and assumed the nickname, 'The Baker Street Irregulars', which was the name Conan Doyle gave to a gang of street urchins in this stories.

Most recently, in 2005, the Post Office recognised the museum's delinear address as the official recipient for all Holmes-related letters.

Over 100 years has passed since the first appearance of the deer-stalkered detective, yet his influence on Baker Street remains current and endearing.