Despite having lived in London for the first six years of my life, and visited the city for a few days at a time in the years since, this was the first time I got to focus on research for my Portia Adams series.
Here is my Sherlockian itinerary:
- Sherlock Holmes Museum (at the actual 221 B Baker Street)
- Holmes exhibit at the Museum of London
- Old Scotland Yard (and new Scotland Yard)
- 10 Downing Street
- Regents Park
- The Strand
- Westminister, Waterloo and London Bridges
Click below to see pics and my take on each of those fabulous locations, but suffice to say, I’m feeling even more inspired to keep writing about Portia’s adventures in London!
Sherlock Holmes Museum (at the actual 221 B Baker Street)
Actually located on Baker Street (unlike where the current BBC Sherlock is filmed on North Gower Street in London), the private museum had to get special permission from the City of Westminster to call itself 221B even though it is located between numbers 237 and 241. Downstairs you will find the shop of wonderful memorabilia, but upstairs they have attempted to recreate the original canon-descriptions of the offices of Holmes and Watson circa the 1880s. You find the sitting room, Sherlock’s little laboratory and Dr. Watson’s room laid out with medical books and equipment. It’s lovely and quaint but SO tiny. It made me really wonder how two men could plausibly live in such a tiny space. Not sure if the dimensions are different than those Conan-Doyle intended or if a lifetime of living in Canada has spoiled me for open-spaces.
Holmes exhibit at the Museum of London
This was just a lucky coincidence that my trip to London lined up with this exhibit at the London Museum. Sub-titled “The man who never lived and will never die” it features some fantastic original Conan-Doyle manuscripts, all kinds of movie posters, an interview with the author about his creation and vintage costumes and a lot of little details even I (an aficionado if there ever was one!) didn’t know. Like for example: did you know that the original names of the detective duo were J Sherrinford Holmes and Ormond Sacker? I knew about Sherinnford, but wow, Ormond Sacker instead of John Watson? Yikes.
Old Scotland Yard (and new Scotland Yard)
Now called the Norman Shaw buildings, Old Scotland Yard is both romantically beautiful and very business-like in its architecture.
I sat on a bench at 4 Whitehall Place for a half hour imagining Portia running up and down in pursuit of clues and following Brian around as he does his work.
10 Downing Street
I should have known this I suppose, but when you get to Downing street, you are confronted by a large fenced in area and you can go no further. It was disappointing, but when I turned around I saw a lovely sculpture dedicated to the women for World War II, so I felt rewarded for hiking all the way to that location.
This park is huge, I don’t think I had an appreciation for Portia and Nerissa’s favourite stomping ground until I actually walked around for 5 hours in it! It’s gorgeous and green (even in March) and filled with people, critters and ponds. I could see spending hours writing on a park bench if it were a bit warmer.
Back in Portia’s day, the area of London called ‘The Strand’ was the centre of nightlife and theatre. She visits the area often because King’s College’s main campus is located here, and she takes a few classes, and meets up with friends there. These days it has theatres, lots of shops and is a major tourist hot-spot. I visited King’s College on the Thames and it is a beautiful campus with white stone buildings and lovely statues of Sappho and Sophocles. I think Portia, Beans and Gavin would have spent many a happy hour on this campus.
So, I walked across Westminster Bridge, where the jewels were actually tossed into the Thames, and where Portia does her midnight stakeout. It was busy in the middle of the day, but when you lean over the side, you can imagine what it was like 100 years ago because it quite simply has not changed that much. Well, except for the garbage. Back in Portia’s day the Thames was still being used as a sewer, a garbage dump and God knows what else. In 1957 it was actually declared ‘biologically dead’ if you can imagine.
Waterloo Bridge I crossed while on a tour bus (when your feet get tired, it’s the best way to travel!) and London Bridge I hopped off and walked across on my way to the Monument to the Great Fire of London.