Sherlock home saved from developers

A legal challenge has prevented Undershaw, the house where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote The Hound of the Baskervilles, from being demolished

Campaigners are celebrating today following the announcement that planned development work will not go ahead on the site of Undershaw, the house in which Sir Arthur Conan Doyle resurrected Sherlock Holmes.

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The judgement handed down by the Royal Courts of Justice in London quashed permission previously granted by Waverley Borough Council to allow Fossway Ltd, a company based in the Virgin Islands, to demolish the Grade II listed property in Hindhead, Surrey, and convert it into eight separate non-Sherlock homes.

The decision is the result of the Save Undershaw campaign started by Conan Doyle scholar John Gibson three years ago and supported by high-profile Holmes fans including Stephen Fry and Mark Gatiss, co-creator of BBC1 series Sherlock. 

Andrew Lockley, Head of Public Law at Irwin Mitchell, who represented Mr Gibson, said: “We have had long-held concerns that basic errors were made by Waverley Borough Council in its decision to grant planning permission on Undershaw and this view has now been absolutely vindicated.

“The local authority failed to ensure that it received English Heritage’s views on the plans before taking its decision, despite consultation with EH being a legal requirement due to the property’s Grade II listed status.”

Mr Gibson said: “This has been a long and difficult battle to save Undershaw and we are absolutely thrilled with the decision to quash planning permission to redevelop the property. This is a place which is steeped in history and should be treated with reverence.

“Conan Doyle’s life and works are a fundamental part of British culture and arguably their stock has never been higher. We have been absolutely delighted to see enthusiasts from across the world get in touch and pledge their support to our efforts.

“We are very hopeful that this decision will signal a sea-change in attitude towards this historic property and  that it will lead to it being rightly preserved as a single building – hopefully as a museum or centre where future generations can be inspired by the many stories which have been created within its walls.”

Conan Doyle designed Undershaw himself and moved into the building in 1897 with his ailing wife Louise. It was there that he brought Sherlock Holmes back from the dead in the Adventure of the Empty House, and where he wrote arguably the detective’s most famous adventure, The Hound of the Baskervilles.

Conan Doyle also entertained other literary greats, including Bram Stoker, JM Barrie and Viriginia Woolfe at Undershaw.

The property is currently in a dilapidated condition and it is hoped money raised during the campaign will go towards restoring it to its former glory.

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Mark Gatiss previously said of the historic building “It’s a national disgrace that the house has been left to rot. Doyle is one of our greatest writers… It must be saved and take its place among the sensitively preserved residences of this country’s other literary giants.”