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The View from the East End (5)

By Inspector Hopkins

January 30, 2005

Recreating the Baker Street Rooms

While attending a recent Sherlockian event over here in the East End, I was fortunate enough to see a rendition of the rooms at 221B Baker Street that I will not soon forget.

I had seen and read of several such recreations on the web, but this time I got to witness first hand the efforts of Mr. Paul Churchill at his home in Eldersburg, MD.

Paul has been an active Sherlockian for fifteen years now, and is a member of some ten different several scion societies in the East End. His travels take him from Massachusetts to Washington DC, and he is also a co-founder of Watson’s Tin Box in Maryland.

When I arrived, I expected to see the rather familiar fireplace and mantle, chairs, settee, and various personal effects of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson arranged more or less as I had seen them in other photographs, such as the one inside the dust jacket of my Doubleday.

I was ill-prepared for the sight that met my eyes as I stepped across the threshold. Not only were those items displayed, but his entire house was filled with every possible item related to Sherlockiana that one could think of! Helmets, uniforms, equipment and weapons related to the London Police Force and the British Indian Army of the Late Victorian Campaign were displayed immediately at the door. Shelf after shelf of books, mementos, statuary, weapons, games, leaflets, VHS and cassette tapes, photos, and magazines lined the walls. Curio cabinets crammed with late 19th century coinage, books, medals and photographs completed the entryway.

In the Sitting Room area, Paul has many items on display belonging to Dr. Watson, including his desk, medical journals, black medical bag, and his famous Tin Dispatch Box. In the corner, littered with bottles, beakers, flasks, and test tubes, is the Master’s chemistry table. His violin and revolver lie upon his chair as if he had just left them there. The walls are covered with photos and portraits of General Gordon and Henry Beecher, as well as the patriotic "VR" made via bullet holes by Mr. Holmes. The coal scuttle, Persian slipper, and jackknife pinning his correspondence to the mantel are all exactly where the visitor expects to see them.

It soon becomes apparent, however, that in addition to his recreation of the rooms in Baker Street, Paul has amassed a collection of items from every single story in the Canon. There is the typewriter used in IDEN, models of the steam launches in SIGN, the Beryl Coronet reposing in its box, the harpoon from BLAC, the "darbies" used to handcuff Colonel Moran, the gramophone from MAZA, Stapleton’s butterfly collection from HOUN, the false bell-rope from SPEC, the wax bust of Sherlock Holmes, the air-gun, a harmonium, pipe-racks, a Tantalus, liquor bottles, the sawed-off shotgun from VALL, etc. The list goes on and on. A whole hallway is devoted to photographs, posters, banners and keepsakes related to Sherlock Holmes, including a framed autograph of Watson’s literary agent. In short, the floor sags and the shelves and sideboards creak under the weight of all things Sherlockian. It is an endeavour that has to be seen to be believed. Since his house is a ranch-type, the only thing missing is the seventeen steps!

The project began in 1998, when Paul began tinkering with 1" scale dollhouse models. He built the sitting room, and his interpretation of both Holmes’s and Watson’s bedrooms using these models. Gradually he began to acquire some of the collectible items mentioned above, and the idea grew upon him to recreate the sitting room that can be seen today. That idea later snowballed into a Sherlockian Museum containing items from all the stories.

Although he considers the room "finished", he still has plans to catalog and photograph each and every item in his enormous collection and to someday write a book about collecting these things.

His most cherished possession? How about one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s actual bankbooks from the Oxford Street branch of the Capital & Counties Bank (the same one used by Mr. Holmes himself), dated February through October of 1904!

Oh . . . and I haven’t even gotten to the description of the annual "Mycroft Award" banquet and examination! That will have to wait for a future column concerning another facet of Sherlockiana known as "scion societies".

Now the East End doesn’t seem that bad after all, does it?


Until next time, when we will delve further into collections and scions, I remain, Yours faithfully,