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The View from the East End (28)

By Inspector Hopkins

December 18, 2005
 

“The Many Facets of Sherlockiana”

Part 11b:  Sherlockian Geography

The View from the East End

  by Inspector Hopkins

In addition to commuting back and forth across London, as we looked at last time, Sherlock Holmes’s work often led him and Watson to many other parts of England. Cases such as The Hound of the Baskervilles, Silver Blaze, and The Devil’s Foot drew our heroes out to the Western end of their island. Others, like The Priory School, led them up North.

Being the enthusiastic map-lover that I am, I eagerly searched through pages and pages of my atlases looking for the locations where these cases occurred, so I could add them to my Database.  I soon discovered that many of the places that Watson mentioned in the Canon didn’t really exist. Of course, there were several cases where he openly declared that he was obscuring the locations, and there were others where he was more vague about this.  The budding Sherlockian will soon learn to savour these little nuggets, as I quickly did.  Let me give you just a few examples:

Many newcomers find that the Hound of the Baskervilles is among their favourite Sherlockian adventures, and I am certainly no exception.  Watson’s descriptions of the vast and foreboding moor, the rural scenery, and Baskerville Hall all play a part in making this story so appealing, and I wanted to know all about this strange, tragic, and mysterious area.

So, where was Baskerville Hall?  Well, he said it was in Dartmoor, Devonshire county. Flipping through my atlases I triumphantly located Dartmoor. Then, zeroing in for greater detail, I looked closely at page 5 of my A-Z atlas. Lo and behold, I found a bleak-looking area without any tiny black dots for cities or towns, and also noticed that it had been made into a national park.  This fit the bill for a bleak, desolate, underpopulated area, and I could just picture Baskerville Hall there. Even better was the fact that “danger area” was printed here and there throughout that section, corresponding to areas of quicksand and bogs, one of which eventually swallowed up Jack Stapleton.  To top it off, there were several “hills” and even a “tor” or two!  I was completely convinced that I had found the proper location, and decided that the intersection of “H1” with “G2” on the map was a great place to locate the Hall.  Ah . . . the sweet taste of success!

And, as a bonus, while I was there, what also appeared to my wandering eye was none other than the village of “Tavistock” from the adventure of Silver Blaze!  Located a bit further to the West, the location made perfect sense and fit into Watson’s description of a 200 mile train ride.  Poldhu Bay in Cornwall, where Holmes and Watson spent time investigating The Devil’s Foot, was the furthest point to the West. Eagerly, I recorded the locations and distances of each for my Database. These three locations were fairly simple for me to track down, but others were not.

Take for example, the case of the Priory School.   This school is supposed to be located in “Mackleton” in Hallamshire county, England.  But try as I might, I just couldn’t find a tiny black dot on the map with Mackleton printed next to it. Watson mentioned it being up North in the “Peak Country”, and he also mentioned the “Chesterfield High Road”.  So between my two atlases and those two references, I was able to put the School and Holderness Hall in at least a ballpark location.

Remember when I told you about those Sherlockian “tools for your toolbox” some time ago?  Well here’s a situation where they came in handy.  Jack Tracy’s book was very useful because it showed me that almost all of the addresses e.g. Holderness Hall were fictitious.  Since that time I also bought a copy of Michael Harrison’s “In the Footsteps of Sherlock Holmes”, and David Hammer’s “The Game is Afoot”.  Mr. Hammer gives Mr. Harrison credit for “ingeniously identi[fying]  Mackleton as an amalgam of Matlock and Alfreton” on the map.  Thus, I settled upon the use of Matlock in calculating the distances that Holmes and Watson traveled in the case, and put down the coordinates of “K3” on page 33 into my growing Database.

That’s 4 locations down, 56 to go!  As far as I know, no one else has tabulated these locations and distances as I have. But I’m not finished yet. Each time I read through a story, I still manage to find a little detail or two to improve on my accuracy.

As I mentioned last time, doing a project like this is a very satisfying way to relate to the trials and tribulations of our heroes and to become more involved with the Grand Game.  But it also expands one’s Sherlockian boundaries and knowledge in encouraging them to seek out the guidance and advice of other, more knowledgeable Sherlockians.

 

Until next time, and encouraging you to expand your own boundaries in our wonderful hobby, I am,

 

Yours faithfully,
STANLEY HOPKINS