EEEH, CONGRATULATIONS, MRS. HOLMES, LUV. IT’S A BOY. Nah then, was Sherlock ‘born’ oop in Yorkshire?
Sherlock Holmes, arguably the most famous detective in fiction (oh yes he is), was introduced to the world in 1887 when A Study in Scarlet was published in the Beeton’s Christmas Annual that year. Arthur Conan Doyle was somewhat vague about the character’s early days. Reading the books, we can estimate he was born in 1854, but there are no clues as to his place of birth. We can, however, make one or two Holmes-like deductions as to where the name Sherlock Holmes was born.
In the late 19th century, Arthur Conan Doyle was a regular visitor to the Ingleton area of the Yorkshire Dales. His mother Mary moved from Edinburgh to this beautiful part of the world with her two daughters and lived in Masongill Cottage for 35 years between 1882 and 1917. A picture postcard house, Doyle often stayed there with his mother, arriving at Ingleton railway station and then taking a carriage to the tiny hamlet of Masongill a couple of miles away.
On the 6th of August 1885, he married his first wife Louisa Hawkins at the nearby St. Oswald’s church in Thornton-in-Lonsdale. The reception was held across the lane in the Marton Arms, or the Church Stile Inn as it was called then.
On his Yorkshire visits, Doyle always passed through an area of Ingleton known as the Holmes, which may or may not have inspired his character’s celebrated surname. Admittedly, this is tenuous, but the way he almost certainly arrived at the Christian name Sherlock is far more plausible. Virtually up to the publication date of A Study in Scarlet, Doyle’s detective was called Sheringford Holmes, so what could have prompted the change to Sherlock?
Thomas Sherlock was the vicar of St. Mary’s church in Ingleton and his father, the wealthy newspaper owner Randal Hopley Sherlock, was visiting him in August 1875. Randal was killed by a bolt of lightning at Ingleton station and his son dedicated a stained glass window in the church to his memory – the Sherlock Window, as it’s known.
A few years later, Randal’s brother Cornelius Sherlock redesigned St. Mary’s, the foundation stone was laid in May 1886 and the new church was opened the following year.
The deadly lightning strike happened seven years before Doyle’s mother moved to Masongill, but this prominent newspaper man dying in such a startling and horrific manner was still huge news in Ingleton. Alighting at the station where Sherlock infamously died, Doyle had to pass St. Mary’s which stands just along the lane. He knew all about the fatality, the Sherlock Window and Sherlock’s newly opened church. In fact, in the twelve month period before A Study in Scarlet was published, he would hear the name Sherlock endlessly mentioned on every Yorkshire visit. It’s accepted by all the villagers here that this inspired the change from (the far too pretentious) Sheringford.
The station was closed in the 60s and the picturesque viaduct beside it was fenced off.
Any Holmes fan visiting the area should definitely call at Masongill, St. Oswald's, the church where Doyle was married and the Ingleton church with the Sherlock Window. They’d also be wise to pop into Uncle Jeremy’s Household. The shop is named after a short story written by Arthur Conan Doyle in 1885, that first appeared in the Boy’s Own Paper in 1887. The illustration from the book below shows a carriage, similar to the ones that transported Doyle, leaving Ingleton station.
The story is set in and around this Dales village and features a doctor from Baker Street named Hugh Lawrence and his friend John Thurston. The pair aren’t a million miles away from another pair of characters we all know.
In a Britain of cloned shops – Superdrug, Specsavers, Going Places and other faceless franchise outlets – it’s wonderful to find something unique like Uncle Jeremy’s Household. They sell some great things here including an adorable Sherlock Holmes teddy bear complete with pipe and deerstalker. This is no surprise as the owner is a Conan Doyle historian and a fountain of knowledge concerning the famous writer’s connection to this part of the world. Martyn Sutton is very friendly and has some unique Conan Doyle memorabilia on show.