Saving Undershaw, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Surrey Home
The story of Undershaw, the 1897 house which was designed by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and where he wrote The Hound of the Baskervilles, among other things, has been dragging on for years. In 2006 the Daily Telegraph reported that plans were afoot to convert it into separate dwellings, and that there was a risk that Conan Doyle-specific fixtures and fittings, including stained glass windows, would be lost. Since then, the house has lain empty and neglected. Developer Fossway was served with a repair order in 2008, but according to The Guardian, the house is continuing to decline. John Gibson has been running a campaign since 2004 to save Undershaw, and now he is appealing to the High Court to overturn planning permission to divide it up:
A leading expert on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is pursuing a high court review to overturn planning permission for a developer to carve up the author’s house into separate homes.
John Gibson is using his own money to fight the case to save Undershaw in Hindhead, Surrey, one of few houses in Britain so intimately connected with a major literary figure. The house was designed by Conan Doyle, who oversaw its construction in the 1890s. It was there that he wrote Sherlock Holmes novels including The Hound of the Baskervilles. Several stories and letters refer to the house.
It was bought in 2004 by a developer, Fossway, but Gibson says it has since fallen into decay: “Water was running through it like waterfalls. They put in no security, and heraldic stained-glass windows were partially broken.”
In 2008, Waverley council served a repair notice on Fossway. Gibson accuses the council of failing to serve a compulsory purchase order, as it remains derelict.
Back in 2007 I rounded up writers’ homes at risk for The Reader Online. It is a terrible shame that Conan Doyle’s house should still be on the list, given its significance.