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Wednesday, August 25, 2021

The Real Mrs. Hudson of 221B

The capture of Colonel Moran was made possible by Mrs. Hudson

A posting this week by Dave Price had me thinking about the redoubtable Mrs. Hudson.

As Dave pointed out, William Hyder’s 11-page article on “The Martha Myth” in the March 1991 issue of the Baker Street Journal effectively destroyed the idea that Mrs. Hudson was also Holmes’s “old housekeeper” in “The Lion’s Mane” and/or “Martha” the spy in “His Last Bow.” Rob Nunn did likewise on his blog last year: http://interestingthoughelementary.blogspot.com/2020/07/that-is-martha-last.html

The triple identity fantasy was born of the fertile mind of Vincent Starrett an d later adopted by others, including William S. Baring-Gould (who, let’s be honest, made a lot of stuff up).

  • But what do we really know about Mrs. Hudson? A surprising amount!She is the landlady of 221B Baker Street, not a housekeeper (every Canonical reference).
  • In that capacity, she “was a long-suffering woman” who “stood in the deepest awe” of Sherlock Holmes, whose “payments were princely” (DYIN).
  •  She had cronies (FIVE).
  • On numerous occasions she ushered in the clients or others (SIGN, VALL, BLAC, WIST), brought in a cablegram (DANC), or presented a card (GARR).
  •  Although she is first mentioned by name in The Sign of Four, she most likely was the landlady right from the beginning in A Study in Scarlet with her “stately tread.” Nobody really knows who Mrs. Turner is (SCAN).  
  •  “Her cuisine is a little limited, but she has as good an idea of breakfast as a Scotchwoman” (NAVA).
  • Those grubby Baker Street Irregulars freaked her out (STUD, SIGN), but who can blame her for that?
  •  She was absolutely essential to Holmes’s plan for capturing Colonel Sebastian Moran as she turned the wax bust every quarter of an hour (EMPT). Undoubtedly she didn’t hesitate when asked.

In many ways, Mrs. Hudson was truly the woman in the life of Sherlock Holmes.


  1. I'm not all that familiar with the fabricated backstories of Starrett and Baring-Gould, but did the name change from Turner to Hudson result from marriage, divorce, or widowhood? That was my theory, as I believe Mrs. Turner and Hudson to be one in the same, and that the housekeeper on the Sussex coast was a local resident-employee (why would Mrs. Hudson move out of London if she had to maintain 221 Baker Street, and based on any timeline, there's a good chance she may no longer be living by the time of the events of the Lion's Mane).

  2. Since the name Mrs. Hudson is used both before and after "Mrs. Turner" shows up in "A Scandal in Bohemia," I think it highly unlikely they are the same person. Either that was a friend of Mrs. H. watching the house or Watson just slipped up! That's what I think.