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Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Shades of Sherlock Holmes on Montague Street


“When I first came up to London I had rooms in Montague Street, just round the corner from the British Museum, and there I waited, filling in my too abundant leisure time by studying all those branches of science which might make me more efficient.”

So said Sherlock Holmes in a nostalgic and revelatory mood one winter’s night sitting by the fire with Dr. Watson.

We visited Montague Street recently on a trip to London. It runs in a north-south direction between Russell Square on the north and Great Russell Street on the south. The British Museum is on the west side of the street, fronting on Great Russell Street. There is also a museum entrance on Montague Street.

I’m told that the street today it is much the same as it was 130 years ago. There is at least one difference, however: All the flats there are now hotels and restaurants. So it is possible to stay in one of the Georgian row houses where young Sherlock Holmes once lived and first began to ply his unique trade. But which address was that, the pro-221B?

In the early 1970s, Michael Harrison, the well-known British Holmesian, established from old volumes of the London Post Office Directory that a “Mrs. Holmes” rented 26 Montague Street on a seven-year lease beginning with the Michaelmas (September 29) of 1877. (Harrison originally wrote “24 Montague Street” but later corrected that.) Neither tax records nor records of the Duchy of Bedford Estate, which owned the freehold, yielded any further information about Mrs. Holmes. But we would be dull indeed if we did not strongly suspect that she had two sons, one of whom lived with her as he tested his ability to make his own way in the world.

That would mean that before there was Mrs. Hudson, another Mrs. H was tested by his strange hours and even stranger visitors.

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