Interview with John Morewood

Gazette 221B : Could you introduce yourself to our readers ?

John Morewood :So, I am John Morewood. I joined the Sherlock Holmes Society in 2014. I read all the Sherlock Holmes stories when I was at school- which seems, and was, one thousand years ago ! My career was in finance until I retired and I am now a qualified tour guide, historian and published author. My specialty is the Napoleonic Wars and I am currently in the 3rd year of my PhD- not on Napoléon!

John Morewood au dîner de la SHSL

Gazette 221B : You have recently unveiled the Gazetteer on the SHSL’s website. Could you tell us a bit more about it ?

John Morewood :The Gazeteer is designed by story and county so Sherlockians can visit locations connected with Holmes currently in England -but later , hopefully elsewhere!. It gives a brief synopsis of each story and a description of each of the locations with maps There is a picture of the location as it is today and, where possible, what it looked like at the time the story was written.

Gazette 221B : What spurred the idea behind its creation?

John Morewood : I have always believed that Arthur Conan Doyle had specific buildings and locations in mind when he wrote all his stories. Yes, some of his ideas came from several buildings, for example his creation of Baskerville Hall uses at least three different buildings, one of which is not in Devon ! The Sherlock Holmes Society of London during its May London Weekend looks at places with a Sherlockian link. In the autumn we visit an area of England where one of the stories is set. This is a great weekend but the numbers of participants are limited and, if you cant attend it may be six years before you get another oppportunity. This is where the Gazetteer comes in. It uses the scholarship of Thomas Bruce Wheeler, Bernard Davies and The Sherlock Holmes Society so you can visit these locations when you want.

Gazette 221B : Since when have you been working on this project with other members of the SHSL ?

John Morewood : I had the idea nearly two years ago and Council were very supportive. We started producing material last year but wanted to release a relatively large amount. So far we have covered 25% and, as you know, made the first release last month.

Gazette 221B : Were you in contact with local scholars and historians while working on this project and get stories about the different locations ?

John Morewood : We have used Thomas Wheeler’s’GPS guide to the London of Sherlock Holmes’. It does not have any pictures but is very useful for getting you in front of the locations. Bernard Davies who died in 2010 produced two excellent volumes called ‘Holmes and Watson Country’ in which he suggested locations for some of the stories. Again, it does not have pictures but it does have maps. For ‘The Hound’ there is Philip Weller’s excellent ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles-hunting the Dartmoor Legend’ We also use the knowledge of Society members and local libraries and archives to obtain the contemporary illustrations.

Gazette 221B : How challenging has it been, so far, to compile such a large number of locations throughout Holmes’ adventures?

Lew House / Lewtrenchard Manor – a possible candidate for Baskerville Hall, the ancestral home of Sir Henry Baskerville

John Morewood : We are only 25% of the way through with one of the novels and 14 of the short stories completed. So there is still lots to do ! The real challenge involves the illustrations. We need to visit the locations to obtain the photographs and local archives to obtain illustrations of the places and buildings as they looked one hundred years ago. This is where the geographic locations of the project team come in. Ashley Mayo living in Hampshire and Nick Utechin in Oxford has really helped. Fortunately I live close to London and was on holiday in Devon last year to do the photography work there..

Gazette 221B : Are there any places mentioned in the stories that do not exist anymore today?

John Morewood : Sadly yes. London has suffered through modern redevelopment as well as damage during the Second World War bombing. Outside London some properties have gone. Fowlescombe in Devon which has been described as the best candidate in Devon for Baskerville Hall is now a ruin. The Royal Links Hotel Cromer where Conan Doyle and Fletcher Robinson stayed and formulated the idea for ‘The Hound’ was destroyed by fire in 1949. Nevertheless, it is amazing that so much has survived.

Gazette 221B : Are you planning to include locations mentioned in the stories that are outside of the UK? Of course we are selfishly thinking about France…?

Sherlock Holmes fighting in Montpellier, France In The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax

John Morewood : Absolutely. After England is completed we will start looking further afield and need help from our friends internationally- including America, Australia, Germany, Switzerland and, of course, France !

Gazette 221B : How do you see this incredible locations encyclopaedia evolve over time? Will you explore locations mentioned in other Holmes adaptations (be it books, TV and/or movies) ?

John Morewood : We plan to have a section on ‘Sherlockian locations’  not mentioned in the books eg TVs and films but also locations connected with Conan Doyle.

Gazette 221B : This was quite an Herculean project to undertake. Is there a way for others Holmes enthusiasts to help you with your progress ?

John Morewood : Absolutely. Good quality pictures are really key. It takes time and money to visit locations so if anyone has good quality pictures for the remaining 45 stories, that would be wonderful. Also, if anyone has information on locations outside the UK please let us know.

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