The Sherlock Holmes Museum at Meiringen
Meiringen in Switzerland is for many Holmesians a kind of Mecca. It was at the nearby Reichenbach Falls that Sherlock Holmes in May 1891 met and defeated his greatest enemy, Professor Moriarty, dubbed by Holmes the “Napoleon of Crime”. For some years after the event the Falls were thought also to be the site of the death of Holmes himself and this adds to the poignancy of a visit there. Following the encounter with Moriarty, Holmes secretly slipped away into Italy so as to elude the surviving members of Moriarty’s gang and commenced a series of intrepid travels round Europe, Asia and Africa. Not even Dr Watson was aware that he was still alive until his dramatic return to London in 1894.
In the 1980s the Community of Meiringen, with the assistance of the Swiss Confederation, commenced a project for the renewal of the village square, including a full refurbishment of the English Church. A statue of Sherlock Holmes was placed in the square, now named Conan Doyle Place, in 1988. Three years later, the hundredth anniversary of Holmes and Moriarty’s struggle at the Falls, and under the patronage of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s daughter, Dame Jean Conan Doyle, the Sherlock Holmes Museum was inaugurated in the former English Church.
The planning and setting up process for the Museum had lasted several years during which the Community of Meiringen, in their wisdom, commissioned the late Tony Howlett, former President of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London, to carry out numerous tasks. Howlett was fortunate in enlisting the help of architect John Reid, also Pageant Master of the City of London. Together, and with the assistance of local architect Arthur Reinhard, they made necessary alterations to the church building and spent countless hours working on layouts and displays and on gathering artefacts and exhibits. In particular they ensured that the centrepiece of the Museum, the reconstructed sitting room at 221b Baker Street was put together with scrupulous accuracy, right down to every last measurement, furnishing and exhibit.
The Museum as set up includes an exhibition of items of Holmesian interest, many donated or loaned indefinitely by members of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London and others. In the sitting room the intention has been to convey the impression that Holmes and Watson have only moments before gone out. Many items are strewn around just as they would have left them, including a copy of The Times on the floor. The windows were made in London and shipped out to Switzerland. The wallpaper is to an 1890s pattern and was bought from a company in Marylebone High Street. An original Victorian fireplace and oil lamps and numerous other nineteenth century artefacts were also found and installed. Holmes’s jack-knife protruding from the mantelpiece, the Persian slipper where he kept his tobacco, the violin, the gasogene, the tantalus, the portrait of General Gordon and all the other familiar features from the stories are there. The BBC kindly compiled an hour-long CD of sound effects.
The former English Church in Meiringen which now houses the Sherlock Holmes Museum