Conan Doyle’s Surrey home wins reprieve

An application for Listed Building Consent to subdivide Undershaw, the home of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, has been withdrawn following an international campaign led by the Victorian Society, the national charity campaigning for the Victorian and Edwardian historic environment.

Conan Doyle experts around the world wrote to urge Waverley Borough Council to reject the application. Planning permission to divide the house and outbuildings into thirteen dwellings was refused in May 2006, but Listed Building Consent for subdivision could still have been granted. This would have left the house vulnerable to future schemes and could have made public access to the house where Conan Doyle wrote The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Return of Sherlock Holmes impossible.

‘We’re delighted that the developer has recognised the national and international importance of Undershaw,’ said Dr Kathryn Ferry, Southern & Welsh Architectural Adviser of the Victorian Society. ‘Undershaw was the home of one of the most well-renowned authors in the English language. People care deeply about it.’

She continued: ‘But this is just the start.  There will be more applications for this building. We want to see a scheme which will reflect Undershaw’s significance and ensure its survival for many years to come.’

The Victorian Society still awaits a decision on its application to upgrade Undershaw to be a Grade I-listed building, putting it in the top 3 percent of Britain’s buildings.


For further information contact:

Ann Morgan                                                  Dr Kathryn Ferry

Community Engagement Officer               Southern & Welsh Architectural Adviser

Direct line 020 8747 5897 /                        Direct line 020 8747 5893

07973 842 113


1. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was the best-selling author of the 1890s. Today he has an international cult following with over 400 societies dedicated to his life and works.

2. Undershaw formed the backdrop for many significant literary and historical events. It was at Undershaw that Conan Doyle wrote his most famous work The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902) and two years later resurrected one of the most famous literary characters of all time in The Return of Sherlock Holmes. More recently, Julian Barnes set part of his Booker Prize nominated novel, Arthur & George, there. Bram Stoker, who interviewed Conan Doyle at Undershaw, noted that: ‘It is so sheltered from cold winds that the architect felt justified in having lots of windows, so that the whole place is full of light. Nevertheless, it is cozy and snug to a remarkable degree, and has everywhere that sense of ‘home’ which is so delightful to occupant and stranger alike.’

2. Built in 1897 by architect Joseph Henry Ball, Undershaw was the home of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his family until 1906. Conan Doyle commissioned the house in 1896 after his wife, Louisa (Touie), was diagnosed with tuberculosis and given a few months to live. Her condition improved during a stay abroad and in 1895 Conan Doyle paid £1,000 for a plot of land at Hindhead, known as a good place for convalence because of its healthy micro-climate. Biographical accounts suggest that Conan Doyle drew initial plans for his home before commissioning his friend, Joseph Henry Ball, to complete the design.

3. Among many interesting features, Undershaw is notable for its stained glass windows showing crests from the Conan Doyle family and for being the first house in the area to have its own electrical plant.

4. The Victorian Society is the national charity campaigning for the Victorian and Edwardian historic environment. It fights to preserve important Victorian and Edwardian buildings and landscapes so that they can be enjoyed by this and future generations. It provides expert advice to churches and local planning authorities on how Victorian and Edwardian buildings and landscapes can be adapted to the way we live now, while keeping what is special about them. It also advises members of the public about how they can help shape the future of their local Victorian and Edwardian buildings and landscapes. It provides information to owners of Victorian and Edwardian houses about how they can better look after their precious buildings. It helps people understand, appreciate and enjoy the architectural heritage of the Victorian and Edwardian period through its publications and educational programmes.

5. The Victorian Society, 1 Priory Gardens, LONDON W4 1TT
Telephone 020 8994 1019
Facsimile 020 8747 5899

    Your Cart
    Your cart is emptyReturn to Shop