Secretary of State should give Conan Doyle the recognition he deserves

Tessa Jowell’s decision not to upgrade Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Surrey home, Undershaw, to be a Grade I-listed building on the grounds that the writer does not occupy a significant enough position in the nation’s consciousness, has been vehemently appealed by the Victorian Society, the national charity campaigning for the Victorian and Edwardian historic environment.Joining forces with many of the 400 societies devoted to Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes around the world, the Victorian Society fought plans to subdivide Undershaw into 13 dwellings last year. It submitted the Grade II-listed building for upgrading on the grounds of its historical associations as the house where The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902) was written and where Conan Doyle entertained many famous literary guests, among them Bram Stoker and the young Virginia Woolf.‘The historical importance of Undershaw is indisputable,’ said Dr Kathryn Ferry, Senior Architectural Adviser of the Victorian Society. ‘It was the home of one of the best-known authors in the English language. Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes are world-famous figures and people around the world care deeply about the house that played such a part in their existences.’Yet, although the fictional home of Sherlock Holmes in Baker Street receives more visitors than Jane Austen’s house and the Dickens’ House Museum (both Grade I-listed) put together, Undershaw was turned down for upgrading to either Grade I or Grade II*. Among the reasons cited in the adviser’s report was the judgment that Conan Doyle ‘cannot be said to be an author of the standing of […] Charles Dickens or Jane Austen’.‘This decision is outrageous,’ said Dr Ferry. ‘When you consider that Tennyson’s grandmother’s house is listed at Grade II* simply because Tennyson stayed there when he was at school, it seems deeply unfair. We urge the Secretary of State to reconsider.’If you would like to add your objections to the decision not to recognise Undershaw as a building of outstanding national significance, please write to Tessa Jowell, 2-4 Cockspur Street, London, SW1Y 5DH, United Kingdom.

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