Helping to fill the chasm between series three and four of the BBC’s wildly successful Sherlock, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, the Museum of London has launched a comprehensive look at the world’s only “consulting detective” and his relationship with the metropolis. The exhibits tackle not only the latest incarnation (it includes Sherlock’s now iconic Belstaff Milford coat and dressing gown) but other stage and screen incarnations from William Gillette onwards. You can also see original manuscripts — including the first page of what was then called The Sign of The Four — and, most importantly, the nature of the city that inspired Conan Doyle to create the immortal sleuth. For those coming to see the exhibition, here is how to build a Sherlockian weekend.
A gruesome discovery at St Bartholomew’s Hospital
Just a short stroll from the Museum of London is St Bartholomew’s Hospital, which holds a place in the heart of both the fans of the “canon” (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s 56 short stories and four novels featuring Holmes) as well as the Benedict Cumberbatch version of the detective. Conan Doyle spent some time at the hospital and the museum (bartshealth.nhs.uk, closed at the weekends and after 4pm), which details the history of St Bart’s — and features a plaque commemorating the first meeting of Holmes and Watson in the building, when Holmes is flogging a cadaver to investigate post-mortem trauma. Check the website of the spectacular glass-roofed triple-tiered Pathology Museum (qmul.ac.uk/bartspathology/), in the same complex, for a gruesome yet fascinating insight into medicine at the time. Sadly, it is only open to the public for special evening events and some afternoons. St Bart’s was also the location for Sherlock’s dramatic fall from the roof in the BBC’s Reichenbach Fallepisode, which led to the red phone box near the gate being plastered in “Believe in Sherlock” Post-it notes.
Mystery in Baker Street
One of the most famous addresses in the world has had a complex history — suffice to say there was no number 221 when Conan Doyle wrote his stories. Most people know that the subsequently designated 221 was once the Abbey National HQ. The Sherlock Holmes Museum (020 7224 3688, sherlock-holmes.co.uk, £10/£8) bills itself as at 221b, although it is actually at 239, but the town house is very similar to the one described in the stories. You may find the museum’s exhibits to be authentically and atmospherically Victorian and Holmesian, or shabby and careworn, but it certainly has a well-stocked gift shop. Be warned, there can be long queues — so go early. There is also a “talking” statue of Holmes (see talkingstatues.co.uk) outside Baker Street Station, with a script by Anthony Horowitz (The House of Silk, Moriarty) and voiced by Ed Stoppard. You’ll need a smartphone to activate the call from Sherlock.
Dine like a detective
Try Simpson’s-in-the Strand (100 Strand, 020 7836 9112,simpsonsinthestrand.co.uk), one of London’s most traditional and sumptuous dining rooms, which is mentioned in The Dying Detectiveand The Illustrious Client. Famed for its carved roasts, its closest thing approaching a bargain is the Fixed Price menu, served early evening until 7pm (not Saturdays or Sundays), for £25.75 plus service. Ask for a window seat to emulate Watson “looking down at the rushing stream of life in the Strand” and wear your best bib and tucker.
Speedy’s Sandwich Bar and Café (187 N Gower St, 020 7383 3485,speedyscafe.co.uk) near Euston, is a humble caff that has, thanks to its new incarnation as 221b Baker Street’s neighbour in the Cumberbatch/Freeman series, become an unlikely tourist attraction. Apart from a few pictures on the wall, it is refreshingly unaffected by its new celebrity status, although you can dine on a Sherlock wrap (chicken and cheese) or a Watson wrap (veggie, both £4.10). It is open weekdays and Saturday mornings.
The Criterion on Piccadilly was where Watson first heard the name “Sherlock Holmes” from his friend Stamford, an event recorded by a plaque inside the restaurant. The Long Bar, with its lavish ceiling, is ideal for an early evening drink and it stills serves a couple of cocktails created here by barman Leo Engel in the late 19th century. Try a Reviver — American whiskey, Angostura bitters, lemon juice, soda (£8).
Take a walking tour
One way to get a feel for Sherlock’s London (both Victorian or contemporary) is to take one of the city’s Holmes-themed walking tours. Outside the Criterion is the meeting point for Britmovie’s walking tour (11am Saturday, britmovietours.com, £12). It concentrates mostly on the BBC series and recent Guy Ritchie movies, although it does include the site of the Strand magazine. London Walks (walks.com) also offers a two-hour Sherlock tour on Friday afternoons at 2pm (£9), which concentrates a little more on Conan Doyle’s stories.
Sip some Sherlock ale
Both of the walks mentioned feature the Sherlock Holmes pub on Northumberland Street (sherlockholmespub.com), which became the final resting place of a Holmes exhibit put together for the Festival of Britain in 1951. It has (as has the Northumberland Arms) associations with The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Noble Bachelor and features a recreation of the sitting room of 221b Baker Street upstairs, as well as movie and theatre images in the downstairs bar. You can dine on Mrs Hudson’s Steak & Ale Pie (£12.95) or The Retired Colourman’s Fish and Chips (£10.95) which, to be frank, taste much like any other reasonable pub grub. But you can also enjoy a pint of Watson’s Wallop! or the lighter Sherlock Holmes Ale.
Find suitable lodgings
The Park Plaza chain, which includes the Sherlock Holmes Hotel at 108 Baker Street — not, despite the name, especially themed — has a London Museum Sherlock Exhibition package at all its properties in the capital. It costs from £188 per room per night, B&B, including two exhibition tickets with exclusive fast-track anytime entry, a souvenir book and 10 per cent discount on purchases in the Museum’s gift shop (0800 169 6128, parkplaza.com). The Langham, opposite the BBC on Portland Place, is an important hotel in Holmes lore — it was where Conan Doyle was commissioned to write The Sign of Four, Sherlock’s second adventure — and features in A Scandal in Bohemia and The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax. It also has a package with two tickets for the Sherlock exhibition, from £329 B&B per night (020 7636 1000, london.langhamhotels.co.uk).
Need to know
Sherlock: The Man Who Never Lived And Will Never Die is at the Museum of London (150 London Wall, £12/£10; 020 7001 9844,museumoflondon.org.uk) until April 12, 2015.
Robert Ryan is the author of the novel The Dead Can Wait, which features Dr Watson (Simon & Schuster, £7.99)