Undershaw is the house Sir Arthur Conan Doyle lived in, having had it built in 1897 as his wife needed to move into the country for health reasons. He lived there for ten years, and wrote while there, among other things, The Hound of the Baskervilles. The Undershaw Preservation Trust would like to turn the Grade II listed building into a museum, but in June Waverley District Council granted listed building and planning consent for the conversion of the house into three apartments with an extension containing five town houses. The council has previously spent over £70,000 on emergency repairs to the building which had been neglected by the owners.
There has been a lengthy campaign, the latest stage of which has seen a number of people, including Conan Doyle’s great-great-nephews, Joshua and Oliver Conan Doyle, writing to Jeremy Hunt, MP for South West Surrey – he had previously been in favour of preserving the property. Stephen Fry, Christopher Frayling, and Uri Geller are listed among the campaign’s supporters.
D&M, the company who obtained listed building consent, say on their website: ‘The D&M Planning Partnership has out-sleuthed Sherlock Holmes in obtaining planning permission for the conversion and extension of Undershaw, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s former house in Hindhead, despite hundreds of objections from Conan Doyle enthusiasts.’
D&M are the same company who are currently redeveloping Sir William Temple’s house Moor Park into 13 apartments with an additional 11 new houses in the grounds. The house is Grade II* listed, part of the garden Grade II.
This whole thing puts me in mind of the decision that was made many years ago by Mole Valley District Council in Dorking, regarding Vaughan Williams’ house. There’s now a small road called Vaughan Way there, the original house having been demolished.
A rather important footnote 31/5/2012: yesterday on the BBC News website: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle house campaigners win court ruling. Not the end of the road, though. There’s more information at http://www.irwinmitchell.com/news/Pages/Elementary-Errors-By-Council-See-Campaigners-Win-Battle-To-Save-Sherlock-Creators-Home.aspx.