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The Beat of Gaia's Heart

The Case of the Derelict Estate

What would you do if someone wanted to turn Edgar Allan Poe’s house into a modern suite of studio apartments? Or tried to tear down the Little House on the Prairie?

Well, a developer is poised to do just that to Undershaw, the house Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, had built to his own specifications for his family. The property, currently falling into rack and ruin under the ownership of the developers, who have received permission to turn it into nine homes (three town houses on the site of the house itself and the rest new buildings on the property), is in danger of being lost to posterity forever.

John Gibson is the driving force behind the Undershaw Preservation Trust (http://www.saveundershaw.com/), a group determined to prevent the destruction of the home in which Conan Doyle wrote The Hound of the Baskervilles and resurrected Holmes from an early and untimely death over Reichenbach Falls. Gibson undertook his mission when he came upon the house standing derelict and vandalized in 2006. Up until 2005 Undershaw had stood proudly intact, after decades of a comfortably preserved existence as a good-quality hotel.

Gibson and some stalwart friends formed the trust to save the house, and have been working hard ever since to convince the authorities that the permit for development was granted illegally and to ensure that a private buyer willing to restore the house and allow limited public access has the chance to do just that.

Undershaw may not be as famous as the fictional address of the great detective himself, and 221B Baker Street has certainly gotten a lot more attention. Yet for devotees of both Conan Doyle and Holmes, the loss of Undershaw would be very great indeed, since the dwelling places of authors give insights into their lives and often their work as well. Undershaw is more special than most, since Conan Doyle had it built to his specifications.

If you’d like to read more about the struggle to preserve the home of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and maybe even join the cause, see my article in Kings River Life at http://kingsriverlife.com/06/25/saving-the-arthur-conan-doyle-home/.
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