Baker Street

 

 

"We met next day as he had arranged, and inspected the rooms at No. 221B, Baker Street, of which he had spoken at our meeting. They consisted of a couple of comfortable bed-rooms and a single large airy sitting-room, cheerfully furnished, and illuminated by two broad windows."
(Arthur Conan Doyle, A Study in Scarlet, 1887)

JUST as the brand 'Land Rover' can sometimes seem to morph to the ear into 'Lan Drover', Baker Street to many intended visitors can sometimes sound like 'Baker's (or Bakers') Street'

For years I thought it was one of the latter.

Baker St is in postcode areas NW1/W1 and is a busy thoroughfare. It runs south from Regent's Park, the intersection with Park Road, parallel to Gloucester Place, intersecting Marylebone Road, York Street, Portman Square and Wigmore Street. At the intersection with Wigmore St, Baker St turns into Orchard Street, which ends when it intersects with Oxford Street.

The street is served by the London Underground by Baker Street tube station; next to the station is Transport for London's lost property office. Baker Street Station is the world's first underground station.

In 1835, the first permanent exhibition of Madame Tussauds waxworks was opened on Baker St. The museum moved, just around the corner, to Marylebone Road in 1884.

In 1940 the headquarters of the Special Operations Executive moved to 64 Baker Street, Marks and Spencer office; they were often called the "Baker Street Irregulars" after Sherlock Holmes's gang of street urchins of the same name.

The Beatles Apple Corp was based at 94 Baker Street,

The head office of Marks and Spencer, formerly the UK's largest retailer, was at "Michael House" (named in parallel with the group's "St Michael" brand) in Baker Street for many years until the company relocated to the Paddington Basin in 2004. This was one of the best known corporate buildings in the UK. It is expected that Michael House will be demolished and replaced with a new mixed use development.

221B

Baker Street is considerably wider than is portrayed in some film versions of Holmes's adventures and is a substantial and busy north-south thoroughfare.

The site of the house — had it ever existed (see below) — has been much disputed by scholars. The address itself did not exist at the time the stories were first published.

The street number 221B has never been assigned to any property in Baker Street. In the period during which the Sherlock Holmes stories are set, street numbers in Baker Street only went up to No 100, which was presumably why Conan Doyle chose the fictional number.

The part now encompassing 221 Baker Street was known in Conan Doyle's lifetime as Upper Baker Street, and in the first manuscript, Conan Doyle put Holmes's home in "Upper Baker Street", indicating that if he had a house in mind it would have been in the section north of Marylebone Road, near Regent's Park. However, a British crime novelist named Nigel Moreland claimed that late in Conan Doyle's life, he identified a spot where Baker Street intersected George Street, several blocks south of Marylebone Road, as the location of 221b. Either way, when street numbers were re-allocated in the 1930s, the block of odd numbers from 219 to 229 was assigned to an Art Deco building known as Abbey House, constructed in 1932 for the Abbey Road Building Society (subsequently the Abbey National), which the company occupied until 2002.

Almost immediately, the building society started receiving correspondence to Sherlock Holmes from all over the world, in such volumes that it appointed a permanent "secretary to Sherlock Holmes" to deal with it. A bronze plaque on the front of Abbey House carries a picture of Holmes and Conan Doyle's narrative detailing Holmes and Watson moving in at 221B. In 1999, Abbey National sponsored the creation of a bronze statue of Sherlock Holmes that now stands at the entrance to Baker Street tube station.

Holmes scholars have had a number of theories as to the "real" address. With much of Baker Street devastated during the blitz, little trace is left of the original buildings, and most of them are post-war, except those in what was known as Upper Baker Street.

The Sherlock Holmes Museum