A visit to ST. BART’S HOSPITAL and the site of THE REICHENBACH FALL | News | Sherlockology Sherlockabilia Shop Now Open

A visit to ST. BART’S HOSPITAL and the site of THE REICHENBACH FALL * 21 May 2012

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We've deliberately skirted around anything spoilerific from The Reichenbach Fall in our social site writing since its first broadcast in the UK, out of respect for those countries that have yet to see it. However, now the USA has just seen the episode, and with Germany not far behind, we've decided to write about a visit two of the Sherlockology team members made a couple of weeks ago, while at a loose end in London.

Saint Bartholomew's Hospital has, of course, always held an important place in the canon of Sherlock Holmes since the very beginning, but it's perhaps indicative of the genius of the creators of BBC Sherlock to recast it as the site of the greatest apparent tragedy to ever befall the characters. We'd been taking a walk around the Thames area by The Millennium Bridge, and had just navigated a thunderously loud flash mob that had descended on St Paul's Cathedral, attended by what felt like half the Metropolitan Police force. With some time spare before our next appointment, and realising we were only a couple of minutes away, we decided to walk up to St Bart's for a quick visit.

One of us had already visited St Bart's in early January to collect information and imagery for the Locations Guide on our website, while for the other this was the first time to visit the Hospital. In both cases our first reaction on entering the space was the same - coming from St Paul's with all the noise and bustle of London around you, to the sudden quiet of the area backing onto Smithfield Market was stunning. It's almost like suddenly finding yourself in the countryside, such is the almost instantaneous reduction in sound.

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Almost bizarrely, this silence, coupled with the knowledge of what you see onscreen in The Reichenbach Fall lends the site a sense of unexpected reverence. We're rational adults who can separate fiction from reality, but even so, we found ourselves walking around Market View as if we were visiting a crime scene, reenacting John's movements and feeling the full impact of what it must be like to see your best friend standing on the edge of a rooftop on such a tall building. The atmosphere was certainly very sombre for us, as it genuinely felt like a place that had recently seen a tragic event. It was quite eerie in fact, like we were standing on hallowed ground - this probably sounds quite extreme, but the impression the episode leaves makes this effect at this location quite tangible.

While there are numerous theories about how Sherlock's Fall and resurrection was achieved, we won't be going into that. Yes, we do indeed have our own theories, but we won't reveal them here, for obvious fear of looking extremely stupid when Steven Moffat, Mark Gatiss and Steve Thompson confound us come Series Three. Instead, we'll just lay out a couple of interesting facts that aren't really visible onscreen and can be overlooked.

Firstly, when you stand on the same spot that John Watson stands, the height of St Bart's Hospital is striking. It's a sheer building, actually imposing in a completely understated way. Crucially though, when viewed from behind the Smithfield Ambulance Station, you cannot see the windows of the lowest floor of St Bart's Hospital, and you only ever see the windows of the top three floors during the Fall itself. Make of that what you will.

Secondly, the pavement where Sherlock lands is huge, and simply beyond the power of most human beings to project themselves over - yes, we saw that rubbish truck driving away from the side of the road too. But of course, we're looking at that particular fact with a rational mind while stood on a site in reality. Fiction, by its nature, lets you get away with all sorts of things in pursuit of an amazing story.

Thirdly, the area around the Ambulance Station is a turning area, with only one direct access point from Giltspur Street to the south. The bicycle rider that hits John has nowhere to come from, other than from off the adjacent West Smithfield roundabout, and then crossing the pavement and deliberately entering the turning area to ride into him.

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Away from theorising, there are a couple of other things in the area that caught our eye. On the spot just next to where Sherlock lands, there's a blob of yellow spray paint on the pavement. It's visible in the episode itself, and remains there in reality. If you wanted an easy spot to gather around, that's it.

We have to admit by being a bit darkly amused by the signs on the walls of the hospital proclaiming it lacks an A&E department - oh dear!

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And finally, while we can't condone graffiti and the like, one simple piece, written on the pavement by someone sat on the bench directly next to the spot of the Fall, did stand out in a simple and almost poetic way.

It sort of summed up the entire experience the area around St Bart's now puts on you having watched The Reichenbach Fall, and it's a definite proof of evidence of just how impactful these characters have become in our lives, and most likely yours if you are reading this article. It's a wonderfully quiet area of London, divorced from the rush of the rest of the city, and a perfect getaway spot if you wanted to escape the noise. But as a BBC Sherlock fan, it's also curiously moving, the hush lending it a highly charged atmosphere that you may find unexpected.

If you wanted to visit Saint Bartholomew's Hospital, we've got full details and directions on our website HERE

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