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A visit to Undershaw * 20 June 2012


Over the last few months leading up to the High Court Judicial Review, much has been said about Undershaw. We know of its neglected state and present precarious situation, as the house balances between being brought back to life in its original form, and ripped apart by developers, never to stand whole again. The alarming reality to see this house in the flesh however, as some of the Sherlockology team did recently, is far more shocking!

The derelict house sits in its overgrown surroundings, with discarded rubbish, shattered glass and tiles, lying like confetti, all around the base of the house. But this is no celebration; to see what must have been such a magnificent home in the time of its commissioner Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, reduced to a broken shell of a building, is truly tragic. It's almost inconceivable to imagine how this historic house was allowed to deteriorate this badly, as you can see from the photographs we took.


The interior of Undershaw is like a mausoleum. Shards of daylight escaping between the gaps of the boarded up windows, is the only thing that pierces the darkness within this locked up house during the day. There is something undoubtedly spooky about it in this condition. Ruins of walls that once stood with pipes protruding from the body of the building going nowhere add to the effect, while outside doors open into nothing and cellar doors creak in the breeze, seemingly inviting the brave visitor to enter down the worn stairs and into the unknown gloom below. Even during the day, it feels like the perfect setting for a ghost story.


Most of the damage is superficial of course and the structure appears to have remained sound. This at least is something, and among the tangle of climbing ivy and unruly weeds, grows hope along with them, as it is not too late for this house. Fawns lay in the long grass of the lawn and sunbath undisturbed, while the noise of the nearby road is the only sound that breaks the silence as the house in cocooned in the property's surrounding trees, which do well to shield it from the outside world. Somehow it creates the illusion of having entered into a secret garden or a different time. You can imagine how this would have made the perfect muse for a writer and understandable why great works such as 'The Hound of the Baskervilles' were written here.

The experience of seeing Undershaw first hand is both depression and heartwarming in equal measure. Hopefully soon the fate of the house will be less uncertain, and it can be restored to its original glory and appreciated by visitors as it was originally intended. It may have had a fall, but from an empty house once came an amazing rebirth, so we can only hope history will repeat itself here.