Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Breaking News - BBC London News

To my delight and arising from the article featured by Gordon Rayner in the Telegraph yesterday, BBC London News would like to feature an article on Undershaw on their news programme. They are hoping to start filming either sometime this week or the early part of next week providing we have permission from the owners to film internally and externally at the site of Undershaw. The BBC will get back to me over the next couple of days and I will publish the dates and times here for any supporters that might be interested in coming along.

John Gibson, the Trust's director will also be present to give a guided showround to the film crew and to limited numbers of supporters, so if you would like to be included in this experience please let me know soonest.

Let me reiterate that this is pending permission from Undershaw's current owners.

I will also make contact with Richard Doyle, Conan Doyle's great nephew to see whether he will be guest of honour and to take part in an interview with the BBC.

I will keep you all posted on this successful end to 2009 and a hopeful success story for 2010.

Friday, 25 December 2009

Christmas and New Year Greetings from the grounds of Undershaw

Christmas and New Year Greetings to all my followers and supporters of the Save Undershaw campaign from the grounds of Conan Doyle's house here in the heart of Surrey.

Lets all hope that 2010 will give us reason to celebrate and that between us we are able to save the house that is surrounded in so much history and allow the public to re-enter the house where Conan Doyle wrote his most famous novel 'The Hound of the Baskervilles'. We must not allow the developers to build their apartments and take away the history that we are all so proud of.

Sir Arthur wrote to William Gillette inviting him to Undershaw for Xmas, he wrote: "My dear Gillette, You seem to have carried London once more by storm. Everyone I meet tells me the same thing. I do hope that your health is bearing the long strain.

I understand that the Company is free on Xmas Day. What I want is that you and all the American members of it should make this your home that day and not return until the 26th. I can put you all up with great ease and also Miss Healy's mother who, I understand, is with her. My wife would be overjoyed to see them both. Now do come yourself and arrange this, for if it is fine they will see a little of English country life which would perhaps be a change and a pleasant memory.
We can arrange all about trains".

A Conan Doyle

Does anyone know what year this was?

It appears Sir Arthur had many friends in many countries - perhaps the many countries would like to band together and make this a meeting place for all our friends worldwide. What a remarkable piece of history this would make!

Sunday, 20 December 2009

John Gibson - The Man Who Created the Undershaw Preservation Trust

This is the official registration document for the Undershaw Preservation Trust; registering Undershaw as a museum and cafeteria.

The Trust has been registered and set up by it's director Mr John Gibson, FRICS.

Born in Oxford, England John was an outstanding athlete in his youth who voluntarily left school at an early age. He started an early career in banking and took formal examinations for university entrance in art, mathmatics and sciences. Following a short period of study, he followed his vocational interest with antiquarian books regarding literature and architecture/building.

He attended a three year course in the late 1960's in London, graduating in 1969. Subsequently John gained experience in property having worked on large Greater London Council Schemes which included the redevelopment of the Croydon Aerodrome, private landed London Estates, Oxford College property holdings, City Bank and Government Agency.

John prepared and took many hundreds of court cases, including a 100% success rate in the higher court which is reported in the legal textbooks. He owned a portfolio of property investments largely in London. He developed property and prepared and took planning appeals. Valued property as diverse as major theatres, marinas, farms, country houses, woodland, development land and shopping centres.

John retired in his mid 50's to devote time to his collections and other interests.

He is a great collector of books (100,000 volumes) and ephemera autograph material and interesting art, photographs and posters.

Following over a decade of research and the discovery of much unknown material and stories by Doyle -published as the author/editor (with Richard Lancelyn Green) "My Evening with Sherlock Holmes" (1981), "A Bibliography of Arthur Conan Doyle" (1984 - Oxford University Press) - long correspondence between Graham Greene/Gibson, who provided the Preface; a series of three books on "The Unknown Conan Doyle", "Essays on Photography", "Letters to the Press" and "The Uncollected Stories" (all published by Secker & Warburg, 1983/84).

He also produced and published privately an exact facsimile of the first Sherlock Holmes novel "A Study in Scarlet" in 1987 on its centenary - 50 copies of which were inscribed and signed by Jean Conan Doyle (the daughter of Arthur Conan Doyle). John also supplied an article and new information to the Sherlock Holmes Journal. Winner of the Edgar Allan Poe Award in 1984 in the United States.

His interest in Doyle has taken him as far afield as Switzerland and California. He assisted Sotheby's, London and Pacific Book Auctions, San Francisco with Doyle collections.

John has known Undershaw for over forty years and involved the Victorian Society in the property from June 2006. Publicity against development given to national newspapers and national/international (including Russian public channel)television. Personally spoke at planning committee hearing in December 2006 where the previous redevelopment application was unanimously rejected by the Committee. John can be seen in this picture walking around the grounds of Undershaw keeping a careful eye on its developments.

Founded the Undershaw Preservation Trust in 2009 to help protect and preserve Undershaw as a single dwelling house. The Heritage Lottery Fund has indicated that it may match fund any money raised to save the historic house.

John is a Fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors in three specialisations - Arts, Building and Valuation.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

An Article in the Telegraph

I was interviewed yesterday evening by a journalist from the Telegraph who is writing an article about Undershaw which is likely to be featured in the paper between Christmas and New Year.

This is just what we had hoped for, a national paper to pick up on our story, with the hope that it will raise awareness to a wider section of the public. This is now a prime time especially with all the hype of the new Sherlock Holmes film that is due in our cinemas shortly. A big thank you to the Telegraph.

Our next step towards public awareness is to grab the attention of a commissioning editor to put a documentary together on the history of Conan Doyle and his time at Undershaw, Sherlock Holmes and our efforts to save the building. As I have written in previous posts I have been in contact with a freelance TV producer who would like to make the documentary but needs the backing from a commissioning editor. Recent communication with Claire Whalley indicates that she has not had any response from the BBC. How disappointing but we must remember the saying 'No news is good news'. We positively await a response.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

BREAKING NEWS - Planning application now imminent!

I have made contact with the planning department of Waverley Borough Council today. The plans to convert Undershaw into apartments and its registration is imminent. It is likely that it could be over the next several days and certainly no later than the early part of the New Year. We have said all along that the developers are most likely to submit plans just days before Christmas which then only gives us several days to object instead of the full 21 days that we were relying on. We are therefore carefully checking the local papers for these long awaited plans so that we can then object wholeheartedly and of course at the right time, against this terrible act that is being committed to Undershaw.

The offices of the planning department will close at 4.00 pm on 24th December and re-open at 9.00 am on 4th January.

I now ask for all those that claim to be in support of preventing Undershaw from being split up into separate units to get behind the Undershaw Preservation Trust and show that you are truly passionate about saving Conan Doyle's Undershaw either by urgently signing the on-line petition: or more importantly writing your own letter of objection, headed up UNDERSHAW PROPOSALS, to prevent Undershaw from being converted to residential dwellings. Please also include in your letter, which is of the most importance, that public access must be retained. All letters to be addressed to Hilary Hobbs, Planning Department, Waverley Borough Council, The Burys, Godalming, Surrey, GU7 1HR. This could be our last chance! Only YOU can help us save this very important piece of history. We are doing what we can! We may have to rely on some of you to give us the backing we so desperately need. We care enough do you?

Words of Support from William Roache MBE

I would like to take this opportunity to thank William Roache MBE for his interest and input to the Save Undershaw project. I know he has had a busy schedule with filming Coronation Street over the last few months but has managed to find a few minutes of his time to write the following for the blog and the on-line petition:

"We all know and love Sherlock Holmes and beyond that Conan Doyle was a much respected author and a man of many interests. So when a beautiful house that was his home and inspiration is not just up for sale but going to be demolished it is our national duty to preserve it. Ideally as a museum to the great man. It needs a massive, ongoing, fund raising venture or some big corporation with a big heart to take up this project. It must be saved".
William has also written his autobiography entitled 'Soul on the Street' which I fully recommend.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Radio Interview - 27th August 2009

The link for the radio interview that was conducted by delta radio is somehow not linking us to their site so instead if you google 'Delta Radio - John Gibson and Lynn Gale' it should bring us up entitled 'Could the mystery of Conan Doyle's former home ........' This interview was held on the Awareness Day at the site of Undershaw in our bid to save the building from the developers.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

For Sale - Undershaw Hotel

Today was a dry, fresh sunny day and I thought I would take a wander down to the house that I have grown to be at home with in the hope that it may give me fresh clues as to what my next step will be in the continous endeavours to save Sir Arthur's property. I do this on ocassions when I need to shut the world out and find the solitude that comes from behind the tall trees as you leave the busy A3 and step into another world following the curvy driveway to Undershaw and the peaceful grounds that surround the house. Of course once the old A3 gives way to the new road housing the tunnel this place of solitude will be even more peaceful. I just cannot believe that in the next few months this could be the site of modern day apartments and not the visitor centre and museum that we had hoped for.

It looks as though the trees have been cleared from the massive board that still advertises its sale or let. This makes me wonder whether the developers are indeed fed up with the controversy that this building has brought to them since 2005 and indeed are they still looking to perhaps get rid by means of the best offer that could still come their way. Unfortunately the Undershaw Preservation Trust does not have that amount of money to put in that 'best offer' unless of course we receive generous support from a sponsor or benefactor or indeed receive substantial pledges to increase the Trust's funds. To pledge a sum of money please state your chosen amount and e-mail this with your contact details to: and we will be in touch.

I took a stroll along the Haslemere Road to search out Undershaw's neighbour, now a building site, presumably more modern houses will be built to fill the gap. This must not happen to Undershaw - whilst we have time we must act now. We are always too quick to say 'we should have' or 'if only' and by then it is always too late.

To coincide with the release of the new Sherlock Holmes film we would have hoped to be in a position to advertise our efforts on local TV. I have written to ITV Meridian Tonight who carried out an interview from Conan Doyle's bedroom at Undershaw with Richard Doyle (great newphew of Sir Arthur) at the end of May with the hope that they will now show this piece of footage to help with the campaign. If anyone reading this is in a position to persuade ITV Meridian to show this I would be extremely grateful. This piece of footage should be kept for history purposes and not destroyed.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

On-line Petition

Just to remind everyone that there is an on-line petition which will be printed up and sent off to Waverley Borough Council before or just after the Christmas period or whenever the plans by the developers are submitted. Please support us with this venture by signing the petition as a matter of urgency. Lets take the total up to 500 signatures. To remind you of the link: Please don't delay!

Monday, 7 December 2009

Just A Thought - Would a Theatrical Group be interested in Undershaw?

A thought for the day! After a grand evening at the Electric Theatre, Guildford on Saturday to watch the adaptation of Conan Doyle's 'Hound of the Baskervilles' the thought came to one of my staunch supporters and dear friend to include a small threatrical area within Undershaw should we be lucky enough to raise enough funds to purchase the building from the developers, to tie in with our idea of a museum, gift and coffee shop with conference area. Could we ask various theatres to participate in a fund raising scheme for the Undershaw Preservation Trust? Ideas would be appreciated.

Should the theatre or several theatres like to be involved with fund raising and if you would like to know more about the Trust, then please telephone its Director, Mr John Gibson, FRICS on 01372 453147 or e-mail me, Lynn Gale at for more information. Full detail of our aims will appear on our website once it is up and running.

The cast of the 'Hound of the Baskervilles', namely the Bramley Players put on a marvellous performance and was greatly received by all that attended. We wish to thank the staff of the theatre for permitting us to advertise our plight and for their willingness to help with the distribution of fliers and cards. Our thanks also go to Jenny Swift, the production's director for her understanding of our demands. We hope that we may have interested a few more people not least those working in the threatrical business. Time will tell whether we made any sort of impact by campaigning at this small but extremely popular theatre. I fully recommend a visit. A friendly and enjoyable evening for all the family.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Sherlock Holmes Needs YOUR Help!

Should anyone wish to contact me personnally with their pledge of help - whether it would be promoting the campaign at their place of work by displaying our flyiers and cards, directing people to the on-line petition or whether it is just a question concerning Undershaw then you can contact me at You may even know someone who would like to help with fund raising for the Undershaw Preservation Trust. I look forward to hearing from you. YOUR INPUT IN WHATEVER WAY WILL HELP US WITH OUR EFFORTS.

You can also give the campaign a boost by writing comments in the section on each of the posts contained in this blog should you wish. A letter of protest to the proposed modern apartments that are threatening to ruin this site should be sent to Waverley Borough Council. This would undoubtedly help when it comes to the Councillor's making their decisions. We would like to see Undershaw restored to its former glory and ensure that public access is retained. This is most important.

Please help in whatever way you can we need public support and we need it NOW! Time is running out.

Just to remind you that our website will be up and running in the near future. A very kind lady from Manchester has donated enough funds to professionally get this done. So my sincere thanks goes out to her and her grandson for making this possible. It was also this lady that kindly made contact with William Roache MBE on my behalf. He is willing to help in whatever way he can despite his busy schedule filming Coronation Street. William is happy to take part in the TV documentary should we be successful with any of the commissioning editors of the BBC. He has also given us a contact at Granada TV. This very kind lady is also the author of a new book being published sometime in January entitled 'Life's Mysteries - Your Key to Understanding' in which she is pictured here on the set of Coronation Street with William Roache MBE.

It is help like this that makes things happen and if everyone that was passionate about saving the building acted in the same way we would SAVE UNDERSAW without a shadow of a doubt. So please please help me with this incredible venture. I cannot do this on my own.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

'The View - Mind over Matter, Heart over Mind'

To coincide with the Arthur Conan Doyle conference that was held at the White Eagle Lodge on the 22nd May and the 150th anniversary of Conan Doyle's birthday a book entitled 'The View -Mind over Matter, Heart over Mind' was launched and received a 4-star rating from the Kindred Spirit Magazine. To find out more about the book and its connection with Conan Doyle go to:
I can highly recommend this book - it has been my inspiration through the ups and downs that have come with the campaign. Should anyone feel tempted to buy the book; and reading through you will see how inspirational it can be.

I had the pleasure of meeting Dave Patrick at the conference with many of the authors of this book (pictured on the right) and after spending time in their company I began to realise that anything was possible and the inspiration that I received on that day has stayed with me right through the year giving me the strength and the will to fight on. These were all very positive human beings, there was nothing negative about these people whatsover. So when I was told to believe in what I felt in my heart - I really believed I could save Undershaw. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Dave and his co-authors for making me believe in myself and giving me the belief of the positive thinking theory, in that if you believe in something enough, anything is possible.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Pavilion Not Enough for Conan Doyle

I wrote to the Editor of the Haslemere Herald and the following was published today:

"I write in response to the article in the Herald three weeks ago concerning the inclusion of a pavilion in the grounds of Undershaw to honour the history of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Surely he is worth more recognition than a basic structure housing a board giving visitors a brief outline of his connection with Hindhead. This will not compensate for the loss of a landmark that has been with us since 1897.

The Undershaw Preservation Trust are mortified to think that Waverley Borough Council are likely to support this move which may possibly be included in the developers plans, a move that I feel should be seriously re-considered.

It appears that Undershaw has been nothing but a burden to Waverley. If the developers had looked after the building in the first place - all the repairs that needed to be complied with would not have caused Waverley this aggro in the first place. Please let the people who care about the building have their say and give the Trust a chance.

It's about time Waverley sat up and listened to what most of the locals would like to see and to what the Trust has to offer. Does Hindhead really want another housing complex when there are others being erected within walking distance from Undershaw?

I would also like to say that I fully support the letter written by Mr John Gibson, FRICS, who has set up and registered the Undershaw Preservation Trust. The Trust's aims are to prevent Undershaw from being converted into separate units, but for the house to remain as one. The Trust would also like to see the inclusion of a museum and cafeteria within the building with public access retained.

May I also take this opportunity of thanking all those who have taken their time to write to this section of the Herald in support of Conan Doyle and his home Undershaw

Lynn Gale, Undershaw Preservation Trust

You too can have your say in response to this article by writing to: 114/115 West Street, Farnham, Surrey, GU9 7HL or e-mail at: e-mails must show full postal address.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Roger Straughan's Book

I have tonight received an e-mail from Dr Roger Straughan who is offering his book at a special rate of £10.00 for a signed copy for which he will make a contribution to the campaign. Roger is kindly pledging £50.00 as an initial contribution from his book sales. Roger's book 'A Study in Survival: Conan Doyle Solves the Final Problem' is out now and you can order his book by e-mailing You can read more about his book in the post entitled Conan Doyle's Recent Messages.

If you want to help the cause then by buying Roger's latest book you will be contributing to the campaign.

Roger will be signing copies of his book at Borders on Saturday 28th November.

No Light at the end of the Tunnel

Not a good day today. Spoke with Helen from Balfour Beatty yesterday and although they are very willing to help, it was plainly clear that they are unable to make an injection of funds or indeed be our sponsors. All the same I am very grateful to them for at least responding to my letter that I wrote to Ian Tyler their Chief Executive. Helen will be in further contact with me over the next couple of days but does not hold out much hope of being any help.

Balfour Beatty are the major construction company for the tunnel being built at Hindhead. The incredible work that has gone into this massive project will no doubt go down in the history books as being truly remarkable. The viewing platform just yards from Undershaw provides the most breathtaking views of the work that has and is being carried out. Whilst there's light at the end of the tunnel for this project, we need to work harder towards seeing the light for Undershaw!

As a consequence of this, I am feeling quite despondent today as the campaign to save Undershaw now moves into almost a year and still we are no further forward. We have made people more aware of our cause, that I am sure, and it maybe plainly obvious that the public are now fed up with listening to my constant support for Conan Doyle and Undershaw. There will come a time when I will have to begrudgenly give up the fight and allow the developers to commit this terrible crime to Undershaw unless I receive your help and your responses.

I have had four pledges now of £25.00 - this will hardly save Undershaw. This doesn't mean that I am not grateful, of course I am more than grateful to those people that have pledged and contributed in some way and of course those that are following this blog. They have been a terrific boost but we cannot rely on these people alone.

I understood that there are many enthusiasts out there that would like to see us save the building, but according to the response that I have had to this blog and the campaign in general it appears that nobody really cares. The Trust will not survive on its funds alone as we would have to purchase, restore and preserve. Over 300 people have signed the on-line petition (incidently I have over 1000 signatures with another petition that I have been running) and not one has made a pledge or has come forward offering their help. I have sent e-mails to some of these with the details of my blog and sadly there has been no response. One must feel they are silently telling me something. We urgently need your help if Undershaw is to survive the New Year.

If this is the response we are having now, what sort of interest would we have if we did save Undershaw? It really dosn't look very promising does it! Tomorrow is another day and it could be a brighter one.

If the Trust is going to be successful and Undershaw saved we need your help NOW! Please respond and make the impossible possible.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Update News on the TV Documentary

I have recently been in contact with Claire Whalley who has been waiting for a reply from two different commissioning editors and BBC 4. Claire is aware that BBC budgets have been frozen which might explain the silence.

Claire is remaining quite optimistic about the idea - she will endeavour to contact them again and hopes to be the bearer of good news.

There have been several articles that have appeared on the TV recently about Conan Doyle and we had hoped that we could get something approved before the end of the year so that it would coincide with the 150th anniversary of his birth date. Claire believes that if she can film where the action is taking place especially when decisions for Undershaw are actually being made by the Councillors providing permission is granted by Waverley to film during this time then this would make the documentary an interesting venture. Of course the history of Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes and his life at Undershaw would be included as well as the supporters efforts to try and save the building. Surely this cannot fail! Any thoughts?

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Dr Watson may yet save Undershaw

In response to Mr Gibson's letter in last week's Haslemere Herald the following letter was printed in this weeks copy, sent by a reader in Selborne:

"What a pleasant surprise it was to see the letter from John H Watson, MD, 221B Baker Street, London, W1, in the letters page of the November 13 edition of the Haslemere Herald.

Dr Watson spoke up most eloquently for Mr Sherlock Holmes, who was too absorbed in attending to the health of his bee colonies at that time to notice the decision of the National Trust and the caretakers of his country retreat, to make Undershaw available to anyone at all for monetary profit, while announcing, on a distant display board, that he is its rightful, as you might say, incumbent!

This arrangement seems totally ludicrous to any discerning person and I fervently hope that Dr Watson will be able to convince Mr Holmes of the urgency of the situation and encourage him to take steps to protect his assests before this dreadful calumny can be perpetrated.

With regards from a concerned member of the public and follower of the marvellous exploits of Mr Sherlock Holmes".

Friday, 20 November 2009

Sherlock would have been appalled

A letter in the Haslemere Herald last week from Mr John Gibson read:

"It is doubtful whether Mr Sherlock Holmes will have seen the article on the front page of your last issue (as he is bee-keeping in East Sussex and the blight that has recently endangered his hives), recording the singular decision of the owners of Undershaw and the National Trust on a proposed 'display board' some distance from the house detailing its history, whilst the house itself is converted into residential units. Therefore as a humble chronicler of some of his cases you will perhaps allow me to express my utmost indignation at this ludicrous proposal to treat the home of the literary agent of my writings in such a manner.

Three years ago the planning committe of Waverley Borough Council unanimously turned down an application to convert the house into separate units; why, therefore have officers of the council continued to discuss with the owner's architect just such proposals again against the previous decision? The original house is only 7,500 sq ft and renovated would, at the correct price, be a very saleable unit, and far cheaper than the verticle division into separate units. The literary agent's stable - still existing with the stalls as built, should remain untouched - he kept his horse 'Brigadier' and rode to hounds from here.

The owners of this house have in the last four-and-a-half years presided over the dereliction of this property with lead stripped from the roof, broken heraldic window etc. A Repair Notice was served on this property over a year ago - the lead has not been renewed and the heraldic window remains broken.

I also understand that there is now nobody in attendance at the property during weekday daylight hours.

The local authority argues that plans are being prepared - but only to permanently divide the house into separate units, and consequently bar public access, a scheme already rejected by the planning committee. Parking is severely restricted on this site, due to the sloping terrain, and the less units there are the better in this regard.

Would the National Trust houses of Winston Churchill (Chartwell) and Kipling's (Bateman's) or even Jane Austen's house at Chawton be considered suitable for conversion to apartments and with a 'display board' at some distance to explain the history? I do not think so. Undershaw is one of the major literary houses of Surrey and essential for Hindhead's regeneration and the local tourist industry.

The omniscience of Sherlock's brother, Mycroft, has so far failed at the highest level, although I hold out hope for some funds from the Heritage Lottery Fund (Compton Gallery received £4.3 M)

Mr Gibson, who is not without some funds in his Trust, assures me, that as a very firm believer in an open democracy, he would be pleased to debate, particulary with the principle players, exclusively in the correspondence columns of this newspaper, any of the above-mentioned points on this heritage matter.

I trust that second and better thoughts may prevail, and in the meantime subscribe myself,
Your humble but indignant servant, John H Watson M.D; 221B Baker Street, London, W1.

As discussed and dictated to:
Mr J M Gibson, FRICS, Director, Undershaw Preservation Trust
Note: Should you wish to write something in support of Undershaw to the 'Editors Letter's' section of the Haslemere Herald, this would show immense support to our cause, you can write to the Editor by post to: 114/115 West Street, Farnham, Surrey, GU9 7HL or e-mail to: e-mails must contain full postal address.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

My Thanks to Griff Rhys Jones

I would like to thank Griff Rhys Jones for his following comments in support of Undershaw:

"I can certainly add my voice to the list of those concerned about Undershaw. I wish I could be a more active patron and the building's saviour ....but, as you can image, I get hundreds of requests and all I can do for most of them is to add my small bleating voice".

Griff is best known for presenting the programme 'Restoration' which ran for three series.

Undershaw Preservation Trust - Our Special Thanks

Our special thanks to the 3 supporters that have pledged £25.00 each to save Undershaw. We will be in touch with you once we see what other pledges are offered and whether there is support out there for the Trust. Please remember it is only a PLEDGE at this stage, money does not exchange hands - you have nothing to lose by making a pledge. If every enthusiast for Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes pledged £25.00 each it would give us the ammunition that is required to purchase the building and give the supporters of Undershaw what they want - a museum housing a coffee and gift shop with a possible conference area an historical monument in tribute to one of the greatest men that has ever lived.

Please don't let this happen, only you can prevent this - the property shown here is Expedier House which is not a listed building but just yards from Undershaw. It was once the home of the British Car Auctions and is now being re-developed for affordable housing. The Undershaw Preservation Trust will help to save Undershaw - please help us to make this possible.

We do have some funds in the Trust which John Gibson has contributed, unfortunately not enough to realise our dream - our dream is to enable enthusiasts worldwide to be able to meet up at this landmark of outstanding beauty, cloaked in so much history, share cream teas on the terrace, chat about days gone by and walk where Sir Arthur himself once walked whilst marvelling the beauty of its surroundings. You have got to see the landscape for yourselves to believe the pure beauty of the area. This is a very sacred place to us all, please do not allow this house to be split up and transformed into apartments - do something now! This final picture is the view from the terrace of Undershaw - lets all meet up there one day and toast the work of the great Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

To make a pledge check out the information contained in the section 'The Undershaw Preservation Trust'. If you want to know more details of what you can do to help save Undershaw than e-mail me at

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

My Thanks to Uri Geller

Uri Geller very kindly agreed to post a comment on this blog. You can read his comment under 'A Brief History'. I am extremely grateful for his words of support for which I thank him. I look forward to further comments from anyone wishing to express their desire to join me in making what we could call 'history' by saving an historical monument.

Please visit Uri's website: or follow him on twitter: gelleruri

Monday, 16 November 2009

The Long Journey

It has been a long and tiresome journey for which one cannot be sure of the outcome. It has certainly come with its fair share of ups and downs and when you think you have made headway then another obstacle will appear and another one to overcome. Will there ever be light at the end of the tunnel? Sometimes it has felt that I have been battling to save this empty old house entirely on my own but I know that is not true and that there are several faithful supporters that have helped me keep sane .

I have met many people since starting this venture and have written to many companies, organisations, individuals, celebrities and royalty to raise awareness of our plight and to ascertain whether there is a possible alternative to the modern apartments that the developers wish to build. Our hopes for a museum, coffee and gift shop will not dwindle all the time I receive messages of support giving me the incentive to battle on. Should all else fail we will fight to prevent the house from being divided into flats and for it to remain as one house.

Most of the replies that I have received have been suggestions and other contacts, and with me being me, I have continuously followed up on all these which has led me to writing hoards more letters and e-mails.

I have alerted SAVE Britain's Heritage, an organisation recommended by the office of the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall. SAVE have recently replied to my e-mail which comes with a small glimmer of hope. Local MP Jeremy Hunt has very kindly backed up my nomination to register Undershaw with SAVE showing his support to the campaign. For more information on SAVE, please visit their website Since writing this post SAVE have declined to help the Trust which has been a bitter disappointment especially after being recommended by the office of HRH Prince Charles and backed by Jeremy Hunt MP, Shadow Culture Minister.

It has almost been a year since I involved myself with Conan Doyle's house. Within this time we have organised two open days at Undershaw to raise awareness amongst the locals. We made contact with Richard Doyle (Conan Doyle's great nephew) who very kindly came along to show his support in respect of all supporters worldwide. Meridian Tonight News filmed part of the day and interviewed Richard Doyle and Sally Morgan. Unfortunately to my utmost disappointment the footage was shelved and never went out on local TV. This may have been a turning point should we have been successful with an article on the local news. Any ideas of how we could persuade Meridian News to broadcast this?

Thursday, 12 November 2009

How It All Began - The Dream

I recall several months earlier at the end of 2008, and indeed before photographing Undershaw, a very vivid dream. I dreamt that I was a photographer taking shots of a Victorian family of five stood in a doorway of an old house. I was using one of the old fashioned cameras with a black covering and a big flash light. It felt all so real and caused me to query who this family was which left me wondering whether the dream was indeed that of my ancestors. I made an effort to mentally record the occurrence as I felt that it was going to prove significant in the days or months to come.

The dream was partially correct in the fact that several months later I stood in front of Undershaw taking photographs but where and who were the family? On purchasing one of Conan Doyle's books and on opening the pages I starred directly at a family that I had seen before! Was this indeed the family that I had dreamt about? Was somebody trying to tell me something.

The picture to the left is how I saw the family in my dream minus the house and the front door. This was also the picture that starred at me from the book. The picture to the right is the front door at Undershaw and identical to that in my dream which was taken after the occurrence.

On the 22 May 2009 the organisation that I work for were organising an Arthur Conan Doyle Conference to mark the 150th anniversary of Conan Doyle's birth date. I was invited to put together a visual display of Undershaw. I was thrilled to have been asked but at the same time concerned as to the lack of knowledge I had of Undershaw and indeed Conan Doyle. I knew that research was the key - this led me to the Portsmouth Guildhall to visit the Doyle Room storing a collection of Conan Doyle artifacts that were bequeathed to the Portsmouth Museum by Richard Lancelyn Green for whom Stephen Fry is the Patron. ..................................................the story continues.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes

Imagine it's the year that Guy Ritchie's new film Sherlock Holmes is released, and there is an announcement that Undershaw, the former home of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has been saved from the property developers by an unknown sponsor or source, the house formerly destined to become residential dwellings has had a reprieve. By some strange coincidence this has all happened in the 150th anniversary year of Conan Doyle's birthdate. What an amazing year 2009 would be! The release of a new film and Conan Doyle's former home purchased, restored and preserved with public access retained.

How It All Began - Why I Became So Involved

It all began one day back in March of this year whilst driving out armed with my camera and wondered where I should go to take a few snap shots. It was whilst I was driving past Undershaw that something seemed to tell me, in a curious sort of way, to photograph the old house.

I noticed then for the first time since its closure in 2004 the board advertising its 'sale' or 'let' with Lambert, Hampton and Butler, a Guildford based estate agent. My lack of observation of this board over the last 5 years is quite shameful and now with it starring me in the face helped me make a decision, one that has lasted almost a year - if only I knew then of the controversy that this building had produced over the years and the efforts that have gone into saving its historical value is painfully obvious after viewing various internet sites.

I wasn't expecting to see what was waiting behind the mass of trees as I walked down the curvy driveway. There, below scaffolding and a protective roof stood Undershaw the historical home of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a much respected gentleman of the neighbourhood, a man of history! It was so apparently obvious that before the protective cover was erected, the house had been left to weather the elements which caused it to become the dilapitated crumbling building that it is today. I had strong feelings that I wanted desperately to save it and return the charm, character and elegance to the house that was so very apparent all those years ago.

Save it! How am I honestly going to achieve such a remarkable, insane feat? Was I this crazy mad woman that wanted to beat the property developers and show the world that if you wanted something so badly, and if you work hard at what you believe, you can achieve almost anything. The story will continue ...................................

Monday, 9 November 2009

The Views

Undershaw is built on a 4 acre plot surrounded by National Trust land of outstanding beauty looking down onto the Nutcombe Valley with the South Downs in the distance.

These views must not be allowed to be erased from the public eye.

Sally Morgan Visits Undershaw

Friday 22nd May 2009 marked the 150th anniversary of the birth of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. On Thursday 21st May the house came alive again, albeit for a brief time, as it's doors were thrown open to a variety of supporters and to the media.

The pictures show Sally Morgan and Richard Doyle on the terrace of Undershaw discussing the book written by Georgina Doyle.

Journalists, broadcasters and fans of Conan Doyle converged on the crumbling property to help publicise an urgent appeal for funds needed to save a significant piece of literary heritage from the threat of property developers seeking to turn it into flats.

In response to a recent article, medium Sally Morgan made a specially scheduled visit to Undershaw to pledge her support for the fundraising campaign.

She spoke with journalists about her reasons for wanting to help save the historic property, saying that Undershaw and its breathtaking views should be saved for future generations, so that they could enjoy its atmosphere and the whole experience of Conan Doyle.

Just one day before the event, I managed to locate and contact Richard Doyle, great nephew of Sir Arthur. Poignantly, he made a last minute dash along the motorway to be there in time to pledge his support. He brought along a book entitled 'Out of the Shadows' written by Georgina Doyle, widow of Brigadier John Reinhold Innis Doyle, Richard's father. He and Sally discussed it at length, comparing the phtotographs within the book to the house as it stands today.

I received an e-mail from Richard Doyle, in which he wrote: "I believe we should respect the wishes of the local community, and I support the appeal to save Undershaw for the benefit of all".

Sally Morgan described her visit to Undershaw as "most exciting", but at the same time 'tinged with sadness to see how a once great house has fallen into such disrepair. She claimed she was able to sense the presence of a lady who would most definitely like to see the house retained as a single property, rather than being split up. "I knew Conan Doyle was looking down", Sally said. "What more could anyone ask?"
The day was magical. There was something in the air that gave it a very special feeling.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

The Murder-Mystery Event - Awareness Day

A murder mystery evening was held at the Devil's Punchbowl Hotel, Hindhead at the end of August to raise awareness of the need to save Undershaw, the former home of Spiritualist and author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

The evening was attended by over 70 guests, including the actress Julie T Wallace who starred alongside Patricia Hodge and Dennis Waterman in the 1986 hit drama 'The Life and Loves of She Devil'. Another attendee was Roger Straughan author of 'A Study in Survival: Conan Doyle Solves the Final Problem', which is published this month. Roger is donating a percentage of its proceeds to the cause. Roger is pictured here in the middle of the above photograph acting out his role as Oscar, he has pointed out that he does not make a habit of wearing this type of attire.

Performers from the Sherlock Holmes Society in Cambridge put on a superb performance and kept us all intrigued to the very last with a true 'Whodunit'. With the Devil's Punchbowl Hotel being contemporary with Undershaw, it was a perfect setting and atmosphere for the event.
The medium Lynn Rose was our guest for the evening and she carried out numerous accurate readings for attendees.

Latest News - Pavilion for Undershaw

Reported in the local newspaper, the Herald this week was the news that the owners of Undershaw, the former home of Sherlock Holmes author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, have offered to include "an element" of a visitor centre in its plans for the Grade II-listed building.

A worldwide appeal for help to save the author's former Hindhead home as a centre for fans of Sherlock Holms has failed to generate any viable schemes so far.

But following pressure from Hindhead Together - a community partnership formed to oversee the ongoing regeneration of the Hindhead area - owners Fossway, have agreed to incorporate a 'pavilion' for visitors within plans to convert the house into residential units. Developer Michael Wilson has told Hindhead Together of plans to build an open sided pavilion accessible to the public within the grounds. This would provide visitors with views of Undershaw, and could contain a permanent display board telling the history of the house and Conan Doyle.

This is a very clever move by the developer, and if a sponsor is not found in the forseeible future it is a plan that we may have to accept. Planning applications have yet to be submitted to Waverley Borough Council for the most recent project, and, until they are, there is no guarantee of their content. It is anticipated that such an application would be likely within the next couple of months.

Welcome to Undershaw - A Crazy State of Repair

Welcome to Undershaw, the former home of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes.

I will take you on a short tour of the house as it stands today, sorrowfully empty and in need of restoration and rescued from the property developers.

The following photographs show the hallway, the famous stained glass windows and Conan Doyle's bedroom.

TV Documentary

Since starting the campaign I have had many words of support and encouragement but also my fair share of disapproval - 'get rid', 'pull it down', 'where's the money coming from' and 'you're wasting your time'. Despite all of this I am still battling and believe me it is an uphill struggle. I have a passion for history and immense gratitude for all those people that have made history, Conan Doyle certainly played a very important part in making his mark in the history books, worthy of lasting recognition.

I have had several suggestions made to me and one that really stood out was 'GO NATIONAL WITH A TV DOCUMENTARY'. I have followed up many suggestions but this one was the biggy - where does one start. I pondered with this for several weeks and put it to one side and not really gave it any thought.

It then occured to me this could be the key and where would this lead me. I contacted a friend who happened to know of a freelance TV producer by the name of Claire Whalley. After exchanging correspondence with Claire I soon learnt that she was actually quite interested in the idea and thought that a documentary on the history of Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes, Undershaw and the supporter's efforts to save it would be quite fascinating. Latest news from Claire is that she has approached two different commissioning editors and will try BBC 4 in the coming week. We await the outcome.