Sherlock’s start in life?

The Dark Walk at Stonyhurst College
The Dark Walk at Stonyhurst College

“Sherlock” – the hit new BBC series, gave us a new and 21st century twist on the “Hound of the Baskervilles” mystery this week.

But how many viewers know how much the author of the original Sherlock Holmes stories, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, was inspired by his old school, Stonyhurst College, in the heart of the Ribble Valley?

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The budding physician and author attended Stonyhurst between 1869 and 1875 when he was writing the books. Many believe that Baskerville Hall is really Stonyhurst, from the similarities in this description: “The Avenue opened into a broad expanse of turf, and the house lay before us. In the centre was a heavy building from which a porch projected... from this central block rose the twin towers, ancient, crenellated, and pierced with many loopholes.”

The Dark Walk – a yew tree alley – in the grounds of Stonyhurst also bearsd a striking similarity to the place where Sir Charles Baskerville met his gory end; the idea of the hound may have come from howling dogs kept on the Stonyhurst estate, which the most senior pupils were allowed to bring to school in those days for hunting. And the bleak backdrop of Longridge Fell may well have been the inspiration for Baskerville Moor.

Conan Doyle’s rigorous classical and mathematical education at Stonyhurst prepared the way for his famous fictional detective’s “Science of Deduction”. The Stonyhurst Museum, with exhibits collected from all over the world by Jesuit missionaries, may have given rise to Sherlock Holmes’s taste for exotic objects and potions from far away places.

And two of his Stonyhurst contemporaries had the name Moriarty. Elementary, dear Watson!