Battle is on to save the house that Conan Doyle built

The curious affair of the old, empty house has taken a new turn. No one lives in the old, empty house, you might wish to point out. But that is what is curious about it.

It was a fine house designed with loving care by the writer Arthur Conan Doyle, so that his wife's last years could be made comfortable. Now a battle to prevent it being converted into flats is to be taken to the High Court.

Undershaw, in Hindhead, Surrey, has become a sorry sight, empty and vandalised, but this is where Conan Doyle wrote some of his most famous stories, including The Hound of the Baskervilles – though his story Silver Blaze, with the famous line about the incident of the dog in the night-time, was written earlier, in the 1890s.

Visitors to the old house included Bram Stoker, J M Barrie and a young Virginia Woolf. It is a Grade II-listed building in a three-acre plot with glorious views down the Nutcombe Valley to the South Downs. Doyle drafted the first designs of the house, then passed them to his architect and friend Joseph Henry Ball to complete. It included an electricity generator, and a model railway in the garden.

He chose Hindhead because of its mild climate, believing it would ease the suffering of his wife Louisa, who had been diagnosed with tuberculosis. They moved into Undershaw in 1897; Louisa died in 1906.

Doyle wanted to leave the house to his son, Kingsley, but he died in a flu epidemic at the end of the Great War, in 1918. Doyle then sold the property for £4,000 – a big loss on the £10,000 it had cost to have it built. In 1924, it was turned into a hotel, which closed in 2004. It was then bought by a developer, who got permission from Waverley Council to turn it into three flats and build five more houses on the site.

Campaigners have formed the Undershaw Preservation Trust in the hope of getting the council's decision overturned. They want the house to be turned into a self-financing Sherlock Holmes/Conan Doyle museum.

The trust's founder, John Gibson, a retired charted surveyor and author, said he was mystified by the council's decision to grant the developers planning permission. He said: "The historic associations of a building have to be considered, particularly where a listed building is concerned, otherwise what is the point of listing them in the first place? There were over 1,300 objections in the form of petitions and letters and it surprises me how much the planners have ignored public opinion."

A statement from Waverley Borough Council said they had not yet been served with papers challenging their decision, "but if papers were to be served, it is Waverley's intention to robustly defend its decision to grant planning to developers Fossway Ltd.

"In granting planning permission to develop Undershaw, Waverley has secured the long-term future of Conan Doyle's former residence, which is one of the key planning considerations when dealing with listed buildings."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
News
people
News
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the Apple Watch for you? Well, it depends if you want for the fitness tech, or the style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own