Sherlock Through The Ages - Pall Mall

Posted by Steve Emecz on

Extract from: Close To Holmes -A Look at the Connections Between Historical London, Sherlock Holmes and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle


Pall Mall c1910 looking towards Trafalgar Square
The Reform Club is the second building from the right

Pall Mall is the area of London in which you find a great number of the private members clubs that have historically been frequented by nobility and politicians. One of the most notable was the Carlton Club[1], arguably a second home of the Conservative Party, which was founded in 1832 and relocated to Pall Mall in 1835. It remained there until the building was destroyed in an air raid during the Second World War.


The Reform Club can be seen on the left of this picture,
immediately behind the van (2008)


Despite the departure of the Carlton Club a large number of other clubs still call the area home. Conan Doyle was himself a member of three of the clubs in Pall Mall. The first was the Reform Club[2] of which Conan Doyle was a member from June 1892. The second was the Athenaeum of which he became a member in March 1901[3]. Finally, the third was the Royal Automobile Club, founded in 1897, which opened for business in Pall Mall in March 1911 having relocated from Piccadilly. Conan Doyle became a member in 1903[4] soon after buying his first car.


The Athenaeum Club at 107 Pall Mall (2006)

 The Athenaeum is of particular interest as it was a club that had been specifically set up in 1824 with the idea of having scientific, artistic and literary minds amongst its members. It cannot have been lost on Conan Doyle when he was elected a member that his great literary hero Sir Walter Scott had also been a member. Conan Doyle’s famous contemporary fellow members included Winston Churchill, Rudyard Kipling and Cecil Rhodes who died one year after Conan Doyle was elected.

Turning to the Holmes connection, it was also on Pall Mall that the Diogenes Club, co-founded by Mycroft Holmes, was based. In The Greek Interpreter Holmes first speaks to Watson about his brother and explains that Mycroft lives in Pall Mall opposite the club which he helped to found. Mycroft’s connection to Pall Mall is also mentioned in the stories The Bruce-Partington Plans and The Final Problem. These are not the only connections however. Watson travels to a letting Agent in Pall Mall during The Solitary Cyclist in an attempt to gain information about the tenant of Charlington Hall. Finally, in The Abbey Grange, Holmes and Watson visit the shipping office of the Adelaide-Southampton Line, at the end of Pall Mall, in order to obtain information about Captain Crocker.


Mycroft Holmes co-founder of the Diogenes Club
from The Greek Interpreter


Although Conan Doyle himself never stated it the suggestion has been made by many that the Diogenes Club was little more than a front for the British Secret Service with Mycroft as its head. This inference is largely drawn from The Bruce-Partington Plans where Mycroft is responsible for involving Holmes in the case which concerns ‘…the most jealously guarded of all government secrets.’

However such a lofty position seems unlikely when you bear in mind Holmes’s description of his own brother in the same story as a man who remains a subordinate and has no ambitions of any kind.


[1] Sir James Damery from The Illustrious Client was a member of the Carlton Club.

[2] Source: Conan Doyle: The Man Who Created Sherlock Holmes by Andrew Lycett.

[3] As above.

[4] Source: Conan Doyle: The Man Who Created Sherlock Holmes by Andrew Lycett.


Close to Holmes by Alistair Duncan is available from:

Amazon USA

Amazon UK      Book Depository (free worldwide shipping)

Other formats -  Kindle   Kobo

The London of the late nineteenth century was home to both Arthur Conan Doyle and his famous detective - Sherlock Holmes. Close To Holmes looks at some of the many locations in both central and outer London that have connections to one or both of these famous names. In addition to examining the history this book also looks at some of the theories that have been woven over the years around Holmes and these locations. Very popular with both fans of Holmes and Victorian London and includes stunning comparison photographs from the late 1880s and modern day for many London landmarks.

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