PHOTOS: The Sidewalk ‘Sherlock Holmes’ Quotes of Plymouth

"It is quite a three-pipe problem"

“It is quite a three-pipe problem” (All Pics: Anglophenia)

There are many architectural and artistic tributes to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes. The tiles on the wall of Baker Street Tube station show a profile of the detective complete with deerstalker and pipe, for example, and there’s a statue of Holmes up on the pavement outside.

But in Plymouth, down in the South West of England, there’s a very particular tribute to Sherlock and his creator, and it’s really subtle. You could walk all over it and not even realize it.

The full story begins in 1882, some five years before the publication of the first Sherlock Holmes story. In No.1 Durnford Street, Plymouth, a Scottish doctor named Arthur Conan Doyle has just set up his practice with a friend from medical school, George Turnavine Budd. However, almost as soon as their doors have been thrown open, both men find it increasingly difficult to work together, and it’s not long before Arthur has left for Southsea, near Portsmouth, taking his ideas for a hawkish crime-solver and his solid partner with him.

In tribute to his brief tenancy, Plymouth council embedded a series of quotations from the Sherlock Holmes stories into the sidewalk of Durnford Street. These sit just outside people’s houses, in a nondescript road near the harbor. Not the kind of place one would expect to happen across anything more notable than a decent chip shop and a couple of aggressive seagulls.

But look, what’s this on the floor? Notable quotes! That’s what:

"The wages of sin, Watson, the wages of sin."

“The wages of sin, Watson, the wages of sin.”

"Interesting, though elementary"

“Interesting, though elementary.”

"They were the footprints of a gigantic hound!"

“They were the footprints of a gigantic hound!”

"Any truth is better than indefinite doubt"

“Any truth is better than indefinite doubt.”

"You mean well, Watson, shall I demonstrate your own ignorance?"

“You mean well, Watson, shall I demonstrate your own ignorance?”

"There is but one step from the grotesque to the horrible."

“There is but one step from the grotesque to the horrible.”

"There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact."

“There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.”

"Malingering is a subject upon which I have sometimes thought of writing a monograph."

“Malingering is a subject upon which I have sometimes thought of writing a monograph.”

"Might I trouble you to open the window, for chloroform vapour does not help the palate."

“Might I trouble you to open the window, for chloroform vapour does not help the palate.”

"Good, Watson! You always keep us flat-footed on the ground."

“Good, Watson! You always keep us flat-footed on the ground.”

"My dear fellow, you must trust me implicitly and do exactly what I tell you."

“My dear fellow, you must trust me implicitly and do exactly what I tell you.”

"There is no part of the body which varies so much as the human ear."

“There is no part of the body which varies so much as the human ear.”

"It is a capital mistake to theorise before one has data."

“It is a capital mistake to theorise before one has data.”

"There is nothing so unnatural as the commonplace."

“There is nothing so unnatural as the commonplace.”

"Now, Watson, the fair sex is your department."

“Now, Watson, the fair sex is your department.”

You know my method, it is founded upon the observation of trifles."

“You know my method, it is founded upon the observation of trifles.”

"She is the fairest thing under a bonnet on this planet."

“She is the fairest thing under a bonnet on this planet.”

"Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent."

“Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent.”

And, embedded on the front steps of one house, this plaque:

"Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 1859-1930 In 1882 Conan Doyle practised medicine at No.1 Dumford Street. Unfortunately the relationship with his practice partner was an unhappy one and ended with Conan Doyle moving to Southsea. During his spare time from the medical profession, he became more involved in his writings. “A Study Of Scarlet,” the first of 68 stories featuring Sherlock Holmes, appeared in 1887. Conan Doyle’s time in Devon undoubtedly inspired his later literary work, “The Hound of the Baskervilles.” A Holmes cult arose and still flourishes today. "

“Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 1859-1930
In 1882 Conan Doyle practised medicine at No.1 Dumford Street. Unfortunately the relationship with his practice partner was an unhappy one and ended with Conan Doyle moving to Southsea. During his spare time from the medical profession, he became more involved in his writings. “A Study Of Scarlet,” the first of 68 stories featuring Sherlock Holmes, appeared in 1887. Conan Doyle’s time in Devon undoubtedly inspired his later literary work, “The Hound of the Baskervilles.” A Holmes cult arose and still flourishes today.”

Sadly No.1 Durnford Street did not survive the 20th Century, but here’s a part of the road that Sir Arthur may well have found familiar.

Sherlock - Dumford Street, Plymouth

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Fraser McAlpine

Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 15 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME, Guardian and MSN. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Radio 2.

He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.

Fraser invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic

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