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You are in: Devon > Features > Feature Articles > The story behind the Hound

Bellever, Dartmoor

The Bellever area featured in the book

The story behind the Hound

Dartmoor - the place, people and legends - provided the inspiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's classic, The Hound of the Baskervilles.

Sherlock Holmes' most famous case, the Hound of the Baskervilles, was set on foggy Dartmoor, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle got much of the inspiration for the book from real-life people and places - as well as folklore.

Author Philip Weller went on the trail of the Hound in 2001, to mark the centenary of the publication of the Hound of the Baskervilles.

The first episodes of Sherlock Holmes' best known adventure - were published in The Strand Magazine from August 1901.

But the story of how Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's novel actually came about is almost as shrouded in fog as the tale itself.

Hayford Hall

Was Baskerville Hall based on Hayford Hall?

Did Conan Doyle even write it at all? And how much of an influence was his old friend, Bertram Fletcher Robinson, who lived in Ipplepen and first told him about the legend of the Dartmoor hound?

Philip Weller - a Holmes fanatic - brought out a new edition of the book in 2001, together with an in-depth study of how and where it originated.

Using almost Holmesian detective work, Weller visited the Dartmoor locations and researched the background of the Hound of the Baskervilles.

When the story was published in book form in 1902, Conan Doyle included an acknowledgement to Fletcher Robinson for telling him of the hound legend. But it went no further than that.

The debate over the book grew in 1951, when the one time carriage driver for the Fletcher Robinson family, Harry Baskerville, claimed Conan Doyle's friend had played a much bigger role in its authorship than had been acknowledged.

But Weller, who is chairman of the society, The Baskerville Hounds, concludes that Conan Doyle did pen the work, after being told about the hound legends by Fletcher Robinson while they were out walking together on Dartmoor.

Fox Tor Mires

Fox Tor Mires - probably Grimpen Mire in the book

There are lots of legends surrounding a black hound on the moor, and one involves local squire, Richard Cabell.

Cabell lived at Brook Manor, north of Buckfastleigh. He had an evil reputation and legend has it that when he died in the 1670s, black dogs breathing fire raced across Dartmoor, howling. Could that be the basis of the tale?

Several moorland places are featured in The Hound of the Baskervilles, including Princetown and Bellever Tor.

Fox Tor Mires was almost certainly the inspiration for the book's Grimpen Mire, while Baskerville Hall may, in real life, be either Hayford Hall or Brook Manor, both of them near Buckfastleigh.

But the definite answers to all the who? where? what? and whys? are likely to remain a mystery. More than 100 years on, it would probably take a modern day Sherlock Holmes to unravel the truth of it all.

'The Hound of the Baskervilles: Hunting the Dartmoor Legend' is written by Philip Weller and published by Tiverton-based Halsgrove.
(Tel: 01884 243242). Price: £24.95.

last updated: 08/02/2008 at 15:05
created: 29/01/2008

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