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Herefordshire and the Hound

We look at the possible Herefordshire connections for the Sherlock Holmes story, The Hound of the Baskervilles.

Map of Herefordshire

Local connections

The Hound of the Baskervilles is the best known of the Sherlock Holmes stories, and the tale of the ghostly hound has been filmed many times for the cinema and TV.

Tradition has always had it that the inspiration for the story lay in the folk tales of the West Country, not least because of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's dedication in the book:

"My dear Robinson, It was your account of a west country legend which first suggested the idea of this little tale to my mind. For this, and for the help which you gave me in its evolution, all thanks." 

Despite this extremely broad hint, a Herefordshire author and a historian from the town of Kington believe Herefordshire may have also played a part in inspiring Conan Doyle.

For a start, as thriller writer Phil Rickman points out, there is the question of names:

"The Baskerville family had a castle at Eardisley just up the road (from Kington), and what really did it for me is if you look at the other names.

"Dr Mortimer - Mortimer is a big name in this area: The botanist Stapleton - over the hill towards Prestigne is the village of Stapleton.

"It's a huge coincidence."

Phil Rickman and historian Alan Lloyd also believes that Conan Doyle may have drawn some of his inspiration for the character of the wicked Hugo Baskerville from the legend of Black Vaughan of Kington and his dog.


Black Vaughan was a Lord, living around five centuries ago at Hergest Croft in Kington.

Phil Rickman says: "Every Lord in those days in those days was fairly well feared, but not every Lord was supposed to have devastated the town from the other side of the grave."

Black bull

Ghostly black bull

Black Vaughan is supposed to have appeared in the market place after his death, as a black bull, and to have so devastated Kington church that an exorcism was carried out, according to Alan Lloyd:

"Let's imagine an autumn night, twelve priests accompanied by a wise man from over the mountains, a young mother with a day old child to show innocence, and as many local people as dared to come.

"One by one the candles, for this was a bell, book and candle exorcism, were snuffed out - evidently by the spirit of Black Vaughan.

"The twelve priests went to their knees and stopped reading from the bible except for one, the wise man from the Black Mountains, who by heart recited passages from the bible - he didn't need a candle.

"He persevered until eventually the spirit of Black Vaughan was reduced to the size of a blow fly."

Ghostly goings on

Local people around Kington take the stories of the ghost of Black Vaughan, and his black dog, as more than just legend.

Many refuse to walk near his home of Hergest Court at night, for fear of seeing something unnatural.

But farm labourer Tony Redfern actually lives in part of the Court, and says he's never seen or experienced anything:

"My brother used to live here a few years ago, and he used to get a bit freaked out.

Hound of the Baskervilles

Hound of the Baskervilles

"He woke me up one night because he thought he heard somebody's body being dragged across the attic.

"I went up into the attic, but I didn't see anything.

"I moved away a couple of years ago, but I just love the place, so when I had the opportunity to come back, I did.

"I think it's a great place to live.

"I take my dogs out midnight for walks round, and it doesn't bother me, not at all."

Conan Doyle knew Herefordshire well and so perhaps he took the local place names and part of the legend of Black Vaughan and incorporated into his most famous story.

last updated: 22/04/2008 at 12:02
created: 04/03/2008

You are in: Hereford and Worcester > Places > Places Stories > Herefordshire and the Hound

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