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 for 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,
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."
Rickman and historian Alan Lloyd also believe 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
Black Vaughan was a Lord living around five centuries ago at Hergest
Croft in Kington.
"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." says Phil Rickman.
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
"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
"He persevered until eventually the spirit of Black Vaughn
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.
brother used to live here a few years ago, and he used to get a
bit freaked out.
"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.
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 Vaughn and incorporated
into his most famous story.