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28 October 2014
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Herefordshire and the Hound
The Hound
The Hound of the Baskervilles
We look at the possible Herefordshire connections for the Sherlock Holmes story The Hound of the Baskervilles.
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The story was first published monthly in the Strand Magazine, Aug. 1901 - Apr. 1902, with 60 illustrations by Sidney Paget

The first book edition was published on 25 Mar. 1902 by G. Newnes Ltd. in an edition of 25,000 copies

Sherlock Holmes was first introduced in the Strand Magazine in an adventure entitled A Study in Scarlet in 1887

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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 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.

Quote marks 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. Quote end

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."

Click on the map to see a larger image.
Image produced from the Ordnance Survey Get-a-map service. Image reproduced with kind permission of Ordnance Survey and Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland.

Phil 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 his dog.


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 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 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.

"My 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.

"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 Vaughn and incorporated into his most famous story.

If you know more about this legend then we want to hear from you: or
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