Stephen Fry backs calls for new Sherlock Holmes museum at old records office in Portsmouth

A WORLD-FAMOUS star has backed calls to transform a Portsmouth building scheduled for demolition into a 'fabulous' Sherlock Holmes museum.

Wednesday, 10th March 2021, 7:00 am
The records office in Museum Road, Old Portsmouth, and Stephen Fry, who wants to see it turned into a Sherlock Holmes Museum

Actor, comedian, writer and TV personality Stephen Fry has thrown his support behind a campaign to open a 'global attraction,' dedicated to Arthur Conan Doyle and his works, in the former records office, in Old Portsmouth.

As reported, the Edwardian building is due to be knocked down to make way for new council homes, however, almost 1,000 local residents signed a petition opposing the plans.

Now activists have mooted proposals to convert the site and to 'properly' display a renowned Conan Doyle collection owned by the city - known as the Lancelyn Green collection.

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Actor Stephen Fry backed calls to turn the records office into a Sherlock Holmes museum. Photo: Isabel Infantes/PA Wire

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Showing his support, Mr Fry, said: 'Each new generation has found in him a hero for their times. No one who has studied the phenomenon would disagree when I say that this worldwide fascination admiration and need for Sherlock will only continue to grow and grow and grow.

'A Sherlock Holmes and Conan Doyle Museum in Portsmouth would be wonderful for the city and surrounding area, and wonderful for the legions of fans around the globe whom it will attract.

'The Lancelyn Green Collection is the most magnificent archive of Holmesiana ever assembled. The former records office store in Portsmouth would be an ideal location for this fabulous repository.

The records office from above. Picture: Portsmouth City Council

'I urge Portsmouth City Council to seize the moment to help create something that will contribute hugely to the city’s reputation.'

Currently a portion of the city's Conan Doyle archives are on display on the ground floor of the Portsmouth Museum, which neighbours the disused Records Office, and as part of an exhibition at the central library that is still closed due to Covid-19.

Campaigners Alicia Denny and Alvin Edyvane who approached Mr Fry for his support said the preservation of the building was 'so important.'

Conservative activist for the St Thomas ward, Ms Denny, said: 'I am delighted Mr Fry has recognised the ideal synergy between this beautiful Victorian building situated so close to where Conan Doyle wrote the first Holmes stories and the need for a proper home for the Lancelyn Green bequest.

Actor Stephen Fry

'The city's rapidly dwindling stock of heritage buildings need imaginative preservation and appropriate re-purposing wherever possible.'

Mr Edyvane, a resident of Gunwharf Quays, added: 'The main thing we are trying to achieve is stopping the council from demolishing a beautiful building, it is the last part of the Victoria Barracks so it should be preserved.

'We are in talks with Historic England at the moment about making it a listed building.

The records office in Museum Road, Old Portsmouth, that could be demolished to make way for new homes. Picture: Alvin Edyvane

'Giving the building a purpose like this will ensure it is saved for years to come. We feel quite let down that the council's first plan is to knock it down for housing.'

But Councillor Steve Pitt, the council's culture boss, said: 'The records office is a completely unsuitable building - it is dilapidated and the floor is collapsing.

'It would need hundreds of thousands of pounds to make safe. We consulted with the public who agreed housing would be the best use of the site.

'A Conan Doyle museum is something that would be great for the city, but we need to find the right location.'

The records office has been out of use for around eight years. Any archives kept there are now stored at Southsea Library.

Councillors are set to debate the fate of the records office during a full council meeting on March 16 after a motion was scheduled by Cllr Matthew Atkins.

The records office in Museum Road, Old Portsmouth, that could be demolished to make way for new homes. Picture: Alvin Edyvane

The mis-adventures of Sherlock Holmes

THIS bid to convert the former records office is the latest in a series of failed attempts to create a specific Sherlock Holmes attraction in the city.

With author Arthur Conan Doyle's links to the city - as a resident and goalkeeper for Portsmouth Football Club for a time - there have been several museum projects considered.

In late 2016, then culture boss Councillor Linda Symes said the former Seafront Services Office, in Avenue De Caen, Southsea, would be an ideal venue - however, these plans were scrapped.

Just a year later a plea was made for the Royal Marines Museum in Eastney to become a dedicated Sherlock Holmes museum. However, this fell through and the building is set to be converted into a five-star hotel.

But in 2019 the closure of a loved department store - the Debenhams in Palmerston Road, Southsea, sparked renewed hope that a museum could open on the site.

Cllr Steve Pitt, the council's current cabinet member for culture, said a survey of the building found it wasn't 'the right location.'

However, he said a home for around 14,000 pieces of Conan Doyle memorabilia owned by the city, could one day have its own home.

'This is something we will continue to look at,' he said.

'We hope as many items from the Lancelyn Green collection will be on display one day.

'Currently some of it is on show at the Portsmouth Museum and central library, but every piece has been digitised so people have access to it through the library service.'

Former culture lead, Cllr Linda Symes, added: 'This city has wonderful heritage, and it has a lot to say for itself. The more attractions you can get, the more people will come here.

'The Sherlock Holmes legacy is so rich and varied, it’s a shame it’s mostly in boxes in storage'

Richard Lancelyn Green, a British scholar of Conan Doyle’s works, bequeathed his collection of around 14,000 pieces, which he’d spent 40 years, collecting to the city of Portsmouth.

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