Arthur Conan Doyle came to Portsmouth on a coastal steamer in June 1882. He had travelled from Plymouth, which had been his home and workplace until he fell out with his friend and fellow doctor, George Budd. Conan Doyle arrived in Portsmouth with no job, nowhere to live and little more than £10 to his name. As he disembarked at Clarence Pier, Southsea, he had no plans as to how long he would stay.
Victorian doctors lived on the fees they charged their patients, so Conan Doyle researched into the locations of other established doctors in the town before setting up as a GP at No. 1 Bush Villas, near the junction of Elm Grove and King’s Road in Southsea. For the first few months business was slow, but gradually over time Conan Doyle became more well-known as a doctor, advertising his services whenever he could and making sure that his name was mentioned in the newspaper whenever he attended an accident.
In March 1885, Conan Doyle was consulted about the case of a young man named Jack Hawkins, who he diagnosed as having meningitis. Hawkins soon died, but Conan Doyle’s relationship with the family did not end there. His compassion was stirred for Hawkins’ sister, Louisa, and by August 1886 this compassion had turned into affection, and the two were married. A few years later, Arthur and Louisa’s first child, Mary, was born.
Arthur Conan Doyle threw himself into the life of the town. He joined the Portsmouth Literary and Scientific Society, and gave public talks on Edward Gibbon, Thomas Carlyle, and George Meredith, among others. He also played for the local cricket and bowls teams, and was the first goalkeeper for the team that became Portsmouth Football Club. While living in Southsea he also began a second career, writing fiction. Beginning with short stories, he moved on to write historical novels including Micah Clarke, and the first two Sherlock Holmes tales, A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four.
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The first actor to play Sherlock Holmes on stage (February 2012)
The costume worn by Martin Clunes in the TV series Arthur and George. Click on the photo to see...