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Revised plans for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s former home opposed

The Victorian Society is continuing to strongly oppose plans to turn Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s former home,‘Undershaw’, into a special school – despite some modifications to the plans.

The Victorian Society is continuing to strongly oppose plans to turn Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s former home,‘Undershaw’, into a special school  – despite some modifications to the plans. The Society considers that the recent changes are relatively minor and do not address the impact of the controversial proposed extension which would see Conan Doyle’s former home dwarfed by a new building. Waverley Borough Council’s decision on the plans is expected imminently.

The Victorian Society, English Heritage, the Ancient Monuments Society and the Undershaw preservation Trust have all voiced objections to the DFN Charitable Foundation’s plans to covert Undershaw into a special needs school. The Victorian Society welcomes the recent changes, but considers that they do not go far enough to mitigate the damage to the former home of one of the UK’s most famous authors. The Society considers that the substantial harm the plans would continue to cause is unnecessary as the school could expand on another site. Furthermore, the DFN Charitable Foundation have failed to provide any evidence of alternative designs that have been considered and rejected in the search to minimise harm to Undershaw.

Victorian Society Conservation Advisor, James Hughes said: ‘Until we can be sure that there is no possibility of use for a single family dwelling, we are unlikely to support an alternative use, especially where this would require very large extensions to the building. Undershaw is an important building which provides insight into the life and work of one of our greatest authors. The proposed extension would obliterate the building’s setting and would overpower its modest appearance with its conflicting style, materials and scale.’

Undershaw was built on the South Downs at Hindhead Surrey in 1896 to designs by Conan Doyle’s friend Joseph Henry Ball. Conan Doyle himself is known to have had a hand in the design of the house having sketched out a similar plan in a letter to his mother. The house was designed with caring for Conan Doyle’s wife, who had tuberculosis, in mind. The house’s shallow staircase and south facing verandah would have made her life easier and enabled her to receive the fresh air and sunshine doctors at the time advised. Conan Doyle was knighted in 1902 while living at Undershaw and wrote many of his most famous works, including Sherlock Holmes novels in the building. Doyle only left Undershaw in 1907 following his wife's death.

Tuesday 3 February, 2015

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