Arthur Conan Doyle: the creator of Sherlock Holmes
The grave of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859 – 1930), creator of the world’s most famous fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, is under a large tree in Minstead churchyard.
After studying medicine, Conan Doyle set up in practice and wrote short stories at his desk while he waited for patients to arrive. They never came but his writing career flourished: such was the popularity of his Sherlock Holmes character that he had to revive the detective after killing him off in The Final Problem.
Conan Doyle wanted to focus instead on his historical novels, and it was while researching for The White Company – said to be his favourite work – that he discovered the New Forest. This led to him buying a country home, Bignell Wood, near Minstead, as a birthday present for his second wife Jean, and the couple used it as a rural retreat from their main home at Crowborough in East Sussex. The village of Minstead featured strongly in The White Company.
Conan Doyle turned to spiritualism following the deaths of several close family members around the time of the First World War. It is said that Bignell Wood was used to hold seances and that local postmen refused to deliver mail to the door; also that Charles Dickens and Joseph Conrad ‘came through’ to Conan Doyle to ask him to complete their unfinished works.
He was first buried in the grounds of his Crowborough estate and his widow was buried alongside him when she died 10 years later. In 1955, when the last of the Crowborough estate grounds were sold out of the family, the couple’s remains were removed and re-interred at All Saints’ Church in Minstead.