Interesting facts about Sherlock Holmes

Find out about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's popular character.


by Lorna White |
Updated on

Sherlock Holmes, created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1887, is surely the nation's favourite detective – but how much do we really know about him?

Did he ever say ‘elementary’? Why did Doyle think about killing him off? Which Royal was a huge fan of his super-sleuthing exploits?

Here are the fun facts any Holmes fan needs to know...

1. Sherlock was called Sherrinford

Originally Sir Arthur Conan Doyle named the sleuth Sherrinford but changed his mind – perhaps because there were well-known Nottingham cricketers called Sherwin and Shacklock and the author was a big fan of the sport.

2. John Watson was nearly called Ormand Stacker

There are notes in the Museum of London that suggest both characters might have had very different names.

3. Holmes was inspired by a teacher

Conan Doyle was so impressed by Dr Joseph Bell, a lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, who could diagnose patients on sight, that he based Sherlock’s skills of perception on him.

4. A Study in Scarlet wasn’t popular

His first adventure was rejected by several publishers and printed in Beeton’s Christmas Annual, which was not a success.

5. Sherlock Holmes is the most popular film character

…or at least, the most popular human character! He’s been in 226 films while Dracula has been in 239!

6. And he’s been on film for more than 100 years

With the first silent version – Sherlock Holmes Baffled – made in 1900.

7. Sherlock never says ‘Elementary, my dear Watson’

It feels like everything we know is a lie! While the detective says ‘elementary’ and ‘my dear Watson’ several times, he never puts the two together.

8. Mycroft Holmes is only in two stories

Although he’s often given a bigger role in TV shows and films, Sherlock’s brother Mycroft actually only appears in The Greek Interpreter and The Bruce-Partington Plans.

9. Queen Victoria was a Sherlock fan

In the story The Bruce-Partington Plans, Sherlock is invited to Windsor to meet Queen Victoria in recognition of his services, and is presented with an emerald tiepin.

10. Conan Doyle tried to kill Sherlock Holmes because he was bored

After two years of writing the popular stories, the author was sick of the detective, and complained ‘it takes my mind from other things’.

11. Watson and Holmes win at chess

In the 1969 Oxford-Cambridge chess match, Oxford players called Watson and Holmes both won their games.

12. The Sherlock Holmes Museum isn’t at 221b Baker Street

It’s actually at number 239.

13. Sherlock’s IQ is 190

Or at least that’s what a man called John Radford estimates in his book The Intelligence of Sherlock Holmes and other Three-Pipe Problems. The average is between 100 and 110, while Einstein’s was 160.

14. Sherlock Holmes is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry

Yes, despite being a fictional character, the RSC offered him a fellowship in 2002, and presented his award to Dr John Watson (a real man who is also a fellow!) in front of the statue of Holmes outside Baker Street station.

15. The Speckled Band is the most popular Sherlock Holmes story

Not only was it Conan Doyle’s favourite, but it frequently tops reader polls.

If you can't get enough of Baker Street's best, here are some of the best Sherlock Holmes gifts you can treat yourself to:


Sherlock Holmes Gifts

The Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection1 of 9

The Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection

A beautifully packaged collection of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's most iconic Holmes tales for you to revisit time and time again. The collection includes seven novels, including Adventures & Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, Hound of the Baskervilles & The Valley of Fear and Shadows of Sherlock Holmes.

Sherlock Holmes' Cunning Puzzles2 of 9

Sherlock Holmes' Cunning Puzzles

Inside this book, you'll find 70 cunning puzzles and challenges that'll put your skills to the test. The problems have been devised by Holmes's long-time friend and associate Dr John Watson to stretch your powers of analysis, reason, and arithmetic. Can you master the mystery?

The Sherlock Holmes Escape Book: The Adventure of the London Waterworks3 of 9

The Sherlock Holmes Escape Book: The Adventure of the London Waterworks

Become Holmes in this thrilling interactive puzzle adventure, which is effectively an escape room in book form. Each page holds new visual clues, riddles, logic puzzles, maps and mazes to overcome in order to unlock the next section of the quest.

Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Collection [DVD]4 of 9

Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Collection [DVD]

This boxset includes all four series of Jeremy Brett's turn as the super-sleuth, original airing from 1984 to 1994. Episodes include 'A Scandal In Bohemia', 'The Hound of the Baskervilles' and 'The Dying Detective'.

The Sherlock Holmes Collection Box Set [DVD]5 of 9

The Sherlock Holmes Collection Box Set [DVD]

This DVD collection brings together five episodes from the 1968 TV Sherlock Holmes series, starring Peter Cushing as Holmes and Nigel Stock as Dr Watson. Amongst other crime classic, this set includes 'The Blue Carbuncle', 'The Sign of the Four' and 'A Study In Scarlet'.

Sherlock Holmes u2013 The Definitive Collection [DVD]6 of 9

Sherlock Holmes – The Definitive Collection [DVD]

The set collects together 14 feature-length films, filmed between 1939 and 1946, starring the unforgettable Basil Rathbone as the titular detective and Nigel Bruce as Watson. The set includes 'The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes', 'Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror' and 'Sherlock Holmes Faces Death'.

BBC Sherlock DVDs7 of 9
CREDIT: Amazon

Sherlock BBC Series 1-4

If you're looking for a modern twist on Sherlock Holmes, then this DVD collection of the BBC series, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock and Martin Freeman as John Watson, is perfect for you. It won numerous BAFTAs and really is 5 stars.

Sherlock Holmes Wooden Bookmark8 of 9

Sherlock Holmes Wooden Bookmark

These wooden Sherlock bookmarks are available in seven different colours and would be a very useful gift for anyone reading the Sherlock books, or if they're just a bookworm in general.

A Little Sherlock Tea-tection Afternoon Tea9 of 9

A Little Sherlock Tea-tection Afternoon Tea

If they're a Sherlock fan and a tea lover, then this Sherlock-themed afternoon tea package is the ultimate treat. Inside is a bag of handmade clotted cream fudge, two individually wrapped tea bags, biscuits, a Mycroft chocolate umbrella, a Sherlock's chocolate pipe and a little bag of humbugs, all for £13.50 - what a bargain!

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