Brook manor house and Sherlock Holmes
To the west of the town is Brook Manor house, a grade II* listed property, built in 1656 for Richard Cabell, Lord of the Manor of Brook. He was the subject of a local legend. It is said that on the night of his death (ca. 1677) black hounds, breathing fire and smoke, raced over Dartmoor and surrounded Brook Manor House, howling. Cabbell's unusual tomb was allegedly designed to keep his restless spirit from roaming Dartmoor. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle based the Sherlock Holmes story Hound of the Baskervilles on this legend. The story's description of Baskerville Hall, however, is based on Cromer Hall in Norfolk.
The hall has a strong literary connection thanks to a visit to the house by the writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, most noted for his stories about the detective Sherlock Holmes. In 1901 Arthur Conan Doyle had returned from South Africa, suffering from Typhoid fever. To aid his recuperation, the author decided to take a golfing holiday in North Norfolk, accompanied by the journalist Bertram Fletcher Robinson. The two friends stayed at the Royal Links Hotel in Cromer. During their stay, Doyle probably heard the Norfolk legend of 'Black Shuck', the Hell Hound of Norfolk. The following description of Baskerville Hall in Doyle’s book can also be matched to the exterior aspects of Cromer Hall.
|“||The avenue opened into a broad expanse of turf, and the house lay before us. In the fading light I could see that the centre was a heavy block of building from which a porch projected. The whole front was draped in ivy, with a patch clipped bare here and there where a window or a coat-of-arms broke through the dark veil. From this central block rose the twin towers, ancient, crenellated, and pierced with many loopholes. To right and left of the turrets were more modern wings of black granite. A dull light shone through heavy mullioned windows, and from the high chimneys which rose from the steep, high-angled roof there sprang a single black column of smoke…||”|
From The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, originally serialised in the Strand Magazine from August 1901 to April 1902. Unfortunately, Doyle himself said nothing in his autobiography about the writing of The Hound of the Baskervilles. Although the setting for the story was Devon, Doyle's visit to Cromer undoubtedly provided part of the inspiration.