Beeton’s Christmas Annual was a hugely popular Victorian literary magazine. The November 1887 issue featured a story that introduced the world to one of the most infamous detectives and street addresses in fiction; Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “A Study in Scarlet” marked the first appearance of consulting detective Sherlock Holmes, and his friend Dr. John Watson.
Watson recounts how, “We met next day as he had arranged, and inspected the rooms at No. 221B, Baker Street, of which he had spoken at our meeting. They consisted of a couple of comfortable bed-rooms and a single large airy sitting-room, cheerfully furnished, and illuminated by two broad windows.”
Located near Regent’s Park in London, the Baker Street of the 1880s was largely made up of Georgian townhouses. But at the time Conan Doyle was writing, the street numbers didn’t actually run as far as number 221. Presumably, Conan Doyle didn’t want an actual home to become affected by his popular stories.
But when Baker Street was extended northwards in the 1930s, it created an actual 221B. It was given to an Art Deco bank building owned by the Abbey National building society. Almost immediately the Abbey National started receiving both fan mail and genuine letters asking for help from the bohemian consulting detective. The volume of letters was so great that the Abbey National actually hired a full-time staff member to deal with all the correspondence.