McMurdo’s Camp


Donnithorpe, Near Langmere

 Location:  Donnithorpe, near Langmere, Norfolk, UK.

Country of the Broads

Donnithorpe is a little hamlet just to the north of Langmere, in the country of the Broads. Note: In reality, Donnithorpe is a fictional location, or possibly the name of the Trevor estate, and it is not exactly in the Broads, but in the vicinity. Conan Doyle made use of some imagination in his description of the location. Langmere is not much of a village, it is better described as the location of a couple of large houses. It may very well have been the estate at which Holmes stayed while visiting his friend, Young Trevor. Langmere is about 30 miles or so southwest of the Norfolk Broads, but the nearest real town is the village of Dickleburgh, about a mile and a half to the west. It was not uncommon for Doyle to have used semi-real places, and stirred them up a bit or altered their characteristics in his writings.

Appeared in Adventure(s): The “Gloria Scott” (GLOR). Donnithorpe was the home of Old Trevor, father of Young Trevor who was a college friend of Sherlock Holmes. They became friends after Holmes was laid by the heels for 10 days through the accident of Trevor’s bull terrier freezing on to Holmes’ ankle one morning on the way to chapel.

Holmes and Trevor became friends, and at young Trevor’s invitation, Holmes spent a month visiting the Trevor estate, at Donnithorpe in Norfolk, and cracked a clever code indicating a serious threat to Old Trevor, who then gave Holmes the idea that he might grow up to be a pretty good detective: “I don’t know how you manage this, Mr. Holmes, but it seems to me that all the detectives of fact and of fancy would be children in your hands. That’s your line of life, sir, and you may take the word of a man who has seen something of the world.”

Regarding Trevor’s quote above, Holmes said, “it was the very first thing which ever made me feel that a profession might be made out of what had up to that time been the merest hobby.” Donnithorpe should hold a special meaning for all Sherlockians, for without this visit it is hard to tell in what direction Holmes may have drifted in his adult life. Old Trevor set him upon his life’s path.

The Broads in Holmes' Time

The Broads in Holmes' Time

 The Broads: Norfolk and Suffolk counties are to the north of London, and on the North Sea, the east coast of the British Isles. The area referred to as The Broads is an area in Norfolk, and to a smaller extent in Suffolk, where there are many interconnected navigable lakes and rivers. It is a scenic area (although very flat) and popular for boating and holidays. The city of Great Yarmouth is the gateway to The Broads by water, where the Rivers Yare and Bure join and reach the North Sea. The Norfolk Broads are Britain’s largest nationally protected wetland area and have over 125 miles of navigable waterways. The flat feature of the area was long thought to have been the natural terrain, but was proved in 1960 to have resulted from the flooding of peat excavations dating to Medieval times.

 Influence upon Sherlock Holmes: Mentioned above was the all-important statement made to Holmes by Old Trevor, which first set Holmes upon the path to becoming a professional detective.

Black Shuck on the Prowl

A second influence from the area was upon Conan Doyle. Doyle once spent a golfing holiday at the nearby Norfolk town of Cromer with a close friend, Bertram Fletcher Robinson, who told him of some local legends regarding a mysterious hound known as Black Shuck, who prowled the coast near the Country of the Broads and thereabouts. A very old legend, the name was derived from the Anglo-Saxon word “scucca” meaning demon or devil. While there are no accounts of injury or death resulting from encounters with Black Shuck, plenty of people who were out after dark have been pursued and/or scared out of their wits by him.

We have all seen the intro, “My dear Robinson, It was your account of a west country legend which first suggested . . .”  The legend evidently was an east country legend, transported west by Doyle and used as the basis of Holmes most famous adventure.

 To wrap up our visit to this part of England, here is a photo from just down the road, where of a couple of Donnithorpe Broads were

Donnithorpe Broads

whooping it up at the Dickleburgh Saloon, which has the picturesque name, Duke’s Badger Den.  The kid who handled the music-box was hitting a jag-time tune at the time this photo was snapped . . .

And if you find yourself in the area in early December in the season of Advent, be sure to visit the All Saints Church in Dickleburgh and take in the famous display, Fifty Christmas Trees in a Church.

1 Comment »

  1. Outstanding! I would wish to make two addendums.
    1) Black Shuck HAS killed. On 4 August 1577, at Blythburgh, Black Shuck is said to have burst in through the church doors. He ran up the nave, past a large congregation, killing a man and boy and causing the church tower to collapse through the roof. As the dog left, he left scorch marks on the north door WHICH CAN BE SEEN AT THE CHURCH STILL TODAY.

    An encounter on the same day at Bungay was described in A Straunge and Terrible Wunder by the Rev. Fleming in 1577:

    “This black dog, or the divel in such a linenesse (God hee knoweth al who worketh all,) running all along down the body of the church with great swiftnesse, and incredible haste, among the people, in a visible fourm and shape, passed between two persons, as they were kneeling uppon their knees, and occupied in prayer as it seemed, wrung the necks of them bothe at one instant clene backward, in somuch that even at a mome[n]t where they kneeled, they stra[n]gely dyed.”

    2) Old Shuck was only part of Doyle’s inspiration for the Baskerville Hound. Devon has its own devil hounds, called the Whist Hounds. 🙂

    Comment by MEW — April 24, 2011 @ 4:13 pm

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