The Russell & Holmes house?
In the twenty years since The Beekeeper’s Apprentice introduced Mary Russell to the world, many questions have been raised about the good lady, and about her relationship with Sherlock Holmes, her religious beliefs, her Oxford college, what kind of car she drives—and just where on the Sussex Downs is that house of hers, anyway?
In a fervent (if tongue in cheek) commitment to the Game, and in celebration of the anniversary, this year I assembled all those questions and more under one electronic roof. Some of them even get answered. For example:
The Russell & Holmes home
Russell calls his house a “cottage”. In “Lion’s Mane”, Holmes calls it “my little Sussex home”. Thus, we may assume that the original building was smaller, suited to the needs of a solitary bachelor and his elderly housekeeper. However, even by the time of Russell’s first visit in 1915, changes had been made to the fabric of the house, and after she arrived, with her books and her possessions, it would appear that either additions were made, or that some of the adjoining farm out-buildings were converted and tied to the main house.
She describes it thus:
Sherlock Holmes’ house was a typical ageless Sussex cottage, flint walls and red tile roof. This main room, on the ground floor, had once been two rooms, but was now a large square with a huge stone fireplace at one end, dark, high beams, an oak floor that gave way to slate through the kitchen door, and a surprising expanse of windows on the south side where the downs rolled on to the sea. A sofa, two wing chairs, and a frayed basket chair gathered around the fireplace, a round table and four chairs occupied the sunny south bay window (where I sat), and a work desk piled high with papers and objects stood beneath a leaded, diamond-paned window in the west: a room of many purposes. The walls were solid with bookshelves and cupboards.
Outside the French doors lay an expanse of flagstones, sheltered from the wind by a glass conservatory that grew off the kitchen wall and by an old stone wall with herbaceous border that curved around the remaining two sides. The terrace gathered in the heat until its air danced, and I was relieved when he continued down to a group of comfortable-looking wooden chairs in the shade of an enormous copper beech. I chose a chair that looked down towards the Channel, over the head of a small orchard that lay in a hollow below us. There were tidy hive boxes arranged among the trees and bees working the early flowers of the border.
References to the Villa occur throughout the Memoirs, to the extent that we can put together a tentative architectural plan of the place:
The upper storey and more can be found in The Mary Russell Companion,