221B Baker Street. One of the most famous addresses in literature. But why?

Was there any reason Sir Arthur Conan Doyle chose this particular address as the residence of his famous protagonist? Did he have any links to that part of London?

EDIT: I've been told the house didn't exist at the time, but the street existed, and maybe the number 221 has other significance in his life.

  • 3
    "At the time the Holmes stories were published, addresses in Baker Street did not go as high as 221." - from Wikipedia. His first manuscript place Holmes' lair at "Upper Baker Street" Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 7:27
  • @Gallifreyan interesting... But the question still remains, why Baker Street? Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 7:34
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    Can you explain why you think there might have been particular significance to the choice of street? Are you interested in the characterization of the neighborhood at the time, or positing a personal connection, or something else?
    – Standback
    Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 7:40
  • @Standback unless it was completely random there must be some reason he choose an existing street in London. I am not sure in the connection by I'm seeing if someone else can find one Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 7:51
  • Actual address according to The Empty House would be 43 Baker Street, corner of Blandford and Baker. They rode down Manchester, were let out at Blandford, and went into an empty courtyard behind the empty house. On the second floor they are looking at Sherlocks room, directly across from them. Watching the series puts it on the northeast corner.
    – Marc
    Commented Dec 27, 2020 at 3:38

4 Answers 4


All the unreputable Internet sources indicate that the numbering on Baker Street in Doyle's lifetime was only up to 100. Apparently Doyle initially called the street "Upper Baker Street".

One theory is that Doyle chose 221B - a non-existing address - to avoid some poor fella living there from receiving piles of mail an unwanted clients - which is the theory I subscribe to, as this is what a decent man would do.

Apart from that, there is no information I could find that would explain why Sir Arthur Conan Doyle chose 221B of all possible (higher-than-100) addresses.

Doyle himself lived at 1 Bush Villas in Elm Grove, Southsea, Portsmouth, at the approximate time of writing his first stories. Wikipedia lists no accounts of Doyle living or working near Baker Street.

References (most copy each other verbatim anyway):

  • Too bad the BPO didn't designate one or more street numbers that would never be assigned (like telephone Exchange 555 and television Channel 37 in North America). Commented Dec 27, 2020 at 14:27

Conan Doyle is giving the reader a clue as to Holmes' character. Educated readers at the time of publication would have picked up on these clues.

At that time, Baker Street was an upmarket residential part of London. To the western side - so not industrial, north of the river - so more fashionable, centrally placed near to major roads and railway stations - so good for travel, not in the really expensive parts of the metropolis - so Holmes is not rich.

There are other famous - real - people who lived in Baker Street around this time or earlier, including H.G.Wells and William Pitt the Younger.

In order for someone to be able to afford rooms in Baker Street, he would have needed to be comfortably off.

All the streets and districts of London mentioned in the Sherlock Holmes stories existed at the time. So it makes sense for the author to pick a real street with a certain cachet to round out the character.

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    That is an interesting perspective! Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 12:39
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    "All the streets and districts of London mentioned in the Sherlock Holmes stories existed at the time." Is this really true? I have posed that question here. (I didn't want to post my list as an answer to this question, so as not to stray from its focus on Baker Street.)
    – Rosie F
    Commented Nov 10, 2019 at 13:43

I think it is highly likely that Doyle chose a nonexistent, random, but specific name. Nonexistent, to prevent (as suggested by Gallifreyan) some poor coincidence resident from unwanted pestering; random because it was the first thing that popped into his head; and specific because specificity lends reality, and we all like to believe that stories are real. Except for horror stories, but that's a different subject altogether.

  • "a nonexistent, ... name". According to Wikipedia, "At the time the Holmes stories were published, addresses in Baker Street did not go as high as 221".
    – Tsundoku
    Commented Apr 10, 2020 at 14:53

Given the somewhat speculative nature of this question here are my two bits. This may be a hidden reference to Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark. In The Snark we find the mysterious Baker, who disappears at the end of the book, once he encounters a particularly dangerous type of Snark, a Boojum. This Baker is associated closely with the Carrollian number 42 or 2x21. The whole book is about being and non-being, or it may have something to do with Hamlet’s “to be or not to be,” or 2B or not 2B. Doyle, who likely met Carroll/Dodgson at one of the Psychical Society meetings, like most other educated Victorians, especially those interested in famous books involving the disappearance of a well known character, likely read The Snark.

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