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Cromer Hall

Cromer Hall is the home of the Cabbell Manners family and lies just outside of the town centre.

The original hall was destroyed by fire and was rebuilt in the 1820s in Gothic revival style using a design by the Norfolk-born architect William John Donthorn.

Cromer Hall

Cromer Hall

The hall also boasts one of Norfolk's most famous literary connections. In 1901 Arthur Conan Doyle returned from South Africa suffering from enteric fever and to recuperate he decided to take a golfing holiday in North Norfolk. He was accompanied by his friend the journalist Bertram Fletcher Robinson and stayed at the now demolished Royal Links Hotel in Cromer.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

During their visit to Cromer, Conan Doyle and Betram Fletcher Robinson  had dinner with Benjamin Bond Bond Cabbell at Cromer Hall. During dinner Cabbell told them about his ancestor, Richard Cabbell - Lord of Brook Manor and Buckfastleigh - who had been killed by a devilish dog. The story went that Richard Cabbell's wife had been unfaithful and that, after beating her, she had fled out onto Dartmoor. Cabbell pursued her and stabbed her - but while committing the murder his wife's faithful dog attacked him and  tore out his throat. The ghost of the dog was said to haunt Dartmoor and to reappear to each generation of the Cabbell family. It is clear that Richard Cabbell became the model for the evil Hugo Baskerville in Conan Doyle's classic tale.

There is also another fascinating Norfolk connection - namely that the  coachman who drove Conan Doyle to Cromer Hall was apparently called Baskerville. Conan Doyle often drew his character's names from real life - as demonstrated by his use of the name Cubitt in The Dancing Men - see Happisburgh.

Conan Doyle would almost certainly have been aware too of the Norfolk legend of Black Shuck - the terrible Hound which terrorised parts of the county. The legend went that anyone looking into the eyes of the hound only had a year to live.

Black Shuck is said to haunt Beeston Bump - which is not far from Cromer. Black Shuck is also said to have appeared to the townsfolk of Bungay in 1577 inside St. Mary's Church. The dog is commemorated in the town sign and in a weather vane on top of the market place.

Conan Doyle's description of Baskerville Hall bears an uncanny likeness to 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.'

Until the great storms of 1987, Cromer Hall also had a Yew Alley - which plays such a major part in the book.

Conan Doyle's imagination brought together a number of ideas, characters and locations to create one of Sherlock Holmes' most dramatic adventures. Obviously, he moved the setting from Norfolk to Dartmoor - but the original inspiration lay in the county.


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