Pictured: Actors who have played Sherlock Holmes in productions filmed in Liverpool: (From Left to Right) James Bragington, Jeremy Brett, Robert Downey Jr, Henry Lloyd-Hughes.
For the last couple of years, Ollie Cooke has worked as a Marketing Officer in the Liverpool Film Office, based at Liverpool City Council.
He gives us a deeper look into the history of Sherlock Holmes’ film and TV history with Liverpool.
“Liverpool is no stranger to the world of Sherlock Holmes – with the city’s pristine period architecture doubling for Victorian London on many films and shows including Searchlight’s Tolkien, Netflix’s The English Game, BBC’s The War Of The Worlds to name a few… In fact, Liverpool has been the backdrop for Sherlockian stories on the screen for more than 100 years.
A Study in Scarlet (1914)
The first known screen adaptation of the great detective, A Study in Scarlet is a 1914 British silent drama film directed by George Pearson and starring James Bragington – the first English actor to portray Holmes on film.
Set in America, Southport Beach – to the north of Liverpool in Sefton – was used as a location to double for the Utah plains in a scene where a party of mormons cross the desert.
Despite the production’s legacy and iconic status, A Study in Scarlet, is considered a lost film. The British Film Institute (BFI) has been appealing for lost Sherlock Holmes – a case good enough for the detective himself – not known to have been seen much after initial release, prints of the film may have suffered the fate of many others of the period – sacrificed for the war effort for the precious metals they contained.
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1984 – 94)
Produced by the British television company Granada Television between 1984 and 1994, the long-running adaptation remains very popular and is considered by many to be the definitive on-screen version of Sherlock Holmes.
Filmed mostly at Granada Studios, but also across numerous locations in Liverpool – that have since been reused in new productions – Falkner Street, in the heart of the picturesque Georgian Quarter, is the new home of 221B Baker Street in Netflix’s The Irregulars, but Granada filmed one street over (St Bride St), leaving a physical legacy of cobbles to help create Victorian London.
Sherlock Holmes (2009)
And I am….Sherlock Holmes. Guy Ritchie’s star-studded blockbuster adaptation brought big budget and a more dark, action-packed take on the stories for Warner Bros.
Robert Downey Jr’s Sherlock visited Liverpool’s iconic waterfront, which was used to portray London warehouses, in explosive scenes alongside Jude Law and Rachel McAdams.
The Irregulars (2021)
“Sherlock Holmes doesn’t exist anymore.” Netflix Original The Irregulars is the latest adaptation of characters from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novels, and offers a fresh perspective on the world of Sherlock Holmes and Victorian London with a supernatural twist.
First difference – Sherlock isn’t the main character…
Based on the Baker Street Irregulars, a group of street urchins who appear as minor characters in the original novels – reimagined by creator Tom Bidwell (My Mad Fat Diaries, Watership Down) into an 8-episode series with a supernatural twist.
Sherlock Holmes, this time played by Henry Lloyd-Hughes (The Inbetweeners, Killing Eve), may be notable by his absence, but also his portrayal. Usually perceived as a genius and ‘The Great Detective,’ this Sherlock’s untraditional qualities may offer the most original take of a world that has been adapted time and time again.
Sherlock in Liverpool
Sherlock has made a home in Liverpool – but the city hasn’t appeared on screen as itself in any Sherlock adaptation, despite being a backdrop in some of Doyle’s original books, and an imagination of the author’s life in ITV’s Houdini & Doyle (2016).
Playing a minor role in the very first Sherlock Holmes book, A Study in Scarlet, where two characters (victims, unfortunately) were on their way to Liverpool from London to travel to New York.
In 1893’s The Adventure of the Cardboard Box, Liverpool plays more of a prominent role, which a woman receives two severed ears in a box, following a tangled love affair in Liverpool, and (*SPOILER*) – the culprit is a Liverpudlian boat sailor, exposed via telegram to Holmes in London.
So the story is there, and although Sherlock never made it here – maybe The Irregulars will…
The Irregulars is available to stream on Netflix now.