At its heart, Undershaw is a building steeped in history. If you have an interest in the rich heritage of a building and landscape we are lucky enough to call home, please contact us to arrange a visit. We host Heritage Days, Open House Tours, and other cultural events. Undershaw, albeit a private space at its inception, must remain a linchpin of the country’s literary history for visitors to enjoy for years to come.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle at Undershaw

The ‘Knight, Patriot, Physician and Man of Letters’, as it reads on Sir Arthur’s gravestone, bought a plot of land in 1895 and commissioned the house as a place of rest and recuperation for his wife Louise (‘Touie’) after she was diagnosed with Tuberculosis in 1893.

‘If we could have ordered nature to construct a spot for us, it could not have hit upon anything more perfect.’

Undershaw was built to Sir Arthur’s exacting standards and the Doyle family moved in during October of 1897.  Whilst living at Undershaw, Sir Arthur was knighted and began a prolific period of writing, penning novels, plays and poetry.  He formed a rifle club, was a keen golfer and cricketer, and was one of the first in the locality to own a motor car.  He was an innovative thinker and at a forefront of the development of many aspects of modern society, namely the adoption of domestic electric lighting as well as being instrumental in a court case that was to pave the way for the establishment of the Court of Criminal Appeals, a linchpin of our modern justice system.

Conan Doyle was a prominent figure, not just of our social history, but more prominently in the scholarly world.  His position in the upper echelons of the literary elite was cemented by his creation and development of Sherlock Holmes.  His time at Undershaw saw him resurrect the notable character and was also where he wrote The Hound of the Baskervilles, 

conceived and authored in the Undershaw study and published in 1902. Many of the original features of the building, particular the study, have been preserved, sympathetically restored and are available to view.  Undershaw had many famous visitors through its doors, notably J. M. Barrie (Peter Pan) and Bram Stoker (Dracula), to name but a few.

Inside, the imposing façade, the walls, windows, floor boards and fittings teem with rich tales from history, some written and some never to be told.  Outside, the environs envelop the building offering comfort, inspiration, and an overwhelming feeling of serenity with Undershaw’s enviable views of the Surrey Hills.

A New Lease of Life

Undershaw has stood resolute through its time as a place of convalescence, a family home, a hotel and latterly, a school. The David Forbes Nixon Charitable Foundation purchased the near-derelict building in 2014 and commissioned an extensive renovation, sympathetically extending it and bringing the building and facilities up to the latest standards and fit for purpose as a school for children with additional needs. Undershaw has a Grade II listing as a result of its heritage and connections to the literary elite, which has meant the renovations were under strict instructions from the Conservation Officers and handled with the utmost care and attention.

Undershaw was officially opened as the Upper School campus for Stepping Stones School on the 9th September 2016, twelve years to the day from the opening of Stepping Stones School at its original site on Tower Road, Hindhead. The event was attended by Richard Doyle, the great-nephew of Sir Arthur, who helped unveil the Blue Plaque in honour of his great-uncle.

In September 2021, Stepping Stones School rebranded as Undershaw and the building took its place as the main campus for all pupils and staff. It is a new chapter for the school and for the house itself.