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IS THIS WALES' STATELY HOLMES?

Byline: DARREN DEVINE darren.devine@walesonline.co.uk

A MAGNIFICENT mansion reputed to have inspired classic SHERLOCK Holmes story The Hound of the BasKervilles could be yours - for an elementary PS3m.

In a riddle worthy of an Arthur Conan Doyle mystery, Baskerville Hall in the wilds of Mid Wales has long held a competing claim with Devon to influencing the chilling tale.

David Hodby - owner of the atmospheric 19th-century 10-bedroom property at Clyro, near Hay-on-Wye, since 1984 - suggested stories about the writer coming to stay had been passed on to descendants of bygone workers.

And one vital clue to the possible origins of the spine-tingler about a fearsome hound is buried in the Powys County archive, where a document shows Conan Doyle's signature next to that of a member of the Baskerville family.

David, 70, said: "There's also a legend of the Vaughan family who owned land crossed by Offa's Dyke and they used to object to walkers crossing their land.

"Some walkers got killed and there was a legend about the Vaughans' black hounds."

David, originally from London, points out that the Baskerville family crest on the front of the building is a wolf's head that has been speared.

He maintains the house described by Conan Doyle in the story and its estate bears a striking similarity to his property and land.

Reports suggest the documents, held by Powys, show Conan Doyle's signature next to that of an RH Baskerville, believed to be Ralph Hopton Baskerville, who inherited the family estate in 1905.

The paperwork is said to be connected to the sale of two farms to RH Baskerville in 1907.

When it was owned by the Baskervilles between 1839 and 1945 the house was known as Clyro Court - it was renamed around 20 years ago.

But Harry Utechin, who edited the Sherlock Holmes magazine for 30 years between 1976 and 2006, believes Devon makes a stronger claim as being the place that inspired the tale.

The story itself was set on Dartmoor, and others have suggested Conan Doyle got much of the inspiration for the book from real-life people and places as well as folklore in the south west of England.

Conan Doyle's journalist friend Bertram Fletcher Robinson first told him about the legend of a Dartmoor hound.

Also when the story was published as a book in 1902 (it was earlier serialised in The Strand Magazine), Conan Doyle included an acknowledgement to Fletcher Robinson for telling him about the hound legend.

Journalist Mr Utechin, 61, from Oxford, said: "The name of the coach driver who drove them [Conan Doyle and Fletcher Robinson] around to look at Dartmoor sites where the story could be set was Harry Baskerville.

"And despite Welsh claims I think it's just so obvious - here is Conan Doyle himself on Dartmoor being driven round by a kid called Baskerville. It links it fairly solidly."

But whether Devon or Mid Wales can claim to have inspired the story, Baskerville Hall and its history could soon be in new hands with property developer Mr Hodby hoping to return to London.

He bought the house in a derelict condition with wife Eve, who died of cancer aged 64 around 10 years ago, before spending six years on its renovation.

The Grade II* listed mansion, which once hosted the Green Man Festival on its land, is currently on the market for more than PS3m.

Mr Hodby, who runs the house as a hotel, said: "I'm 70 years of age and I've either got to sell up or be carried out."

Alongside possible links to Sherlock Holmes, the website Haunted Rooms suggests Baskerville Hall is also known for its ghostly goings-on.

It reads: "You may catch a glimpse of 'The White Lady' who is regularly spotted in the rose garden, or you may come into contact with an unknown male apparition who is reported to be seen on the main staircase. Many guests and staff alike have also heard unexplained banging noises and footsteps coming from the corridors at night..."

The magnificent Baskerville Hall in the wilds of Mid Wales and, below, Basil Rathbone and Nigel Stock, alias Holmes and Watson, in the film version of Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles
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Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 10, 2013
Words:705
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