New Sherlock mystery: will Cumberbatch visit South Norwood?

South Norwood country park lake

The lake in South Norwood Country Park: soon to be re-named

Benedict Cumberbatch, the star of the BBC’s Sherlock series, has been invited to attend the official naming ceremony for Lake Conan Doyle in South Norwood on February 1.

The wags at the South Norwood Tourist Board have issued the invitation, though there’s no indication whether the busy actor will be able to squeeze in an appearance to mark the occasion, which will recognise the long association of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the author who devised Sherlock Holmes, with the area.

SNTB ran a poll before Christmas for people to vote on the name for the lake, and with the backing of the Sherlock Holmes Society, found that 33 per cent of respondents favoured “Lake Conan Doyle” for the body of water which they claim is the fourth largest in London.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: residents in South Norwood want to name a local feature after the celebrated writer

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: residents in South Norwood want to name a local feature after the celebrated writer

Conan Doyle lived on Tennison Road in South Norwood from 1891 to 1894, although most Sherlock experts claim that his story, The Adventure of the Norwood Builder, does not use the area as its setting.

This story, for the most part, takes place in what Conan Doyle knew as Lower Norwood, and which we know today as West Norwood, although the villain of the piece does use Norwood Junction station.

Conan Doyle’s house was put up for sale by auction last year, though it failed to reach its reserve price and remains on the market.

One South Norwood landmark does get a mention in one of the most famous Holmes stories, The Sign of Four: the police station in the piece is thought to have been on South Norwood High Street, which in more recent times has been a branch of the NatWest.

The as-yet-unnamed South Norwood lake is in fact a reservoir, dug more than 200 years ago to supply water to the Croydon Canal, which ran from the site of the modern West Croydon railway station to New Cross, and thence to Surrey Docks.

Opened in 1809 and carrying mainly timber and bricks on more than 20 barges that plied the 10-mile waterway into London, the Croydon Canal was never a commercial success and by 1836 an Act of Parliament was passed to close it, allowing the London and Croydon Railway Company to buy it for £40,250, much of the canal’s route forming the modern railway line into London Bridge.

The lake in South Norwood was, of course, of little use or interest to the railway owners, and was left to become a natural resource which will soon benefit from being named after one of the area’s most celebrated residents.

Coming to Croydon

  • If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, a residents’ or business association or local event, please email us with full details at

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
This entry was posted in Activities, Community associations, Environment, History, Norwood Society, South Norwood Tourist Board, Wildlife and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to New Sherlock mystery: will Cumberbatch visit South Norwood?

  1. Frances Fearon says:

    Was it not Norwood Lake that was the reservoir for the Croydon Canal? Rather than the lake in South Norwood Country Park? People often get the two confused as more people know Norwood lakes for sailing etc than South Norwood Country Park Lake, which is very shallow, but a lovely haven for birds?

  2. Pingback: Extra, Extra | Londonist

Leave a Reply