The Victorian Society is fighting to stop the partial demolition of the only known surviving example of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s solo architectural design and perhaps the only building incorporating spiritualist ideas into bricks and mortar.
The move comes after local historian, Brice Stratford, discovered drawings revealing that Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1912 design for the former Lyndhurst Park Hotel in the New Forest was based on spiritualist symbolism representing the soul’s journey. The Arthur Conan Doyle Collection Lancelyn Green Bequest in Portsmouth has in its archives some design sketches drawn in 1912 by Arthur Conan Doyle. Brice Stratford, author of "Glasshayes House: A History of the Former Lyndhurst Park Hotel", studied the sketches and found they were related to the 1912 extension of Glasshayes House, The Grand Hotel, located in Lyndhurst, The New Forest, Hampshire, UK.
The building contains the only known surviving example of Conan Doyle’s highly unusual solo architectural design, and is also the only known building to be built to express spiritualism. A second application has been made to Historic England to list the building based on the new information.
Olivia Stockdale, Conservation Adviser for the Victorian Society, said, ‘The recent discovery of plans showing that Conan Doyle’s design is based on the soul’s journey from life to a higher plane makes this building unique. ‘Life’ is represented by the lowest part of the building’s façade which steps up in height to represent the soul’s journey upwards. The next section, representing ‘death’, is focused on the main entrance, which was intended to be read as the entrance to the journey for the soul. Next comes ‘the afterlife’ with a uniform window arrangement to represent the ‘spirits in harmony’ according to Conan Doyle’s notes. The building’s tallest section represents the final stage, the ‘higher spiritual place’. This is the only known surviving example of Conan Doyle’s solo architectural work and a tangible representation of his spiritualist beliefs. This bizarre yet fascinating feature should be protected and championed in a redevelopment scheme not swept away.’
Arthur Conan Doyle was particularly interested in architecture: he collaborated with architect and friend Joseph Henry Ball over the design and construction of his family home, Undershaw in Surrey, much altered despite the Society’s campaign, and even designed a golf course and outbuildings for a ‘million-dollar hotel’ in Canada’s Jasper National Park, now sadly demolished.
The former Lyndhurst Park Hotel was originally an early 19th century mansion known as ‘Glasshayes House’ – and was converted into a hotel in 1895. Conan Doyle later put forward suggestions for the hotel’s remodelling and extension. The building has since been altered considerably. However, sympathetic refurbishment of the façade combined with removing large 1970s and 80s extensions, would make this unique building a landmark once more, and the work of Conan Doyle fully appreciated.
The proposals would partially demolish the 19th century building, including the spiritualist façade designed by Conan Doyle to make way for new homes. The building narrowly avoided total demolition in 2017, following a Victorian Society campaign. The society is not opposed to the building’s conversion to housing but stresses the importance of protecting the only known example of Arthur Conan Doyle’s architectural design. The building is made more significant as it represents Conan Doyle’s spiritualism. The Victorian Society is urging those who want to see this unique building preserved to object to the plans online. The planning application can be viewed here.