Mrs Hudson’s Radio Show

“Behind every great man is an even greater woman, demanding rent.”


Mrs Hudson (Patricia Hodge)

Following the success of the book Mrs Hudson’s Diaries – A View from the Landing at 221B, the writers Barry and Bob Cryer, have brought Mrs Hudson on to the radio in her own series (well, two episodes, anyway).

As we have been reminded by the good lady many times, she is our landlady – not our housekeeper, and in the BBC Sherlock series, viewers were also reminded of Mrs Hudson’s standing. She has always been “an independent woman, who was taking advantage of the change in the law that allowed a widow to inherit her husband’s property for the first time” as Bob Cryer points out.

The writers suggest that the radio series may move to television.

Whilst the two episodes are available on the BBC I won’t review them here.

Episode 1 – Rare Medium [30:00]

When her tenant, a magician known as The Great Mysto, goes missing, Mrs Hudson is suddenly in urgent need of rent money and new lodgers. This half hour episode sees Mrs Hudson attempting to reclaim her lost money and encountering everything from crooked showgirls and Music Hall eccentrics to German strongmen and dodgy clairvoyants. Meanwhile, Mrs Hudson’s maid Martha (Ruth Bratt) has secretly advertised for new tenants and it’s not long before a doctor (Stephen Critchlow) and a consulting detective (Orlando Wells) come knocking. Time is not on her side as villainous Sir Charles Swift is ready to swoop and reclaim her house if she doesn’t pay her ground rent.

Episode 2 – Wild Geese [30:00]

In this second episode, a dead goose and a battered hat are found by Inspector Lestrade (Bob Cryer) lying in the middle of Baker Street. It’s not long before Mrs Hudson is leading her friends out into the night on a very silly seasonal adventure.

However, one thing you can be sure of, Sherlock Holmes (Orlando Wells) and Dr Watson (Stephen Critchlow) are never far away and usually ahead of the game. So come in from the cold, turn on the wireless and make a date with Mrs Hudson. But don’t forget to wipe your feet first.

Did I say it was a comedy?

Dr Watson, I presume

OCRTSomewhat surprisingly I have never before met any of the actors who have portrayed me in the films, television and radio programmes that have been produced covering our adventures. So it was a lovely surprise when some dear friends arranged a little dinner party with the man who plays me in the excellent Old Court Radio Theatre Company productions produced for the Sherlock Holmes Society of London.

Jim Crozier as Holmes and David Hawkes as my good self have now appeared in sixteen stories that are available for free on the Sherlock Holmes Society website.

The individual stories and their links are:

  1. The Gloria Scott
  2. Wisteria Lodge
  3. The Mazarin Stone
  4. The Veiled Lodger
  5. The Yellow Face
  6. The Three Students
  7. The Beryl Coronet
  8. The Speckled Band
  9. Shoscombe Old Place
  10. The Five Orange Pips
  11. The Man With Watches
  12. The Lost Special
  13. The Strange Case of Miss Alice Faulkner – Part One – The Napoleon of Crime
  14. The Strange Case of Miss Alice Faulkner – Part Two – The Triumph of Sherlock Holmes
  15. The Long Man
  16. The Grace Chalice

The first ten of these plays are based on my reminiscences from the Canon. The Man With Watches and The Lost Special were published in The Strand about five years after Holmes disappeared over the Reichenbach Falls. The Long Man and The Grace Chalice are accounts of two unpublished cases.

. . . and how did the evening with the two Watsons go? Well, I think we both learned a lot about the real Watson!

Composed of all the plugs and dottles left from his smokes of the day before [ENGR]

Holmes displays a vast knowledge of the uses and properties of tobacco in solving cases. His experience with both tobacco and tobacco ash has been broadened by his being such a chronically heavy smoker, prompting me to note, somewhat bitterly, that he was a “self-poisoner by cocaine and tobacco” [FIVE]

He often sits for hours shrouded in smoke. Once during the case of The Hound of the Baskervilles, as I returned to Baker Street “my fears [of a fire] were set at rest, for it was the acrid fumes of strong coarse tobacco which took me by the throat and set me coughing.”

His particular favourite is shag tobacco which he keeps in the toe end of a Persian slipper. Shag is a strong coarse tobacco much inferior to today’s shag which is often used for rolling cigarettes. He also keeps it in various tobacco pouches strewn across his mantlepiece.

Before breakfast he fills his pipe with “all the plugs and dottles left from his smokes of the day before, all carefully dried and collected on the corner of the mantlepiece” [ENGR].

He most commonly uses a black clay pipe, though I think it was once white! Occasionally he will use a briar with an amber stem. When a problem is taxing him he seems to prefer his cherrywood.

He never, never uses a Calabash. That was the pipe used by William Gillette in his otherwise accurate portrayal of Holmes and along with the deerstalker and the phrase “Elementary, my dear Watson” are the stuff of fiction!

His pipes, like his tobacco are all over the place (his such an untidy person!). They are scattered over his mantlepiece and some are in the coal scuttle with the cigars.

As some of you may know, he has made a special study of tobacco ashes and believes he can distinguish at a glance the ash of any known brand of cigar or tobacco. He has written a monograph on the subject entitled “Upon the Distinction Between the Ashes of the Various Tobaccos” [SIGN].

We obtain our smoking requisites from Bradley’s off Oxford Street. I actually prefer ship’s tobacco, a strong blend from the Netherlands or occasionally the Arcadia micture.

The Ocular Helmsman has much detail about tobacco, pipes, cigars and this vile, filthy habit for those who wish to know more.

Our worthy landlady, Mrs Hudson

Despite the fact that Holmes always refers to Irene Adler as “the woman” [SCAN] there is no doubt that “the woman” who figures most throughout the Canon is our trustworthy and redoubtable landlady, Mrs. Hudson.

No picture of the real Mrs. Hudson, I’m afraid, as I have always been at pains to preserve her privacy. Again the Granada Sherlock Holmes came close with Rosalie Williams.

She remains devoted to Holmes and now moves between London and Sussex depending on where he is at the time. As he spends much time away from both places, when her services are not required on the South Coast, I have the benefit of her presence here in Baker Street.

Much has been written about Mrs. Hudson and most of it is pure speculation. I know very little about her as she is a very private person. I am sure that Holmes knows much more than me as he will have used his well-known skills of observation and deductive reasoning to determine a good deal about her.

That she is of Scottish descent is well-known, and Holmes referred to her cooking as a little limited but she could rise to the occasion as she did in The Naval Treaty.

Whether there is, or was ever, a Mr. Hudson I couldn’t possibly say. There has never been any mention of a husband. She introduced herself as “Mrs. Hudson” and that is how we have always addressed her. I do know her first name but we never use it.

There has, of course, been some confusion over the identity of Holmes’ housekeeper in Sussex at the time of “His Last Bow”. This lady, referred to as Martha, is a housekeeper and not our landlady, Mrs. Hudson. There has also been some confusion over the Mrs. Turner that appears in “A Study in Scarlet”. This was another housekeeper standing in for Mrs. Hudson who was away dealing with some family matters at the time.

There is little more to be said about “our worthy landlady” [SIGN] except to say that she puts up with a great deal – even to the extent of crawling around the floor moving the life-like bust of Holmes around whilst we were across the way in “The Empty House”.

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