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Adventure of the Empty House

The Coins on Ronald’s Adair Desk

The Coins on Ronald’s Adair Desk

“On the table lay two bank-notes for £10 each and £17 10s. in silver and gold …”

– The Adventure of The Empty House (EMPT)

Ronald Adair's desk - Granada's The Empty House
Ronald Adair’s desk – Granada’s The Empty House

In The Adventure of The Final Problem, we learn of the murder of the Honourable Ronald Adair. Watson goes on to describe Adair’s fondness for cards and describes the desk where Adair was murdered.

Ronald Adair was fond of cards, playing continually, but never for such stakes as would hurt him. He was a member of the Baldwin, the Cavendish, and the Bagatelle Card Clubs. It was shown that after dinner on the day of his death he had played a rubber of whist at the latter club. He had also played there in the afternoon. The evidence of those who had played with him – Mr. Murray, Sir John Hardy, and Colonel Moran – showed that the game was whist, and that there was a fairly equal fall of the cards. Adair might have lost five pounds, but not more. His fortune was a considerable one, and such a loss could not in any way affect him. He had played nearly every day at one club or other, but he was a cautious player, and usually rose a winner. It came out in evidence that in partnership with Colonel Moran he had actually won as much as £420 in a sitting some weeks before from Godfrey Milner and Lord Balmoral. So much for his recent history, as it came out at the inquest.

On the evening of the crime he returned from the club exactly at ten. His mother and sister were out spending the evening with a relation. The servant deposed that she heard him enter the front room on the second floor, generally used as his sitting-room. She had lit a fire there, and as it smoked she had opened the window. No sound was heard from the room until eleven-twenty, the hour of the return of Lady Maynooth and her daughter. Desiring to say good night, she had attempted to enter her son’s room. The door was locked on the inside, and no answer could be got to their cries and knocking. Help was obtained, and the door forced. The unfortunate young man was found lying near the table. His head had been horribly mutilated by an expanded revolver bullet, but no weapon of any sort was to be found in the room. On the table lay two bank-notes for £10 each and £17 10s. in silver and gold, the money arranged in little piles of varying amount. There were some figures also upon a sheet of paper with the names of some club friends opposite to them, from which it was conjectured that before his death he was endeavouring to make out his losses or winnings at cards.

Using the image of Ronald Adair’s desk from the Granada production of The Return of Sherlock Holmes: The Empty House we can clearly see the two £10 banknotes and several stacks of coins.  Looking closely at the coins, they appear to be gold sovereigns and silver crowns.

Bank of England 10 Bank-Note
Bank of England £10 Bank-Note

The £10 notes in circulation at the time of the story, Spring of 1894 per the good doctor, would look almost identical to the note above, with the exception of the dates and signatures.  This note from the 1856 issue remained in circulation until 1929.

Victoria OH Crown 1888 Sovereign

1893 Crown (Victoria Old Head) and 1887 Sovereign (Victoria Jubilee Head)

In reviewing the picture, it appears that the producers of the television show were true to the original story, having 10 gold sovereigns and 20 silver crowns on the desk.  Sovereigns were the equivalent of 20 shillings and Crowns were worth 5 shillings each – totalling up to £17 10s mentioned in Doctor Watson’s writings.

The Indian General Service Medal of Colonel Sebastian Moran

The Indian General Service Medal of Colonel Sebastian Moran

“This, gentlemen, is Colonel Sebastian Moran, once of Her Majesty’s Indian Army …” – The Adventure of The Empty House (EMPT) After the arrest of Colonel Sebastian Moran in The Final Problem, Holmes and Watson retire to 221b Baker Street. While conversing, Watson mentions that he was not familiar with the Colonel. Holmes looks through his… Continue Reading

Data! Data! Data! – The Empty House

Data! Data! Data! – The Empty House

“‘Data! Data! Data!‘ he cried impatiently. ‘I can’t make bricks without clay.’” – The Adventures of The Copper Beeches (COPP) This column is composed of material (Data!) developed for a short course called Appreciating Sherlock Holmes that I teach twice a year in the Community Education Life Enrichment Program for a local community college. It is composed… Continue Reading

Gibraltar’s 1994 The Empty House Crowns

Gibraltar’s 1994 The Empty House Crowns

“… with convulsive strength he seized Holmes by the throat; but I struck him on the head with the butt of my revolver …” – The Adventure of The Empty House (EMPT) Gibraltar released 8 different designs for its 1994 series of coins commemorating the 100th anniversary of the return of Sherlock Holmes. In this post,… Continue Reading

The 17 Steps: The Empty House

The 17 Steps: The Empty House

Seventeen thoughts for further ponderance of the case at hand – The Empty House (EMPT) JOHN H. WATSON, CRIME DOCTOR “And I even attempted, more than once, for my own private satisfaction, to employ his methods in their solution, though with indifferent success.” Without Holmes, Watson would have us believe that his entire contact with crime… Continue Reading

“Hey Pal, Can You Spare A ‘Bob’? – A Very Simplified Guide to Sherlock Holmes and Money of the Victorian Age

“Hey Pal, Can You Spare A ‘Bob’? – A Very Simplified Guide to Sherlock Holmes and Money of the Victorian Age

If anyone has experienced the thrill of a summer in Houston, Texas, you know indoor reading is one of few options left for survival. During the summer of my 14th year, as other young men were discovering their first love — fishing, or a summer job, I discovered the stories of the Canon. As I… Continue Reading

Recreating 221B

Recreating 221B

“… a single large airy sitting-room, cheerfully furnished, and illuminated by two broad windows.” – A Study In Scarlet (STUD) On Saturday, April 9, 2016, Denny Dobry, the 42nd Garrideb and his wife Joann, will be hosting an open house for interested Sherlockians to view his version of Holmes and Watson’s famous sitting room at 221B Baker… Continue Reading

The Banking Connection: 1894 – 1994

The Banking Connection: 1894 – 1994

“The Capital and Counties Bank, Oxford Street branch, are my agents.” – The Adventure of The Priory School (PRIO) London in 1894, when Sherlock Holmes returned from his incognito foreign journeying, was enjoying the Golden Age of British Imperial investment and expansion, bringing an enormous accretion of wealth to the Capital City of the Empire.… Continue Reading

A Pobjoy Mint Advertisement from 1995, With A Mistake

A Pobjoy Mint Advertisement from 1995, With A Mistake

“… my agent there has sent me this advertisement from a local paper.” – The Adventure of The Three Garridebs (3GAR) Several months back, we published a post about the Pobjoy Mint’s 1994 press release announcing the Return of Sherlock Holmes series of coins for Gibraltar. Recently, we came across the above Pobjoy Mint advertisement from… Continue Reading

Pobjoy Mint’s 1994 Catalog & Press Release

Pobjoy Mint’s 1994 Catalog & Press Release

“… I would read as easily as I do the apocrypha of the agony column.” – The Valley of Fear (VALL) When I first started collecting coins, I was very intrigued when I could find ephemera (advertising, invoices, order forms, etc.) related to the items in my collection. Not much has changed for me over the… Continue Reading