Ironically for one of Edinburgh’s favorite sons, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle lies buried in the churchyard of All Saints’ Church, Minstead, in Hampshire’s New Forest – almost as far due south from Edinburgh as it’s possible to be while still on the English mainland. However, Minstead does appear prominently in his writing, and there’s a tale attached to his final resting place too.
Minstead figures heavily in Conan Doyle’s historical novel of England during the Hundred Years War, The White Company, where the hero, Alleyne Edricson, ends the tale as socman (landlord) of Minstead. Conan Doyle had discovered the place while researching his novel, and eventually bought a country retreat there. Following a succession of personal bereavements in the 1910s and 1920s, Conan Doyle became a Spiritualist and a member of the Ghost Club, and sought contact with the departed – his house at Bignell Wood, Minstead, was allegedly the site of seances, and shunned by locals, notably the postmen.
However, on his death in 1930, Conan Doyle was first of all interred standing upright in the rose garden of Windlesham Manor, his house in Crowborough, East Sussex. Only later in 1955, when Crowborough was sold out of the family, were his and his wife’s remains removed to Minstead. Despite the controversy over burying a highly unconventional Spiritualist in a Christian churchyard, his grave has been a place of pilgrimage for Conan Doyle fans ever since. As you can see from the picture below, one of his modern devotees has even left a pipe on the gravestone beside the flowers, as a tribute to the creator of Sherlock Holmes.
Modern legend has it that the tree overshadowing Conan Doyle’s grave has been struck by lightning repeatedly, because it shelters an unbeliever interred on consecrated ground. Whatever the truth in that story, it’s certainly a blasted tree, though still green.