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Filming starts on new Conan Doyle drama

Staffordshire | | Published:

Filming is beginning on the dramatisation of the fascinating story of how Sir Arthur Conan Doyle travelled to Staffordshire and turned real-life detective.

Martin Clunes will star as the Sherlock Holmes creator in an adaptation of Julian Barnes' novel Arthur & George which is based on a series of barbaric animal slayings known as the Great Wyrley Outrages at the turn of the 20th century.

Based on true events, the story follows vicar's son George Edalji, an Anglo-Asian, who was wrongly convicted of a brutal pony mutilation and sending vicious anonymous letters.

George Edalji

Remarkably it fell to Conan Doyle Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to travel to Great Wyrley to clear the young solicitor's name.

ITV has commissioned the three-part ITV drama with filming in London and Staffordshire starting this week but producers have not revealed the exact locations.

The case helped lead to the creation of England's first Criminal Court of Appeal.

ITV said the story would start following the death of Conan Doyle's wife, Louisa, with the author having become a 'bore and a sulk' by his own admission.

He is encouraged by friends and family to find a new pursuit.

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Court story copy from the Express & Star about the case of George Edalji.

Sir Arthur joins forces with his trusted manservant, Alfred 'Woodie' Wood with whom he has a strong bond.

On learning of George Edalji's plight and glimpsing the headlines concerning the Great Wyrley Outrages, Conan Doyle urges Woodie to arrange a meeting with Edalji, who is released from prison after serving three years of his sentence. Now, at 27, George is desperate to clear his name so he can return to his career.

Arthur & George also features Conan Doyle's relationship with Jean Leckie, a much younger woman who with whom he enjoyed a 'platonic' relationship whilst his wife was alive. Jean eventually became his second wife.

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As well as Doc Martin and Men Behaving Badly star Mr Clunes, the cast includes Arsher Ali, who has starred in Four Lions and Silent Witness as George Edalji, Art Malik as his father and Emma Fielding as his mother.

ITV director of drama Steve November said: "Arthur & George explores what we think we know about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's life. It's a fascinating insight into the man who was to become one of the most famous of his age. We're delighted to be working with Martin and the production team at Buffalo Pictures on such a clever and complex adaptation of Julian Barnes' acclaimed novel."

The story from the time in the Express & Star.

George's father Shapurji was the vicar at St Mark's church in Great Wyrley for 42 years. He was born a Parsi in Bombay and married to Charlotte who was born in Ketley in Shropshire.

Mixed race marriages were extremely rare at the time.

George was arrested on suspicion of the pit pony killing – the eighth such slashing – but it was inferred he was also responsible for the maiming and ripping of at least five horses, three cows, and a sheep.

He was tried at Stafford Quarter Sessions in what today is the Shire Hall Gallery. Despite dubious circumstantial evidence such as razor blades found in the vicarage and spots of blood on his coat, he was convicted and sentenced to seven-years of penal servitude with hard labour.

Although his father testified that George was fast asleep at the time of the crime, his testimony was disregarded. Instead, were counted as evidence that he had committed the crime. The fact that the animal outrages continued after George Edalji's imprisonment was disregarded and it was claimed that George was just a member of a gang.

There was huge public outrage over the case – not only at the shocking killings – but also at George's treatment.

The case was covered extensively in the Express & Star at the time and demonstrated the outrage among the public.

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