The Arthur Conan Doyle EncyclopediaThe Arthur Conan Doyle EncyclopediaThe Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
22 May 1859, Edinburgh M.D., Kt, KStJ, D.L., LL.D., Sportsman, Writer, Poet, Politician, Justicer, Spiritualist Crowborough, 7 July 1930

Alfred H. Wood

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

Major Alfred Herbert Wood

Major Alfred Herbert Wood aka "Woodie" (23 april 1866 - 19 april 1941) was a school master who became friend, private secretary and business manager to Arthur Conan Doyle from 1897 to 1930.


Obituary in the Portsmouth Evening News (22 april 1941), p.4

Alfred H. Wood was born in Portsmouth (Hampshire, England) on 23 april 1866. Member of an old Portsmouth family, he was educated at the Portsmouth Grammar School and in his last year there, had the unusual experience of being Hon. Secretary the Church Congress which met at Portsmouth. Winning an open scholarship to Brasenose College, Oxford, he took his M.A. [1] degree, and returned to Portsmouth as a master at the Grammar School.

Alfred Wood was initiated to the Phoenix Lodge of Freemasons (No. 257) in 1895 and became W.M. in 1904. At the time of his death he was Treasurer. He was also P.P.J.G.D. [2] in the Provincial Grand Chapter of Hants and Isle of Wight, and was a member of the Authors' Club Lodge (No. 3456). In Royal Arch Masonry was P.Z. [3] of Friendship Chapter (No. 257) and P.P.G.S.N. [4] in the Provincial Grand Chapter. He was also interested in the Phoenix Mark Lodge (No. 2).

For many years Alfred Wood was a member of the Royal Albert Yacht Club, latterly acting as Hon. Secretary. He was keenly interested in the work of the Victoria Nursing Association, being Chairman of the Finance Committee of the Portsmouth branch.

He had played cricket for Hampshire and also on occasions for the Hampshire Hogs and Hampshire Rovers, and was a member of the M.C.C. (Marylebone Cricket Club). He was formerly for 15 years President of Portsmouth Football Association. Arthur Conan Doyle played in both teams as well.

In may 1905, he joined the Hindhead Golf Club, and was elected to the committee. In 1906, he was elected Honorary Treasurer.

Throughout the Great War he served in France in the 5th Royal Sussex Territorials, where he was Town Major of Beauquesne. He also served in Italy in 1918.

Major Wood died at 75 in Southsea, Hampshire, England on saturday 19 april 1941. He was bachelor. He is buried at Highland Road Cemetery.

Wood and Conan Doyle

Between 1882 an 1890, he met Arthur Conan Doyle in Southsea when Conan Doyle was practising medicine and they became close friends.

On 6-7 september 1892, he played cricket with Conan Doyle (as captain) in the cricket team The Idlers versus Norwood. Match Drawn.

In 1897, Alfred Wood became private secretary of Arthur Conan Doyle.

In may 1905, he joined the Hindhead Golf Club, where Conan Doyle was also member.

On 6 july 1906, he was present at Conan Doyle's first wife funerals. According to Georgina Doyle (Out of the Shadow, Calabash Press, 2004), Lena Jean Conan Doyle told that Wood's nephew told her that Alfred Wood felt it was easier to work as secretary under Louisa's regime than under Jean's.

On 20 october 1906, Arthur Conan Doyle, Innes Doyle, Fletcher Robinson, Alfred Wood and his nephew Sholto Wood played gold at Hindhead.

On 15 august 1907, Conan Doyle and Wood played cricket for the Authors vs the Actors. Actors won.

On 17 september 1907, he was present for Arthur Conan Doyle's wedding-eve dinner party at The Gaiety Restaurant.

In 1916, during his visit to the war front, Conan Doyle met Wood in Beauquesne and Amiens. See Conan Doyl'es report in Memories and Adventures

From august 1920 to march 1921, he accompagnied Arthur Conan Doyle and his family for his Australian lecture tour. See Conan Doyle's report in The Wanderings of a Spiritualist.

In march 1925, he took entries for the billiards competition at Windlesham.

Wood was often writing letters dictated by Conan Doyle (examples from 1904 to 1928) :

In his will, Arthur Conan Doyle bequeathed to Wood £250 per year for life.


The 1st footage from the Conan Doyle 16 minutes home movie (Richard Lancelyn Green collection) shows Alfred H. Wood with a chauffeur and another man.


Major Wood, a model of Dr. Watson ?

Arthur Conan Doyle never stated that his friend Alfred H. Wood was a model for Dr. Watson. But his son Adrian in a private letter to Pierre Nordon suggested the idea:

« ... My father never disclosed the model for Watson. It is my own opinion that he used Wood and I think that we have a stronger case than any other to support that supposition. Major Wood was, in common with Watson, a very clear-cut type. He was a thickset moustached Englishman, intelligent without being brilliant, reliable and a keen sportsman. Bearing in mind my father's power of character drawing coupled with my own knowledge of Major Wood, I have no doubt whatever that Wood was the matrix from which Watson was hewn. Wood was a friend of my father's in Southsea when he was first writing the original Holmes book. When my father moved to Norwood, Wood was a frequent visitor, and, about 1897, became his secretary. He was working daily with my father at the time of the Edalji, Slater cases, etc., and, as I can confirm from personal knowledge, over a period of years, he was as much a foil to my father as Watson was to Holmes. » (Adrian Conan Doyle, 15 february 1957)

Also, the description of Watson : « He was a middle-sized, strongly built man — square jaw, thick neck, moustache... » (CHAS 433, april 1904) is a striking resemblance with Alfred Wood.

Note that Alfred H. Wood had a nephew named Sholto Wood. Bartholomew and Thaddeus Sholto were the twin sons of Major John Sholto in Arthur Conan Doyle's novel: The Sign of Four (1888).


  1. Master of Arts
  2. Past Provincial Junior Grand Deacon.
  3. Past Zerubbabel
  4. Past Provincial Grand Scribe Nehemiah.