Projects for The Boscombe Valley Mystery

The Boscombe Valley Mystery COVERs.inddSherlock Holmes is the ultimate legendary detective and it is hard to find students who do not know at least one story about him. Just like all the stories in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes series, The Boscombe Valley Mystery offers exciting research and discussion possibilities for the language class. If you are looking for meaningful texts which contextualise new vocabulary, dialogues and grammar in action as well as providing cultural and historical background, your most obvious and popular choice will be a Sherlock Holmes story.

The Boscombe Valley Mystery is the third story published in the Helbling Readers Red Series after The Hound of the Baskervilles (Level 1) and The Red-headed League (Level 2). The Boscombe Valley Mystery is also a Level 2 reader, adapted by Geraldine Sweeney and illustrated by Agilulfo Russo.

Take our project ideas to the classroom, share them with your students and get them to read and research this story. You will need a projector, a laptop and an Internet connection to be able to look at the web resources. 


  1. Look for Boscombe Valley on Google Maps. Can you find it?
  2. Now look for Herefordshire county and the town of Ross-on-Wye. What is the Wye?
  3. Where is the county and where is the town?
  4. Look at pictures of these places and describe geographical features of them.
  5. What do the images make you feel like? Can you imagine a mystery set in these places?


We read about two families in this story, the McCarthy and the Turner family. They are both rich families living in big houses. The story is set in 1891, the beginning of the last decade of the Victorian Era. What were houses like? How did these families live? Do some research and compare homes you know with the households in the story.

  1. When was the Victorian Era? How did it get its name?
  2. How were these Victorian homes located? Were they in the centre of towns or in the countryside?
  3. How many servants did a rich family have? What were the roles of these servants?
  4. How many rooms did an average Victorian home have? Did they have bathrooms?
  5. What was a farmhouse? Who lived there?

Web resources


Illustration from The Boscombe Valley Mystery, Helbling Reader.  Illustrated by Agilulfo Russo. © Helbling Languages


When you think of Sherlock, you probably visualise of his cap and coat. The famous deerstalker cap is not described in any of the stories, but it was added by the illustrator, Sidney Paget in the original edition in The Strand Magazine, where the stories were serialised.

  1. Look at the original illustrations on the British Library website.
  2. Now look at this coloured illustration from the Helbling Reader.
  3. Watch the trailer of the modern BBC adaptation of the Sherlock stories.

Now describe his style. You can search the Internet for Sherlock style tips. Pay attention to the details:

  • The shirt: What colour and material is it?
  • The suit: Is it sporty or elegant?
  • The coat: Is it a long or a short coat? Is it wool or cotton? Is the collar turned up or down? What is a cloak?
  • The cap: It is a deerstalker cap. What are deerstalker caps used for?


‘Sherlock Holmes was a different person when he was following a trail like this. To many people, Holmes was a quiet and logical detective.’ (The Boscombe Valley Mystery, Helbling Red Reader, page 37)

Detectives are usually logical, they follow trails. These are just two examples to describe what detective are like and what they do. Just like in every job, detectives also use a special language to express themselves.

Read these quotes from the reader and point out the words which are typical ‘detective’ words. 

  1. ‘This case is very interesting.’
  2. ‘You see, observation is an important part of my job.’
  3. ‘It is possible that it can help the investigation.’
  4. ‘You mustn’t always believe obvious facts.’
  5. ‘I think it is very likely.’
  6. ‘Holmes measured the boots very carefully from seven or eight different points.’
  7. ‘He took out a magnifying glass and lay on his cloak to look at the ground talking to himself all the time.’
  8. ‘I solved the mystery.’

When you are reading the story, look for more examples of ‘detective talk’.


Check out our other resources about Sherlock Holmes and detectives. You will find resources to improve your students’ thinking skills, you can learn about London and explore the world of detectives.

Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson are not only colleagues but they are also good friends. Read our post about literary friendships and do our friendship quiz.

Read more about serialisations in our post:

Here is an extra research tip for your students.

  • This story appears in one of the contemporary modernised adaptations of the stories by BBC starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. Can your students find the TV adaptation which uses The Boscombe Valley Mystery?


  1. what a huge amount of teaching ideas. Thanks very much!!!!