With Gerald Dickens coming to oversee the press launch of The Lion book I wonder how many people realise that his great, great grandfather, Charles Dickens, was a regular guest there.
Probably the most famous comment about hotel was by the novelist who stayed there on August 12, 1858, with his friend and illustrator, Hablot K Browne, otherwise know as Phiz.
They were given two rooms in what was then an annexe and Dickens wrote to one of his daughters: “We have the strangest little rooms, the ceilings of which I can touch with my hand. The windows bulge out over the street as if they were little stern windows of a ship. And a door opens out of the sitting room on to a little open gallery with plants in it where one leans over a queer old rail.”
It wasn’t the only time that Dickens stayed at The Lion. It appears he enjoyed the quirky hotel and when he stayed there he always booked two rooms, a bedroom upstairs and a lounge below complete with desk, and guests can see both rooms today.
Pictured below by Richard Bishop is the Dickens bedroom still with “the little stern windows.”
Dickens had stayed at The Lion 20 years previously when he records in his 1838 Journal that on Wednesday, October 31 he and his wife Catherine had attended the Shrewsbury Theatre to see A Roland for an Oliver before leaving the next day to travel on to Llangollen.
Dickens is known to have visited Shrewsbury on a number of other occasions, including May 10, 1852, when he appeared at the Music Hall in the comedy Not so bad as we seem or Many sides to a character, which was written by Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton. The performance concluded with an original farce in one act by Charles Dickens and Mark Lemon entitled Mr Nightingale’s Diary.
It is probable that Dickens stayed at The Lion many times, with some saying he wrote Pickwick Papers at the hotel.
Does anyone know of any evidence to show that Dickens wrote Pickwick Papers at The Lion? If you do please email John@jbutterworth.plus.com