In October 1838, Charles Dickens travelled with his friend, the illustrator Hablot Browne to the Midlands and Wales. He stopped off at Leamington Spa and Stratford-upon-Avon staying there one night in each town before travelling on to Shrewsbury where he also stayed overnight.
Dickens arrived by coach around 4.30pm on 31 October after a journey of over seven hours from Stratford-upon-Avon. He had hoped to take a shorter journey but a lack of available coaches had meant he ended up going via Birmingham and Wolverhampton. He described his journey as passing through “miles of cinder-paths and blazing furnaces, and roaring steam-engines, and such a mass of dirt, gloom, and misery as I never before witnessed“.
Charles Dickens stayed at the Lion Hotel, a 16th Century coaching inn in the centre of the town. In the evening he went to the Theatre Royal with Browne and saw productions of a ballet The Love Chase and a play A Roland for an Oliver.
Dickens’s wife Catherine had not travelled with her husband on this journey, instead staying at their Doughty Street home in London looking after their two children. The couple kept in contact by letter and Charles received a letter from Catherine at Shrewsbury. On the morning of 1 November he replied with a letter from the hotel to his wife, Catherine, before continuing his journey to Wales.
Use of Shrewsbury in Dickens Literature.
In the Dickens historical novel A Tale of Two Cities, the characters Sydney Carton and Mr. Stryver were both educated at Shrewsbury School, before going onto study law in Paris and working as barristers in London. Shrewsbury School is an independent school founded under a Royal Charter in 1552 granted by King Edward VI. The school was originally in the centre of the town but moved in 1882 to a much larger site on the outskirts. In the novel. the two characters refer back to their time at Shrewsbury School during one drinking session (Book 2 Chapter 5, The Jackal).
Filming of A Christmas Carol.
Shrewsbury was used as the setting for the 1984 film version of the Charles Dickens tale A Christmas Carol, which filmed many of its interior and exterior shots in and around the town. The gravestone prop of Ebenezer Scrooge (played by George C. Scott) that was used in the movie is still present in the graveyard of St Chad’s Church.
The Lion Hotel still stands in the town although the Theatre Royal has since been converted for other uses.
Further Reading on The Circumlocution Office.
Further Reading (external sites).