Bury St Edmunds: Famous writer's connection with town is celebrated
PUBLISHED: 09:00 08 February 2012
TWO hundred years since the birth of the writer Charles Dickens his connection with a west Suffolk market town has been officially recognised at the hotel where he stayed.
Yesterday, a blue plaque to commemorate Dickens’ association with Bury St Edmunds was unveiled at The Angel hotel, where he stayed three times in total - in 1835, 1859 and 1861.
The event marked the 200th anniversary of Dickens’ birth, as well as the launch of the town’s first blue plaque heritage trail, which has been organised by the Bury Society.
In total the trail celebrates the lives of seven people with connections with the town: Dickens, writer Norah Lofts, painter Rose Mead, artist Sybil Andrews, diarist James Oakes, collector Frederic Gershom Parkington and architect Lewis Nockalls Cottingham.
Bury Society committee member Martyn Taylor, who has been pivotal in launching the scheme, said in 1906/1907 11 stone plaques were placed on buildings to recognise people with connections with the town, and now more than 100 years later seven more people were being celebrated.
Mr Taylor, who is also a local history guide in the town, said: “It’s a big day for Bury St Edmunds.”
Mayor of St Edmundsbury, Christopher Spicer, said: “Dickens’ connection with The Angel and The Pickwick Papers has always meant something to the town and obviously the blue plaque sponsored by the Bury Society is not before time, may I say. It’s great this is happening now.”
At yesterday’s launch event, historian and lecturer Clive Paine - who was dressed in Victorian attire with his wife Christine - talked of Dickens’ connection with the market town.
He said Dickens visited Bury, Sudbury and Ipswich in 1835 as a journalist of the Morning Chronicle to report on the elections.
When he came to Bury he stayed in what was room 11 at The Angel.
The writer also stayed in The Angel in 1859 and 1861 - this time in what was room 15 and is now 215 - when he did readings from his works at the Athenaeum, which is near the hotel.
Dickens also included The Angel in The Pickwick Papers. The main character Samuel Pickwick arrives in the town and stays at the hotel.
Dickens writes: “The coach rattled through the well-paved streets of a handsome little town, of thriving and cleanly appearance, and stopped before a large inn situated in a wide open street, nearly facing the old abbey.”
A girls’ boarding school is also mentioned in the tale, which could have been at 42/43 Southgate Street or a house in Westgate Street, but it may also have been at Eastgate House in Rochester.
Mary Gough, who owns The Angel, said it was “lovely” to have the Dickens plaque on the front of her hotel.
She added how room 215 - The Charles Dickens Room - still contained the bed the writer slept in.
Bury Society chairman Alan Jary thought it was “very significant” to recognise people who had left their mark on the town, but also on a wider basis, such as the arts scene.
“We want to go forward, but we musn’t forget our past.”
Mr Taylor said it was hoped the other blue plaques would be installed by the end of the month.