A Shropshire hotel that has a direct link to one of the most important scientific theories of all time has gone on the market for almost £3 million.
The Lion Hotel, in Shrewsbury’s Wyle Cop, has hosted historical figures from Benjamin Disraeli to Charles Dickens, but its most important guest was Charles Darwin, who stayed at the hotel before setting off on HMS Beagle where he developed his theory on the origins of the species.
Now the Grade I-listed hotel is being sold by its current owners, who are retiring, and the selling agents believe it is likely to attract significant interest as the town and wider county enjoy a major renaissance.
“We’ve had quite a lot of success in that area recently,” said Paul Reilley, associate director at Christie + Co. “We recently sold the Old Lion and Tap around the corner where the new owner plans to spend a lot of money and turn it into a food and casked ale operation.
“The buyer was new into the market and wanted to expand into Shropshire, in towns like Ludlow and Shrewsbury. The nearby Cornhouse also sold recently and shows that people really are looking for places with character.
“We have just agreed terms for a hotel on the Long Mynd so there is a lot going on in the market at the moment – indeed Shropshire’s something of a honeypot.”
Mr Reilley was recently involved in the sale of the von Essen hotel group and believes that the sale of the AA three-star hotel that includes 59 en suite letting bedrooms and a magnificent ballroom, reflects a growing demand in the hotel sector.
He said: “The Lion Hotel is a landmark hotel which I think could be attractive to a small group or a private individual.
“It’s certainly a sector that’s doing well at the moment if the funding is correct with most growth coming in the budget market where there is still a demand for beds.”
The hotel is one of 660 listed buildings in Shrewsbury and boasts a history dating back to the 16th century.
As well as Darwin, the hotel has welcomed a host of great historical figures through the ages. Charles Dickens said of his stay: “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 in a ship and a door opens out of the sitting room onto a little open gallery with plants in it where one leans over a queer old rail and looks all down hill and slantwise at the crookedest old black and yellow houses.”
The hotel is also adjoined to the earlier Tudor House where Henry Tudor stayed as his army collected up 500 Shropshire men before marching on Bosworth in Leicestershire where it defeated Richard III and heralded the start of a new historical era.
Richard Sheehan, managing director of the Shropshire Chamber Commerce, said the activity in the leisure sector reflected an upturn in the county’s fortunes.
He said: “It doesn’t come as a surprise that these kind of businesses are attracting this kind of attention as we have seen significant growth in Shropshire in terms of the leisure and hospitality sector.
“Shropshire has a fantastic rural environment with lots of visitor attractions, be it Ironbridge which brings in half a million visitors a year or Shrewsbury with its fantastic architecture, Ludlow and its particular reputation for food or Much Wenlock as the birthplace of the modern Olympics and people keep coming back again and again.
"We’re in a situation where we are not exempt from the challenges of the economy but we do have growth sectors and leisure is certainly one of them.”