Lion House, High Street, Wrexham

by Annette Edwards

When ROBERT SHUKER COMBERBACH was listed in Pigots` Directory 1844 , the Lion House  was  being used as a hotel, it must have been a respectable place as many celebratory events were held there.

Robert Shuker Comberbach was born about 1812 in Ruyton 11 towns, his wife Elizabeth Commander was born in Warwickshire. They married in 1838 when Robert was a grocer.

When T Lloyd Fitzhugh  Esq of Plas Power married Miss Lucy, of Charlicote, Warwickshire in   November 1847 , the  “Nuptial Festivities”  were held at Wrexham. After the ceremony the  horses were taken from the carriage, and it was drawn by the populace to the door of the Lion Hotel, where Mr. Lloyd Fitzhugh was greeted by a large assemblage of friends. At four o’clock the dinner room was thrown open, and certainly the set-out was most creditable to MR. AND MRS. COMBERBACH, as in addition to most substantial fare, the tables groaned under the delicacies of the season, and the room was most tastefully decorated with bridal devices and emblazoned heraldry illustrative of the families of Plas Power and Charlicot.  

26th February 1848.

WREXHAM PROFESSIONAL, COMMERCIAL AND AGRICULTURAL BALL.—So many parties were prevented by illness and other causes from attending the ball which took place in Wrexham, in December last, for the benefit of the Dispensary, that it was resolved by several residents in the town to get up another ball for the same object.

Dancing was commenced about 9 o’clock, the first dance being opened by Mrs. Humphreys Jones, one of the patronesses.. Quadrilles, waltzes, polkas, country dances, and galopes, followed in quick succession until 12 o’clock when the refreshment rooms were thrown upon. Dancing was resumed and continued until after six o’clock when the party separated highly delighted, and unanimous in their approbation of the manner in which the committee had made and carried out every arrangement.

Much credit is due to the taste of MR. AND MRS. COMBERBACH, of the Lion Hotel, for the excellent manner in which the refreshments were provided.

In April 1848 Robert Comberbach was leaving the Lion.

TO BE LET, WITH IMMEDIATE POSSESSION, The Lion Hotel., Wrexham, with 25 Acres of excellent Meadow Land. Application to be made to Mr. COMBERBACH, at the Lion Hotel, or to Mr. SMITH, Greenfield Lodge, near Chirk. Wrexham.

8th December 1849. It`s clear that Robert went to Macclesfield.

Extracts from a newspaper report.

A young girl named Sarah Ellen Hughes from Rhos was “employed” by a woman who gave a false name, she appeared to be very wealthy but turned out to be far from it. “Her hurry to get away, however, did not prevent her stopping at Chester all night, where she indulged in sundry pipes of tobacco, and the contents of a gin bottle, which rather astonished the girl, but more so when she insisted upon her partaking.”  The girl wrote to her mother “ Oh heavens, what a rag shop; and she began the moment we got in. The house was full of all sorts of dirty Irish. There is two or three houses full of dirty rags, not worth calling anything else. There is one filthy tailor drunk all the time living here.”  Sarah Ellen asked to be returned home, but the woman accused Sarah Ellen of stealing  from her  and an officer  searched  her mother’s home but found nothing.  He lodged the girl for the night in the Wrexham Bridewell, and took her to Macclesfield the following day. The mother being in  very poor circumstances, applied to Mr. Daniel Jones, and Mr. Manuel Jones, of Wrexham, and these kind hearted men immediately took the girl’s case in hand. Mr. Manuel Jones at once started for Macclesfield, to watch the case, and engage an attorney to defend her. Mr.Comberbach, the respected proprietor of the Maccelsfield Arms, (and formerly of Wrexham introduced him to one of the most respectable gentlemen practicing there.

Robert S Comberbach  moved to Westmoreland, and then to Huyton with Roby, he was a hotel proprietor at both places. He died aged 82 on 4 September 1894 while at his hotel and left effects worth £51,185 1s 6d, so was a very wealthy man.

THOMAS MORRELL

By 1851 THOMAS MORRELL was at the Lion Hotel, High Street, he was 36, an  Innkeeper and Painter who was born in Darlington, Co. Durham, his wife was Helen  and they had a young daughter Mary  who had been born in Wrexham.  They had a barmaid, waitress, kitchen maid, a parlour maid, boots, a nurse and a helper, so it was a well run house hold.

Their next child was born in Llandudno about 1855  so it seems they didn`t stay  in Wrexham for long.  When the Morrell`s were in Llandudno,  Helen was a Private Hotel Boarding House keeper, on the north side of Church Walks.  By  1881 they moved to  Aberwyswyth and Thomas was an “artistic painter”  they  later moved to  Marylebone, London  where he  died in 1892 .

ROBERT ROGERS was the next occupant of Lion House, he was born about 1799 in Whittington, Shropshire. In 1851 he was in Queens Street  and was a broker and furniture dealer. His wife Elizabeth was from Wrexham and was born about 1803. Robert must have moved to Lion after the Morrells moved out. The Lion Hotel, ceased to be a hotel   and Robert Rogers took a lease on the whole premises, converted the stables into a furniture arcade, made part into a residence, and sublet the  rest  for different purposes.

11th October 1856 TO BE LET.  the Lion House, High-street, Wrexham, containing commodious Dining and Drawing Rooms’ two Kitchens, small parlour, and eight Bed Rooms. A Stable and Gig-house if required. Apply at Mr ROBERT ROGERS, on the premises.

It`s not certain when Elizabeth died  but  on the 14th May 1857 Mr. R. ROGERS, Lion House, High-street, Wrexham, married  Mary, relict of the the late Mr. John Turner, of Teignmouth, Devon at Gresford Church.   Mary had been a widow for some time and had been a shop keeper in Gresford. 

The following year more of the building was offered out for rent and it`s clear it was quite a large place.

15th May 1858 Lion House, HIGH-STREET. TO LET, a part of the Lion House, High-street.

Ground Floor-Kitchen, lower Kitchen. 2 Parlours, and Office (small.)  First Floor-2 Front Rooms, 3 other Rooms, and Water Closet. Top Rooms -6 or 7, if required. Apply to ROBERT ROGERS, Furniture Rooms, on the premises.

ROBERT ROGERS died in 1875 aged 76. His obituary tells a great deal about his life

23rd January 1875

DEATH OF AN OLD TOWNSMAN.—Our obituary of today contains the name of MR ROBERT ROGERS, the passing a way from amongst us of whom calls for a word or two more than is usually allotted to the departed in another column. He was an old Wrexham tradesman, having begun business in Bridge-street in the year 1819, in a small shop opposite the premises of Mr Pierce, cabinet- maker. Here he pursued the even tenor of his way for about a quarter of a century, after which he removed to a shop in Hope-street, now occupied by Mr Simms, music-seller. Shortly afterwards the Lion Hotel, in High street was given up  as an hotel, whereupon Mr Rogers took a lease on the whole premises, converted the extensive stabling into a furniture arcade, made a portion into a residence, and sublet the remainder for different purposes. Here he remained up to the time of his death. From the year 1815 he had been a consistent and devout member of the Wesleyan Methodists, and at the time of his death he was the oldest class leader and local preacher in the circuit. He was an upright, humble, and unassuming man, and in his Christian character he was always a welcome visitor in the sick chamber. His remains were interred at the New Burial Ground yesterday (Friday). As a mark of esteem to his memory, the Wesleyan Methodists wished the funeral to be a public one, and it was largely attended by the members, class leaders, and local preachers of the body.

From articles found in the Wrexham Advertiser it `s been possible to see who some of the occupants were and the uses to which the rooms were put.

15th August 1857   MESSRS GABRIEL , THE OLD ESTABLISHED DENTISTS. 

TEETH. OBSERVE-ATTENDANCE IN WREXHAM, On Wednesday next, and every Wednesday through out the year, at the Private Rooms of Mr. Rogers’, Lion House, High-street, Wrexham . A NEW DISCOVERY IN TEETH.  This system does not require the extraction of roots, or any painful operation. They are fixed without springs or wire of any description, and will ensure success when all others have failed. Mr Gabriel the dentist held his surgery there for a few more years after this. 

18th December 1858 JOHN JONES  a solicitor had his offices there. 

CENTENARY OF THE BIRTH OF BURNS. IN consequence of a desire expressed by many of the admirers of the National Poet of Scotland, to participate in the universal celebration of the above event by some public demonstration in Wrexham,; a meeting for deliberating upon the best mode of carrying out the object will be held in the room over the Market Hall, Wrexham, when the admirers of Robert Bums are respectfully invited to attend. Those persons willing to co-operate, but who may be unable to be present at the meeting will oblige by putting themselves in communication with MR. JOHN JONES. Solicitor. Wrexham. Offices, Lion House.

25th June 1859

DENBIGH RIFLES.-The Royal Denbigh Rifles assembled in this town on Wednesday.  At one o’clock, the Sergeant-Major, accompanied by the band went round the town. The parade ground has been changed this year from the Race Course to the Grove Park. The mess room is at the Lion House as last year, where the band plays every evening, weather permitting, for an hour or more, much to the delight of some hundreds of spectators.

24 December 1859.  It was announced that the Provincial Insurance Company have secured the eligible site they have done for the erection of their new offices.  Their present offices have long been too small for their constantly increasing business, and even with the addition lately made of a portion of the Lion House. This new building was completed   by the end of 1861 and still stands, it is on the opposite side of the street. The Alliance Assurance Company took over between 1874 and 1899, and their name is still on the front.  It was taken over by Yates, and is now known as the “Crafty Dragon”

Monday, July 24, 1861 An unnamed lady made good use of the steps.

BOROUGH MAGISTRATES’ COURT.  The only case before the court this morning was that of a woman who had been taken up by P.O. Meacock on Sunday, at three o’clock in the afternoon lying drunk and helpless on the steps of the Lion House. In reply to questions put to her by the bench she said she was a silk weaver, and was on her way to Birkenhead to a sister. She was discharged on promising to leave the town immediately.

THOMAS MANLEY. Thomas wasn’t at the Lion for long, but he played an important part in the towns brewing history.

6th June 1863 The wife of Mr. MANLEY. Lion House.  High-street gave birth to a daughter.

Thomas Manley was a wine and spirit merchant from Gresford ,  he was born about 1829. His wife had the wonderful name of Lucy Ann Luck.

 In  APRIL 1879  Thomas was having financial problems  as he was selling  his furniture.

 By Bankruptcy. IMPORTANT SALE OF HIGH-CLASS FURNITURE. Re. Thomas Manley, Brewer, of 25, Chester-street, Wrexham. The  whole of the very valuable and modern HOUSEHOLD FURNITURE, contained in Dining and Drawing Rooms, Kitchens, and Bedrooms, comprising in Dining Room—Massive mahogany sideboard and cheffonier, splendid walnut cottage piano, book case, dining and side tables, sofa, chairs, pier glass, carpets, See. Drawing Boom—Walnut suite, cheffonier, cabinet, tables, time-pieces, pier glass, Brussels carpets, &c. Bedroom-Mahogany and iron bedsteads, and all the feather beds and linen, wardrobes, chests of drawers, dressing tables and washstands, carpets, &c. and the whole of the Kitchen requisites. Mr Snape was the auctioneer and his office was at Lion House.

24th April 1880.  Having had to sell some of his belongings, Thomas now lost his brewery.

The recently erected Brewery, now in full working condition called” THE VICTORIA. BREWERY, with an 8-quarters’ steam brewing plant complete, fitted and served throughout with water and gas apparatus, together with all fixtures and other effects attached to the above premises. Also the several parcels of land adjacent to the Brewery, and the stabling, loose box, sheds, and premises lately occupied therewith. All the above Premises are situate near the Cattle Market, in the borough of Wrexham, and were recently built and occupied by Mr Thomas Manley, brewer.

Thomas must have sorted his money problems and gone back into business, as 12 years later there was another sale.

14th May 1892  TO BREWERS AND OTHERS. TO BE SOLD BY TENDER, the whole of the Landlords’ PLANT, FIXTURES, and EFFECTS at the VICARAGE HILL BREWERY, Wrexham, recently occupied by Mr Thomas Manley, brewer, comprising:—Copper brewing pan (about four barrels) with curb and tap, wrought iron pan with curb and tap, iron connection pipe and tap, malt hopper, mash tun with false bottom, oak underback and taps, cooler and spout, capital force pump with lead piping and three taps complete, iron cistern, brewers’ pulley. gas piping and brackets, wood staging and step ladders.

14 March 1919 MR. THOMAS MANLEY, WREXHAM. The death of Mr. Thomas Manley, 70 Alexandra Road, Wrexham, is reported at the age of 91. Mr. Manley was the oldest Freemason in North Wales and had been a member of the Wrexham Lodge ever since it`s  commencement. He was born in Gresford in 1828, and in 1856 he married the only daughter of Mr. Daniel Luck, Meifod, Montgomeryshire, and niece of General Sir George Luck. There were 13 children, ten of whom survive. Mr. Manley had lived in Wrexham for nearly sixty years of his married life, and celebrated his golden wedding here, and, but for the death of his wife some months ago would have celebrated his  diamond wedding. For half a century he was associated with the brewing industry, and built the Victoria Brewery, which, after his retirement, became the Victoria Flour Mills. He was also a member of the Town Council for some years.

He died at the age of 91 which more or less proves that beer is good for you!

The next occupant of Lion House was WILLIAM SNAPE who had been born in Cumberland about 1825. By 1861 he had moved to Wrexham and was a master bookseller,  he was lodging in Chester Street  with William Potter,  also a bookseller from Cumberland  who had his own  business. On 13 July 1866 William Snape married Anne Eliza Potter in Bebington, she was William Potters daughter and about 20 years younger.

The couple settled in Wrexham and William applied for a licence for the Lion House.

29 August 1868 LICENSES.— for spirit licenses,  one for the Lion House, High-street, which was formerly on hotel, the license having been allowed to lapse some years ago.

5th September 1868 Mr Snape applied for a license for the Lion House, in High-street, where he has for some time carried on business as a wine merchant, under a special license.

William Snape became the victim of theft.

11th January 1873 ALLEGED THEFT OF A GRATE. John Williams, Holt-street, was charged with stealing a cast iron grate, the property of Mr William Snape, Lion Hotel. Samuel Jones, a joiner, employed by Mr Snape, stated that on Thursday last, he missed an old grate out of the Lion Yard, one having been taken a few days before. He had often seen the prisoner in the yard, he having been employed by Mr Rogers, furniture broker.

July 1880.

Before T. C. Jones, Esq.  STEALING A MARQUEE. Richard Colley, laborer, Wrexham, was in custody on a charge of stealing a marquee, valued at £2, the property of MR W. SNAPE, Lion Hotel. Evidence was taken to the effect that the prisoner in company with another man not in custody had gone to the place where the tents were kept in High-street, which is next to Mr Dodd’s, the Cocoa Rooms, and had taken the marquee out through the back way. They then took it to a rag shop in Pentrefelin, and there offered it for sale, but Mrs Williams, the proprietor’s wife, refused to take it in. It was eventually sold by the unarrested man for ¾ d a pound to Mr Bates, marine store dealer, Penybryn.

It`s interesting that Mr Bates is mentioned in both of these cases.

In December 1880 William put an advert in the papers announcing a sale of his stock at the Lion House as he was retiring from the trade .  His businesses later went in to liquidation.

24th February 1883

Petition for liquidation WILLIAM SNAPE, Preswylfod, Chester-road, and 59 Hope-street, both in Wrexham, auctioneer and valuer, formerly of 43 High Street street, hatter, hosier, and tailor, and previously of Lion House, High Street all in Wrexham, wine and spirit merchant and licenced victualler.

WILLIAM SNAPE died on 11 July 1890 aged 66.

THE LATE MR W. SNAPE.—It is with very deep I regret that we have to record the death of Mr W. Snape, an old and well-known tradesman of the town, who died at his residence in Ruthin Road, on Sunday morning, at the age of 66. The late Mr Snape was a native of Aspatria, Cumberland, and served his apprenticeship in company with Mr George Routledge and the late Mr Railton Potter, with Mr Thurnam, of Carlisle. Mr Snape first went to London on leaving Carlisle, and was employed by the old firm of Messrs Routledge, Warne, and Routledge. From there, about thirty- one years ago, he came to Wrexham, and entered into partnership with Mr Railton Potter, as printer, bookseller, and stationer. He retired from that partnership about twenty-three years ago, and then took over the business of The Lion House Hotel in High-street. This he carried on most successfully for some years. He also did a large amount of work as an auctioneer, and retained his licence until his death. He was for some time in business as a clothier at the Old Bank Buildings, and more recently he represented the Wrexham Lager Beer and other brewery companies. He has had very bad health for the last two years or more, and on the 3rd inst. he was seized with an apoplectic attack, and, never recovering, he expired on Sunday. Mr Snape was for some years a member of the Town Council, and was a very prominent man in all public affairs, and an authority upon a majority of matters. His interment took place on Wednesday at the new cemetery, when some of the oldest friends of the deceased were present, the officiating clergyman being the Vicar (the Ven. Archdeacon Howell.

SAMUEL RICHARD JOHNSON was the final known  occupant of the Lion House.  

He was born in Scotland in 1849 and was the son of William Johnson who had been in the iron trade before moving to Wrexham . By 1874 William was the inn keeper of the Fleece Inn on Hope Street where he died on 6 November 1881, he left a personal estate of £1266 7s 4d. The will was proved by Ann Johnson widow, Samuel Richard Johnson “Lion House” High Street, wine and spirit merchant.

In early 1881 Samuel Richard Johnson married Mary Priscilla Parks and later the same year they were living in Lion House on High Street, Samuel was a hotel keeper and wine merchant.

1887  A man paid a high price for “dossing down” at the back of the Lion House.

BOROUGH MAGISTRATES’ COURT. SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 11 th.

SLEEPING OUT. John McWilliam, a well-known loafer, was in custody charged by P.C. Rowland with having been found sleeping out, in the yard in the rear of the premises occupied by Mr Samuel Johnson, High- street.-Prisoner was sent to gaol for fourteen days, with hard labour.

Mary Priscilla Johnson died on 1 May 1897 at  the Lion House, she was 38.

In early 1899 Samuel had married again to Sarah Ann Evans who was about 24 years old.

They stayed at Lion House, but Sarah Ann died there in June 1903, she was only 27.

4th March 1908  Baner ac Amserau Cymru

It is reported that the North and South Wales Bank has purchased from MR. S. R. JOHNSON, owner, Lion House, High Street, Wrexham, probably to build new buildings for the bank. The Lion House was one of the best known hotels in North Wales.

 Samuel Richard Johnson moved to Llangollen and was the manager of the Royal Hotel for many years. He died in 1924 aged 76.

The Lion House was greatly altered by the new owners. Cadw description states –

It was rebuilt between 1910 and 1912 by Woolfall and Eccles, architects, for the Midland Bank. It was Ashlar faced, with polished granite columns. Two storeys, five-window range. Baroque palazzo style. Lower storey recessed behind coupled Tuscan columns carrying entablature.

After the North & South Wales Bank, better known as Wales Bank bought the Lion, and before the building was completed, the Wales Bank had become part of the Midland Bank (now HSBC).  It was a bank until 1999, and then two years later Wetherspoons bought it and opened it as a pub. It was originally named Lloyds; it was later renamed, in recognition of The North & South Wales Bank.

Researched by Annette Edwards. August 2019.

Images of Lion House courtesy of Wrexham History and Wetherspoons.