A Dickens Bar at The Morritt

Dickens Bar at the Morritt featuring John Gilroy’s mural

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Locals and guests visiting the Morritt will be familiar with Dickens bar, named after the great author who is rumoured to have stayed here whilst writing Nicholas Nickleby and famous for the Dickensian themed mural that has been on the walls since the 1940’s which was painted by the acclaimed artist John Gilroy.

John Gilroy was best known for his iconic artwork for the Guinness campaigns featuring a Zookeeper and his animals enjoying Guinness. Over a long career he created famous covers for the Radio Times as well as the many well-known Guinness adverts and he was an accomplished portrait painter.

It is said that Gilroy painted the mural to settle a rather large bar tab that had been accrued whilst he was staying at the Morritt, this may or may not be true but it is a great story. Painting of the mural began on the 1st February 1946 and was completed within ten days.

The mural, covering a full wall of the bar, features jolly caricatures from the Dickensian era. Gilroy focussed on the Dickens theme in homage to the authors’ reputed visit to the Morritt, when the mural was finished closer inspection revealed that the colourful subjects were in fact locals who frequented the bar and staff from the hotel.

After some 76 years the mural has recently been showing signs of age and of course the many years where smoking was permitted have damaged the colours. Not wanting to lose such an important feature to the ravages of time we contacted Guinness to see if they would be keen to help us restore and save this work of art and indeed they were.

Following a lengthy search we finally found a wonderful artist specialising in mural’s to take on the painstaking restoration task. Sarah Hodgkins of Charlotte Designs and her colleague Sarah Daniels took just under two weeks to restore the artwork to its former glory, carefully and cautiously bringing the colours back to life and indeed adding a couple of new characters into the scene, see if you can spot them when you visit.

The BBC filmed the renovation process and it as a national news item on August 11th 2022, you can watch it on BBC1player.

With huge thanks to Sarah Hodgkins and Sarah Daniels for their incredible restoration work. Thank you to Guinness for their support and Danny Savage of the BBC for filming this story.

We hope you can pop in and take a look at the mural when you are passing by.

With thanks to Kane Young Photography for the excellent images. 

Watch the Restoration Process of Our Mural in a Time-Lapse Video

John Gilroy’s Mural – The Restoration Process

John Gilroy’s Mural – The Unveiling

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