Mark Lemon was a prolific writer of plays, journalism, and fiction. He is best known these days as the founder and first editor of both the humorous magazine, Punch, and the country magazine, The Field. He was also heavily involved with the Illustrated London News.
Lemon was a good friend of Charles Dickens. His fairy story, The Enchanted Doll, published in 1849, shares several stylistic features with Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, which came out six years earlier.
Mark Lemon in Crawley
Born in London on 30 November 1809, Mark Lemon moved to Crawley in 1857 or 1858 with his wife, Nelly, and their 10 children. Their house, Vine Cottage, at 16 High Street, had been a farmhouse, and existed until the late 20th century. The site is now occupied by the Asda supermarket. Parts of the timber structure of Vine Cottage are preserved at Crawley Museum Centre.
The local historian, Roger Bastable, pointed out that Lemon was one of Crawley’s first commuters. Vine Cottage was a short walk from the new-fangled railway station, which he used when travelling to his offices in London.
Mark Lemon took an active interest in the social life of Crawley, and helped to set up several cultural and sporting organisations. He raised money for the town’s first fire engine, and organised street lighting along the High Street.
Mark Lemon died in Crawley on 23 May 1870, and was buried in St. Margaret’s churchyard, Ifield. His funeral was attended by hundreds of mourners, and the local shops closed for the day.
A pub in Broadfield was named after him but has since been renamed the Imperial. There is a blue plaque dedicated to Mark Lemon on the wall of the George Hotel in the High Street, where Mark Lemon had hosted several of Punch magazine’s editorial meetings.