A historic pub interior of national importance
Listed Status: IIRosemary Lane
This pub was kept for 74 years by Florence (Flossie) Lane, whose family took it over early in the 20th century. She died in 2009 a month shy of her 95th birthday and so legendary had both she and her utterly unspoilt pub become that obituaries appeared in The Times and Daily Telegraph. The pub, occupying part of a row of early 19th-century cottages, had been trading since at least the 1860s and was one of the last remaining beerhouses (Flossie only introduced wine in later years). In her time, right of the entrance lobby, was the 'Brick Bar' (named after the flooring material), equipped with basic tables and benches and a (probably) 1950s brick fireplace. Left of the entrance was 'Flossie's Room', where she sat, and beyond that, a ground-floor cellar where, in later years, regulars served themselves and put their payment in a tin. New ownership has seen all this scrupulously preserved but, in the interests of viability, a large, though very well-designed, extension (with bar counter) was opened in 2011 with access through the old lobby.
A stone and brick built cottage pub some 200 years old and was until recently described as possibly the most unspoilt pub in the country. Four small rooms with some public use and service still like it has been for over 60 years. In fact it is like how hundreds of pubs operated in the past.
You entered into a small lobby with a basic bench down one side and a table. On the left is the bar-parlour that doubled as Flossie’s living room with a carpet, 1950s tiled fireplace, half panelled walls, a dresser, sideboard and armchairs.
To the right of the lobby is a larger room which has much more of a public bar character and is called the 'red brick bar' with a red-tiled floor; a number of low basic benches all round; scrubbed tables and a solitary clicking clock above a brick fireplace from the 1930s - no alterations for years. You could sit here and order your beer (very few other drinks were sold) which was fetched from the "kitchen" on the far left, where the beer is stillaged, and brought to you. In the final years of Miss Lane's ownership you were more likely to find it was one of a band of locals rather that served you. At quiet times the pub can still operate in the old traditional way.
In April 2011 a new bar was added at the rear in a large extension. The original rooms remain with the lobby (minus its bench and table) now providing access to the new room and modern toilets beyond. For service to the original rooms you stand at the hatch to the cellar and ring the bell.
The following details on how the Sun was saved is taken from an article that appeared in the Beer on the Wye Festival programme:
THE SUN INN, LEINTWARDINE – A SIGN OF HOPE FOR OUR PUBS? Proof that active campaigning does work.
It was in danger of not just being the end of an era, but the end of one of Britain’s most remarkable pubs. What followed the death of England’s longest-serving landlady, Flossie Lane, back in June 2009, is an example of what can be achieved through positive campaigning. Back on Saturday the 13th June, 2009, the world learned the very sad news that Florence ‘Flossie’ Lane, a remarkable landlady who ran the wonderfully unspoilt Sun Inn at Leintwardine, had passed away in Leominster Community Hospital following a short illness. Flossie managed significant obituaries in both The Times and the Daily Telegraph and featured on the BBC Radio 4 obituary programme, Last Word - the latter with contributions from both Jeremy Paxman and Herefordshire CAMRA member, Mark Haslam.
Back in the late summer of 2009 the future of the Sun Inn was cast into doubt when it was due to go to auction with a guide price of up to £300,000. Although mention was made in the auction sales particulars of the pub’s special history and circumstances, CAMRA was concerned that this price, and further mention of ‘development potential’ in the auction sales particulars, meant its sale might attract interest from property speculators who would have had no interest in running it as pub. Consequently a campaign was set up by Herefordshire CAMRA to publicise the threat, and hundreds quickly signed up to support a viable future for the Sun Inn on a ‘Save the Sun’ website.
The campaign and plight of the pub seemed to catch the public imagination. Major articles appeared in both The Times and the Daily Mail, and on the 29th July BBC Midlands Today paid a visit. Mark Haslam recalls the visit of the BBC: “Flossie famously always forbade all photography in the Sun - it was one of her strict rules. Therefore, on the day the BBC visited it did seem incongruous to be sat in the small red-brick bar with the TV cameras rolling and a digital editing suite parked outside topped-off with an enormous satellite dish. But I think Flossie would have forgiven all concerned, especially as she would have realised it was all helping the fight to secure the pub’s long term future.
The visit of the BBC seemed to be the watershed of the campaign. Shortly after their visit we learned that the sale at auction had been postponed indefinitely, and this then allowed a two-man local consortium (who had been waiting patiently in the wings) to make their move.
Consortium buy pub
It was soon public knowledge that the consortium consisted of Hobson’s Nick Davis, and Sun Inn regular, Gary Seymour. They only had one thing in mind for the pub – and that was to see it continue as it had for the previous 200 years. The pub finally changed hands on the 6th November 2009, and shortly after Mark Haslam was back on TV, this time in a feature on BBC Breakfast Time. It reported the good news that the Sun Inn was saved. Nick and Gary, the owners, are keen to expand and develop the beer offer by enlarging the kitchen stillage, and see the Sun Inn being very much a community-based pub, but definitely without a ubiquitous pub dining operation. Nick and Gary also believe maintaining the original rooms intact and untouched is essential to keeping the pub’s atmosphere and, although plans are now well-advanced to build an extension onto the rear of the premises, they realise protecting its historical legacy is vital to their business plan. Even the old Victorian garden is retained, with the idea being to have the local school tend the vegetable patches complete with wonderful old glass frames and mature fruit trees.
Mark Haslam, who led the successful ‘Save the Sun’ campaign, adds: “We never doubted for a moment that those who inherited the Sun Inn from Flossie were sincere with their wish to see it continue as a pub, if it were at all humanly possible. Therefore, this outcome appears to be a ‘win-win’ situation – the owners got a fair price, and the village secures the future of the Sun Inn as a pub. It is simply too important a part of our national heritage for us to have allowed it to have just faded away.”
Talk is cheap
Before the Save the Sun campaign started, there were clarion voices that “we were wasting our time” and that the Sun Inn was doomed. Thankfully, we were not deterred from our campaign by such Cassandras. Talk is cheap, and action is not for everyone. The successful outcome of the Sun Inn shows that campaigning DOES WORK. Never give up and you never quite know where you might end up. Following the campaign at the Sun, and following a number of other successful pub campaigns, Mark Haslam was awarded ‘CAMRA Campaigner of the Year’ at the CAMRA AGM held in the Isle of Man back in April 2010. There is now even greater reason to celebrate at the pub’s annual beer festival, which again will be held on the August Bank Holiday Sunday.
A blue plaque has been installed by Herefordshire CAMRA: "FLOSSIE - FLORENCE LANE - 1914-2009 - LIVED IN AND RULED THIS PARLOUR PUB".