A brief history of the Sun Hotel and Bar
The Sun Inn, along with adjacent buildings on Church Street, was built on the site of Stoop Hall – a grand Medieval or Tudor Hall. There was a recorded licence of Stoop Hall in 1680 and the licence was first transferred in 1684. In 1721 the hotel was first renamed to the Sun Inn on Stoop Hall, probably named after the stables that occupied the rear of the buildings. The Sun & Rising Sun were popular inn names of the period, in honour of King Charles II, after the harsh puritan rule of the reformation. The licence change of 1721 was the last time the hotel would have Stoop Hall in its title.
From the next licence on it was always referred to as the Sun Inn and only in recent times – the last fifty years – has it been referred to as the Sun Hotel. The title of the Sun Hotel and Bar has been used to reflect that it has a modern bar within. It also demonstrates the fact that the Sun has rooms, as opposed to other town hostelries, which simply retain the name hotel without operating as one.
The name of the building isn’t the only thing that’s changed through time – the aesthetic of the building has too. Thanks to window tax records we know that during the 1760s there were 70 windows on the building, which is reflected in the fact that the second floor front has been blocked out. The gable end first floor was blocked off only in modern times to house a bathroom. The site was sold by the The Earl of Sefton in 1784 to the Carter brothers who developed the northern end of Sun Street at the same time. This was when the Sun Inn was halved in size to make way for Sun Street. The buildings towards the castle were also built around this period, which can be seen by their height and profile.
On the corner of Sun Street and Church Street, The Sun Inn was popular throughout its history. It was here that the sheriffs held one in four quarterly sessions entertaining dignitaries before the judges lodgings were bought. The Sun is the only venue still standing. The other venues were: the Kings Arms, which stood on the site where Crows is now – it was relocated in 1845 to its current position – The Bear and Rugged Staff, currently Topshop, and the Co-operation Arms on White Cross, currently the Toll House Inn.
The Sun’s regard was also acknowledged by Thomas Tyldesley, grandson of Royalist and English Civil War commander Sir Thomas Tyldesley, who was made famous due to his diaries of 1712-14 that show a fascinating insight into that time. It seems that when in Lancaster, he preferred to do business in the Kings Arms, yet celebrated in the Sun Inn. There are several accounts of him enjoying an ale or two, sometimes with young ladies who enjoyed drinking pints of wine with him.
In November 1745, the occupying Jacobean Army took the Sun Inn to house its Generals on their way to London, and shortly after on their way back. Maybe we need a sign saying that Bonnie Prince Charlie drank “Near Here.”
In the 18th century the Sun was an important meeting place for various organisations. The Port Commission met here during the years 1751-58 whilst they relocated from St Georges Quay to Glasson Dock. The Freemasons, Lancaster Agricultural Society and the Musical Society are all other historically important organisations of note who used this venue.
English Romanticist landscape painter, Turner stayed at the Sun in 1812 whilst drawing his sketches of Heysham. It was thanks to his depiction of the treacherous bay crossing that we discovered we have a sister pub, the Kings Arms in Ulverston, which was also owned by the coach company that operated a service over the bay between Lancaster and Ulverston.
In recent times, the Sun Hotel & Bar was a tired “back street boozer” compared to its former glory days, however it began its renaissance in 2003 when it was purchased by Lancaster leisure company C2 – owners of Lancaster Brewery. It’s current incarnation took nearly ten years of transformation and involved an investment of well over £1m. Working with Lancaster City Council’s Conservation Office, the building was completely overhauled and revamped. Virtually nothing exists of the previous 40 years of negligence, except the original stone walls, beams, window frames and many of the floorboards of this historic and exciting building.