This picture is fascinating on many levels – not least because it shows a chocolate shop and, quite frankly, the world does not have enough of those.
The shop in question used to be part of a coaching inn called the Rising Sun, which records show stood on the site from 1783 – and was probably old even at that early date.
Thanks go to Chelsea Unsworth, assistant curator at Crawley Museum, for her research on the topic and to West Sussex Past Pictures (www.westsussexpast.org/pictures) for the photo, which was taken c1900.
The Rising Sun was a coaching inn and the half-way point on the London to Brighton coach route where travellers would rest and re-shoe their horses.
The building stood at 115-117 High Street – not to be confused with the Sun Pub which was demolished to make way for the Leisure Park.
It was home to a troop of ‘post boys’ who were on call 24 hours a day and were responsible for horsing the carriages.
One of the troop - Henry “Harry” Holder (d 1897) - left an amusing anecdote about his time at the Rising Sun when he and his fellow post boys helped a young couple escape an angry father and, hopefully, live happily ever after.
Chelsea said: “He told of an occasion when he and his fellow post boys had assisted a young lady who was being forced to abandon the man she loved and marry for money.
“While the post boys gave the pursuing father of the bride-to-be a false trail, Harry safely escorted the woman and her lover to London, where they could elope.”
As well as serving as a coaching inn, in the first half of the 19th century The Rising Sun was used to kennel foxhounds – and rumours were abound that the inn had links to smuggling.
By 1846, it had closed and the building become a private residence. Its occupants included Dr TH Martin, who married the daughter of Crawley resident, Punch Magazine editor and one-time namesake of a Broadfield pub, Mark Lemon.
Records show that the part of the building numbered 117 had architectural styles dating as far back as the 16th century.
That part later became a private school run by John Owen Conlan, while number 115 became G Leggett’s restaurant and chocolate shop – as shown in the picture.
The restaurant was demolished in 1962, while the school became a laundry and remained so until its demolition in 1980. The second picture shows a more recent view of the site.