From horses to chocolate via smuggling and Punch

G Leggett Chocolate Shop, Northgate, c1900. Originally the site of The Rising Sun, an old Coaching Inn that marked the half way point on the London to Brighton Road.

G Leggett Chocolate Shop, Northgate, c1900. Originally the site of The Rising Sun, an old Coaching Inn that marked the half way point on the London to Brighton Road.

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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.

Site of the former Rising Sun coach inn and later G Leggett Chocolate Shop,

Site of the former Rising Sun coach inn and later G Leggett Chocolate Shop,

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.

 

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