Pub/Bar of the Month June 2011: Sun, Leintwardine
The Sun, Leintwardine, UK
For the villagers of Leintwardine, on the Herefordshire–Shropshire border, 2009 marked the end of an era.
June that year saw the passing of 94-year-old Flossie Lane, landlady of The Sun Inn for the previous 74 years. Her family had run the pub for three generations and little had changed to the day that Flossie died.
Such time-warp pubs are a great attraction for traditionalists, a great antidote to the often-crass homogeneity of chain pubs. In the case of The Sun, visitors were afforded a simple welcome into Flossie’s basic home.
There were just two rooms inside the slate-roofed, sidestreet cottage, one each side of a stone-flagged central hallway. On the right as you entered was a simple room known familiarly as the Redbrick Bar, on account of its traditional flooring.
The furnishings were Spartan, not much more than a couple of long, narrow tables and an assortment of benches and upright kitchen chairs. An old pendulum clock, its moon-like face darkened by the passage of time, sat above the mantelpiece, and everything was enwrapped by scuffed wallpaper bearing a pattern from another age.
On the left stood Flossie’s own tiny parlour where privileged guests were allowed to join her as she passed her evening at home. A glass-fronted dresser housed old beer bottles and assorted bric-a-brac, a tiled fireplace provided the basic warmth and an ancient valve radio dominated the sideboard.
From here a stable door opened into the simple cellar, where cask ales were served by gravity and the money taken simply dropped into a tin. There was no cash till. It goes without saying that there were no games machines and no music to stand in the way of convivial conversation.
The End in Sight
You can imagine the concern among the pub’s regulars as Flossie’s health took a turn for the worse. The end of the pub was in sight. Who would want to take on such a basic business that yielded little profit? If anyone did acquire the pub, surely they would want to make alterations, changing the nature of the place entirely.
Decision time came when Flossie passed away and, to the rescue of The Sun, its regulars and, it could be said, pub preservationists everywhere, rode Gary Seymour and Nick Davis.
Gary used to run the fish and chip shop next door and was one of the diehard regulars at the pub. In Flossie’s latter years, he (among others) really ran the business for her, ordering beers, stillaging casks, serving beer. He couldn’t bear to see The Sun close or fall into the wrong hands.
Nick is well-known in these parts as director and head brewer of Hobsons Brewery, whose beer Flossie had been serving. Together with Nick’s wife, Sue, the pair formed a partnership to save The Sun.
One thing they agreed upon first of all was that the traditional aspects of the pub could not change. On the other hand, the new venture needed to be a viable business, catering for today’s more demanding drinker. The solution was to keep Flossie’s Grade II-listed front rooms intact and to add on a large, modern extension at the rear.
Local planning officers were impressed with the ideas and already the new-look Sun is open for business.
If you want to wallow in the past, you can still savour a pint in the old part of the pub, ordering your pint across the stable door as customers have done for decades. Alternatively, if you want to enjoy a fresh, airy, modern drinking experience, opt for the rear bar, which has been designed to high environmental standards.
Barn-like in structure, the new extension – on two levels – features stone floors, stripped wood and a log stove. Concertina windows can be pulled back to link the room with the pleasant garden, where beer festivals are staged a few times a year.
Under-floor heating, rainwater capture for the WCs and solar panels on the roof boost its green credentials.
Some of the beers here – Hobsons ales, plus guests from the likes of Ludlow, Stonehouse, Wye Valley and Hook Norton breweries – are served via handpump and, as a concession to those who don’t drink cask beer, a lager and a stout are now offered from the keg, although, in keeping with the high standards of provision, these are sourced from Freedom Brewery and not some multi-national.
An uncomplicated food service is planned, working around a few daily dishes such as a soup, a stew and a ploughman’s featuring local meats and cheeses.
There’s an engaging simplicity to this extension to the business, one that echoes in a modern way the pared-down approach that made The Sun such a magnet for ale lovers and heritage buffs for so many years.
Gary, Nick and Sue are building a business in which the heritage of The Sun can survive. It’s a living, working pub museum, now catering for all.
Far from being consigned to the past, The Sun now has a bright, exciting future.
Rosemary Lane, Leintwardine, Herefordshire SY7 0LP
Tel. (01547) 540705
Opening Hours: 11–11 (5.30–11 Monday)