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Changing Times | Publican turned pub into first class attraction

There have been many public houses in Bognor Regis which have changed their names during their existence, but some are still remembered by one particular event or claim to fame. This is certainly the case with The Rising Sun.


The Chichester Road leading out of the town was an obvious place to have a drinking house and, of course, there were numerous possible sites along this road in 1895. Richard Sharpe opened a grocery store an inn at the location which became The Rising Sun and is now a Tesco Express.


Its claim to fame was postage stamps and it was a place where thousands of visitors made it one of the town’s most extraordinary and unique tourist attractions.


Mr Sharpe was born in nearby Hunston. He was a man who enjoyed music and was known to play the cornet in a number of local bands. With his interest in music, Mr Sharpe was also responsible for forming the Bersted Brass and Reed Band, which was known for many years as Dickie Sharpe’s Hog-weed Band. The uniform worn by the bandsmen was blue with red piping on the jackets plus a red trouser stripe. They used the rear garden of the pub to practise.


Gradually, as they became more proficient, they gave performances at garden fetes, garden parties and other events all over West Sussex and they became more famous.


Mr Sharp also collected postage stamps and this was to form the basis of his future fame. As the years progressed, his stamp collection grew and he began decorating a few picture frames with his stamps. Then, in 1882, a customer bet Mr Sharpe he would not be able to cover part of a room with stamps, within a time restriction.


Mr Sharpe was to take up this challenge – as anyone would – and with 76,795 stamps he succeeded in covering all aspects of the room by sticking the stamps on all the walls and obviously won his bet. But of course this was only the start. Little did his customer know what he had started with his challenge!


As time progressed, and notable events occurred, Mr Sharpe was to continue covering items such as tables and chairs with stamps. When the village of North Bersted had planned nothing for Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, he thought he could produce his own memorial, which would also further extend his hobby of stamp collecting.


He was to stick stamps all over a complete room from floor to ceiling. However, it did take him five years to complete. It was not a random task of sticking the stamps on walls. He wove designs with the stamps, such as the words ‘Jubilee Stamp Room’ on one wall. Another wall displayed a large star design and the Bognor coat of arms was displayed above the fireplace. Other displays included a picture of Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales Feathers.


It was estimated more than two million stamps were used and the estimated value, during the 1920s, was in the region of £28,000. It was a continuing interest and, as more visitors came and its fame grew, people began sending stamps for his use. Sometimes, full sacks of stamps arrived at the pub.


During its heyday, The Rising Sun was mentioned in many publications recounting that it was ‘one of the sights of Sussex’. Mr Sharpe also received letters from all over the world regarding his unusual art form.


He was not to stop at one room and he started to cover chairs, tables, a candlestick, a tablecloth, a hat and even a bust of King Edward VII did not escape. His coverings then extended into a corridor and even continued out into the summerhouse in the garden. Eventually, in the 1920s, Mr Sharpe retired. By then, over three quarters of a million visitors had seen his stamps and written in the 24 visitors’ books. The signatures included such people as members of Parliament, Sussex nobility, and justices of the peace. By 1929, it was claimed that 764,580 visitors had signed the books.


At one time an unnamed ‘visitor’ produced a small pamphlet, which was also undated. It was entitled The Jubilee Stamp House and is a unique memorial of the late Queen Victoria’s reign.


The front cover included a paragraph stating it was ‘an interesting description of the most curious room in the world, at ‘The Rising Sun,’ North Bersted, Bognor, and it was illustrated with four photographs.”


This visitor wrote ‘the little Sussex village of North Bersted, Nr. Bognor, boasts the possession of a remarkable room, which has probably no equal in the world’. The publication continues:


‘The Jubilee Stamp Room, the designation by which it is now known by thousands, is at the Rising Sun, a wayside inn, a comfortable walk from Bognor. This pamphlet is published in response to the desire expressed by great numbers of visitors for a souvenir of their visit’.


Richard received and used stamps from worldwide destinations and some attached to one of the doors included quite rare stamps from Australia. He apparently received many offers for this particular door, with the purchasers willing to remove the door, there and then, to take it home with them.


With the ever-increasing number of stamps that he received, it became impossible to paste all the stamps on to walls, doors or items so he started to thread them and made them into bundles to festoon around the walls. Some bundles were suspended from the ceiling – one of which is thought to have contained more than 60,000 stamps.


Finally, the pub closed, the building started to decay and eventually it was demolished in 1957 to make way for today’s building.When The Rising Sun was opened after a refurbishment in 1983, it was renamed Stamps to celebrate the historical background of the establishment.


Next it became known as the Bersted Tavern before it was replaced by the Tesco Express.

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