Giving evidence to a Select Committee of the House of Commons in 1859, Henry Columbus Hurry the railway surveyor said “I am speaking about the Three Tuns Inn, which I take to be the centre of the town.” The Three Tuns has long been a familiar landmark in Sutton’s High Street, and important events took place there, such as the meeting on April 22nd 1778 attended by over 150 townsfolk to object to the proposed enclosure of the common lands.
The appearance of the Three Tuns has hardly changed since the early eighteenth century, when the present structure was created by connecting two neighbouring buildings at first-floor level and providing a new facade. It must have been a comfortable hotel in the 1850s, as the diarist Richard Holbeche recalls that gentlefolk would go there to drink port, but it had gone downmarket by the 1880s, when he was writing.
In coaching days the Three Tuns housed Sutton’s Post Office. The Sheffield Mail coach brought the letters at 10.00 a.m., and at 3.00 p.m. on its way back from Birmingham, while the Liverpool Coach brought letters from Liverpool, Manchester and Lichfield, the bag being thrown in at the window at 4.00 a.m. as it passed through without stopping. In 1816 Charles Smith started a coach service between the Three Tuns and Birmingham, running four days a week, the fare was four shillings for inside passengers, half a crown outside; for 15-year-old Sarah Holbeche “to see the coach start was the event of the morning, and what an event to go!”. The Three Tuns kept a post chaise which could be hired out for a minimum of 7s. 6d., or to Lichfield and back for a guinea. On special occasions, such as a wedding at Falcon Lodge, the Three Tuns was able to provide two carriages, eight horses and two boys.
This account of the Three Tuns ignores some frequently asked questions - Is the Three Tuns Sutton’s oldest pub? Is it haunted? Did the future King Henry VII stay there on his way to defeat King Richard II at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485? Did Oliver Cromwell rendezvous with his generals at the Three Tuns after the Battle of Worcester in 1651? Do secret tunnels radiate out from the Three Tuns as far as New Hall and Four Oaks? The answer to all these questions is - probably not.