‘The Stamp House’

‘The Stamp House’ was a well-known building (a pub actually) in North Bersted, near Bognor. The ‘Rising Sun’ pub’s owner, Richard Sharpe, 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 spare 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 quick to take up this challenge, as most would, and with 76,795 stamps he succeeded, gluing the stamps on all the walls and obviously won his bet. But, of course, this was only the start. He continued covering items such as tables and chairs with stamps.

When the village of North Bersted had planned nothing for Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee year in 1897, Mr Sharpe thought he could produce his own memorial to mark the occasion, which would also further extend his hobby of stamp collecting.

He decided to paste stamps over a complete room, from floor to ceiling. It took him five years to complete. It was not a random task of just sticking the stamps on walls. He formulated designs and words 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. Patriotism was all the rage in the 19th century!

It was estimated more than two million stamps were used and their 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, which recount it was ‘one of the sights of Sussex’. Mr Sharpe also received letters from all over the world regarding his unusual art form. He did not stop at one room and started to cover chairs, tables, a candlestick, a tablecloth, a hat and even a bust of King Edward VII! His work then extended into a corridor and out into the Stamp Garden and Stamp House Tea Rooms.

The Stamp Garden at the ‘Rising Sun’ pub in North Bersted, near Bognor

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.

Valuable Australian stamps glued on!
Mr Sharpe received and used stamps from worldwide destinations and attached some to one of the doors. These 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 Mr Sharpe received, it became impossible to paste all the stamps on to walls, doors or items, so he started to thread stamps onto cotton thread and made them into long garlands or ‘snakes’, festooned around the walls, etc. Some garlands were suspended from the ceiling – one large version is said to have contained more than 60,000 stamps. Finally, the ‘Rising Sun’ pub closed, the building started to decay and was eventually demolished in 1957. It is now a Tesco Express Supermarket!

Article by Glen Stephens

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