An early view of the Sun Inn, titled 'Birthplace of the Midland Railway' and taken from F S Williams' The Midland Railway: Its Rise and Progress (1876).
It is not entirely clear when the view dates from, although it appears to show the building in its original 18th century form, before the two-storey portion on the left was replaced by a new extension in the middle decades of the 19th century and the three-storey 18th century main block was re-roofed in matching style. Further major alterations to the frontage were made (in a 'retro-Georgian' style) after the Second World War, removing the symmetrical appearance shown here.
The scene depicted is still quite rural and given its appearance in a book detailing the history of the Midland Railway, it may represent how the Inn would have looked in the 1830s. In the foreground a woman is feeding some roadside fowls, beside which felled timber is lying. The heavy looking covered wagon to the right appears to have a trace horse attached (to provide extra haulage capacity) and has most likely just ascended the hill from the Mansfield direction. Possibly such additional horses were provided by the Inn.
The Sun Inn at Eastwood - an historic hostelry:
The Sun Inn is one of Eastwood's more significant buildings and it can claim several important historical associations.
Operating as both a pub and a hotel, it is believed to have originated around 1750, being erected in a prominent and strategic position close to where the roads from Derby to Mansfield (later the A608) and Nuthall (the A610) made their junction. Both these routes were turnpiked in 1764 (and remained toll roads until disturnpiked in 1875). To either side of the inn in the direction of Derby and Mansfield there were steep ascents to reach the hilltop village and no doubt the hostelry provided some welcome respite for travellers and horses alike.
It was also a coaching inn prior to the coming of the railways. Writing in the Nottinghamshire Guardian in 1902, a Mr Rushton, then in his nineties, recalled from his youth: 'The only excitement the village had ... was the daily arrival of the Nottingham-Manchester coach, which called at the Sun Inn. There was always a stampede to see it come in, and very comical the outside passengers looked in winter time, for all you could see of them were their eyes.'
Mr Rushton also remembered the 'intimidating visit of Derbyshire rioters on their way to Nottingham Castle and to attack Colwick Hall'. This would have been on 9 June 1817 when the revolutionaries from Pentrich paused at the inn hoping to meet up with similarly minded individuals from the north of England to form an army that would then overthrow the Government and create a republic. In practice this did not happen and the mob only got to the outskirts of Nottingham before being rounded up with the three ringleaders later hanged and others transported or imprisoned.
The inn was intimately associated with Eastwood's coal mining industry and a map of 1774 shows two mineshafts located in its yard, while in 1797 the floor of the pub gave way and a row of outbuildings collapsed due to the effects of mining subsidence. In fact, the hostelry has a long history of alterations being made to its fabric with extensions and partial rebuilding during the 19th century and further modifications to its frontage in the mid-20th century, all of which makes the original form of the building difficult to recognise today. It is probably these alterations which account for the pub not being statutorily listed, although it does feature on the local authority's 'local list'.
Mining was again to the fore on 4 October 1832 when the Sun Inn hosted a meeting of Erewash Valley area colliery proprietors who unanimously decided that a 'railway be forthwith formed from Pinxton to Leicester, as essential to the interests of the coal-trade of this district.' This eventually evolved into the rather more ambitious Midland Counties Railway linking Derby, Nottingham, Leicester and Rugby, opened in 1839-40. Ironically, the Erewash Valley had to wait until 1847 before it got its own line, but as the MCR later became one of the three constituents of the Midland Railway, the Sun Inn was duly honoured as being the 'birthplace of the Midland Railway'. Over the years various plaques commemorating this fact have adorned the exterior of the building.
A further historical association connects with Eastwood's most famous son, the novelist D H Lawrence (1885-1930). The inn would have been very familiar to him as his coal miner father is said to have drunk there, while outside was the original market place. The latter Lawrence featured in Sons and Lovers (1913): 'Mrs Morel loved her marketing. In the tiny market place on the top of the hill, where four roads, from Nottingham and Derby, Ilkeston and Mansfield meet, many stalls were erected.'