I remember the name Stag’s Head from my youth. It was the public house at the corner of High Street and Bridge Street. It is an unusual building as it has a rounded corner. I seem to remember it was painted grey with a brown stag’s head painted on the corner above the ground floor. Now it is called the Rose and Chandlers.

Like much of Bangor the property belonged to the Ward family. In 1853 Robert Edward Ward leased it to Eliza Jane McCune, a widow, for 61 years at 10 10s pa. At that time it was not always easy for a widow to make a living, especially if she had children. Some opened businesses, perhaps with the help of relatives. Others might take in lodgers. Mrs McCune’s husband John had been a mariner. Sadly her daughter Isabella, who married George McCleave, died in 1864 at the age of 26, leaving a young son. Mrs McCune seems to have earned an income by subletting the public house at a greater rent and shorter term than her own lease. She held the property until a year before her death in 1887 at the age of 81. It was then purchased by the sitting tenant William McCloy Currell who sold it in 1896 to John Reid of Newcastle-upon-Tyne for 510, who was already renting the business. Patton dates the actual building to about 1860 so Mrs McCune may have built it.

A succession of tenants ran the public house. The first tenant we can be certain about was Adam Baird in 1863. In 1869 he appealed a decision to fine him 1 1s plus costs for selling spirits and allowing drink to be consumed after hours on his premises. His lawyer, Mr Dinnen, was able to plead his case successfully and the fine was dropped, and he received 20s costs. One of the arguments used by his lawyer was that Mr Baird was only allowing a ball in his office-house, where some drink was consumed. None was sold after 10pm when the bar closed.

The next tenant was Eliza McKeon in 1870. It is possible that this was a mistake for Eliza Jane McCune. During the 1870s there were several tenants: William Martin, Andrew Weir and Charles Blacke. Andrew Weir paid 80 as well as an annual rent of 28 for a twenty-year lease. Charles Blacke purchased the business in 1876 and held it until 1883. A local newspaper mentioned his death on 20 November 1886 at the age of 38. He was then living at 50 Newtownards Road, Belfast. The next tenant was William McCloy Currell at 180, a price which reflected the growing importance of Bangor as a seaside resort. In 1890 he was married by special license at the hotel. His bride was Maggie McCombe of Loughinisland. In 1895 Mr John Bailie of Newtownards purchased the business for 650, but in the following year it was sold to John Reid of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

The Stag's Head is the building on the upper left of this photograph taken in the 1930s.

Like other Bangor Public houses and hotels the name of the premises has changed several times. I have found no record of the name in the 1850s or 1860s, but in the early 1870s and perhaps in the 1860s the premises were known as the Quay Hotel as they stood at the corner of Ballymagee Street (now High Street) and the part of Quay Street later known as Bridge Street. When the business was auctioned in February 1874, it was described as the Victoria Hotel. The first definite mention of the name Stag’s Head dates from 1886 when Mrs McCune offered the property for sale. This name was used until at least the mid-twentieth century. Latterly it has had several names such as the Lightship Bar and the Rose and Chandlers.

Descriptions of the premises occur in several advertisements when it was offered for sale. In 1874 it was said to have a spacious bar, gas fittings, six sitting rooms, three bedrooms and a three-horse stable. Bangor Gas works had been established some 20 years earlier further up Ballymagee Street. In 1886 the premises comprised the hotel and adjacent dwelling house, both in excellent repair and situated in one of the best letting localities in Bangor. In 1892 a local newspaper reported that Mr Currell had bought the “commonplace” public house and “speedily converted it into a “commodious” hotel. In 1895 he offered the business for sale. The advertisement claimed he had spent a large sum on improvements. The premises contained a bar parlour, two kitchens and drinking rooms on the ground floor. The upper portions included ten rooms and five attics. The public house could accommodate 200 customers. There was a yard and stabling for a dozen horses.

In the twentieth century the Stag’s Head continued to operate under a variety of owners and names. In addition it was extended to include the adjacent property, the Coronation Café.

The Rose and Chandlers in 2020

Finally an “amusing” story about the public house appeared in a local newspaper in 1888. It reported on the large crowds in Bangor for Easter Monday. Restaurants and public houses were crowded. It was claimed that the approaches to the Stag’s Head were completely blocked and windlasses were used to lower buckets of drink to the thirsty multitudes. Mr Currell’s receipts were enormous. The tone of the article suggests at the very least exaggeration and possibly made up details as the crowds are supposed to have visited the gas works, waterworks and the Main Street slaughter house!

My thanks to Elma for finding out more about the McCune family, although neither of us have been able to find out when or how her husband died. He may have been lost at sea. Some other Bangor families lost mariner members this way.

The next hotel in this series is the Mermaid.