End of couple’s Georgian era

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An historic Lancaster bed and breakfast is up for sale as its owners prepare for retirement.

Fred and Sally Owens have been running The Shakespeare, in St Leonardgate, for 10 years, and have welcomed people from all walks of life and from all over the world through the building’s elegant Georgian front door.

The building dates back to the 18th century and has been a tavern, inn and hotel since the first official record of its existence in 1794.

Fred, 70, and Sally, 55, both ex-Navy, said they first came across the B&B when looking for a place to stay in the city.

It was the only one with a vacancy.

At breakfast the next morning, they found out it was for sale and the couple decided it would be a perfect place to base their “active retirement”.

Fred said: “It had struck us that it was the perfect city centre place with shops, restaurants, and everything else you need within easy walking distance. Now it’s our turn to think about moving on into retirement and we’re looking for someone who enjoys meeting and greeting and being a source of endless information whether local history, bus and train services, best places to eat, local walks and how long they take, in fact just about everything you could possibly imagine or more.”

The Shakespeare is the last survivor of a dozen public houses that used to line St Leonardgate with names reflecting the Gillow furniture trade, such as the Carpenters’ and Cabinetmakers’ Arms. More recently it was the pub for the university in the 1960s when Lancaster university started in St Leonardsgate House.

The couple said the types of people they have to stay at the B&B are extensive, and include theatre-goers, visitors to the RLI, singers and musicians, comedians, acting groups, university reunions, people from overseas whose ancestors sailed away from Liverpool years ago, and lots of tourists.

Fred added: “What always impresses us about tourists is just how much they are struck by Lancaster.

“There seems to be some sort of deep attraction to the feeling of history that you get from wandering the streets and ginnels of the city that people find strange and somehow wonderfully satisfying.

“Typically we had people from Rio de Janeiro who stood in the street saying ‘We have nothing like Lancaster’, and of course that’s before the castle makes its presence felt as a flagship tourist attraction when tourism in the city really should take off.

“Lancaster has very few traditional B&Bs left, which is sad for a town with so much potential as a tourist destination.

“Our challenge is to find a couple who will carry on The Shakespeare tradition and values in the years to come.”

The couple have two children, Fergus, and Holly, who is currently running The Shakespeare.

The B&B, which has nine bedrooms and is rated as an Author’s Pick by the Rough Guide, is up for sale for £425,000.