Villagers raise £1 million to save 15th century pub from the developers
A village pub dating back to the 15th century has been saved from the bulldozers by a £1 million campaign organised by locals.
The Grade II-listed Packhorse Inn was destined to be turned into flats until the residents of South Stoke, Somerset mobilised to raise the money to buy it back off developers.
They used the 2011 Localism Act to help turn the pub into a community asset, raising £1,025,000 through 470 investors – paying as little as £50 each.
And on Sunday, Brian Perkins, 87, who was born in the pub when it was owned owned by his family, poured the first pint in the newly-reopened tavern.
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“It was an honour to be asked to pour the first pint – a last bit of fame in my old age,” he said.
“I was born in a room above the area where the bar is in 1930 and later had my wedding reception there.”
The pub is surrounded by a mix of Georgian homes and thatched cottages, and would attract walkers rambling in the surrounding valleys.
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According to the carved stone above the door, the building was erected in 1674 – but historians say it dates back to 1498.
In March 2012, it was put up for sale by then-owners Punch Taverns and it was sold to the highest bidder.
Plans were soon revealed to turn it into a residential property and the village formed a committee with the aim of buying the pub back.
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Volunteers spent about 1,000 hours clearing out the pub’s garden, and 25 skips of rubbish were removed from its interior.
Dom Moorhouse, part of the Save the Packhorse group, said it was the biggest community pub buyback project in British history.
“I think people got stuck in because they wanted to save a beautiful old building, but also because they did not want to lose a place of social connection,” he said.
The Campaign for Real Ale warned at the weekend pubs are being hit hard by a “triple whammy” of one of the highest rates of beer duty across Europe, rapidly rising business rates and VAT.
The lobby group says 18 pubs a week are now closing. It says a third of the cost of a pub pint is down to various taxes.