Villagers celebrate new beginning as Norfolk pub reopens
20:58 04 August 2012
Villagers packed out their local on Friday night to celebrate its re-opening following a community buy-out.
Since the White Horse in Upton, near Acle was taken over by a community enterprise company two weeks ago, a frantic countdown began to get it ready in time.
Project manager Pat Murch, who has lived in the village with her husband Peter for eight years, said: “Forty volunteers have been working incredibly hard decorating, steam cleaning and making the garden family friendly. We have put a new bench and umbrellas outside to make it welcoming.
“It has been a really marvellous experience. Many of the people who came along did not know each other and now they are really good friends. It is already a stronger community and this is only our first day in business.”
Mrs Murch, chief executive of the not-for profit organisation East Anglian Complementary Health, said she had been spurred into action when the future of the pub appeared in doubt at the start of the year.
Landlord Ray Norman had been trying to sell up after 40 years because of declining health but, with no buyer in sight, fears were growing the pub might be bulldozed.
She said: “I thought we really ought to do something. I drive past every day and it would have been such a shame to see it boarded up or knocked down for housing.”
An appeal was launched after a public meeting and 138 villagers have contributed more than £100,000. About £80,000 has come in grants, including £50,000 from the Prince of Wales’ Prince’s Countryside Fund (PCF).
Mrs Murch said they were bidding for further grants to realise their plan of turning the Chapel Road pub into a community hub with a shop, learning centre and micro-brewery.
Fellow director Ken Turner said they were lucky to have appointed a manager, Paul Crisp, with extensive experience of the trade. Praising the contribution from the PCF, he said: “If Prince Charles is ever passing this way we would love to present to him the first share certificate.”