A good pub is at the heart of many a community, particularly when it is a core part of the area’s history.
The Packhorse Inn in South Stoke, Somerset, has stood, solid and welcoming, since the 15th century; keeping local residents merry for generations.
And these walls certainly have some stories to tell. Built on the site of a former guesthouse for monks; the location includes holes which were used to hide Catholic priests.
However, six years ago the Grade II-listed tavern was bought by property developers who planned to turn it – perhaps all too predictably – into flats.
The doors to the beloved pub were shut, with punters left saddened. However, rather than just accept the closure, they proceeded to band together in a show of true community spirit.
A committee was formed in the village to raise money to buy back the piece of heritage, raising £1,025,000 from 470 investors.
The Conservative’s 2011 Localism Act meant the pub was entered into B&NES’ Assets of Community Value list as of February 2013.
The new owner of The Packhorse intended to sell so the village placed a bid for the building. However, the offer was turned down.
Under the Localism Act, the owner must sell the building within a year, regardless of who comes forward first. This allowed the committee to buy it back.
Loyal locals volunteered an approximate 1,000 hours clearing out the pub’s garden, with 25 skips of rubbish were removed from inside the pub. An enormous 15 tons of earth shifted by hand.
The Packhorse Inn has now finally been reopened by 87-year-old Brian Perkins, whose life has been shaped by this beautiful drinking establishment.
Brian was born within the walls of the pub back when it was owned by his family. When he grew up, he and wife Edith had their wedding reception there.
During the second world war, Brian would deliver bottles from the pub to soldiers who were being rehabilitated in South Stoke.
Former engineer Brian said:
I was very sad when the pub closed a few years ago. I would go to the pub very Sunday up until then.
It was an honour to be asked to pour the first pint – a last bit of fame in my old age.
I was born in a room above the area where the bar is in 1930 and later had my wedding reception there.
Aged 21 I was posted to join Royal Engineers in Maidstone, Kent, and when I arrived they said, ‘We’re going overseas in a few days’ for two years.’
I ran to a phone, rang Edith and said, ‘Can we get married at the weekend?’
I worked with the local farmer since I was 12 and he heard straight away because it goes around the village like lightning – he rushed into our cottage and said to Edith, ‘My dear I’ll take you to the wedding ceremony in Wells in the milk van.’
We had the reception back at the pub and 40 family members and close friends from the village turned out.
My gran Emily Rose was ahead of her time when she had the pub and didn’t think pubs should just be for men to drink and she arranged meals such as afternoon tea and suppers for the village folk.
Supper would be a large chunk of bread and a bit of cheese with tomatoes from the garden.
The seating area in the refurbished pub is the garden where she would grow vegetables.
This inspirational story just shows what can be achieved when people get together to fight for something they care about. Cheers!