Punters joined forces to save Winston Churchill’s old pub from closing – and you can save your local boozer too

PUNTERS showed Dunkirk spirit to save Winston Churchill’s old pub from closing – by clubbing together and buying the village boozer.

Now you can do the same in your town with the Government’s most generous giveaway for local takeovers.

Regulars clubbed together to buy the White House pub in Oxon


Regulars clubbed together to buy the White House pub in OxonCredit: Damien McFadden

The new Community Ownership Fund, which opens for applications in a few weeks, will chip in up to £250,000 to match funds raised by locals to buy bars, shops and post offices.

Villagers in Bladon, Oxon, bought the White House boozer — where a teenage Churchill drank — after brewery Greene King was set to sell it for houses.

Together, 450 people contributed a total of £300,000 to become pub shareholders in March 2020 — then the first lockdown hit.

Bladon community pub chairman Mike Edwards, 52, who pilots World War Two planes, said: “The pub a young Churchill drank in during his summers liv­ing at nearby Blenheim Palace had property developers circling. The heart of the village would have been lost.

“We raised £300,000, with contributions aver­ag­ing under £700 each and a £50 minimum.

“The rest was prov­ided by a commercial mortgage.

Former PM Winston Churchill drank in The White House as a teenager


Former PM Winston Churchill drank in The White House as a teenagerCredit: Hulton Archive – Getty

“Volunteers donated their time helping refurbish the pub and garden, making space for a cafe and comm­unity activities.

“We only got to open in October and Dec-ember. But the re­opening last week was so successful we had to get more beer from the brewery.”

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Around 2,000 pubs — one in 20 of Britain’s 40,000 — have shut for good in the past year.

But 150 boozers are already run by communities — and another 250 locals’ buyouts are under way.

Electrician Stuart Barclay, 49, donated a week’s unpaid work to help the White House, which is being run by tenant landlord Johnny Roberts and his partner Fran Clark.

Stuart said: “Carpen­ters, tilers, plumbers and gardeners also worked for no fee or a reduced labour charge.”

Community pub take­over enquiries are up 50 per cent, says the Plunkett Found­ation, which advises charities.

White House chairman Mike said: “My advice to people thinking of taking over their pub is to call Plunkett. Their expertise was invaluable.”

John Longden, of Pub Is The Hub, which advises pubs on how to diversify, said: “Covid has reinforced the im­por­tance of pubs. There are numerous financial routes to purchase.”

The Government’s Community Takeover Fund opens in June — so if your local is in danger, rally your fellow regulars now.

How to buy your local

GET COMMUNITY SUPPORT: Survey local people and ask what they want from the pub.

Call a community meeting to form a “Save our pub” committee. You will win over more people by making space in the pub for a shop, post office, cafe or community services, such as mother and baby groups and pensioners’ clubs.

STALL FOR TIME: Ask your local council to declare the pub an “asset of community value”, which delays a sale for six months so you can fundraise.

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GET ADVICE: Ask pub rescue experts the Plunkett Foundation (plunkett.co.uk) and Pub Is The Hub (pubisthehub.org.uk) for tips and funding guidance. Call community pubs to ask them how they did it.

THINK LIKE A BUSINESS: Draw up a business plan and decide the structure of the ownership. Options include ownership via the community, a company, investment plan, benefit or asset scheme.

ASK FOR CASH: Crowdfund from locals and look into grants, loans and community share schemes.

Ask locals: “How much would you pay to keep our pub alive for you to enjoy for years in the future?”

If 200 people put in £500 each, you have £100,000 straight away.

From June, your group can bid for a grant of up to £250,000 from the Government’s Community Ownership Fund, matching your fundraising. So if you raise £250,000, you could double your pot to £500,000.

BID FOR YOUR BOOZER: Negotiate a price with the pub’s freeholder. If you’re struggling to raise enough, or are unsure the community would support the pub long-term, ask to lease the pub for a few years – so you can try before you buy.

DON’T FORGET THE LANDLORD: You might be great at your job, but running a pub is harder than it looks. Most community pubs are sublet to experienced tenant landlords.

Some community groups go for a manager and employees plus volunteers. Your “save our pub” committee becomes the “run our pub” team – and you have the perfect meeting place. Cheers!

– IT is not just pubs that can get up to £250,000 from the Government’s Community Ownership Fund.

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Matched funding is also available for locals taking over shops, post offices, theatres, cinemas and music venues.

Up to £1million is available for sports facilities. There is £150million in the government pot to be shared out.

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