A popular village pub in Oxfordshire is under community ownership following a six-month campaign by locals.
The historic Abingdon Arms in Beckley was put up for sale last May by Brakspear brewery, prompting villagers to form a working committee and have it listed as an asset of community value.
This gave them six months to prepare a bid to buy the pub. They then set up the Beckley & Area Community Benefit Society, and raised over £475,000 in the first month of their community share offer.
Shareholders were invited to invest between £250 and £100,000 to become members – and democratic owners – of the pub.
The group received business advice and specialist support, including a £2,500 bursary from the More Than A Pub programme, a two-year project delivered by Plunkett Foundation to support community ownership of pubs in England.
The Abingdon Arms is the fifth pub to open after receiving this support, which is funded by The Department for Communities and Local Government and Power to Change.
Investors came from all over the UK, but most are from local villages where people were keen to save the 17th-century pub as a social hub.
With the finance raised, an offer was made to Brakspear to buy the pub. The offer was accepted in November and contracts were exchanged before Christmas.
Mike Hobbs, chair of the Beckley & Area Community Benefit Society, said: “We have had a fantastic response to our campaign to save The Abingdon Arms in Beckley and are now the proud owners of a community pub.
“It has been heart-warming to see so many people supporting the project and has created a real sense of community cohesion.”
The group are now organising volunteers to come in over the next few weeks to clean and decorate the pub.
They have been offered a grant supporting their plan to turn it into a community hub with services including include a local shop, cafe, bike repair service, parcel collection point and music venue.
James Alcock, head of frontline for Plunkett, said: “Pubs like The Abingdon Arms saved by their community are governed democratically on the basis that each member gets one vote, regardless of how much money they invested.
“In our view this is important, because we know that rural communities are made up of people with mixed incomes and backgrounds, and this means that everybody has the opportunity to have a say about what’s important to them. We’re absolutely delighted that The Abingdon Arms will be opening its doors to the community and wish them every success for the future.”
David Chater, Head of Funds at Power To Change, added: “The Abingdon Arms is a great example of a community coming together to keep a much-loved pub open for locals.
“People won’t just be able to enjoy a pint again, but will have somewhere they can access essential services, buy everyday goods, and – especially for people in danger of being isolated – have somewhere they can meet their neighbours.”
Community pubs minister Andrew Percy said: “Pubs are a great British institution and in rural areas they can also provide valuable services for local people. Thanks to the More Than a Pub programme and local campaigners, the Abingdon Arms will now stay at the heart of the community.”
The management committee has launched an advertising campaign in the search of a permanent tenant for The Abingdon Arms. Application details at www.savetheabingdonarms.org.