Cornish village is bringing a derelict, burnt-out pub back to life

Community organisation the Peninsula Trust wants to rebuild the Old Ship in Cawsand

The people of a picturesque but deprived village in Cornwall are preparing to rebuild and reopen a derelict pub that burnt down five years ago.

The site of the Old Ship in Cawsand has been bought by a community benefit society with support from Co-operative & Community FinancePlunkett Foundation, and the More Than a Pub programme. The society has ambitious plans to reopen the pub, create new community facilities and provide much needed affordable rented accommodation.

Cawsand is on the Rame Peninsula in the south-eastern corner of Cornwall near the Devon border; the rural area comprises seven villages and no town.

The Peninsula is unusual in Cornwall because of its proximity to Plymouth, and its substantial population of working-class families used to travel to work in the dockyard or the numerous naval supply sites. The dramatic decline in the dockyard over the past 30 years has resulted in high levels of unemployment in Rame.

The area is also very attractive to wealthy retirees and second home owners making it very difficult for local people on low incomes to find affordable housing.

The Old Ship was destroyed by fire

But an enterprising community organisation, the Peninsula Trust, is working to change all that. It has undertaken a number of initiatives to improve the livelihoods and prospects of local people in recent years. The Trust is very involved in the project to buy and rebuild the the Old Ship. Co-operative & Community Finance has helped to fund three of their previous projects, including the buying and conversion of a disused bank building.

The Old Ship is a derelict eyesore in the centre of Cawsand. It had been closed for several years when there was a fire in 2013. The fire utterly destroyed the interior, leaving just the Grade II listed front wall, facing the street. It is a big site, with ample room for new buildings.

Simon Ryan, one of the founders of community benefit society, said: “We will work closely with local historians and the heritage specialists to understand the remains and to retain and show as much of the original fabric as we can. There is a smuggler’s tunnel in there somewhere. The Old Ship was one of Cawsand’s oldest pubs. We want to bring it back to life under community ownership.

“Housing is the biggest problem affecting our community. Unless something changes, the heart of the village will disappear because people, especially the young, can’t find anywhere to live at a price they can afford – so they leave and the village loses out. We want to build five flats on the upper floors, to be let at reasonable rents on secure, long-term tenancies.

Related: Locals sign up for Peninsula Trust as it creates community hub

“On the ground floor, we want to recreate the bar area of the Old Ship, using the memories and photos of the older local people. We will add a café with a large children’s area and also include a village information section for locals and visitors. At the rear, we’re hoping to build a small Heritage Centre, supported by local experts.”

Over 300 people, the majority of whom in or near the village, bought shares in The Old Ship Inn Cawsand Ltd, raising over £137,500. The target date for reopening The Old Ship is June 2019.

The community received specialist advice and finance from the More Than A Pub programme, which was set up in 2016 to support community ownership of pubs in England. This programme is funded by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and Power to Change, and is delivered by the Plunkett Foundation. Co-operative & Community Finance arranges loan finance for groups that have successfully attracted local investment, usually in the form of community shares.

Ian Rothwell, investment manager at Co-operative & Community Finance, said: “We have supported various projects in this local community over the last 10 years. There is a lot of enthusiasm among the local residents for this latest venture and they ran a very effective campaign to buy the pub.

“We are pleased that they are now benefiting from the support, grant and loan package of the More Than a Pub programme.”