HRH The Prince of Wales paid a visit to the community-owned pub, The Fleece Inn at Hillesley on Friday, to highlight the importance of great pubs within rural communities.
He was greeted by the children from the adjacent school before going into the pub to meet representatives of the pub’s clubs, societies and sporting teams – even managing to throw a few darts on the way and pulling his own pint of a pint of a pale ale called Mosaic by Arbor Ales. He described it as ‘excellent’ after smelling it and taking a few sips.
The Fleece Inn dates from the 17th century and is the last remaining pub in the parish of Hillesley & Tresham. In 2011, the pub closed for trading after the regional chain that owned the pub failed and the building was under threat of redevelopment. Residents in the village came together to see what they could do to retain the pub and to make it a hub at the heart of the community.
A specialist advisor from Pub is The Hub gave the village general advice on the acquisition. Five families underwrote the purchase and 120 members of the community contributed to the funding and became shareholders in Hillesley Pub Company Ltd. The freehold purchase was completed in June 2012 and with overwhelming local support from the village, the pub was refurbished and redecorated in order to reopen its doors again as a free house, all within five weeks in July 2012.
After four years of ups and downs, it was decided to switch the business model and appoint tenants on a leasehold basis. Rod Undy and Karen McGeoch became tenant licensees in late 2016, with the pub now thriving. It was recently named CAMRA Pub of the Year 2018 for the South West region.
The pub trades as a traditional local with a loyal customer base from the village and the immediate surrounding area, but also attracts ramblers walking The Cotswold Way. Two darts teams have formed as well as a golf society, and the pub is utilised by the local football, tennis, bridge and cricket teams, as well as a weekly cycle group. They also hold regular charity fundraisers and work closely with the church, the school and the Parish Council.
Pub is The Hub was initiated by The Prince of Wales in 2001, assisted by Business in the Community, of which HRH is Royal Founding Patron. It is a not-for-profit organisation of specialist advisors for communities and licensees in England, Wales and Scotland. The organisation, of mainly volunteers, encourages communities, licensees, pub owners, breweries and the private sector to work together to match community priority needs with additional services which can be provided by the local pub.
Lisa Harlow Ltd
Mob: 07917 757860
Tel: 01283 820102