Villagers battle to save pub

This Is Wiltshire: Leader of SONIC Bill Buxton, front centre, and villagers present a united front in their battle Leader of SONIC Bill Buxton, front centre, and villagers present a united front in their battle

Villagers in Winterbourne Monkton are furious over speculation their pub will be converted into a house.

The New Inn has been closed since Easter but it was once a hub of the community because the small village, of around 70 houses, has no other amenities.

To save their local, residents have set up a group called Save Our New Inn Campaign (SONIC).

SONIC’s leader Bill Buxton, 73, said: “Maintaining the cohesive, supportive community will prove much more difficult without a social focal point and somewhere to meet. The pub used to be very popular and successful but it has been run down in recent years.

“For many years it provided a vital amenity for the villagers to meet. There used to be meetings of the Village Club, fish and chip lunches, crib nights, regular parties and charity events as well as parish council assemblies.

“Until recently it has provided five B&B rooms – the village is well situated to provide accommodation to walkers on the Ridgeway and to visitors to the World Heritage Site at Avebury.

“The shortage of B&Bs is well-known to the National Trust, English Heritage and others involved with the large number of visitors to the area every year.”

This is not the first time residents have fought to save the pub.

In 2007, then owners Sarah Ambrose and Geraldine Ewer closed the bar for ten months but kept the B&B running.

However, after a successful campaign by villagers, the bar reopened in April 2008.

Mr Buxton said: “Signatures from 97 per cent of the permanent dwellings in the village have expressed support for maintaining a pub, and villagers would work with any owner to keep it open.”

The previous owners sold the pub because of a change in circumstances and the new owner, Kevin Clancy who lives in Chiseldon, did not respond to the Gazette’s request for an interview.

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