A popular village pub that closed more than three years ago has reopened after locals banded together to save it.
The Martyrs Inn in Tolpuddle, Dorset closed in February 2020 – but villagers will soon raise a glass to their local beer drinker as it is now back open and almost ready to reopen.
192 people raised £500,000 in less than five weeks and the limited company they set up took over the pub in April.
After months of refurbishment, the pub will open on Friday 14th July – to coincide with the annual Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival.
The historic village is the spiritual home of the unions, because in 1834 six farm workers met there to found a friendly society and fight for better wages and working conditions.
They were arrested and sentenced to seven years in transport to Australia for taking an oath of secrecy. Their conviction sparked public outrage and the “martyrs” were pardoned two years later.
The pub that bears their name has always been a popular meeting place during the annual festival that attracts thousands of unionists to the small village.
Martyrs Inn opened in 1921 and was owned by Hall & Woodhouse Brewery until 2021 when it was sold to a private owner.
Barrie Lovelock, a property developer who has lived in Tolpuddle for 20 years, had the idea that the villagers should buy back their beloved pub.
Although 90% of the shareholders are local, her campaign received support from across the country and even from Australia.
Mr Lovelock, 76, said: “I live in the village and own land here and have become part of the community.” When the pub closed it was a blow to the community.
“Tolpuddle no longer has a shop or garage, so when the pub closed there was really nothing but housing.” It’s an essential element of the village.
“It looks completely different than before, you don’t recognize it as the same pub anymore.” We completely remodeled the ground floor and it has a whole new kitchen.
“It’s an absolute relief to see it worked and the excitement in the village is palpable.” We had around 15-20 villagers who donated their time to help with the renovation.
“Everyone in the village is very proud of their efforts.”
“It’s wonderful to see people coming together in this community spirit, without which I don’t think the pub would have opened.”
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