Hunmanby pub thrives after a close shave

Words and photos by Dave Barry

A village pub is thriving, two years after locals saved it from the wrecking ball.

Enterprise Inns, which owned the White Swan in Hunmanby, wanted to build a lot of flats at the back.

As a grade-2 listed building, the facade had to be kept but the interior was to be gutted, according to the initial application.

This was quickly withdrawn and replaced.

“Although the pub would have remained open, no-one believed it was viable without the rest of the site and would have closed within a year or two”, says campaigner John Wragg.

A conservation campaign was mounted by horrified villagers - seven or eight in particular, but with the support of many more.

They hired a planning consultant and raised funds. “At one point, we had £15,000 in the bank”, says John.

When Scarborough Council turned the planning application down, the company appealed.

Persuading the authority to hear the appeal in the village community centre was a stroke of genius.

The centre’s main hall was filled to bursting with campaign supporters, all crossing their fingers. The government planning inspector said he had never seen so many people at such a hearing.

The appeal was quickly refused. “So we knew we had a strong case”,  John recalls.

Enterprise Inns immediately put the pub on the market, inviting sealed bids which had to be submitted within a fortnight.

Fortune smiled on the former coaching inn, which had stables round the back. It was bought by a man who genuinely liked old-fashioned village pubs and who had another 17 scattered around North Yorkshire.

The building was in urgent need of renovation. John says: “He fixed everything and made the place safe then had it redecorated and laid new carpets and so on”.

Landlord Andy Bowles, who ran the pub for Enterprise Inns, now rents the pub off the new owner and runs it with his family.

Without the pub company’s massive overheads, Andy slashed 50p off the price of a pint and the pub grew busier.

The fundraising activities continued, with the proceeds shared between local charities such as the brownies, a young football team and the hospice.

At the moment, the money is going to Hunmanby’s Alzheimer's support group, which meets in the Methodist church hall. In July, the Yorkshire air ambulance was the beneficiary.

The new owner provided a new shed at the back for Hunmanby Pigeon Club, founded 47 years ago.

Lunch and dinner are served seven days a week, bingo sessions are run on Thursday nights, bands sometimes play on Saturday nights and John and Andy run a Christmas savings club.

The pub, which is 200-300 years old, has a function room for hire and four B&B rooms.

The bar has three hand-pulled pumps. Cumberland and John Smith are always on, plus two guest ales.