A story I saw in Google News today:
A village pub which boasts a library and a shop after it was saved from closure through a community buyout has been named the best in the country.
The George & Dragon in Hudswell, North Yorkshire, closed in 2008 after the owners went bankrupt, but regulars formed a co-operative to buy and refurbish it before it reopened in 2010.
It has now been named Pub of the Year by the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra).
Its closure left the small village with no facilities other than a community hall, and locals were determined that on re-opening it would offer more than a traditional pub.
As well as acting as a meeting place and venue, it is now home to the village library, a local shop staffed by volunteers, community allotments and free internet access for its patrons.
I wonder what happened in 2008 that bankrupted the owners, and forced it to close?
Hudswell is a little string of houses on a road beside the river Swale in Yorkshire. It’s barely half a mile long. Doing the ton in a souped-up car, you’d pass through it in the blink of an eye on your way to nearby Richmond castle. There can be scarcely 100 people living in the village. And the George and Dragon is its single tiny pub:
What’s puzzling me is: given that it had plenty of regulars who frequented it, why did it go bankrupt? If a pub has got lots of regulars, it shouldn’t go bankrupt.
Could it have been the Credit Crunch that began around that time? Was it the regulars used to buy drinks on credit, and when they couldn’t get any credit, the pub folded? Or was it that when a big supermarket selling cheap canned lager opened in Richmond, the locals started buying their beer there?
The proximity of the flood-prone river Swale probably has something to do with it.
RESIDENTS of flood-hit properties in North Yorkshire are still counting the cost after seeing huge increases in their insurance premiums.
The riverside Topcliffe Mill development, near Thirsk, was flooded in 2012 after levels of the River Swale rose.
When I lived in Devon, the River pub got flooded during a storm. The lane outside my house was knee deep in water that day.
That must be the explanation.
There was a catastrophe. There was a storm one day – say, 1 July 2007 – when the river Swale rose, burst its banks, ruined all the stock and furniture in the George and Dragon, and drove out all the regulars. Perhaps some of them were even swept away down the river, never to be seen again. The pub limped on for a few more months, until the owners filed for bankruptcy.
I can’t think of any other possible explanation for it.
But the regulars banded together to buy it and refurbish it, and turned it into not just a pub, but also a library, a little shop, with even allotments in the back garden. Quite how they managed to fit all of them inside such a tiny pub, I don’t know. But then, a pub is a sort of shop, with a counter and a till. So perhaps in among the whisky and wine bottles they now display tea, milk, sugar, eggs, sausages, and of course vegetables from the allotment. And the library books would of course be arranged along the walls around the few tables in front of the bar.
So you can now come in after a hard day digging your allotment, order a pint of beer and a pound of sausages, and carry on reading the Enid Blyton novel you started last week.
In such manner its phoenix-like resurgence has been accomplished. Other pubs, in similar circumstances, became pub-restaurants. But in Hudswell, the innovative locals turned theirs into a pub-shop and library, with allotments at the back. No wonder it’s been named Pub of the Year. Where else can you buy a pound of sausages with your pint of beer, and have a library of books surrounding you?