EXETER: New room in this inn

12 January 2010

by Margaret Duggan

IT WAS the only pub in the small Devon village of Yarcombe. Once a monastery in the diocese of Exeter, parts of it date back to the ninth century, and it was later owned by Sir Francis Drake. Yet it closed 18 months ago, when busi­ness went down, and its owner and licensee moved overseas. There was no sign of anyone else to take it on.

But local residents saw it as central to the life of the village as the church and the village hall, and called a public meeting. A committee was formed and en­tered into negotiations with the owners and the local brewers, and a new company, Yarcombe Com­munity Inn Ltd, was formed.

A huge amount of work was needed to reopen the pub, and yet it was all done in two weeks. Volunteers came from all around the village to offer their expertise, and the heating, electrics, and equipment were all overhauled, painting was done, and the insur­ance sorted out.

The licence still belonged to the overseas owners, so more licensees were needed to run the pub, and four residents, including the Vicar, the Revd Alastair McCollum (left), had a day’s training be­fore be­coming licensees. The renewed inn opened shortly before Christ­mas, although in the evenings only, as most of the vol­unteers have day jobs.

There is no shortage of people ready to help, including Mr McCollum’s mother, who is taking her turn behind the bar, and a catering company is now goingto provide food.

Customers are returning, and a highlight, Mr McCollum told me, was carols around the Christmas tree in the bar. He cannot put in as much time serving drinks as he would like, he says, but he goes to events, and tries to be on the rota once a month, always wear-ing his clerical collar. He is also organis­ing Agnostics Anonymous, a group that will meet regularly in the bar to discuss matters of faith over a few beers. The tradi­tional link between village church and pub has been fully restored.

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