In April 2005 the licensee of the New Inn at Shipton Gorge gave notice that he wanted to give up the tenancy. The owners, Palmers Brewery of Bridport, closed the pub. But the villagers didn’t want to lose their pub, and over 100 of them attended a meeting held by the parish council to discuss the situation.
The decision to take over the New Inn was put to Palmers, who were luke warm about the proposal at first; nor did the family want to sell it direct or as a free house. Eventually a deal was struck and a committee of villagers was offered a 6 year lease.
The pub was in dire need of restoration, and the committee formed a limited company to raise funds. An appeal to CAMRA brought a donation of £250, which helped with legal costs. The ‘pub company’ then needed someone in the business to run it, and persuaded Palmers management to allow it to sub-let the pub.
In August this year the New Inn opened its doors again, run by Sandra Tyson and Gary Pellow, and had its official opening at the end of September. The interior is transformed with the bar moved, a small dining area towards the back, and large sofas around an open fire. New toilets are being built, and the garden re-sculpted.
Support has come from other villages in the area as well as locally. Ideas abound for making this a true village hub, including coffee mornings, a supper club, a take-away fish and chips evening, and even a small shop.
West Dorset branch of CAMRA wishes the New Inn tenants and supporters good luck in keeping a village pub alive!