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‘Thank goodness we kept going’ - saviours of Suffolk pub celebrate achievements

PUBLISHED: 18:11 01 January 2018 | UPDATED: 18:17 01 January 2018

Committee members toast to a successful year at The Duke of Marlborough in Somersham. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Committee members toast to a successful year at The Duke of Marlborough in Somersham. Picture: GREGG BROWN

The saviours of a Suffolk village pub who raised £350,000 during a three year campaign have held their first group celebration of their achievements,

Pictured at the unveiling of the pub's new sign, l-r, Sarah Caston, Richard Podd, Kevin Long and James Batchelor-Wylam. Picture: GREGG BROWN Pictured at the unveiling of the pub's new sign, l-r, Sarah Caston, Richard Podd, Kevin Long and James Batchelor-Wylam. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Members of the Save the Duke Campaign held a recent Christmas get together to “eat drink and commemorate”.

The campaign began soon after Christmas Eve 2014, when the Duke of Marlborough in Somersham, looked set to close for good. Its owners were retiring and difficulties finding a buyer meant it was likely to be sold as housing.

Local doctor Sarah Caston refused to accept the loss and set up the campaign, forming a committee and then raising the £350,000 needed to buy the pub, which took nearly two and a half years.

“There were times when it looked as though we’d never do it,” says Duke of Marlborough chairman, James Batchelor-Wylam. “But thank goodness we kept going. The pub is now buzzing. It’s emerging as a real hub of the community – and is a great place to eat. We have a brilliant manager and terrific, ambitious young chef. He uses local ingredients to create excellent fresh food – and word is spreading that it’s worth travelling some distance to try.

Mr Batchelor-Wylam says the success is a testament to the manager, chef and volunteers as well as three years of hard work by the pub committee.

“It would be hard to overestimate the amount of work that has gone on behind the scenes,” he added. “Between committee members, we’ve put in thousands of hours over the past three years. It’s been pretty much non-stop. In fact, our Christmas get-together was the first opportunity we’d had to meet socially as a group and celebrate saving the Duke. It was great to eat, drink and commemorate the achievement – and I was able to thank fellow committee members for their efforts and support.”

The group said with hundreds of pubs having closed in Suffolk the saving of the historic 15th Century inn is significant.

It was achieved through shares, loans and grants. The pub is a Community Benefit Society with 250 shareholders. It has been supported by The Plunkett Foundation and Co-operative & Community Finance.

The committee has also thanked the team at The Case is Altered in Bentley for their support.

The pub re-opens following a break on January 18. Anyone interested in buying shares or finding out more should contact Keith McKeown on 07817 418942

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