Suffolk villagers are toasting their success after they finally secured their village pub after a seven-year-long campaign.

The Dobermann pub at Framsden, near Debenham, closed after the death of the landlady and has been empty ever since.

Locals successfully fought a bid to turn the old pub - which is Grade II listed and dates back to the 16th or 17th century - into a home.

It is believed it may have started life as a pair of old workers' cottages, but is thought to have been the village pub since 1720. It was a free house and for many years sold Tolly Cobbold Ales.

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Villagers began by securing its designation as an Asset of Community Value and launched a campaign to save it.

But it took many more years to secure it for the community.

Villagers were helped in their bid by a £276k grant from the government's Community Ownership Fund which is presided over by the Levelling Up Department. To qualify for the grant, community pub supporters had to match-fund it by 20%.

Campaigners formed a not-for-profit Community Benefit Society (CBS) four years ago - which has about 70 members.

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This led the campaign which finally resulted in its acquisition on Maundy Thursday (March 28) this year. 

The team was led by a dogged and determined board of eight elected from the membership - Julia Green, Patricia Mason, Sally-Ann and Mike Muldoon, David Perry, David Whitmore, Glenn Buckingham and chairman Brian Cox.

"It's been seven years of constant work really," said Brian.

As one of their first acts, members decided to return the pub to its original - or older - name - The Greyhound.

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Although known as The Dobermann under its last landlady, The Greyhound was its previous name - although some knew it simply as "The Dog".

"A lot of people said we want to go back to the old name," said Brian. "We had a show of hands and everyone wanted The Greyhound."

After picking up the keys, the board and dozens of volunteers immediately set to work restoring the old pub, which has fallen into disrepair.

They have been working furiously over the weekends since, clearing brambles and debris and beginning a big clean-up and repair operation.

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Following Storm Babet last October, the empty thatched pub - along with a number of other properties in the village - was flooded, adding to its state of dilapidation. 

"We have had a tremendous response already - we didn't appreciate how overgrown it was. Everyone came and it was a really good atmosphere - everyone enjoying themselves," said Brian.

Julia added: "By the (Easter) Saturday, we had 27 volunteers down here helping us clear the outside of the pub."

The pub is the only asset owned by the village - the village hall is the property of the church and other assets belong to the Helmingham Estate.

Its purchase is seen as an important milestone in reviving the community and supporting some of its more isolated residents.

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There is some cash left over from the purchase which will go towards reviving the pub and essential repairs - but in all it is estimated around £250k will be needed to restore it to its former glory and make habitable the accommodation above.

"Now we need to have a more substantial share offer to raise the money we need to complete the renovation," said Brian. "By the end of the month we'll launch our share offer."

Once opened, villagers hope to attract people from a wide area to the site. Traditionally, they came from as far as Debenham and even Ipswich. Historically, it was used as a site for auctions - especially of horses - and for coroner's inquests.

One of the advantages of the ancient inn is that is "completely unspoilt really", said Brian.

The Greyhound at Framsden is now one of about 150 community pubs across the country - the oldest of which is now 10 years old.

Despite a worrying decline in pub numbers in recent years, community pubs have managed to buck the trend and all have survived - one way or another, said Brian. 

"There's plenty in Suffolk and Essex and this part of the world so we are part of a network," he said.

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Mike added: "There a very strong bond between the community pubs - it's quite encouraging."

The pub has been the centre of village life for nearly three centuries and in the past had an excellent reputation.

The volunteers are working towards reopening it - possibly by Christmas. A thatcher is due to carry out some work soon.

"It's a lovely building worth saving and I think it's going to be great for the village and the surrounding area," said Mike, who arrived in the village decades ago to restore a derelict barn and would stop by for a pint. 

At the pub launch, villagers expressed their gratitude for the work of the team which saved it.

"I'm absolutely elated - it's been a lot of work," said Mark Roe. 

"A lot of people have done a huge amount of work. It's a long time and it's a long time to maintain that level of commitment and support.

"I'm just relieved it has not been lost. We started coming here 30 years ago when we moved here and it was renowned for being a good food pub. Then it dwindled and it just ran out of steam.

"If you asked around the wider area many, many people remember it very, very fondly as The Greyhound. It lost some of its wider appeal when it was changed to The Dobermann. Going back to The Greyhound is a big thing."

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Sally-Ann said her hope was that as a community pub it would appeal to people who are isolated and bring the community together.

"It might be that we have a Coffee Caravan come down or Meet Up Mondays or a Casserole Club," she said.

"We decided to stick with it because we wanted to see it through and we didn't want to see the building fall down."

She added: "Two weeks ago you couldn't see the pub. It was overgrown with brambles so everyone has worked really hard just to see what we have got.

"Now we have got control of it it's just working out layout, garden space and what people feel is appropriate."

In the past Framsden would hold an annual fete with the pub at its heart and villagers have many fond memories of the hostelry in its heyday.

"It's been a long journey. We have always had a vision about a beautiful pub being in the heart of the village and available to all," said Brian.  "It's owned by the village and hopefully it will be in 300 years."