A community which raised more than £450,000 to save the White Horse in Stonesfield, Oxfordshire has been recognised by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), winning the runner-up title for the prestigious Pub Saving Award 2023.
CAMRA’s Pub Saving Award recognises people that have come together to save a pub that would have otherwise been demolished or converted to another use. The illustrious award aims to secure publicity for pub-saving campaigns to encourage others to save their local.
This year’s runner-up of the Pub Saving Award is Stonesfield Community Pub Limited, who campaigned to save the White Horse pub and to provide a community hub for its locals.
Dating back to the 19th century, the White Horse shut its doors in March 2020 due to the pandemic, with the owner putting the pub on the market.
Being the last remaining pub in the village of Stonesfield, the community rallied together to ensure the White Horse was safe from developers intent on turning it into housing. The Stonesfield Community Pub Limited was formed (as a Community Benefit Society CBS) to try to buy the pub into community ownership.
Needing to raise almost £400,000, the community embarked upon a fundraising crusade, from cake and t-shirt sales to virtual pub quizzes and Saturday morning car washing.
As well as capturing the imagination of the village, the pub’s campaign garnered international attention, making headlines in the New York Times, ABC News and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, with funding coming from California and Connecticut as well as support from the local area.
The campaign was a triumph, raising almost £450,000, but despite this mammoth effort, the community still had to contend with owners and prospective buyers intent with property development, which meant the pub remained closed while the community nervously waited for news about the pub’s future.
In September 2023, it was announced that Stonesfield Community Pub Limited’s offer of £455,000 had been accepted and the pub was now property of the village.
The White Horse is now operating as a ‘pop-up’ pub on weekends until the new year, while extensive work takes place to ensure it returns to its former glory, selling home-made food, select beers and other drinks. Having been empty for three and a half years, the building was run down, and volunteers have given up hundreds of hours to clean, repair and refurbish the pub.
CAMRA’s National Planning Policy Adviser Paul Ainsworth said: “Every year, the stories of communities saving their pubs become more incredible. We’re very proud to award these groups with recognition in the Pub Saving Award and hope it will inspire others to take up the fight and save their locals. Congratulations to all who have been successful in giving these local pubs a new lease of life, and especially to the Rising Sun Woodcroft Community Pub Limited group, whose story has moved us and hopefully plenty of others too.
“These awards show the sheer determination and passion people have for their beloved pubs, a vitally important part of communities across the UK. Too many pubs are forced to close their doors against a backdrop of the cost-of-living crisis and soaring energy bills. Everyone recognised are an inspiration to others. I would encourage everyone to support their pubs, especially in the traditionally quieter post-Christmas period.”