The Lamarsh Lion was our local pub throughout my childhood and teenage years; I spent a lot of time there. It’s not that we were a particularly hard-drinking family. But it was the first place we went after my father somewhat randomly bought a corrugated iron shed to convert into a family home; and we met our future architect in the bar on the same day.
I remember a particularly challenging winter when deep snow meant no-one could get out of the village for some three days, and my recollection is that most people spent most of those three days at the warm, cosy and welcoming Lion.
I worked at the Lion as a bar maid when I was old enough. And, to be honest, I spent a fair amount of time drinking rum and coke (it was the seventies) in the pool bar both before and after I was sixteen (I looked old for my age).
At the time I didn’t realise the Lion had been serving drinks to locals for some 700 years (There’s how to make school history lessons interesting!). I did know there was a vibrant, close-knit community where we lived, and the pub was an important aspect of that. But the pub recently closed. The property was put on the market and an application submitted to Braintree Council for planning permission to convert it into a home.
Local people are distinctly unhappy about this. It’s such a shame to lose an ancient pub that’s been a meeting place for villagers since 1305. Especially when you think of the other local meeting places that have disappeared since my childhood (the post office, the village shop, and so on).
But Lamarsh and neighbouring village, Alphamstone, aren’t taking this lying down. Alphamstone and Lamarsh Parish Councils submitted a successful application to make the Lion a “community asset”, giving the pub some degree of protection while local villagers try to raise sufficient capital to rescue the pub for future generations. As Robert Erith, Chairman of the newly formed Lamarsh Lion Community Pub Limited (a community benefit society) says:
“Local pubs play an important role in creating and maintaining social cohesion. The Lamarsh Lion brought people together not just for a drink, but for company, conversation and a chance to find out about local needs and opportunities, including work opportunities. The Lion is also an important element of the local economy. We’re concerned that tourists may be less keen to book local farm accommodation, and bed and breakfasts, if there’s no longer a convenient, welcoming local pub serving midday and evening meals. The pub is also right on the Stour Valley Path, designated cycle routes and the Gainsborough Railway Line’s advertised walks from Sudbury and Bures Station.”
In a previous post on Brexit, I discussed the positive aspects of ‘taking back control’ in relation to cultural and regional identity; and the prospects for supporting sustainable businesses. We can all play a part in shaping the kind of society we want to live in, one where everyone has a sense of belonging. The Lamarsh Lion community benefit society is an example of people trying to achieve exactly this.
The Plunkett Foundation helps people in rural areas like Suffolk to tackle issues including isolation and poverty. One of the ways they do this is through their More Than a Pub programme, and they’ve provided an initial bursary to help cover the costs of setting up the Lamarsh Lion community benefit society.
But the society now urgently needs funds to actually buy the pub for the benefit of the village and visitors to the area. If you’d like to support this initiative, and become a member of the Lamarsh Lion Community Pub Ltd, you can pledge a minimum of £50 for one share, or a more for a maximum of 2,000 shares. Investors can be from anywhere in the world, and can include companies as well as individuals. Up to 24 November 101 pledges for over £226,000 had been received. This is a good way along the road to its target of 200 pledges for £500,000 and an early indication of how much the community wants its pub to continue.
An unusual Christmas present for someone with a link to the area, or someone with an interest in local community initiatives, perhaps?
If you’d like to know more, take a look at the new Lamarsh Lion website: here.