A community pledges to restore their historic pub

By News
The George pub. The pink building is missing its roof.

The George Community Pub Ltd is a Community Benefit Society (referred to as The Society) was established in 2016 to buy and own the Grade II listed George Pub, Wickham Market in rural East Suffolk.

The pub, which is in the heart of a conservation area, was severely damaged by a fire in 2013.  Prior to the fire the George was thought to date to the eighteenth century, but afterwards it was revealed that parts might date to the late fifteenth or early sixteenth century. Due to this heritage significance and risk to the building The George was added to the Suffolk County Historic Buildings at Risk Register on January 2014.

Since acquiring the pub with massive public support, the Society has embarked upon a £1.6 million project with support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund to restore this historic building and transform it into a vibrant hub in the local community, offering a range of activities to appeal to a variety of local groups including those who are elderly, struggling with loneliness
or living with dementia. Covid-19 has had a further impact and The Society’s aim is to ensure the pub offers vital support in the recovery process to these vulnerable groups.

The George has been in continuous use as an inn or public house since at least the 1650s. The surviving structure (which suggests strongly that it was originally built as an inn) reflects its development over the centuries and incorporates highly significant heritage assets including, not only the survival of the original timber-framed building and associated infill panels but also its associations with the history of the village and its past residents.

The buildings historic significance and social importance has attracted a first-round National Lottery Heritage Fund Grant of £82,000 to help with its design and preparation for restoration. With over 6000 volunteer hours already undertaken it has been a long road for the Society to get to this point.  A second round bid is currently being prepared and close to £1million has been earmarked by the Fund to help with the final restoration and building works, which will run concurrently with an ambitious programme of wide-reaching, accessible and enjoyable heritage activities.

Restoring a building of this importance is expensive and will require more than the maximum Lottery funding and part of this shortfall will be made up by increasing share ownership. Owning shares means investing in a community as well as owning a part of an important community asset.  At this stage, the Society is asking existing shareholders and anyone interested in becoming one to make a pledge to buy shares. A planned second share issue will take place in Spring of 2022 after we
have secured Lottery and other necessary funding. As an added incentive the George will be applying for Social Investment Tax Relief which will allow tax paying investors to claim back income tax of 30% on the value of their investment.

A successful pledge campaign will be an important part of the Society’s funding plan when assembling their second-round Lottery Fund application. They will continue to demonstrate to the Fund that there is a real need and enthusiasm for the project and that their assistance will make a positive difference to people’s lives and to the heritage and sustainability of life in Wickham Market.

Bill Wolff-Evans, Chairman of the committee said:
“With everyone’s support, we will save Wickham Market’s last remaining pub for the benefit of generations to come. Pubs are an amazing asset for any community. The George will be a warm and welcoming place to meet with friends and family and will
bring inclusion and wellbeing to the whole community. The world is in a pandemic but better days are on the horizon.
Wickham Market needs a pub, please make a pledge to help save the George. Just go online to www.wmgeorge.co.uk/pledge Every pledge is a vital ingredient to making this happen.”

The George Community Pub takes the opportunity of thanking all their grant givers, advisors, consultants and supporters including MP Dan Poulter and Councillor Alexander Nicoll and in particular, the National Lottery Players and the Heritage Fund who help to make projects like this possible.

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