Christmas has come early for a consortium of Roughlee villagers who celebrated raising an astonishing £500,000 to save their local pub with an investor's dinner.
With The Bay Horse Inn on Blacko Road pub closed after a fire gutted the kitchen last year, the owners were planning to turn the establishment into housing, only for villagers to launch a fundraising campaign to buy the property which saw 40 families from the village of just 120 houses pooling their resources to save a much-loved Roughlee fixture.
Repairs started in the summer as villagers sought to renovate the pub and provide accommodation for a new tenant, and after a huge amount of hard work and dedication, the Bay Horse reopened its doors on Thursday, November 23rd for an investor's dinner at which the Mayor or Pendle, David Whalley, and his wife Barbara were honoured guests.
"It is hard to believe that we have achieved so much in so little time, but the community spirit has been fantastic," said local businessman, Paul Dawson (71) who spearheaded the campaign to buy the pub. "Investments have ranged from £1,000 to £50,000, but it hasn't been about how much people have put in, it has all been about team-work.
"We have been working on restorations at the pub for three months and most of the work has been done by volunteers," Paul added. "The upstairs had not been lived in for years; floorboards were missing and every room was a tip. Now it looks fantastic. It's brand new."
Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson, who officially opened the pub to the public on Saturday, November 25th, said: "It is a wonderful achievement by the community, and shows just what can be done when people work together.
"A village pub is a vital part of country life and I am sure it will be a great success. Judging by the support on Saturday, I don't think that will be a problem," he added. "I hope that the decision not to raise tax on drink in the Budget goes some small way to make country pubs like the Bay Horse more viable."
With a property company made up of investors now owning the building, a family from the village - investors themselves - are the new tenants at the pub, with Jack Swarbrick (23) the general manager.
"It has been incredibly hard work getting everything done to open in plenty of time for Christmas," Jack said. "But the phone has not stopped ringing with people wanting to book in for meals. Our story is now well known all over the North West and it seems people want to come and see just what we have achieved."
Mayor of Pendle, David Whalley, added: "This is a fantastic example to everyone in Pendle of what can be achieved when people work together on a common aim. I have been really impressed with the community spirit in Roughlee.
"I am also pleased that Pendle Council was able to help, too," the Mayor continued. "The parish council asked us to make the building an Asset of Community Value, which gave villagers the breathing space to raise the £500,000."
Explaining the crucial nature of the pub as a community hub for Roughlee, campaigner Robert Carson (66) said: "There is no church, post office, cafe or shop in the village. Without a pub it was dying. After the fire, a dozen for-sale signs went up and not one of them sold. Since we bought the pub, suddenly people want to move here, and many of the homes up for sale have sold.
"It's a lovely village, with woodland and a river," Robert continued. "But without a pub there was no heart to the village. Now there is. One thing we have noticed during the campaign is how many new friends we have made. There were 80 people at the investors dinner. Many of them I barely knew before the campaign.
"There is a great community spirit in the village."