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Photo courtesy of Drewsteignton Community Society Limited.
Photo courtesy of Drewsteignton Community Society Limited.

Bringing a Historic Village Pub into Community Ownership

24 August 2023

The Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF) is excited to announce that it has awarded a Project Viability Grant to Drewsteignton Community Society Limited towards its project to purchase and reopen the Drewe Arms. This is one of the first grants awarded through the Historic Assets into Community Ownership programme in England, supported by Historic England and the Pilgrim Trust. It is also one of nine awards made at the latest grants meeting, where projects ranging geographically from Hastings to the Isle of Canna were awarded £80,000 in funding.

The Drewe Arms is a Grade II* listed, 17th-century building, with possible 16th-century origins. Situated at the centre of the village of Drewsteignton, the building was likely first constructed as an open-hall house. By 1890, it had become a public house known as the New Inn - its name was later changed to the Drewe Arms by Julius Drewe of the nearby Castle Drogo. From 1919 to 1994, the pub was managed by Mabel Mudge. Having retired at the age of 99, Mabel was England’s oldest licensee. The interior of the pub is also of special importance - there is no bar counter, only a simple 19th-century taproom and an intimate space with benches around the walls. Some original furniture remains.

In 2022, the pub closed indefinitely, meaning Drewsteignton now has no local pub, shop, school or doctors’ surgery. With the current owners of the Drewe Arms putting the freehold up for sale for the first time in living history, however, Drewsteignton Community Society Limited aims to purchase and reopen the building as a community pub and a centre for this isolated rural community. The outbuilding behind the Drewe Arms, which served as the unofficial village hall until the closure of the pub, will be reinstated. Alongside this, the reopened pub will be an important part of the village economy, particularly in relation to providing a venue for visitors, of which there is many due to the close proximity of the National Trust’s Castle Drogo.

With support from the Plunkett Foundation and other community pubs, as well as a grant from the Booster Fund, Drewsteignton Community Society Limited has already shaped its business plan and strategy.

The AHF grant will fund the cost of necessary surveys and architectural work to enable the organisation to understand and plan the necessary improvements to the building for both repairs and functionality, including environmental sustainability.

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