Save the Packhorse

The Packhorse Inn is one of the Bath area’s oldest and much-loved pubs. The 17th century building, set in a large garden, is full of character: with flagstone floors, original timber beams and an inglenook fire place. This is a refuge valued by locals and walkers alike. A cosy, friendly and quintessentially British pub!

But, on Sunday 13 May 2012, the Packhorse Inn closed. The new owner, a Mr Martin Sherry has told us unequivocally that he has bought the building to use as his own private home and has no intention of selling to anyone.

Update: The Packhorse has been bought by the local community and will open, after refurbishment, later in 2017.

A great many people are very upset that this has happened with no attempt to keep the pub open and without consultation of any kind.

So far we have collected well over 1200 petition signatures – not just from the local area but from around the world – highlighting the importance of the Packhorse to locals and visitors alike.

The Packhorse was put up for sale by Punch Taverns Ltd around March 2012 with an asking price of £375,000.  They exchanged contracts with Mr Bob Goodman, a local chartered surveyor, just two months later. We learned of his plans to convert the pub to offices on 7th May.  He changed his mind before completion on witnessing the strength of feeling against closing the pub.

According to James Baker, the agent, the pub did not come back on the market.  As far as we know, Mr Sherry took over the contract and finally completed with Punch on Tuesday 29th May.  Mr Sherry’s partner, Ken Lambert, tells us that he is now managing the renovation of the building.

It was no surprise that Punch sold the pub.  It was clearly failing under their ownership.  But several experienced publicans submitted above-the-asking-price bids for the Packhorse and several more have since approached the campaign team to express further interest.  The professionals clearly believe the pub is viable as a freehouse.

The Packhorse is unique, historic and an important asset for the community.  Enquiries with B&NES show that, because of this, change of use is not supported by the planning authorities.  The campaign is growing at a local level through the councils and conservation groups and has already attracted interest from national media.

And on 4 February 2013, the Packhorse Inn was added to B&NES’ list of Assets of Community Value – the first entry!

Here’s our take on the current situation:

We are determined to save this much loved pub and valuable village amenity, but need your help:

  1. Please complete our declaration of interest form!!
  2. Put a poster in your window
  3. “Like” our Facebook page and join us on Twitter via #SaveThePackhorse
  4. Add a comment to the bottom of this page
  5. Write to your politicians
  6. Follow our latest updates
  7. Get involved via our Contact Us page

Many thanks for your help!

50 thoughts on “Save the Packhorse

  1. I am fully behind the excellent campaign to save the PackHorse.This amenity is not simply about a public house but a very important part of our history. The machinations of one person should not be allowed to destroy that heritage.

  2. I find it hard to credit people who expect to live happily amongst a community after taking away the wonderful Packhorse….in a few hundred years the story will still be told.. I hope they have an Epiphany!

    Its encouraging to see the resistance .

  3. I would be very willing to join in with a community buy out if this goes ahead. A lovely pub, such a shame. Rich Ackroyd

  4. I see Mr Sherry’s partner, Ken Lambert, has told the Chron (21/2/2013) that Mr Sherry has had to sell his flat to restore the Packhorse. Firstly, I thought his flat was up for sale before he got involved with this, secondly, he still hasn’t got change of use and thirdly, leaving windows open in very wet weather strikes me as an odd way to restore a building. I think he will also need a plannign application – there isn’t one so far – I keep checking. But I suspect he will say he is now homeless.

  5. Local authorities seem to be taking a dim view of chancers trying to change pubs in to houses, this link will take you to the latest similar case where the developer has ended up with egg on their face!

    Has the pub been added to the local authorities register of community assets yet?

  6. I was very saddened to hear of the closure of the Packhorse. I stumbled into it whilst walking in the area a year or so ago and thought it was one of the nicest pubs I’ve ever been to. Good luck with the campaign!

  7. Did anyone see the Packhouse on the recent BBC drama about the origins of the Paralympic games? When the patients went out for a drink, it had to be the Packhorse.
    This pub is unique and very special. The idea it could become someone’s private home is wrong on so may levels.
    Mark.

    • It was repeated on Sunday, so if you missed it will be on iPlayer until Sunday 9th September. It is called ‘The Best of Men’. Worth watching the whole thing, if you want to see The Packhorse (and we all miss it….) it is after 60 minutes.

  8. So what is Southstoke going to do now? Mr Sherry is sitting tight hoping all the fuss will die down and he can get on with his plans. You really need to disabuse Mr Sherry of the idea that it’s all going to be fine. A polite request for another meeting might keep him on his toes, asking if, in view of the fact that he clearly is going to have to get change of use, and that that’s going to be a battle, whether he wants to reconsider. Just keep him on the hop!

    • Many thanks for your comment, and the fuss is not going to die down. Mr Sherry is aware he will not get change of use, and we have taken legal advice which confirms this. We would of course be happy to meet with him to discuss options.

  9. On a personal level – I’ve walked to Southstoke for company if alone, or with my family and dogs to the Packhorse from my house in Odd Down for many years. I have lived or owned property in Bath for Twenty nine years and although I only now spend a month or so in Bath each year the Packhorse is still – rather was until recently central to our evening/ lunch entertainment,
    I think one word hardly describes my emotions on realising what has happened – Devastated!

    There are quite a number of people nationally and internationally, who i have knowledge of with connections to this pub who I intend to contact to ask their “opinion” of this very very “sad” news.

  10. To encourage those who want to save the Pack Horse – I just came past the Post inn at Whiddon Down today which is once again open. Here again, the pervious landlord (and owner) said all the sort of stuff we have heard and that it was his property and he could do what he liked, bla-di-bla. However, the community from far and wide objected, the planners refused change of use and – better still – the council kept pressing him over his intentions. It appears he finally gave in and sold it, and , as I said, it is now open again, despite having been closed for several years. It too had been identified as a community asset, just as the Pack Horse has been. So .. fingers crossed, Mr Sherry will give up the struggle. At the moment his tactics will doubtless be to wear the community down by sitting tight and doing nothing much, just as happened at the Post Inn. So .. keep up the pressure, and keep photographing it to check there have been no changes without planning consent. YOU CAN WIN!

  11. Like Mick Ringham, Kathy and I were often in the pub after walking our dog in the fields around the canal and enjoyed a ploughmans ( chutney or pickle) for 1 and 10 pence–the same as a pint of cider.If I felt a bit flush Bob would introduce me to another Malt by way of education.
    Nostalgia apart, what an irony that in the year of the Olympics, where the opening ceremony will celebrate all that is valued in this country, The Pack Horse, a quintessential British pub, is in danger. All those responsible should be ashamed of themselves. Paul Crossthwaite

  12. It’s sad that, after a long period of failing management, it’s become necessary to try to save the Parkhorse Inn. As a family, we’ve visited the pub many times over the years and thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere and, especially, the cider. But in these hard times it’s difficult for our “locals” to attract enough customers to keep them viable. It’s unfortunate that there seems to be no legislation to prevent change of use – we’ve had the same experience with our post office in Norton St. Philip. We’re only too pleased to support your campaign and would be happy to sign a petition. But we’re slightly confused about the donation, in US dollars (??)
    Best wishes, Liz, Geoff and David Roe

    • Yes, the petition site’s begging bowl is a bit irritating and distracting – please ignore it – it aims to collect money for them not us! If we had our choice to make again we would almost certainly select another – probably one funded by ads.

  13. I was another one of Bob Rose’s clients in the sixties. It was a wonderful pub, and I spent many hours with my friends playing inpromptu folk music in the ‘lounge bar’ and drinking pints of draught cider. I have been a few times recently before it closed and in my view had not lost any of the charm it had 50 years ago. There is no doubt in my mind that the pub could be viable in the right hands, and I certainly would support it. I would agree with a previous comment that it needs a traditional English menu, with morning coffee and afternoon teas. No village should be without a pub. Remember, though, that it will only survive if the locals support it.

  14. Having enjoyed many pints and meals in The Packhorse over the last twenty years we cannot believe that it has been sold in such an underhand manner. We wish you success in the campaign and look forward to enjoying many more summer evenings in the garden.

  15. the solution seems simple – for the council to refuse to allow change of use. I’d be interested to know why they haven’t done so – perhaps apathy, lack of vision or courage, or maybe even someone with influence will be benefitting financially……. Private Eye anyone?

    • To be fair, B&NES have already sent an enforcement officer to inspect the goings on at the Packhorse, shortly after it was bought. They found nothing wrong then but you can be sure that we are watching work there VERY closely.

      Interestingly, the new owner seems to think that he can live upstairs without applying for change-of-use planning permission. I wonder how sure he is of the legal advice he will have received?

      As for Private Eye, hmm, I wonder if there is anything else here that would interest them? Any ideas?

      • Under normal conditions he can live upstairs, but if he so much as touches anything that would stop it being a pub – and that extends to the cellar, the outside loos, and definitely anything on the ground floor – he is breaking the law. However, as B&NES has a policy in the core strategy to preserve pubs where they are viable, and because it has been identified as important to village life, Mr Sheery may be in for a nasty shock, planning-wise.
        PInts West hits the pubs in the next day or two, although of course he isn’t in the article but the link to this page is.

  16. would the National Trust be interested in purchasing it? They could concentrate on it’s history as a coaching Inn, use a local brewery and the profets from sales could go back into the Trust. Also what about coverage on Points West?

  17. Oh yes, and presumably Mr Sherry is seeking to close/move the footpath through the middle of the building? A good feature for a pub, not so much for a house!

  18. There are a lot of pubs up and down the land that are unlamented and deserve to close. This, however, is not one of them. If the Packhorse is allowed to be turned into a home it will be nothing short of a travesty. All the imperfections that this old pub had (and, let’s be fair there were a few) were down to the ownership by a vile, rapacious Pubco and the poor and often haphazard management that resulted. Before Punch got their hands on it, the Packhorse was an iconic and much loved local boozer owned by a single family for generations; alas that it was ever turned over to them. Pubco’s management style ruin most pubs and their constant and insatiable drive for greater yield of profit disincentive success on the part of the licensee, and prevent investment in the fabric and fittings of the building. The result is often the demise of a pub that on the surface has been unsuccessful for years. The Packhorse is another in a long line of them to fall foul of their disinterested and uncaring ways (does anyone remember the Beehive in Bradford on Avon??)
    It is a massively short sighted and frankly cynical ploy to close a former tied pub before it is given a chance on the freetrade market. I make the case of the Duke of Cumberland at Edford, Holcombe. This old and dishevelled Usher’s pub was sold by Punch for very little money a while back, after struggling and failing miserably time and again with bad, uninterested tenants and a general sense of neglect. However, after Tom and his family bought the place and spent some much needed money sprucing it up, they have absolutely turned it around, transforming it into a cracking pub where many proper drinkers and regular diners mingle happily. It is without doubt one of the most successful pubs in the area. And this is in a building with a third of the character, history and location the Packhorse enjoys!
    Grrr…

  19. Mick Ringham 26th May 2012
    My wife and I started visiting the Packhorse in the late 60s, in fact we did our courting there. In the summer, sat in a sun drenched garden, over grown with roses and a few weeds for good measure. Bob Rose was the landlord at that time and what a character he was, yet he managed to keep the pub open with just sales of cider, crisps, pickled eggs and bread and cheese. In the winter we would sit by a blazing log fire, surrounded by shove ha’penny teams and cheerful customers. We have continued to use the Packhorse up until its closure and take all our friends there when possible. I think its closure and the action taken over its disposal is appalling. We must all fight to get this wonderful and historic Inn open again. It was the heart-beat of the village.

  20. An amazing pub – one of a kind. It is so so sad that it is to close and for a local to have a part in it is just as sad…

  21. It would be a crying shame to close this wonderful pub. It was the first public house I visited as a toddler and have wonderful memories of a fantastic community, village pub. I last visited a few years ago when I returned to my home town for a longer visit instead of just visiting relllies.
    I just hope the petition is successful.

  22. People say pubs like this are a thing of the past. “That’s capitalism” was levelled as justification for the current progress on the Packhorse. Capitalism is not a going concern these days and I would venture to say that the pub should be seen clearly for the important local amenity it is. Places for people to meet and exchange views, that are not on the internet MUST be preserved. Apart from children with their parents there is a mass of young people who come to the Packhorse who will fight hard to keep the pub a pub. It is not just grey hairs longing for the past. It is also total phooey that it is not viable. It is Punch that wasn’t/isn’t viable and were robbing good and talented publicans of their livelihood. A weekly rent of £800 when the going rate is £300 leaves the publican £500 out of pocket. As a free house it would flourish financially. Let the beer and crisps be the priority and the bedrock of our beautiful pub whose ghosts will be watching carefully.

  23. Good luck with the campaign. Surprised it wasn’t making a profit as it always seemed to have a fair number of people in it. Went there last night for a pint and found it shut, big disappointment 😦

  24. In response to the BAD NEWS item above, why don’t the Village suggest to the prospective buyer that we as a village could run the Pub floor and pay him a rent? Job done
    CM at the Old Vic

  25. I am from the US and have traveled to the UK several times primarily to experience your old pubs – and the interesting people I meet there. They are a national treasure that should be revered. I would go so far as to accuse those willfully converting such establishments for other purpose as being unpatriotic.

  26. I very much regret having to make the choice between becoming a reformed alcoholic or to break the law in order to drink in civilized circumstances. Many thanks to all doing the hard work to save the pub.

  27. I would humbly suggest you set up a different petition, being asked to make a donation to the company that owns the petition site really does not fit with the ethos of your project.

    • Yes, the petition site’s begging bowl is a bit irritating and distracting – please ignore it! If we had our choice to make again we would almost certainly select another – probably one funded by ads. I doubt that we’ll change now, though. I suspect that one of tne pleasures for people adding their signature at this stage is reading the varied comments and anecdotes on the long list of previous signatures.

  28. The Packhorse is one of the most charming pubs in the area and many people are very upset that it has closed. The price of a property like this reflects the fact that it has a use and is not residential, therefore planning should not be given for a change of use. This would result in all of our country pubs being lost in the long run.

  29. My wife would certainly second the call for better loos! However, I’m not sure I would want to see the essential character of the pub change with things like a conservatory. It already has a kitchen albeit in need of modernisation. I don’t think many people doubt that as a free house on a mortgage, rather than an exorbitant rent of 39K per annum, it is a viable business. Has anyone had the opportunity to look at the books of the previous tenants?

    • The agents noted in their sale particulars that “No management accounts are available” and I don’t know of anyone who has claimed to have seen the books. I imagine they would make grim reading though.

  30. If it is saved as a freehold, the Packhorse could be a really great village pub with the right landlord and good marketing to capitalise on the goodwill and publicity generated by this campaign. It is the closest country pub to the edge of Bath, within a pleasant 10 minutes walk of a frequent bus route and could be the focal point for walks and bike rides etc. The building calls for a traditional English menu and it could offer morning coffee and afternoon tea as there are few other places nearby which offer this. If the pub hosted other activities such as occasional entertainment (e.g. folk singers, themed or quiz nights etc), local meetings or the catering for village events, it could attract new customers as well as bring back the old ones. The building does need investment including better loos, a kitchen and maybe even a conservatory for rainy days and to provide more space, but with some imagination and care, it could be lovely.

  31. Really pleased to see a well-grounded campaign that the Packhorse reopens as a pub, and thanks for taking this on. Not that many of Bath’s visitors find it, but operations like the Packhorse make up the city’s essential attractions alongside the bigger showpieces and this is not the time to close it.

    Bath’s Two Tunnels route will open by the end of 2012 and a number of pubs and rural businesses local to the route are set to benefit. A reopened Packhorse can certainly be included in this because a circular walk from Bath on the Two Tunnels route and back via the ‘Limestone link’ footpath following the old canal, then to South Stoke via the locks at the Bulls Nose is about as good as it gets on various counts.

  32. A centuries-old public house should not be closed because of lack of investment and a wish to profit instead through change of use. I’ve seen another pub near where I used to live (the Forester in Donhead St Andrew, Wilshire – http://www.theforesterdonheadstandrew.co.uk/) almost suffer the same fate, but when the Council (on appeal) refused change of use, it was completely revitalised into a famous gastropub (perhaps the current owners there can advise?). The Packhorse could and should follow the same path. Dr Julian Caldecott, Bath (julian@creatura.com).

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