Sun, 16 Jun 2019
Hamstead Marshall’s White Hart Inn is keen to welcome customers, three months after its grand reopening.
After a significant period of closure, owner Stella Coulthurst reopened the 18th-century inn to the public in March.
Much has changed at the pub, which now boasts a micro-brewery and beer club which, she says, is all in keeping with its traditional feel.
Ms Coulthurst’s partner is a brewer who, she said, ran a very successful brewery in Marlow.
“So we said ‘can we build [a micro-brewery]?’ and just step back to a more rustic feel for the food – make it good pub grub, proper stuff. Lots of pies, nice comfort food.”
Concern was expressed by villagers after the pub closed in 2015 and Ms Coulthurst requested permission to redevelop the site into housing.
There were fears that Hamstead Marshall – home to fewer than 300 residents, many of them retired – had lost a vital community hub.
However, plans for redevelopment were rejected by the West Berkshire Council on the grounds of the premises’ historic and communal value.
The pub closed amid claims of non-viability and its management now emphasises the need for inclusivity and to attract punters from further afield.
Ms Coulthurst is optimistic for the future.
She said: “The pub will have to build up a wider catchment.
“But then, you’ve got people like CAMRA very involved in supporting real ale pubs, so they advertise us.”
She describes herself as someone with a strong understanding of the operations behind a successful pub, emphasising that it requires a few simple ingredients: “Smiling staff that are running the place efficiently, good food, good accommodation.”
The White Hart has a long and diverse history, having been an auction house, restaurant, timber saleroom, coroner’s court and, more generally, as an assembly point for villagers.
As a result, local people are very protective of the site.
Villager Anne Budd, who was involved in the Save The White Hart Inn campaign, is elated to see it reopen.
She said: “I am really, really pleased that the pub is open again, because it’s made a massive difference for the people of Hamstead Marshall.
“You have to work very, very hard these days to take two pennies and turn it into a pound and Stella is doing everything she can to make it work.”