Tue, 15 Oct 2019
Hamstead Marshall’s White Hart Inn is to close – just eight months after reopening to the public.
Owner Stella Coulthurst said that the pub’s “poor commercial prospects” were the reason behind her decision.
Ms Coulthurst first closed the White Hart in 2015, saying it was no longer viable, and in 2016 she submitted plans to convert the pub into housing.
That caused a backlash from many local residents and, as a result, a ‘Save the White Hart Inn’ campaign was started by villagers to try to prevent its closure.
The campaign group won their fight when West Berkshire Council refused Ms Coulthurst planning permission.
Subsequent efforts were made to ensure the pub’s viability.
Hoping to attract visitors from further afield, Ms Coulthurt’s partner set up a micro-brewery on-site.
In recent months, the pub has hosted a variety of quizzes and other events.
However, Ms Coulthurst said that all of this had failed to boost the inn’s profitability.
Alongside the same viability issues which forced its closure in 2015, Ms Coulthurst highlights the problems she encountered when recruiting staff.
The working day was getting “impossibly long”, with management increasingly overstretched, she said.
After its reopening, Ms Coulthurst said she intended to keep the White Hart open throughout the evening.
However, this was criticised by a number of Hamstead Marshall residents, who complained that this arrangement was contrary to the pub’s original, family-friendly ethos.
Ms Coulthurst said that this scheme was therefore, abandoned, which further diminished the business’ viability.
In the end, the pub’s income was reportedly down a quarter, creating an unsustainable situation.
Ms Coulthurst stresses that the local customer base is highly unstable and said: “There’s no village in Hamstead Marshall, only an area – there’s not the reliable cluster of pub-goers.
“We fought and fought and fought to keep the pub open.
“We are very sad.”
Of the inn’s future, she says that she does not currently have any plans.
The pub, regarded as a focal point of the Hamstead Marshall community, is something of a local landmark, with a history stretching back centuries.