It had lost its two shops and a garage, and when its last pub, the Rose and Crown, was also threatened with oblivion, some in Sutton-on-the-Forest feared it would be the end of village life as they knew it.
Three years on, the pub is doing a roaring trade, as is the village hall, and there has been an influx of younger families. The title of the play that will be performed in the hall on the armistice centenary weekend – The Thankful Village – could hardly be more apt.
Sutton, a half hour’s drive north from York and five miles south of the Hambleton Hills, has a population of around 700 and supports a primary school and a church.
“It’s the school, the church and us,” said Nikki Horton, who now runs the Rose and Crown with her partner, Neil Willetts.
It was reopened in 2016, after a Community Interest Company was formed in the village following the decision of the former landlord, Stuart Temple, to cease trading. Some £30,000 was raised to help keep it going.
Ms Horton, who took it over last year, said: “It was more of a restaurant where you could get a drink. Now it’s a pub where you can get something to eat.
“We have quiz nights, a pool team that’s doing really well, a darts team and loads of community events. The people are wonderful.”
She and Mr Willetts had worked in a pub before but not run one. Now, they lay on Sunday lunches and even host wedding receptions.
“The turnover of houses has brought more younger families into the village – people in their 40s,” she said. “That’s great for trade.”
Tricia Allison agrees that the age profile is going down. She is a trustee and booking secretary at the bustling Grey Village Hall, named after a former occupant of the Georgian country house on the edge of the village, who gave it to the community in 1926,
“There has been quite a change over the last few years,” Ms Allison said. “It was much more static when I first moved here in the 1980s – it had quite a lot of people had lived here for years. Now, there’s a more mixed population, which is great.”
It’s an encouraging picture few dared predict when the pub faced an uncertain future.
“We still have the village hall, but it’s not the same is it?” said David Brown, when he launched the campaign to keep it alive.
For Willie Anderson, a parish councillor and senior partner in a local veterinary practice, it was a sign of how much village life had changed since he arrived 50 years earlier. “Back then there were 13 farms, three pubs, two shops and a garage,” he recalled at the time.
However, he had noticed the green shoots. “People say that community spirit is dead,” he said.“Well, it isn’t here.”