Meet the Yorkshire villagers who have raised over £250,000 to re-open their local pub for the first time in 13 years

Back in 2008, Skeeby's village pub shut its doors - and residents would have been astonished to learn it would be over 13 years before they could enjoy a pint there again.

There are 10 members of the Skeeby Community Pub Society's committee
There are 10 members of the Skeeby Community Pub Society's committee

The Traveller's Rest fell into disrepair after its owner submitted a series of planning applications to turn it into housing due to its lack of viability as a business. These were rejected until 2017, when a final appeal ruled that its original use could not be changed.

It was the opportunity a group of passionate residents of this attractive village near Richmond had been waiting for after they formed a Community Benefit Society in 2010 with the aim of re-opening the building under their own management as a true local hub.

Now, the Skeeby Community Pub Society's members have reached a milestone - they have raised over £250,000 from a combination of financial pledges from their supporters, selling shares in the business and grant funding from Richmondshire Council, meaning they have enough to both buy the pub and begin renovations. The sale is currently going through legal finalities.

The Traveller's Rest has been shut since 2008

Secretary Kay Richardson - who waitressed in The Traveller's Rest as a teenager - is confident that once the group have the keys, further sales of shares will follow now that their ambitions have become reality - allowing them to generate another £60,000 to complete the refurbishment work.

In her view, the pub had failed by 2008 because the rent demanded by the then-owners was simply too high, at £30,000 per year, for a relatively small building. Now independent of brewery control, the new tenant chosen by the committee will pay only £15,000 in the first year - rising to £16 500 in year two and £18 000 in year three.

"I think there will be people who thought this was all pie in the sky and weren't prepared to invest - but they might when they see this is really happening. We've had donors from all over the world, including a pledge from a woman in Australia who grew up in Skeeby."

The committee has split itself into sub-groups to deal with different aspects of the project, including the future use of the space, and members want their vision to amount to more than just beer pumps.

The committee regularly meet and have spearheaded a major fundraising campaign

"Since Covid, people have got to know their neighbours a bit better, and they want to do stuff in and around the village and support their local businesses. A lot of people think it would be nice to have a pub, and maybe it was taken for granted a bit before. We want to give people a place with a nice atmosphere that is welcoming to all, not boozy. We're going to have cafe facilities and support independent breweries like the Station Brewing Co in Richmond. It's a new model and it will be completely different to before."

Villagers have been surveyed on their priorities for the pub, with most citing a place they could go to relax with coffee and cake after a walk. Concerns about roadside parking - a common bugbear during the pub's previous incarnation - will be addressed.

"We want to be more sustainable, attract cyclists and walkers and make provisions for them. There is a big beer garden with plenty of space for kids to run around in. We are looking at solutions to the parking, as the situation before wasn't ideal and we want to remove that concern."

Other ideas include a shop stocked with local produce, a library and a parcel collection point - though the shop would likely need to be staffed by volunteers.

"The tenant will be free to negotiate other services and we will see what they will come up with. We want them to support a post office service, talks, club and group meetings, and a food takeaway so we can attract a mix of people.

"There are lots of local farms and meat companies that supply pubs and we will also display the work of local artists."

The committee - which reformed after a long hiatus when it seemed the pub's future would remain in limbo - includes an architect, the managing director of a brewery, a web designer, a plumber and a building control inspector, as well as a couple who were involved in the running of Yorkshire' s most successful community pub model, The George and Dragon at Hudswell.

"There are 10 of us now and we have a lot of skills between us."

To donate to the campaign, click here.