TEN YEARS after the closure of The Old Swan pub in Toller Porcorum there are signs that it could possibly be reopened.
Palmers Brewery has offered the village’s SOS campaign group five years rent-free tenancy to help make the venture more viable to begin with.
SOS members have asked a consultant to prepare a business case, and Toller Porcorum Parish Council has applied to West Dorset District Council for a grant of £3,000 towards the costs of the consultant’s labours.
There is a precedent for what might happen at Toller. The New Inn at Shipton Gorge was shut for several months, then leased to villagers by Palmers. It reopened in August 2006 and – as you can see from its website – it is an important part of local life.
Thoughts about stripping-out and strippers
The New Inn was extensively stripped-out inside, remodelled and redecorated. A lot of work was done for nothing (and the fun of it!) by villagers.
One of the problems with re-opening The Old Swan might be that it has been shut for so much longer and so might require much more work.
It is difficult to remember what it was like inside. It worked best as a pub (in my experience) in the days when it was run by an oldish chap called Ben Pick, whose preferred way of life simply seemed to be running a basic country pub. It didn’t seem to bother him greatly if he didn’t have lots of customers; he would just do what had to be done to keep the place ticking over.
I used to walk over there in the morning, spend the lunchtime session drinking beer and eating crisps, then get the bus home again and stare with dreamy contentment out of the window as it bobbed up to Mount Pleasant then down past Wytherstone…
After Mr Pick retired, there were some unsuccessful/unsuitable landlords. I can’t remember how many.
There was one man who may been from the West Midlands (Wolverhampton or Dudley way? or was it actually Yorkshire?) who put strippers on at least once.
I’m pretty sure he did, because I remember speculating about who on earth would go along. I don’t think many people did. It was a bad idea. Toller Porcorum has never appreciated that kind of thing.
I remember John Slater, when he was news editor of the Bridport News about 15 years ago, telling me a story about a fete he’d covered in Toller in the 1970s or early 1980s. One of the fete organisers thought it might be a good idea to solicit some goods for auction from Fiona Richmond, the glamour model and actress who was the daughter of a Toller Porcorum vicar. Ms Richmond sent a pair of knickers. But no one bid for them, as no one dared to be seen doing so… John Slater said the whole affair was farcically, scandalously, funny.