Bridport & West Dorset News, Views, Videos & Curiosities

Palmers Brewery to auction Old Swan in Toller Porcorum (UPDATED)

The Old Swan at Toller Porcorum. Photograph by Nigel Mykura, reused under Creative Commons Licence.

PALMERS Brewery has put The Old Swan pub at Toller Porcorum up for auction.

The building is being offered for sale on a 999-year lease with a covenant that it should remain as a pub and a tie requiring Palmers’ beer to be sold. The guide price is £175,000. Palmers’ property agents Chesterton Humberts will conduct the auction at 3pm on December 16 in Toller Porcorum village hall.

The pub has been closed for 12 years, prompting a long campaign for its reopening – or sale on the open market – by the SOS Toller Save Our Old Swan group (whose latest thoughts can be read in this front-page story in the View From Bridport newspaper and in this piece in the Western Gazette and this article in the Bridport News).

John Palmer, managing director of Palmers Brewery, said: ‘It is now a year since we wrote to the Save Our Swan group offering to let them the pub rent-free for five years.

‘We have not received any response to our proposal and having waited a year, it is time to move things on.

‘Palmers have therefore decided to put the pub on the open market at a realistic guide price.

‘We are offering The Old Swan for sale to give the widest opportunity for it to reopen as a pub.’

The guide price reflects the findings of three recent valuations by independent specialists in the licensed property market, all with local knowledge.

Palmers originally closed The Old Swan because the costs of essential modernisation greatly outweighed the likely value of the business. Last year, Palmers re-assessed the costs and found that modernisation was still commercially unviable. This year, Savills carried out an independent report for West Dorset District Council, which validated Palmers’ views on the pub’s commercial unviability. The report concluded that the high cost of reconfiguration was due to the demands of modern regulations and the changing expectations of customers.

Updated Friday morning (October 22): By coincidence, the whole of the front page of this week’s Morning Advertiser (“officially the pub trade’s favourite”) is about community take-overs of pubs.

The lead story is about the Pub is the Hub rural regeneration scheme and community leases of pubs judged by their existing owners to be unviable. The New Inn at Shipton Gorge near Bridport is highlighted in this piece, and it also gets a feature all of its own.

Villagers in Shipton Gorge took over The New Inn on a lease from Palmers Brewery.    

In the lead story, Mike Clayton, the former Managing Director of Jennings Brothers who is now an advisor to the Pub is the Hub, is quoted as saying: “In some circumstances, communities instinctively say we must buy the pub.

“But we are saying you don’t have to find the capital to buy it if you can take on some sort of lease agreement. Obviously, it depends on the terms of the lease and the rent.”

The Morning Advertiser then quotes Eddie Buck, chairman of the not-for-profit company New Inn Support that holds the lease of the New Inn in Shipton Gorge.

Mr Buck is quoted as saying: “No way could we have found the money to buy the freehold as a community.

“A lease was the only option and the brewery has been very reasonable with us.”

Click on this line to read a PDF of the Pub is the Hub story and The New Inn feature.

(If you’d like to read more in The Morning Advertiser about co-operatives, you’ll have to register on its website to read its digital edition).  

Editor’s Note: The original story here drew on a press release issued on Thursday, October 21, by Palmers Brewery. The Save Our Swan group was then asked for a comment. Members met to discuss what they should do next and prepare an official response to journalists’ queries.


It should be noted that I work for Watershed PR, which does PR for Palmers Brewery. That’s why there’s been nothing about Palmers on this site for several months, apart from comments on old stories such as those about The Market House in Bridport, and (now I think about it) passing mentions in pieces about Bridport Gig Rowing Club.

The news about The Old Swan was published here simply because it’s newsworthy, and I wrote about the pub last year. There’s a link to that piece in the fourth paragraph of the story above.

I had nothing to do with The Old Swan press release before it came out.

Further updated on October 31 with details of the time and place of the auction.