We've driven past the Lamarsh Lion many times during the course of this project, and even more prior to that, but It has always been closed. A few weeks back however we drove past and we could see that the door was open and that there were people inside. After some (not terribly difficult) investigative work we found that the pub had in fact been bought by a consortium of local people and was being restored as a Community Pub, and that the main person to speak to was a chap by the name of Robert Erith. We'd seen Robert at the AONB AGM earlier in the year, the event held at Shrubs Farm where Robert lives, nearby. So we tracked him down and he kindly agreed to give us a tour.
We met Robert outside at the agreed time and he let us into the building via the front door. The floor had been freshly varnished so we took off our shoes and proceeded inside in our socks. The Lion had shut its doors in May of 2016 and plans by the previous owners had been to turn it into residential dwellings. There were 129 objections to the plans submitted to Braintree District Council, which eventually were withdrawn, and such was the local enthusiasm to keep it as a pub, the people of the tiny village of Lamarsh (pop 198 including children) have got together to restore the building to much more than a traditional pub that will be an asset for the whole community. The Society eventually secured some funding from the Plunkett Foundation, and support from Greene King Brewery to refurbish the cellar, to help them achieve their goal.
The new floor was the main job that has been completed so far, and there is a lot more work to do, but there is a sense of purpose and achievement in Robert that we're sure resonates throughout the community. Robert's wife Sara, the committee and many other local people have also dedicated their skills and labour to the venture in creating a 'destination pub' to welcome people to the Stour Valley. They hope to be open by Easter 2018 and even though they won't have finished all of the work, they will at least be able to start pouring pints again. The Green Man in Toppesfield is also a community pub so there are people not too far away to consult about how to proceed with the venture should they need to.
Robert showed us throughout the building, from the old accommodation block which has now been opened out into one large space, the dining room, kitchen, the flat upstairs and of course the main bar area, with the bar itself made from wood rescued from an old church. It's a fantastic building with probably one of the best views in the whole valley and it's been serving the community as a pub since 1305 so it make sense to restore it and bring it back into service doing what it was meant to do. Robert is also seemingly the right person to lead the project, as he's been living in Lamarsh, and a regular at the pub for 50 years … the fields opposite are also farmed by him so he really is a embedded in the community. If you'd like to contribute to the cause, shares are still available in the project, so head on over to their website https://www.lamarshlion.co.uk/ for more details.