Seighford's villager-owned Hollybush Inn opens
A village pub that was bought by a group of local residents has officially opened for business in Staffordshire.
The Grade II-listed Hollybush Inn in Seighford, near Stafford, was bought for £199,000 at auction in March by a company formed by villagers.
Peter Longstaff, secretary of the Seighford Pub Company, said: "We're so, so pleased to get our local back, it's the hub of the village.
"When we bought it, it was at the height of when pubs were closing and buying a pub was probably seen as madness.
"But the village had lost its shop and a post office and we knew that developers had shown interest in the pub.
"We didn't want it to be demolished and turned into housing."
The pub's opening marks the end of months of work on the building for the villagers, who carried out repairs and redecorated it.
Mr Longstaff said the project "had brought the whole village together."
He said: "People who would've probably passed each other in the street have been working together and can now socialise together in a pub they helped to build."
The company has 71 shareholders.
The pub, which dates back more than 300 years, had been an Indian restaurant for the past three years.
One of the first customers to the new Hollybush, John Allport, said he could remember drinking in the pub 40 years ago.
He said: "I'm all for vintage pubs like this being saved rather than letting developers get their hands on them.
"People buying shares won't work in every situation, but for this village it feels right and I hope this goes well for them."
The pub has been leased to Stoke-on-Trent brewery, Titanic, whose manager Dave Bott lives in Great Bridgeford, the village next to Seighford.
Mr Bott was originally a shareholder in the company before he decided to take on the running of the pub.
He said: "It is a bit of a risk because we're used to managing town centre pubs.
"But we quite like the idea of being part of this community because the people here have got off their backsides and made it happen rather than waiting for someone else to save the pub."
'The way forward'
Titanic appointed Richard Plant and Charlotte Smith as live-in landlord and landlady.
Mr Plant said having a group of locals running the local pub "was the way forward to save rural pubs."
"They're going to the wall at a rate of seven a week, there's only so much having good food and beer can do, the local community have to support them," he said.
The Seighford Pub Company now has plans to build a community shop and get a mobile post office for the village.
Mr Longstaff said: "The company is now getting income from the pub rental and we feel it could be used for more facilities for the community."