March 12 2014 Latest news:
Saturday, January 18, 2014
Campaigners who battled to save their local pub are celebrating a “fairy tale” ending after a popular landlord who grew up in the historic building announced his return.
Paul Hooper will be taking over at the Cretingham Bell from February 1, as part of a community-led initiative to restore the pub to its former glory.
The appointment marks a return for the 45-year-old publican who spent much of his youth in the Grade II listed building when his parents Dave and Ruth were there in the 80s.
“It’s changed a little since I grew up there but it’s still a beautiful building and a perfect country pub,” he said. “The mid-80s was a very different time for pubs and it’s not the easiest trade to be in but it was a good opportunity and it will be nice to move back in with my family.”
Mr Hooper and his partner Clare Forster have spent the past 17 years as landlords at the Victoria in Earl Soham where they have developed a good reputation. Since taking on the new role, they have been travelling between the two pubs making improvements to The Bell, while continuing to run the Victoria.
“We should be moving in at the end of month but there’s a lot of work to be getting on with,” Mr Hooper said.
The landlord’s 12-year-old son Harry will be taking his father’s old bedroom, and the couple’s 13-year-old daughter Molly will also be moving in. Mr Hooper said he was keen to maintain the values of a traditional family-run pub offering simple, tasty food and a welcoming atmosphere.
Villagers who campaigned to save The Bell after its closure last October have welcomed Mr Hooper’s appointment as a fitting conclusion to their plans to revive its “halcyon days”.
Donal Young, who spent much time “nudging and cajoling” the villagers and potential buyers into action said he was delighted with the move.
“I think it’s extremely romantic really – it’s fairy tale stuff,” he said.
“I missed out on the pub’s halcyon days so I’m looking forward to a return to the times of the 60s, 70s and 80s.”
The Bell celebrated its reopening on New Year’s Day after Trevor Coe and Neil Jackson, the owners of Cretingham Golf Club and the Queen’s Head at Brandeston, agreed to take it on.
After marking the start of Easton Harriers’ hunt The Bell closed down again in time for its fully-fledged reopening in February.