An historic Suffolk pub has been saved – and is set to once again become a cornerstone of the one of the prettiest villages in the county.

Boxford’s White Hart closed last November less than a year after new tenants, who previously ran a pub in Great Cornard near Sudbury, took over.

There have been fears that the picturesque pub – built more than 400 years ago – would close for good, but now local businessman Howard Watts has bought the White Hart and promises that it will once again be at the heart of Boxford life.

East Anglian Daily Times: Howard Watts outside The White HartHoward Watts outside The White Hart (Image: Richard Goss/ANGLIA PRESS AGENCY)

Mr Watts, who runs Riddesdells Garage in the village – officially recognised as the oldest garage in the country – has unveiled his plans to put the White Hart back at the centre of the thriving community, which has a population of 1,400.

It could be back in business within weeks and he is also promising to make the pub community-focussed and would welcome any suggestions from locals.

He said: ”The White Hart is in the middle of the village and steeped in history. It was once the main malthouse for the local brewing industry and I wanted to ensure that it remained at the centre of the community. 

"I have always liked the building and it is a valuable asset to the village.”

Chairman of Boxford Parish Council Colin Parr said: "This is really excellent and exciting news – the White Hart has been the focus of the village for centuries and we certainly didn’t want to lose it. “

Work has already started on the pub – and one of the challenging and intriguing projects is to find an unusual tombstone reputedly buried in the car park.

Tornado Smith - born George William Smith - was the son of the landlord of the White Hart public house in Boxford and became a world-wide legend as a daredevil “Wall of Death” stunt motorcyclist in the 1930s.

The highlight of his act was riding the wall – with his twelve-stone pet lioness Briton on the handlebars or in a sidecar.

East Anglian Daily Times: The White Hart, BoxfordThe White Hart, Boxford (Image: Richard Godd/ANGLIA PRESS AGENCY)

When Briton died, she was buried under the forecourt of the pub -it has long since been covered over but Howard is determined to find it and have it restored as part of the pub’s extraordinary history.

Mr Watts said: ”He was a real local hero – he’s even commemorated on the official village sign – so it will be terrific to find the stone and restore it.”

Meanwhile the White Hart’s bar will be re-named “Briton’s Bar” in memory of the biker lion.

Other plans for the Hart include a tea and coffee lounge, creating a business hub and a meeting room and turning the upstairs into a holiday let that will sleep up to eight people – a boost for the local tourist industry.

One new features will be the space for weddings and birthdays and other special celebrations.

In addition the outbuildings in the pub’s car park will be converted for business use for events and meetings. although the pub won’t be doing food, Mr Watts plans to have hot food vans visiting on a regular basis for take-aways.

He said: ”I am putting together a great team to help get the White Hart back at the heart of the community.”

Mr Watts added: ”I will also be naming parts of the business after people that have played a huge part in my life – the coffee lounge will be called Fred’s lounge after my father and the holiday lets Maison Gloria after my mother.

“I want the Hart to be at the centre of the community. Boxford is a wonderful village full of lovely people.”