Farmers join campaign to rescue Duke of Marlborough pub in Somersham

Save the Duke campaigners.

Save the Duke campaigners. - Credit: Archant

Local farmers have got behind a bid to save an historic village pub.

Save the Duke campaigners.

Save the Duke campaigners. - Credit: Archant

The doors of the Duke of Marlborough in Somersham, near Ipswich, closed around 20 months ago after the previous owners, who ran a well-regarded food-orientated business, retired.

More than 20 pubs are closing every week, with many of them being de-licensed and sold as houses, but farming families in Somersham have put their weight behind a campaign to prevent their local suffering the same fate, with a Save the Duke campaign having been set up by Dr Sarah Caston.

Last September, shares went on sale to allow anyone interested in helping to save the pub to become a shareholder.

More than £260,000 has been raised in shares and loans during the past year, and campaign chairman James Batchelor-Wylam is appealing to people from further afield to do the last bit to make things happen.

Save the Duke campaigners.

Save the Duke campaigners. - Credit: Archant

He’s asking anyone who cares about the region’s wonderful pub heritage to put their hands in their pockets to help buy and reopen the beautiful oak-beamed inn. There are also good financial incentives, he says.

“Supporters will be saving a jewel in Suffolk’s crown, ensuring that over 500 years of hospitality does not come to an end,” he said.

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“More than that, the personal benefit is that they will be able to take advantage of one of the two generous schemes set up by the Government to encourage social investment. EIS and SITR offer 30% tax back on investments – not to be sneezed at by anyone who pays tax!

“If you have a lump sum to invest, and would be interested in a 30% tax rebate, take a look at the details on the Invest section of our website or please contact me on”

James is a senior partner at Lavenham NFU Mutual, and a part-time farmer. The region’s farming community has played a big part in the campaign’s progress, running fundraising events in their barns, providing Suffolk Punches for PR purposes, hosting meetings, actively participating in the committee – and investing in the project.

“Without Sarah starting up the campaign and running it for a year, without James taking on the chairing of the committee, and without the support of the farming community, there would have been no prospect of getting the Duke re-open,” said committee member Frances Brace.

“With their entrepreneurial, can-do approach, we have a massive £260,000 in the bank – and are well on the way to achieving our goals.”

James Batchelor Wylam said pubs are important to agriculture, as well as to other local businesses, and this is especially true of Suffolk.

“The Duke of Marlborough lies in a fabulous barley-growing area and within a stone’s throw of what is probably the country’s leading hop-propagation farm,” he said.

“Malted barley and hops are the key ingredients of beer, Britain’s national drink, and one of Suffolk’s best local products. Re-opening the pub will contribute to the success of all these parts of the supply chain – as well as providing a fantastic social hub.”

Shares are still available. Details are available online at