Campaigners fight to save Winston Churchill’s pub

A group of villagers from Bladon, in Oxfordshire, is trying to raise enough money to buy the White House pub, where Winston Churchill was a regular, to avoid the risk of it being developed.

Oxfordshire villagers have formed a ‘war cabinet’ of their own to save the pub that was once Winston Churchill’s watering hole.

The White House, in Bladon, close to Blenheim Palace, dates from the 16th century and has played an important part in the history of the village — not least because it’s the place where a young Winston Churchill, who regularly spent time at Blenheim, ‘learned to drink’.

It is also Bladon’s last remaining pub and news that owners Greene King had put it on the market sparked concern among local residents in September. Although the building is for sale as a pub, complete with licence, people fear buyers may apply for a change of use and convert it into flats.

The fact that the White House’s sales particulars show the vendors intend to put an uplift clause on the sale contract has further fuelled disquiet because this kind of stipulation is made when sellers want to get a slice of the increase in value that may derive from a property’s future development or change of use.

‘Over the last two decades, more than 13,000 pubs have closed in the UK, with the land typically being sold for change of use, often ending up as housing,’ campaigners explain on their website. ‘Once local pubs close, they are lost for good.’

However, the White House was named Asset of Community Value earlier this year, which means not only that it faces stricter planning restrictions, but also that local residents have a right to bid on it and gives them six months to come up with the necessary funding to buy the building.

To secure the White House’s future, a local group, the Bladon Community Pub, is now trying to raise enough money to buy the establishment and turn it into ‘a pub for the community, run by the community’.

The pub’s asking price is £485,000 and, thus far, the initiative, which has garnered support from Winston Churchill’s own great-grandson, Randolph Churchill, has had pledges for about a fifth of that figure. Next month will see the launch of a formal community share offer, where people will be able to buy £50 shares for a minimum purchase of £250. The campaigners are encouraging anyone who is interested in saving a part of Churchill’s legacy to pitch in.

To state a non-binding intention to invest in the White House visit the Bladon Community Pub website.