Report of the 2018 AMM

The Annual Members meeting.

The 2018 Meeting took place in the Hougham and Marston Village Hall on Sunday 28th Oct 3 pm. 47 of the 177 members attended so the AMM easily quorate!

Before the formal business of the meeting Tim Found talked about the name of the pub:

This has proved to be a much more contentious subject than we had thought it would be. We have heard strong views from people both for and against changing the name. There are good reasons for doing either! I don’t attempt to recite them all but, in brief, the reasons for changing the name are:

  • Re-branding – this is a new business venture, starting on the site of one that has previously failed. Every aspect of the business is up for review and change, if change will increase the chances of lasting success. It is felt in particular that the word ‘Arms’ is an impediment to being perceived as a modern business and innovative community hub, and also that it hides the other functions of the re-opening business (namely a shop, café and B&B).
  • It was overwhelmingly the villagers and their families and friends who put their hands in their pockets to re-establish the social hub of the village. There is no financial connection between the Thorold family and the property’s owners/shareholders.

The reasons for keeping the name are:

  • The current name has been in use for some considerable time and evokes substantial and positive connections with the past that should not be lightly abandoned. In previous generations, the Thorold family have contributed to village life heavily and in the best traditions of charity and benevolence.
  • A number of shareholders invested to save ‘The Thorold Arms’ and have noted that the share prospectus did not refer to changing its name. Some feel that this was misleading and that the mentions of a proposed name-change at previous public meetings do not circumvent that problem.

Many of those who oppose a name change have also indicated that they would be happy with an alteration that does not do away with the heritage and history associated with ‘The Thorold Arms’. On the four short-listed alternative names, there were at least a couple of expressions of strong dislike for each, and the total votes for each of the four were closely-matched – albeit with ‘The Villagers’ slightly ahead and ‘The Viking Way’ slightly lagging.

The committee has spent a significant amount of time digesting the views and discussing the best way forward. Discussions cannot continue indefinitely and this cannot be a matter that is allowed to take up a disproportionate amount of this voluntary committee’s time, nor to hold up the process of renovation and re-opening.

It is impossible to reconcile two views and opinions that are directly opposite to one another. What we have done and will continue to do is invite people’s views, listen to them and make the best fudge decision we can. Not everyone will agree all of the time, and some decisions will be more contentious than others. But we trust that our shareholders and future customers will understand that we are doing our best and will not take exception to our decision or let it put them off using the hub for the various uses which are intended for it.

In our discussions, we noted that whatever the name of the pub, many will continue simply to refer to it as ‘The Thorold’ or some derivative thereof. It occurs to us that formally naming it in the same way provides a succinct name that is inherently modern, dispenses with the stuffier connotations of the word ‘Arms’, and retains the historical / heritage connection. We have therefore decided to call it simply ‘The Thorold.’

We think ‘The Thorold’ is snappy, updated yet familiar, and likely to be what everyone in the villages would have referred to it as anyway!
For many, the shop is as important an aspect to re-open as the pub is. We think it fitting therefore to call the shop by the name that was the most popular alternative – “The Villagers Shop”. It has suitable connotations regarding its ownership, and is a nice play on the common village shop.

Thanks to everyone who contributed their views to this subject. We are delighted to have seen such a high level of enthusiasm and interest. No doubt our shareholders and future customers will understand from what I have just said that the primary decision-driving factor here and in all of our decisions is to make this community-owned business a success that continues to be sustained for decades to come.

Our focus now moves onto transforming the property in a cost-effective manner and re-opening we hope by the second bank holiday in May 2019.

The business side of the meeting was brief.

The minutes of last year’s AMM were formally adopted.

The uncontested election of members to the committee was formalised by a show of hands.

There followed a progress report, which is reported below:

Thank you all again for coming. We’re so pleased that there’s still so much interest and enthusiasm for re-opening the pub.

As you all know, we finally bought the pub on 27 July this year. We have the keys, having raised £218,498 through the share offer, the Hog Roast and donations.

We have the committee to thank for all their hard work. In particular we would like to thank Mike Allen and Steve Richards who have stepped down after 3 years of service. Both will continue to help us in the months to come, for which we’re also thankful.

The committee has some new faces. We welcomed Mel Ellerington and Kevin O’Sullivan to the committee in 2017 and today we’re delighted to formally welcome Fran Stephens, Mel Gardner, Stephen Manuel, Paul Mann, and Jason Scott. The experience and expertise they bring to the committee will be invaluable, and their addition brings our committee to its maximum number (12) for the first time.

We also have some important thank you’s this afternoon for other notable contributions:

  • Pete Baker of P.V. Baker Fencing in Hougham has replaced the northern fenceline with a very handsome vertical wooden fence, and cleared away the former dilapidated fence panels.
  • Imogen Sibley of Blank Canvas Design in Marston has been helping us with possible suggestions and ideas for the building’s new interior. Imogen has put together mood and idea boards with accompanying notes and has already detailed some great ideas, including my personal favourite, a large painted exterior wall sign which will be inviting and let passing traffic and trade know that the reinvigorated hub is open for business.
  • Since our preliminary discussions with a local builder who has experience and expertise in pub renovation, Pam MacAllister of T-Square Design Architectural Services has provided updated designs and plans ready for submission to the planning authority for free.
  • We’ve made the electrics and water supply safe with the help of Alan Dennis and Rob Morley.
  • Mark Fox has pruned or removed the various problem trees, and ensured that the property is a good neighbour to those surrounding it.
  • The spirit of our community was demonstrated in the week of 11th August when the pub garden or jungle was cut back by the extraordinary efforts of a large group of volunteers who brought a lot of their own equipment and were kept fed and watered by other volunteers.
  • Stephen Pullinger and Clare Farrell have since kept the grass manageable and looking good.
  • We would also like to thank Pumpkin Club and its supporters a fortnight ago, as the pub campaign was one of the beneficiaries of that evening – and what a fantastic evening it was with the brilliant band Primetime driving the crowds wild!

Given the generosity of time and spirit that we’re receiving, it is highly likely that I have missed several deserving names off my list of thank you’s. If that is so, the fault is mine and I apologise.

Plans are being finalised for submission for planning permissions where required. There is a buildings sub-committee who have been working to source people of the appropriate expertise to quote for each stage of the renovations project. In discussions with a local builder, who has experience of pub renovation, some further ideas were generated which have resulted in some relatively modest increases in refurbishment costs. The funding target that we set ourselves when the share offer opened in Spring this year was £410,000.

[UPDATE July 2019] The total cash figure has risen to £500,000, which incidentally was the top figure aimed for in the initial share offer of 2016. Unfortunately, as work has progressed, unexpected expenses have been incurred, such as: a complete rewire; the company that promised to refurbish the manager’s flat has had to rescind their offer – so we now need to pay for this; together with several other unavoidable extra works with resulting extra costs. Full details will be provided elsewhere.

Since the purchase of the property, we have received funding by way of a £50,000 grant and £50,000 loan through “More Than A Pub” administered by Plunkett Foundation. We have therefore been able to commit already to what we are referring to as the ‘heart of the ground floor’ works. We await a start date from our builder for those works, which we hope will be by the end of January. We continue to look for further grant-funding and have recently been put in touch with a very helpful lady at SKDC who is optimistic about what we might be able to obtain.

While we’re on the subject of money – a brief update on whether your investments will qualify for EIS or SITR tax relief. The short answer is we still haven’t heard back from HMRC with an answer to our applications for advanced assurance on this. We sent the relevant documents to them in June this year. Their self-appointed deadline of 45 days has long-since passed. We’re chasing with all the vigour that we dare. [UPDATE – Nov 2018] Advanced assurance has now been received.

We are still raising funds. The share offer remains open until renovations are completed and The Thorold finally opens. We’re aware that some potential investors were waiting to see whether it was a reality to even purchase the property, and others to see whether it was realistic to obtain significant grant-funding. Well, it’s fair to say that those are no longer unknown concerns. The pub is ours, this community’s, and we’ve already successfully applied for and received £100,000 linked grant and loan funding mentioned a moment ago. So if you want to invest for the first time or add to your previous investment, please do so – the application form is on the website ( ) or ask one of the committee members for assistance.

The future is looking really positive for the hub of our community. We’re continuing to chase up grants and other funding leads from a variety of sources. We’ve already been contacted by the Forward Planner of the BBC’s Countryfile television program. They were looking for somewhere to film their Christmas Special episode this year. They wanted a pub preparing for a re-launch which offers their community more than just food and drink. They came to the right people, that’s for sure, they were just a little early.

We hope to be welcoming you all back into the renovated hub of our villages from the second bank holiday in May 2019.