Ringing the changes at Merton's Maltscoop Inn after 106 years
A Devon pub which has been leased by Clinton Devon Estates to the same family for three generations has a new tenant for the first time in more than a century.
The Maltscoop Inn at Merton had been in Margaret Down's family since her grandparents Arthur and Anne Marie Blight first took on the lease for the property in 1906 when it was part of a100 acre farm.
This week marks the end of an era as the pub's new licensee Louise Rollason - the first new tenant for 106 years - throws open the doors of the newly refurbished village pub.
With hundreds of pubs closing every year, there had been fears that when Margaret Down and her husband Ron decided to call time and retire from running the Maltscoop, that Merton would be left without a local hostelry. (According to CAMRA - The Campaign for Real Ale - 300 pubs have closed in the six months up to the end of March 2012.) But landlady Louise saw the pub's potential and approached the owners Clinton Devon Estates with a business proposition.
"I saw the Maltscoop as a golden opportunity but, at a time when so many pubs are closing down, I wasn't sure whether the owners would commit to keeping it as a village pub. I was as thrilled as the rest of the village that Clinton Devon Estates have made this strong commitment to Merton and recognise how important a pub is to village life," said Louise who ran the Bell and Dragon in the neighbouring village of Meeth in the late 1990's.
"It's a lovely building with a wonderful garden that has views of Dartmoor and it's been an absolute joy to restore. It used to be the old farmhouse but it gradually shut down as a pub when the tenants converted the neighbouring old stable block into the main bar."
Louise, 44, plans to keep the "traditional country inn" feel in her new pub and will be offering locally produced home-made food, cooked by local chef Wayne Pearson.
Meanwhile Ron and Margaret Down will be keeping an eye on the changes while enjoying their retirement from their new home next door. Margaret said: "I was born in the Maltscoop and it holds many lovely memories for me but I'm delighted that it can continue as a pub because it's an important part of village life. A pub is a place for people to come and talk about their news and about their troubles - and my mother Olive was always a very good listener."
Recalling the history of the pub, Margaret said: "When I was young, there used to be lots of farmers and clay workers coming into the bar and they'd drink lots of cider and draught beer. Times have changed and village life has altered but it's pleasing to know that the pub has a future."
Adrian Pitts, Estate Surveyor for Clinton Devon Estates said: "We could possibly have leased the building as a family home but we recognise that a village pub is such an important part of the community so we have been pleased to be able to do our part for Merton - and we wish Louise the very best of luck with her new business.
As well as the Maltscoop Inn, Clinton Devon Estates owns three other pubs in the east of the county. They are The King's Arms in Otterton, the Otter Inn at Colaton Raleigh and The Feathers at Budleigh Salterton.