Just four years ago, the Wonston Arms in Winchester, Hampshire, was derelict, empty and on the verge of becoming another statistic in pub closures across Britain.
That was until, however, new owner and landlord Matt Todd bought it in the hope of giving local residents their pub back.
Since reopening, it has focused on benefiting the local community and, as a result, has scooped top honours in the Campaign for Real Ale’s (CAMRA) prestigious National Pub of the Year Awards 2018.
Sought after prize
Todd, who dubbed the Wonston Arms as the “best little pub in Hampshire”, told of his delight upon receiving the sought-after accolade.
“I’m overwhelmed that our little pub – which had been handed a death sentence four years ago – has now been named the very best in the country,” exclaimed Todd.
“The support from the local community and beyond has been overwhelming, helping to propel us forward despite these testing times.
“Now we’re in a position where continuing to build our business may end up ensuring that we’re penalised for growth through the rates system, and we need all the help we can get.”
The village pub, which has been at the heart of fundraising in the area, has raised in excess of £25,000 from the pub community. Every month it also hosts a pop-up café, which has since raised more than £7,000 for local charitable causes.
Steve Brine, the Conservative MP for Winchester, recognised the pub’s hard work and effort in turning around bad fortunes.
“The pub trade is not easy these days, to put it mildly,” explained Brine.
“In this context, it is even more impressive what Matt and the team have achieved.
“The fact that he’s done so while staying so true to the values of real ale, a decent local pint, and the community, is just great.”
Also commending Todd’s efforts was National Pub of the Year Co-ordinator, Ben Wilkinson.
“It fully deserves its title as the best in the country,” Wilkinson proclaimed.
“Matt and his team have created a fantastic rural village pub with a great atmosphere by shaping it around the community.
“Pubs like the Wonston Arms highlight what communities stand to lose if their local pub closes – something being experienced in all too many places.”