Wiltshire in numbers
- Wiltshire is made up of the seven constituencies of Chippenham, Devizes, North Swindon, North Wiltshire, Salisbury, South Swindon and South West Wiltshire
- The region has 617 pubs, 7,496 total employment (direct, indirect and induced)
- Swindon, which is made up of the two constituencies North and South Swindon, which has 119 pubs and employs 2,126 people (Source: BBPA)
- In the 2011 census, the population of Wiltshire was 470,981 and is made up of approximately 51% females and 49% males
- The average age of people in Wiltshire is 41, while the median age is higher at 42
Wiltshire is a county that is often outshone by its more popular neighbours of Somerset, Hampshire and Dorset.
It boasts some beautiful areas and the county has been the location for many famous TV shows and movies, including Poldark, Transformers and even Pride & Prejudice.
Remember the images of those iconic white horses carved into the hills? Well, that is in Wiltshire too. And almost half of the county is designated as an official Area of Outstanding Beauty.
It also boasts tourist attractions with Salisbury Plain being the location of the Stonehenge and Avebury stone circles and other ancient landmarks, and it is even a training area for the British Army.
While you might hear publicans say they want a pub near the sea in Dorset or in the Cotswolds, Wiltshire faces a challenge to compete – despite its beautiful landscape.
While the region might be in need of some positive PR to attract more pub operators, it does boast towns such as Bradford-on-Avon, Chippenham and Swindon, as well as the cathedral city of Salisbury, and rafts of rural areas with picturesque villages.
It also has good transport links with the M4 heading into London and reaching Bristol in the west.
According to the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), there are 617 pubs in the county employing 7,496 people directly or indirectly.
As far as pubs are concerned, it is an area dominated by regional brewers Wadworth and Arkell’s, which operate about 70 pubs in the region between them. Star Pubs & Bars has 14 pubs in the county, including the Old Ale & Coffee House in Salisbury.
Star’s regional operations director for the south-west Neil Convery says the region was historically overpopulated with pubs but, in recent times, it has reduced in number to leave a more “robust, sustainable selection”.
“The Wiltshire area is predominantly rural and incorporates a diverse economy with tourism and agricultural enterprises through to world-leading businesses like Dyson,” says Convery.
“Like other rural counties, it has a mix of high streets, from the value-led Melksham and Trowbridge dominated by charity shops and banks through to upmarket town centres like Marlborough and commutable Witney.”
Richard Jones, regional valuations manager south-west at property agent Sidney Phillips, says the dominance of the regional brewers in the area means that there is a shortage of privately owned pubs in the east of the county.
However, the west of the county is more vibrant.
“Bradford-on-Avon is only eight miles from Bath, and you get the ripple effect of those really prosperous areas. e economy is quite strong around there,” he says.
“North Wiltshire is on the M4 corridor and you get people that live in the towns and villages in Chippenham and Malmesbury, that commute to Swindon, Bristol and even into London.”
However, the city of Salisbury, which is another tourist attraction with its famous cathedral, has had a difficult time following the Novichok nerve agent attack in March 2018.
“The council was concerned and offered free car parking for quite a long time to get people to come into the town and use the retail and hospitality businesses. at had a negative effect,” Jones reveals.
Another challenge facing the region and its pubs is the intended closure of the Honda plant in 2021 with the loss of 3,500 jobs.
This is set to add further burden onto the town, which is divided into both the old town and main town centre.
Fleurets divisional director Chris Irving says: “This is a big employer in the area that will affect confidence.
“The old town is quite popular if you can get the right unit but the main town centre is more difficult to sell.”
Interest and demand
Irving says Fleurets has been selling a number of pubs in rural areas that are freehold and free-of- tie that work as strong food operations. But admits that many private purchasers are holding back fearful of the Brexit situation.
Christie & Co senior business agent Richard Wood says the rural locations in the county appeal more to the partner couples, with a lot of areas near the M4 corridor having a lot of “interest and demand”.
He says the mid-market, aiming at husband-and-wife licensees, is a “tricky market” because not many people are willing to sell their residential properties for a lifestyle change.
Compared to other counties, there are fewer free-of-tie and freehouses available, he claims, but there are areas and types of business that do sell well.
“Pubs near areas such as Stonehenge are easy to sell,” he admits. “Also, if you have something profitable with a good turnover and letting rooms then you can find a buyer.”
He predicts a resurgence in the wet trade and craft beer bars, with more privately owned small breweries popping up.
“Wiltshire filters down from what the London trends are. It just takes a bit longer than other counties,” he says.
The Horse & Jockey Coningsby, Lincolnshire
Guide Price: £200,000
Wet:dry split: 100:0
Agent: Davey Co 0333 200 8788
This pub was owned and operated by the previous licensees for over 15 years, who chose to operate evenings only. There is potential to introduce food with space for over 32 covers. It also has three-bedroom owner’s accommodation. The business was acquired by first-time pub buyers.
The Black Horse, Clapton-in-Gordano, Somerset
Tenure: Leasehold with 15 years
Wet:dry split: 85:15
Agent: Guy Simmonds 01332 865112
The pub was purchased by Mr John Beynor, who is based locally. The 14th century stone-built village inn is situated close to Portishead, Clevedon and the M5. This business has a lounge bar (circa 30 covers), dining room (25c), snug bar (20c), trade gardens for 150 customers, two-bedroom living accommodation, large car park and a commercial catering kitchen.