Wendy and James Mills became licensees of the Castle Inn at Bodiam on the East Sussex/Kent border in March 2002 with the support of Shepherd Neame.
James was sous chef for the previous owners of the pub and Wendy had worked behind the bar.
Wendy said: “I just really fell in love with living in the country. My daughter went to the primary school so it was an idyllic childhood for her but looking back, we didn’t know what we were doing really.
“We had to ask the landlord from the pub up the road in the village to help us clean the pipes – it was very much learning on the job for us.”
Over the two decades, the pub has transitioned from a wet-led pub with the majority of customers visiting for after work drinks to a more food-led venue, which now has a 40-cover restaurant.
Wendy added: “It was so different 20 years ago. There was the 5pm drinking trade and it was before the smoking ban.
“We got married the day the smoking ban was introduced but I had the last smoke in this bar the night before.
“There have been a lot of changes but we are proud the Castle Inn has always remained at the heart of village life.”
The duo celebrated the anniversary with a trip to London where they visited Wendy’s favourite restaurant – The Ivy.
Celebrations taking place
They were also presented with a cake that featured the faces of many staff members from over the years, who have become friends of the couple.
“We’ve made so many friends. We’re godparents to one of our team’s children. That is the most special thing for me about our time at the pub, the friends we’ve made,” Wendy said.
James, who has worked with head chef Bob Leeper in the kitchen for the past 12 years said it felt like he was at work at his friends come in to see him. He added: “They’re not customers to us.”
Thanks to its location in the English countryside, the pub is a popular destination, particularly in the summer.
“Summers are really hectic. The past two have been the busiest we’ve ever had. We also have two campsites near us and the Kent and East Sussex Railway so we have many, many visitors,” Wendy said.
Not only is it their 20th anniversary at the pub but this year is also Wendy’s 50th birthday and the couple’s 15th wedding anniversary.