Most of the projects that I get involved with are complete transformations, be they restoration or renovations. Not so The Packhorse at Southstoke. This heritage pub in a picture postcard village hanging on the side of a beautiful valley on the outskirts of Bath has been closed for 4 years and its future hung in the balance. Plans to turn it into a home and various other schemes were quashed.
In May 2016 the community was offered the opportunity to buy the property and re-open it as the village pub. The fund raising was phenomenally successful as the community and fans far and wide contributed to save this heritage venue and I offered my time.
By the time I arrived to help with this fabulous project, the building was in the process of being stripped, damp issues dealt with and re-wiring in progress. A fireplace had been discovered and toilets neatly inserted into the first floor. The kitchen now sited in a specially built extension (which will be beautiful- clad with larch which will silver and compliment the building) the whole of the first floor is now to be opened for public use.
My view of the interior was that it should look as though it had never been touched- just given a really good clean. Fortunately the Conservation Officer has insisted that everything be done to the best possible standard. Stripped walls are being re-plastered with lime plaster and the team have done a fabulous job with creating soft, organic edges, sympathetic to this historic interior. Stone mullion windows, thick with centuries of paint are being stripped back to the beautiful honey coloured Bath stone.
Thankfully there are some lovely original features. The main doors are a joy, with odd catches and locks added over the years, still in place. We’re keeping the existing bar which faces onto the Cross Passage (where coffins were carried through on the way to their church services). This is just being cleaned and left in its dark brown paint. The Tap Bar is probably the most contentious of all the rooms. I remember eating fabulous chip butties by the fire many years ago. Here we’re keeping the same colourway and giving the original red tiles floor a good scrub.
The main problem with dealing with a historic interior like this one is that I’ve been really conscious of not making it look too “Cotswolds.” There are many lovely soft sludgy hues available these days but most of them have been done to death in Gastro Pubs from here to Chipping Norton. We’ve carefully selected colours that suit the building and keep away from the ubiquitous “French Grey.”
After taking the building back to its bones, it’s a case of carefully layering everything back in. I’ll share more as we go along, and I have to say that it’s a total joy.