We DID it!

 Chair James Batchelor-Wylam and campaign starter Dr Sarah Caston

Chair James Batchelor-Wylam and campaign starter Dr Sarah Caston

We have the keys, but what’s next?

At last! The Duke of Marlborough belongs to the community!  We finally took possession of the pub on Tuesday 28th February.   If you have invested, or attended our events, the Save the Duke committee members would like to say a huge thank you for helping make the purchase possible.
The Duke will be the second cooperative pub in Suffolk, the fifth community-owned pub, and one of around only fifty across the country.

Getting the Pub Ready for Opening
Now the keys have been handed over, a team of volunteers will set to work on getting the place ready to open.  The aim is to significantly improve the external areas, redecorate the interior (including some soft furnishings), refurbish the cellar, appraise and update the kitchen and set up new business systems).
If you have skills that might be of use in any of these areas - or others that’ll help relaunch the business (eg web design, digital marketing) - please let us know even if, in the past, you’ve given us your details. Things change over two years, so we need to refresh our list.  Please contact Maggie James on maggiejames351@gmail.com or 07748 748717 to let us know what you can do.

We don’t yet have a date for regular opening, but anticipate that it will be at the end of April or in May.

The Pub ‘Offer’ and Management
We’ve always said the aim is for it to be community-owned and professionally run. Any professionals coming in to run the business will have to meet the criteria we set out. These will include specified community involvement – as well as a food and drink offer that is good enough to attract people from far and wide. The pub will not be viable if it is used only by people who live in Somersham and the small villages nearby. So it has to have an appealing and consistently good food offer.
We are aiming for seriously good operators and have started talks with pub management professionals, but it may take some time to recruit the right people.So our thoughts at the moment are to get the pub going with volunteers by opening for a few weeks (possibly months), three days a week on a ‘wet-led’ basis. That is, selling alcohol, soft drinks, tea and coffee with no food – or maybe food just on some days.
During this time, while we’re recruiting, we don’t want to attract people from a distance only to disappoint them. They are unlikely to re-visit if their experience doesn’t live up to expectations. So we’ll aim for a local community custom-base until professional operators have been found to run the show.
Experienced people in the beer and pub industries have given invaluable adviceand will help us enormously over these next crucial stages. But we will still need your support – and possibly forbearance – as we work towards our goals!

Shareholder Contact
If you would now like to become a shareholder, or for any shareholder enquiries, please get in touch with our shareholder point of contact Keith McKeown on 07817 418942 or keithmckeown8@gmail.com.

We’d like to thank Roger and Hazel Mason, who ran the Duke for more than 15 years. They invested significantly in the building, doing things with style and care – and passing the pub on to us as a true gem. For all of their work, for the fantastic food that many of us enjoyed while they were at the helm, and for their patience as we’ve raised the funds to buy the place, we’re sure you will join us in offering them our gratitude.


You have probably heard the news by now, that our offer on the Duke of Marlborough has been accepted! The campaign to reopen our beautiful, oak-beamed local is a big step closer to becoming reality!

We are set to become the 5th community-owned pub in Suffolk, and one of approximately 50 across the country. The individual and collective effort has been awe-inspiring. It’s involved twenty-two months of hard work following closure of the pub in at Christmas 2014. Over £300,000 has now been raised in share-holdings and loans: enough to make our offer!
Dr Sarah Caston, who started the campaign says, "Massive thanks to everyone who’s helped the campaign over the past two years. It has been a long haul to get to this point - but the support has been amazing – and we're now nearly there! We really can make sure that 500 or 600 years of hospitality at the Duke don’t come to an end now.”  
So What Now?
The process of purchasing the pub continues. Exchange and completion have to be agreed. There’s all the conveyancing to be done. Things always take longer than expected – but we want it to happen as soon as possible, and not too far into the new year. There’s loads to do before then including:-
1. raising more money
2. keeping people informed
3. gaining more willing hands and (free-of-charge) professional support

1. Raising More Money
To get the pub set up and open, as well as plan for future improvements and renovations, we need more money!  Why not join the 230 people who have already invested in this way, or increase your holding if you are one of them? At the same time as saving a precious community asset, you can benefit from 30% tax relief through the EIS scheme. Any questions, just get in touch!

2. Keeping People Informed - Meeting
We will be holding a public meeting in the Village Hall in the near future – we will put up a sign and put a note on the website when a date is set.  The meeting will include an update on the purchase, plans for managing the business short and long-term – and an opportunity to share ideas. All are welcome: please spread the word!

3. Gaining more willing hands and (free-of-charge) professional support
If you, or any of your friends, family or contacts have professional expertise that you would be willing to give, please let us know. This might include things as diverse as support with:-

  • Buying the pub and meeting statutory obligations to get it up and running
  • Overseeing or providing building /decorating / carpentry/ garden improvement works
  • Researching collective-buying and service and goods providers
  • Setting up volunteer employment contracts
  • Fundraising, marketing, website
  • Customer services.

We are looking at setting up an Operations / Management Committee: please let us know if you have relevant commercial experience and would be interested in one of the crucial roles.  There must be a great team to make this thing work! And of course there are all the everyday jobs too – which are every bit as important. Just let us know what you’d like to volunteer to do…
Here's to 2017 – and an open Duke of Marlborough!
James Batchelor-Wylam - chair of Save the Duke (01473 831042)
email: marlboroughsomersham@gmail.com

July update

On the Bright Side
Together shares and loans mean we have raised upwards of £265,000 and loads of people are still generously chipping in. They

  •     give brilliant support to our fundraising events
  •     have been buying more shares
  •     have been offering loans
  •     are helping out (there’s still a lot to be done: work has definitely not stopped).

Whatever your contribution, a great big thank you – everything really helps!

Buying the Pub, Adapting the Plans

The priority is to get enough money to buy the pub and open the doors. Loans and selling a few more shares will help us to do this. But there won’t be lot of spare cash swilling around once that’s happened. This means that paid staff, 7 day a week opening and full menus may have to wait.

We can start off with voluntary staff, opening at the most popular times and offering simple food at limited times. That way we can build up a cash flow and once we’re making enough profit, can look to employ people. We’ve seen first-hand how other community-owned pubs have done it. Many have opened up with volunteers and a reduced (and in some cases total lack of) food offer. They have gone on to flourish, run by paid staff or a combination of paid staff and volunteers - and providing great menus. We will get there!

Would you like to help?   We will be welcoming anyone with relevant experience or just simple enthusiasm to help run the pub. Do get in touch

Pub For Sale

Roger and Hazel are keen to sell, and have put the Duke on the market again. By way of re-assurance, the property has not been de-licensed and can’t be sold off as a house. It has been listed as an Asset of Community Value (AVC), which means the Community will have until October 26th to make an offer and until then, Roger and Hazel cannot accept an offer from someone else.

Our Bash in the Barn in March seemed to go down a treat with the 180 people who came along – and it raised an impressive £3,300 for the Save the Duke campaign.

Thanks to the Castons for providing their barn at Church Farm and setting it up so splendidly. Thanks to Lucy for taking control and doing such a splendid job; to all those who helped her with the organisation and running of the event; and to the many people who brought along scrumptious desserts!

Huge thanks also to:

  • The Community Shop and Somersham Garage for selling so many tickets  
  • Greene King and The All Day Brewing Co for generously donating beer
  • Bardwell Mill Bakery for providing a huge tray of chocolate brownies
  • Shoot the Drummer for the great music
  • Councillor David Card and his wife Eileen for helping serve the food. 
  • Everyone who donated a prize or auction item.

We were honoured to have some signed Coldplay goodies donated by Rupert Berryman, father of Coldplay bassist Guy Berryman. Many thanks indeed to Rupert - a kind and dedicated Save the Duke supporter who drove all the way from Kent to attend the bash!

Our next event is on September 3rd back at Church Farm - see here.

Feedback on communication: please get in touch if there’s anything you’d like to discuss!

Some people are concerned about the length of time it is taking to buy the pub. Some have said they would like more regular updates. We agree. We would have liked the whole process to be faster. We wanted to be in there by now. And we would love to have more news to tell more frequently.

There is still a great deal of work going on in the background, and whenever something significant happens as a result we do let you know! If you have any concerns or specific questions, please just get in touch - leave a message at Church Farm 01473 831352 and someone will call you back.

If you know of anyone who is not receiving the information we do send out, please ask them to contact us.

Chipping in a bit more…

If you could afford to buy a few more shares, or simply donate a sum – whatever it is - to the cause, please visit our website. You can do it all on our investment pages.  Or contact our treasurer Gerard if you’d rather send a cheque or use a BACS payment grdkroon@gmail.com 01473 657178.


Save the Duke has a new Chairman!

The Save the Duke team has started the year with a reshuffle and we need to thank outgoing Chair Sarah Caston very much for all her efforts over the last 12 months. Sarah will remain as an ordinary committee member. We now welcome James Batchelor-Wylam as our chair for 2016 whose business experience will be a great help for the next phase of the project! James lives in Somersham, runs an NFU insurance agency in Lavenham and he is looking forward to taking the project to the next phase - finalising finance arrangements and purchase of the pub!  You can continue to contact James via our main number 01473 831352.

Also, dates for your diary March 19th - another BASH IN THE BARN at Church Farm. We are all looking forward to seeing you there! Further details to be announced soon.


Amazed by your response!

How did November get here so fast?! The share offer on our Crowdfunding site has just closed and we are so delighted to have raised £190,000 to date. But we realise there is a long way to go before we have enough to buy and open the pub. We were disappointed to hear a few days ago that we have not succeeded with the Big Lottery Power to Change fund which makes things a bit harder! But we are a long way from giving up!  Things are moving quite fast here at STD HQ and we are looking into loan options at the moment. We are keen to be able to make an offer as soon as we can. We will keep you posted!

Shares launch on the BBC/ Ed Sheeran shows his support

BBC TV cameras arrived to capture our morning parade thorough the village. Led by two traditional Suffolk Punch horses and well attended by local communities members and children from the Somersham primary school we end outside the historic Duke of Marlborough. 

Investments on crowdfunder are steadily mounting. But we need all the support we can get... Support such as from local celebrity Ed Sheeran who posed with a #Iwanttosavetheduke sign and said he was prepared to invest!

Its been an exciting week for the Save The Duke project. Join the adventure.

Village Turns To Crowdfunding To Save The Duke


AUGUST 18, 2015

We hear of pubs closing every week, but a community in Somersham, near Ipswich, don’t want to see their local, the Duke of Marlborough, added to the casualty list…...

“The Duke is a beautiful, historic pub; a central feature of village life,” said local doctor Sarah Caston. “We want it to stay that way. Quite simply, we refuse to accept that 500 years of local hospitality should come to an end.”

A public meeting held at the beginning of the year established that there was an appetite for the fight. Since that meeting, people from across the community have worked tirelessly in setting up a community benefit society, establishing asset of community value (ACV) status, researching, making applications and fundraising.

Sarah, who has been leading the Save the Duke campaign, said: “The Duke of Marlborough is in many ways a national, as well as local, treasure. It symbolises all pubs that have been the life-blood of communities for centuries but are now under threat of being turned into residential properties. When we raise our voices about the Duke, we’re raising them for all rural pubs at risk.”

The Save the Duke campaign is aiming to raise the funds to buy the pub through a crowdfunding share issue. To succeed, 7,000 shares of £50 each need to be sold. The prospectus is almost ready and the opportunity to invest will open via www.savetheduke.net and on Crowdfunder before September 1.

Sarah said: “We’re convinced we can do it. There’s a compelling case for the business. All our research shows there will be extensive support for the newly re-opened pub. People really want a vibrant social hub serving fresh food and quality drinks from the region. By offering an enticing menu, creating a great atmosphere and putting on the right events, custom will be attracted from far and wide.

“Our business plan has been scrutinised by experts across the industry, and there’s real confidence in our proposals and ability to deliver.”

Most of the money is expected to come from people in Suffolk, but there’s been interest from further afield too. All investors wishing to become part-owners of the enterprise are welcome, wherever they’re from. Anyone wanting a prospectus should e-mailmarlboroughsomersham@gmail.com

n the meantime, Save the Duke campaigners have asked everyone who cares about pubs and communities to follow @helpsavetheduke on Twitter, and to ‘like’ the Save the Duke of Marlborough page on Facebook.

Sarah added: “A new age is emerging, one in which people are grouping together to make a difference. With lots social media activity from well-wishers and financial support from those able to offer it, we can do it. Every single contribution matters.

“We’d like to thank in advance every individual who takes the time to vocalise their support or to buy a few shares. They will be helping to make sure this beautiful pub is not lost to future generations.”



Have a look at our regularly updated blog at: https://helpsavetheduke.wordpress.com or click on the tab

Feel free to leave comments.

Your pictures and the sign for the #iwantosavetheduke campaign can now also be found under its own tab.

Download and print the sign and put your pics on FB and get your friends to like it. Prize for the most likes!

And, don't forget to follow us on twitter @helpsavetheduke 

Shares on sale 1st September!

Share Launch 1st September / Meeting 9th September

The Save the Duke team are now pleased to announce that shares in the pub will be on sale from the beginning of September.   The plan is to raise most of the capital to buy the building through offering community shares, with a minimum investment of £250.  Owning shares will make you part-owner of the pub, and help to secure the future of this wonderful community asset.  This means the pub will be run by local people for local people and will offer somethng for everyone.

If you live in Somersham, Offton, Flowton, WIllisham, Lt. Blakenham or Nettlestead You can expect a share prospectus to land on your doormat in the first week of September and it, and the full business plan, will also be available on the website www.savetheduke.net  (and on hard copy by request).  Following this, you are invited to a public meeting on Wednesday September 9th at 7.30pm in Somersham Village Hall. This will allow you to find out more about your investment, meet the team involved, and ask any questions you may have. You will even be able to buy your shares from our Treasurer on the night!

Hope to see you all there! In the meantime, if you would like to help with any aspect of the campaign or would like more information please get in touch:  email: marlboroughsomersham@gmail.com  or call Sarah Caston on 01473 831352. 

Summer update June 2015

If you have been wondering what is going on behind the scenes at Save the Duke, here is a little update!

The work on the business plan has finally finished and we are about to start designing the share prospectus which we hope to publish by the end of the summer.  We intend to announce the publish date soon, but it hinges on the eligibility of our application with the EIS (Enterprise Investment Scheme) which needed the completed business plan.  (Everything always takes longer than expected!) The share price will be £50 and the minimum holding is 5 shares, so a £250 investment will be the minimum investment.

Once we have had confirmation we will be eligible for the EIS, we can go to print!  The EIS will be the icing on the cake when buying shares, because it offers you 30% of your investment back in tax relief.  We hope that this will be a very enticing reason for investing in the project. The main reason is, of course, to save our last remaining pub and ensure it reopens again as a great little local for everyone. Let's look forward to next summer's BBQ nights and maybe a little beer festival or somesuch, back in the Marlborough!

The committee continues to meet every 2 weeks and we are undertaking grant applications to help us cover the costs for what needs doing over the coming months. Grants for capital purchases are hard to come by so that's where we need you! We are currently researching and planning the methods and platforms through which we collect investors' money and we are also talking with Roger and Hazel at intervals, and continuing to work towards negotiating a sale price. We hope to have raised the money by the autumn and be in a position to make an offer! How exciting!

Our next fundraising event has something for everyone, it's on Friday July 17 so don't delay in buying your tickets! Click through HERE to see our events page for details.

There will follow a meeting for investors with the Share Launch, probably in the Village Hall in early September. We will publicise this widely by email and within the local area to try to get as many people attending as possible. This will be an opportunity for the committee to hopefully answer any questions you might have about the scheme.

In the meantime, if anyone wants to know anything at any time, all you have to do is just get in touch!

The Bash in the Barn was...BIG!

The Save the Duke campaign had a massive boost on Saturday 7th March with a very successful event at Church Farm. The timber barn and the Old Piggery Pub saw nearly 250 people cram in to see local band Shoot the Drummer and enjoy an evening of music, real ale and dancing! Everyone had a great night and and an amazing £2,800 was raised to help the campaign!  This sum will allow the group to pay for the recent valuation, the printing costs for the community survey and production of the upcoming prospectus which will contain our business plan and full details about how you can become a shareholder.  The amazing support from the community showed that there is a real will to get a community pub up and running - and where there is the will, we'll find the way!
Thanks to all who worked so hard to run this event, to the local businesses who donated raffle prizes, and to David Haughton for selling so many tickets for us, and for the great entertainment his band put on.  See pictures from the event on both the website and our Facebook page and add your own!

The campaign is now being offered help from many sides - the Plunkett Foundation is proving invaluable, Councillor Trulove has pledged financial support, other local community pubs are offering advice, and the trade publication 'In a Pub' are following our story in their monthly magazine.  The working group is next going to collate and publish the results from the recent community survey (thanks to all those who returned a completed survey) and this will in turn inform the final business plan. The shareholders' prospectus will be published in the next couple of months so its going to be another busy few weeks!



The Working Group has designed a short survey for the residents of Somersham and surrounding villages to find out what kind of pub people would like in the future. Information about how people might use the pub and the range of services it might provide is vital to the process of applying for funding as well as planning the future of the business. Your views are ESSENTIAL even if you don't normally go to the Duke of Marlborough!

If you live in Somersham, Offton, Flowton or Willisham you will receive a survey with your link magazine. If you live in Nettlestead, Baylham or Little Blakenham you will get one delivered by hand.  If you would prefer, you can fill in a survey online HERE.  Everyone's views are wanted.

The more responses we get, the more useful the results will be. To show our appreciation for your time and effort, all who enter, and provide their details, will be entered into a prize draw to win a bottle of champagne and two tickets to our fund-raising event 'Bash in the Barn' on March 7th. Thank you!

The Duke of Marlborough has now closed

On December 2014 Roger and Hazel finally served their last meal and pint at the Duke of Marlborough in Somersham. Owing to their retirement, this lovely and successful pub has now closed its doors. Let's hope it's not for the last time!

The working party group is currently shaping up a questionnaire to be distributed to the residents of Somersham and the surrounding villages to see what kind of support there is for a community run pub, what it should be like, and how many people would like to take the opportunity to buy shares. Other work underway is to organise a valuation, erect a new dedicated noticeboard by the village shop, start applying for funding and setting up the community organisation that will take on ownership of the pub. 

Challenging but exciting times ahead in 2015! Can you  help? Get in touch!

Second meeting of the Save the Duke campaign committee

The second meeting, held on Tuesday December 2nd, was successful in giving us a look at the finances and ideas needed for investment to bring the project forward. We discussed the various different steps the campaign needs to take and talked about grants available and legal entities.  A fund raiser to help with the costs of establishing the campaign was decided to be held on the 28th of February. So save the date!

The next meeting will be held on the Wednesday 17th December. 

First meeting of steering group Weds 19th November 2014

The first meeting of the Working party group was held at Church farm and was attended by 15 people who have offered their time to help with the project. The range of skills offered was quite amazing! Somersham has a quite a crop of seasoned business men and women with experience in all kinds of sectors - a great start!   The first steps include setting up communication routes such as this website, decide what sort of organisation we need to be, work towards obtaining a valuation of the pub business, and think about a wide-reaching questionnaire to see what people want from a community-run pub and whether they might consider investing in the business.

Next meeting is Tuesday December 2nd 2014, 7.30pm at the Football Pavillion. All welcome.