VILLAGERS are celebrating something of a pre-Christmas miracle after raising enough money to keep their historic pub open.
The Salvation Squad was formed by villagers in Norton Lindsay back in July in a bid to raise £300,000 to buy The New Inn from owners Enterprise Inns.
Villagers had until the end of November to raise the cash, and The Observer reported with just a week to go they were £140,000 short of their target.
But suddenly the donations started flooding in and they hit their target, and now villagers are pushing their fundraising one step further by trying to raise another £100,000 by December 15 to buy the pub outright.
Salvation Squad member Lucy Boyes said: “We held a public meeting the weekend before our deadline – when we had raised around £260,000 – to rally people one last time and we really saw a jump in those last few days as a result.
“We decided to stretch the target then so the pub could be completely debt free and we would own it outright with no mortgage or loan to worry about.
“We’ve had investors from all over, not just in the village. It does feel like there is a very strong community spirit surrounding the pub.
“We are hoping to open on December 20, 21 and 23 for a few drinks as a thank you to everyone who has supported us.”
Enterprise Inns called last orders on The New Inn, which first opened its doors in 1750, in the summer putting it on the market for £350,000.
But villagers were determined to keep it open by taking it over themselves, and Enetrprise Inns agreed to sell it to them for £50,000 less if they could raise the cash.
In 2013 the parish council registered the pub as an Asset of Community Value (ACV) and campaigners used this status to their advantage in their fight to save it.
As The Observer went to print the Salvation Squad had raised £336,000 of their new £400,000 target.
Visit www.salvationsquad.co.uk for further details or to donate.