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Christmas cheers at Woodgreen vicar's pop-up pub

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Nicky Davies, vicar at St Boniface Church in Woodgreen
Nicky Davies, vicar at St Boniface Church in Woodgreen

A CHURCH named after the patron saint of brewers is opening a pop-up pub to provide some-where for residents to gather this Christmas as they battle to save their village local.

Named the ‘Room at the Inn’ – after the nativity story - the festive drinking hole is at the 100 year old St Boniface Church in Woodgreen and will be serving local beers, wines and soft drinks.

It stands over the road from the Horse & Groom pub which closed in September and was put up for sale by brewery firm Hall & Woodhouse with a price tag of £550,000.

The church inn even plans to be open on Christmas Day and local vicar Nicky Davies said: “I like a drink myself so I miss the pub as somewhere to go for a tipple and chat to people.

“As our only pub is closed we really need a lovely social space where all the community can get together and celebrate.

“The church is right opposite the pub so it’s ideal. We really need a pub in the village, more as a focal point for the community to meet especially over the Christmas period.

“This is the first time we’ve ever done anything like this but I think it will be a great success.”

Villagers have been campaigning for several months to raise money to purchase the Victorian Horse & Groom so they can ensure it stays as a pub and is not turned into a house.

Their bid had to be put forward at the end of this week to stand any chance of being accepted.

Nicky (48), who is Associate Priest in the Avon Valley Partnership with particular over-sight of Hale, Woodgreen and Breamore churches, said everyone will be welcomed at the inn but warns: “We don’t want anyone coming and getting carried away and having a few too many. That’s not the idea at all!

“It’s more about being social than drinking. We are setting up tables and chairs in the church and it will be decorated with our festive community trees which will have been dressed by local organisations.

“I know some people will think a church is not the place for a pub but we won’t be serving from the altar, or anything like that! We will still be very respectable but don’t forget Jesus turned water into wine in the Bible and just think of the tradition of monks brewing beer in medieval times. And at the heart of Christianity is the tradition of sharing bread and wine together.

“I also think there will be people coming to the inn who might never have come to church before so it will be nice to be able to meet them and chat to them, hopefully they might join the congregation.”

Mum-of-two Nicky, a former journalist who was ordained four years ago, is backing the villagers trying to buy the Horse & Groom saying: “Woodgreen really needs a pub. If they don’t succeed, I hope that whoever buys it keeps it as one.”

One of the ‘Save Our Pub’ campaign organisers, Jane Cant, told the A&T on Wednesday: “We have raised £450,000 towards the purchase so far but we do have the possibility of a couple of bridging loans in the background. We are very hopeful that we will be able to make a successful bid.”

The Room at the Inn will be open at the following times: Friday 14th December 6pm-11pm, Saturday 15th December 11.30am-2.30pm, Friday 21st December 6pm-11pm, Saturday 22nd December 11.30am-2.30pm and Tuesday 25th December midday-2pm.

Before it closed the Horse & Groom was declared an asset of community value which gave villagers the chance to buy it. They have set up a website where supporters can buy shares to help raise the money needed for the purchase.

Who was St Boniface?

St Boniface was born in Devon around 675 and became a missionary to Germany. He was made an archbishop before being killed by pagans at the age of 80 in the Netherlands on 5th June 754.

He is the patron saint of Germany, brewers and tailors. He is also credited with creating the first ever Christmas tree after he came across a group of pagans in Bavaria worshipping around an oak.

Horrified by what he saw as blasphemy, he grabbed an axe and chopped it down, then set about converting the pagans to Christianity. A fir tree – which was seen as the image of God – was planted in the place of the oak and the next year at Christmas time the converted pagans hung decorations on it.

The practice of decorating a fir soon spread and the Christmas tree was born.

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