Our achievements so far

It is almost four years since the Society’s inception, in which time our community has accomplished so much of which to be proud of; but, by way of ‘milestones’, WE HAVE:

2016

  • After a Parish Council led meeting, formed a Project Group to look at ways of saving The George as Wickham Market’s pub.
  • Joined the Plunkett Foundation, who have assisted other communities with finance and professional advice to secure and manage community pubs.  They have given support to us (and continue to support us), including:
    • Meetings with and advice from specialist Plunkett Advisors Phil Harriss and Alan Collard
    • A study visit to the Kings Arms (Shouldham) – a, then, already highly successful community pub.
    • A ‘More Than A Pub’ bursary award.
  • Undertaken a community consultation by means of a questionnaire to which we received 572 individual responses, approximately one third of the adult population of Wickham Market.
  • In December, become incorporated as a Community Benefit Society
  • Supported Wickham Market Parish Council’s nomination of the George as an Asset of Community Value (ACV). It was listed, as such by SCDC in January 2017, strengthening the continuance of the George as a public house and giving the community the right to buy if the present owner had put the pub on the market.

2017

  • Liaised with Suffolk Coastal District Council Conservation and Planning Officers to ensure that our proposals are acceptable. To date, we have their full support. which has included grant support for essential building safety inspections.
  • Joined Community Action Suffolk , LocalityMy CommunityHeritage Trust NetworkThe Community Pub Network.
  • Applied for and secured grants totalling £11,050 from the Architectural Heritage Fund(AHF), More Than A Pub, Plunkett Foundation, Suffolk County Council (SCC), and Suffolk Coastal District Council (SCDC, now East Suffolk Council) to carry out our feasibility study for the Project.
  • Identified (through our Grants team) and made initial approaches to appropriate potential grant funders to meet project development and delivery costs. We continue to keep in contact with, and seek out new, potential funders.
  • Drawn up a preliminary building specification based on the consultation to deliver the facilities most requested by the community.
  • Held a ‘pop-up pub’ information event during which a progress report and feedback from the questionnaire was presented followed by a vigorous Q&A session. From this we have established a ‘Friends of The George Group’ for improved direct communication with the community. Contact us if you would like to become a Friend.
  • Commissioned Community Action Suffolk to prepare a Social Impact Assessment for the Project.
  • Commissioned specialist Chartered Surveyors Christie & Co to prepare ‘before and after’ RICS-certified valuations and assess the commercial viability of a re-opened George.
  • Made plans for a series of varied ‘fun’ events to further engage with the whole community.
  • Carried out and reported on full Feasibility and AHF Project Viability studies.

2018

  • Prepared and launched, and obtained funding (from AHF, SCDC, The Hive) for a first Community Share Launch and Issue, which was subscribed to by some 350 individuals, the majority of whom live in or near to Wickham Market. This included obtaining a Community Share Standard Mark from The Power to Change Community Share Booster. The share issue raised nearly £130,000 which has helped us purchase The George and continues to support our efforts to re-open The George for the community. Members (and other supporters) have continued to demonstrate their support by making pledges to buy shares when our second share issue opens in 2021. You can do the same.
  • Prepared, with professional support, and submitted an application to the National Heritage Lottery Fund (Now National Lottery Heritage Fund for the majority of the funding necessary to reconstruct the historic George as a community pub under their Heritage Enterprise Scheme.
  • Held varied, well-attended and enjoyable events for the whole community.
  • Negotiated and, once having ensured viability and secured the necessary funds, carried out the purchase of the pub from the owner, who had proposed its demolition, for a sum of £40,000 – much less than he had paid for it at auction in 2014.
  • Insured, and confirmed the structural integrity and safety of the building. The Society continues to ensure the latter by regular safety inspections.
  • Held a well-attended Members Annual Meeting.
  • After learning that our Heritage Lottery Fund application had been unsuccessful, liaised with the Fund to learn lessons to assist with a potential second application

2019

  • Consulted Society Members on whether a second Heritage Fund application should be made. This was overwhelmingly approved.
  • Prepared, again with relevant professional assistance, and submitted the second application to the National Lottery Heritage Fund for £82,100 Round 1 (Development Phase) funding and estimated costs for Round 2 (Delivery Phase) funding of £989,200.
  • Held our second Members Annual Meeting
  • On learning our application had been successful publicised the award and the contribution of the Heritage Fund and National Lottery players through the press, including East Anglian Daily Times coverage and a BBC Radio Suffolk interview and news coverage.
  • By way of thanks to all our supporters, organised a highly successful and enjoyable Celebratory Event, with speeches by our MP, Dr Dan Poulter, and County Councillor, Alexander Nicoll, and music from our ‘house band’, The Biscuit Brothers
  • In December, obtained Heritage Fund’s Permission to Start our Project Development Phase; the design and assessment process will take us to the point where we apply for the ear-marked Round 2 funding to help make The George Community Pub a reality.

2020 (so far…!)

  • Carried out a second survey to ensure that our plans continue to consider the wishes and needs of the community – The George’s future customers.
  • Undertaken a review of the ‘Saving the George’ website and are in the process of implementing changes and updates.
  • Prepared a programme of community events for the Development phase (unfortunately currently affected by COVID-19 measures).
  • Continued Committee meetings and the Society’s business (by Zoom.) during the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Obtained additional partnership/match-funding for the Development Phase from the Architectural Heritage Fund in the form of a Project Development Grant under their Transforming Heritage programme. This and awaited contributions via our councillors from Suffolk County and East Suffolk Council will complete our match funding of the Heritage Fund Grant.
  • Started recruiting (via competitive tenders and interviews in accordance with Heritage Fund rules) the professional team that will assist and support us throughout the project. Our first appointment was of Project Manager’s Greenwood Projects,.
  • Recruited (via competitive tenders and interviews in accordance with Heritage Fund Rules) the professional team that will assist and support us throughout the Project. It includes Greenwoods Projects Ltd for project management, Castons for Cost Management and Quantity Surveying, Purcell for Lead Designers, Alix Slater Consultancy and Training & Studio Eger for Heritage Interpretation Planning, Activities and Evaluation.
  • Following the Project Plan, the conceptual designs have been developed to meet the twin requirements of retaining and restoring as much of the heritage material as possible and having a layout which supports a welcoming and successful community pub.
  • The space behind the main buildings has been cleared and made safe, and over a 2-day period was used as a pop-up-pub and an opportunity to display the conceptual designs to the community (within Covid 19 limitations) for their review and comment.
  • This was a successful consultation and social event and, as allowed by Covid 19 Rules, is a model for regular future activities in that space.
  • A bat survey and asbestos survey have been carried out with no difficulties found.
  • Water which has been lying in the cellar since the fire 7 years ago has been sampled so it can be disposed of in order to inspect the cellar.
  • The hoarding has been completed along the front of the building ready for the addition of artwork and use as a highly visual information presentation on the history and future of the building.
  • We are now progressing with the recruitment of additional specialists to assist in taking forward the detailed design required for panning application. They include Civil & Structural Engineer, Mechanical & Electrical Engineer, Access Consultant and Acoustician.
  • A neighbourhood group is in the process of being established.  This group comprises those residents who live close to the George so they can be kept up-to-date and consulted with regard to activities on and around the site which might affect them

To keep up-to-date with progress check our ‘News blog’ and ‘Facebook’ page regularly. If you are not already a Society Member but want to receive e-mail updates, join the ‘Friends of The George’. Otherwise contact us