Locals in the Oxfordshire village of Beckley have launched a campaign to save their pub, The Abingdon Arms, from closure.

With the help of Plunkett Foundation, locals in Beckley and surrounding villages have formed The Beckley & Area Community Benefit Society and have launched a community share offer to raise the £440,000 needed to purchase the 17th century pub.

The Abingdon Arms plays an important social and cultural role in the village, acting as a key meeting place, and it has also been frequented by some literary greats: Evelyn Waugh famously drowned his sorrows there on hearing he'd been awarded a third class degree in his Oxford finals, and the view from the pub across the fields of Otmoor - a local RSPB reserve - is said to have inspired Lewis Carroll's giant chessboard in Alice Through The Looking Glass.

After several years of trading difficulties, The Abingdon Arms' future has become uncertain, and there is now a real risk of closure. 

“Many people in Beckley and the surrounding area have been dismayed by the progressive decline in the Abingdon Arms' fortunes in recent years, and the potential loss of a valued social hub," said Mike Hobbs, Secretary and Interim Chair of the Beckley & Area Community Benefit Society. "When the pub was put up for sale earlier this year, we saw an opportunity to secure the revitalisation and the future of the Abingdon Arms for the benefit of the local community. Timely and expert support from the team at the Plunkett Foundation has enabled us to translate our vision of a pub that is 'more than a pub' into a campaign to save the Abingdon Arms for the community. We have a strong business plan, and are now well on the way to raising the share capital needed to realise our vision."

The community has listed the pub as an ACV (Asset of Community Value) which gives them until 17 November 2016 to raise the necessary finance and put in a bid to buy the pub for the community. The community is looking to raise a total of £560,000 in order to carry out all the necessary improvements, but needs a minimum of £440,000 for the offer to proceed. Should they be successful, their plans for the pub include focusing on ensuring it remains a place to meet friends and neighbours and improves people's sense of community, as well as potentially plans for additional community services such as a cafe space, delivery location or other requirements the community may have. It will also help to create local employment opportunities and be a central point for information on community events and local issues. 

It has been receiving support from Plunkett through its More Than A Pub: The Community Pub Business Support Programme, a unique two year programme established to help support community ownership of pubs in England. Its value is £3.62 million and is jointly funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Power to Change Trust. The programme is led by Plunkett Foundation and delivered in collaboration with Co-operative & Community Finance, the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), Co-operative Mutual Solutions, Pub is the Hub and Locality. For the first time it will offer the community pub sector access to an end-to-end support programme including capacity building and a finance package made up of loans and grants.

For more information visit http://www.savetheabingdonarms.org/ and https://www.facebook.com/Save-The-Abingdon-Arms-1801705896709176/ on Facebook.