Pub couple vow to stay

"First there was Robert and Beverley, and Rob and Joy, and there was a temporary manager called Dave."Then there was a family from London; there was Jan and Mauro who did really nice Italian food, there was another bloke I can not remember, then there was Mark and Mary, and Paul and Vanessa."

'First there was Robert and Beverley, and Rob and Joy, and there was a temporary manager called Dave…'

'Then there was a family from London…there was Jan and Mauro who did really nice Italian food… there was another bloke I can not remember, then there was Mark and Mary, and Paul and Vanessa.'

The regulars of a pub on the Norfolk-Suffolk border have struggled to keep track of the comings and goings at their local drinking hole over the last few years.

But the new licensees of the Sir Alfred Munnings at Mendham, near Harleston, yesterday said they hoped to bring some stability to the community after becoming the 11th landlords of the rural pub in the space of five years.


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Nigel and Debbie Clement, who moved into the house next door to the historic property in 2003, decided to step in and run the village's only drinking establishment over fears that it may be closed.

The husband and wife team, who have fulltime jobs in lorry driving and accounting respectively, yesterday said they hoped to re-establish the support of the 400 villagers, following several changes of management at the Sir Alfred Munnings.

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Mrs Clement, 42, who ran The Castle at Ketts Hill, Norwich, in her 20s, said she was enjoying the challenge of being a part-time landlady and chef at the pub, which was named after the famous artist who was born in Mendham.

'We have always been a staunch supporter of our local pub and we know how hard it is for the industry at the moment. We decided that we wanted to take on the lease because we did not want to see it closed. We love having a community pub and the community love it,' she said.

The couple, who have two teenage children, decided to take on the lease after taking temporary charge of the pub for six weeks last year and its current owner, Lee Wright, placed the 19th century building on the market.

When Mr and Mrs Clement first moved to the village, the pub was run by Robert and Beverley Mayes, but the establishment saw a number of different temporary managers after being bought by Provence Commercial Properties for �227,000 in 2005.

Mrs Clement, who works as an accountant for Primary Assist, in Norwich, said they were slowly beginning to encourage people back to the pub with quizzes, bingo nights, and pool competitions, and it had already become a regular meeting place for the local church bell ringers and members of the farming community.

'We have to win people back, but word is getting around that we are open. The pub has had a succession of holding managers and it seems to have alienated the village. We have a lease for a year, but we want it to be long term and the public needs the continuity. We never took it on to make a profit, we took it on for people to use, and we are just trying to cover our costs,' she said.

Despite holding down fulltime jobs, the couple and three members of staff have been able to open the Sir Alfred Munnings from 4pm on Mondays and Tuesdays, 3.30pm on Wednesdays, 3pm Thursdays and Fridays, and 11.30am to close on Saturdays and Sundays.

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