WHEN a village pub closed, its small community was determined to save their social hub.

Villagers refused to call time on The Seven Stars pub in Marsh Baldon – which is more than 350 years old.

And 76 of the several hundred residents have raised more than £110,000 through pledges ranging from a minimum £300. One resident even put up £20,000.

Together they have formed a company called The Baldons and Nuneham Community Society Limited and, with the buying process under way, an experienced landlord is needed to run the business.

It is planned society members will get two per cent interest on their money for 20 years, after which their stake will be returned.

Any profits will be ploughed back into other community projects.

Management committee member Phil Collins said: “This pub is a part of history and is the hub, not only of Marsh Baldon, but the villages around it.

“We don’t want to run the pub ourselves – we recognise that takes time and expertise that we don’t have.

“We want to lease it to a professional, to run as a thriving business.”

Mr Collins, 52, a management consultant and father of two, added: “The Seven Stars has been very successful in the past and we are sure it can be in the future.”

The pub, which is being sold for £275,000, will reopen in February.

Current owner, local businessman David Harding, who founded London investment company Winton Capital Management, is lending villagers the rest of the money.

Mr Harding has owned the free house for more than two years after buying it from pub company Admiral Taverns. He closed it in November.

His spokesman Robin Eggar said: “It is about saving the pub for the community. He is an investment manager, not a pub owner and thinks that the pub will be better served by the community for the community’s needs.”

Mr Collins added: “We are pretty convinced if a landlord comes in and if it is what the village wants – which is a lively local pub, with great value British food, that gets in-volved in village life – then there is a viable and successful pub there.”

He added of the campaign: “It has fostered a real spirit of community generosity that is a fantastic thing in this day and age.”