Before COVID forced its doors to close, The Bull’s Head served as the beating heart of community life. But with new investment into a five-home sustainable housing development, the Surrey pub may soon open its doors once again, writes Graham Emmett of Atelier Capital Partners
Built in 1905 in the Arts and Crafts style, The Bull’s Head pub stands on a crossroads of the main road into the village of Ewhurst, Surrey, and for generations it has served as a landmark for thirsty travellers and locals alike. On summer evenings, the rays of the setting sun still cross the village green to warm its cream, Edwardian façade.
But in 2020, its bar and restaurant fell silent as the COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure of the UK’s 39,000 pubs. When the lease on the pub lapsed, it fell vacant for the first time in four generations.
Now, the owner of the site has begun a £3.25m redevelopment, financed by Atelier Capital Partners, that will save the pub and create five new family homes.
The scheme has both vision and ambition, and combines sustainable building techniques with a project that will provide some much-needed accommodation in this sought-after village.
Above all, it will leave a lasting legacy for the wider Ewhurst community. It was this that first caught my attention, and, after a rigorous due diligence process by our team, Atelier decided to provide the finance for the project.
Matthew East, speaking on behalf of the developer Allois Properties, explains: “Allois bought the site three years ago with a view to building five cottages on the land adjoining the pub.
“As the only pub in Ewhurst, The Bull’s Head is central to village life – and the vision has always been to keep it open and help return it to its former glory.
“Its closure last year, a story repeated in hundreds of other communities as lockdown restrictions took their toll on Britain’s pubs, really highlighted what the village would lose without it.”
Allois’s solution was both imaginative and agile. Rather than putting another tenant into the building, in January it sold the freehold on the pub to Stuart Godfree, a local businessman who has been part of the Ewhurst community for years.
Stuart and his wife are committed to transforming The Bull’s Head into a popular and successful business once again, and they intend to do it by refurbishing the pub and adding some overnight accommodation.
That sale confirmed the attractiveness of the location and generated significant cash that made our investment in the development all the more compelling.
Construction of the five cottages is now underway, and due for completion in May. Despite operating under strict COVID restrictions, the contractors have made rapid progress thanks to the intelligent use of off-site construction techniques.
The four two-bedroom and one three-bedroom homes feature sustainably sourced timber frames, which are made to measure in a UK factory and bolted into place on-site, reducing both construction time and embodied carbon while assuring consistent build quality.
The design also features many traditional materials, including handmade clay tiles, which will ensure the finished cottages look firmly in keeping with the rest of the village.
The developers are doing their bit to protect local wildlife too, adding environmentally aware touches such as ‘hedgehog highways’, which are access holes cut in the bottom of fencing which allow the free movement of small but prickly customers.
As a lender, Atelier Capital Partners is determined that the finance it provides should deliver more than just bricks and mortar. While for Allois, the development embodies much of what we’re aiming to achieve. It’s a scheme with a strong business case, but which is also creating vital, affordably priced, and sustainable housing.
Perhaps most importantly, it’s a scheme that’s securing the future of a much-loved village pub.
Read next: Sustainability Showcase | CHP
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