Shropshire Star

Hopes high ahead of meeting to save 292-year-old Telford pub

A 292-year-old pub which closed during the coronavirus pandemic could reopen as a community enterprise under plans to be discussed at a public meeting on Saturday.

A light show projected onto the Elephant in Dawley. Photo: Claire Bratley

The meeting to discuss the future of the Elephant & Castle in Dawley will take place at Dawley House in the town from 11am until 1pm.

The pub, which has been owned by John Ellis for the past 10 years, closed at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, and has not reopened due to economic circumstances.

A group of regulars from the pub, who kept in touch in a 'virtual pub' throughout the pandemic, have called a public meeting to look at ways in which it could be reopened, with one of the options being for a community group to take over its running.

Organiser Pete Jackson said: "The Elephant & Castle has been part of Dawley High Street since 1730, it provides a vital community service. It is a meeting place, communication centre and an important lynchpin of community life.

"Dawley is famous for its sense of community, and the Elephant & Castle is at the heart of that community."

The group has been in talks with Mr Ellis and the Plunkett Foundation, which provides supports to communities wishing to run village pubs on a co-operative basis.

Such schemes have successfully revived The Pheasant at Neenton, near Bridgnorth, which reopened in 2014, and the Boot Inn at Orleton, near Ludlow, which reopened in 2019.

The Save the Elephant campaign group has prepared a questionnaire asking people what community services they would be interested in seeing at the pub, and whether they would be interested in buying shares in it.

It has garnered more than 330 responses and identified 180 people offering to buy shares in a potential venture.

John Ellis shortly after taking over the Elephant & Castle

Mr Ellis, who also runs the Crown Inn at Oakengates, said he fully supported the efforts by Mr Jackson to save the pub.

He said he would still like to keep the pub himself if it could be made viable.

"When I bought the pub I was told it was 12 months away from a structural collapse, because the building was falling down," he said.

"Had that happened, Dawley would have been left with a collapsed building on the high street. We didn't do all that work saving the pub, and spending all that money just to get rid of it."

But he said Dawley town centre had been very quiet since Covid lockdowns, and at the moment the pub was not viable. He said he was open to ideas on how best to save it.

He said he would not be attending Saturday's meeting as he wanted people to be able to debate the ideas freely.

"I'm right behind what Pete is doing," he said. "I told him I wouldn't be there as I didn't want to be a distraction, and he agreed."

Last month campaigners beamed a light display saying "Save the Elephant!" onto the pub.

Anybody wanting to have their say on the future of the pub can do so on the Facebook page Save the Elephant and Castle Dawley or on Twitter at @thedawley.