Our local pubs are deeply embedded within our communities, and often play an essential role as a
vital social hub. But now more than ever they are struggling and under threat: British pubs are
dying. In 2001, the UK counted 52,500 pubs. In 2018, that figure stood at 38,815. Now the fall-out
from coronavirus will likely devastate the industry further as pubs struggle to reopen safely and
generate enough income to survive.
So every month we’d like you to meet your local – the faces and stories behind the pub sign. We’re
kicking things off with the new owners of the White Hart Alehouse in Stur; purely because they’ve
been lockdown heroes in the town, and they deserve it.
The White Hart is run by Matt Clark & Sammy Glover, who took over the long-empty building early this year.
How did you two meet?
Matt and I met two and a half years ago. I had just arrived from New Zealand to start the obligatory tour of Europe.
Three days after I landed in the UK, Bang! I met Matt. He owned a pub in the village where I was working. When we’d knock off work on a Sunday night we would always be at Matt’s place having our after-work chill- out.
Who made the first move?
Well, Matt of course! What man wouldn’t? I’m sure he agrees with that!
Why move to Stur?
We loved where we were and the friendships and family we had in the village, but Matt had been tied to a brewery for the past 10 years and felt that it was the right time to move into a free house. So the hunt began and shortly after (found on Gum-tree) was the 312 year-old White Hart Hotel in Sturminster Newton. One of the fantastic coaching inns of old England. Pure history. He travelled down to take a look. The very next day he called the landlord and secured the lease agreement.
How do you work as a couple?
Matt is the brains and face of the operation. He’s constantly on the go, working on how we can keep going forward.
I implement those ideas and keep Matt’s head from exploding. He is a complete workaholic. He thinks about business from the minute he wakes up to the minute he falls asleep, so making sure he keeps some form of
balance and healthy routine is almost a full time job for me. It’s a solid team effort every single day and that is what I think bonds us so strongly. Matt comes with an enormous amount of experience under his belt. His grandparents owned pubs, which led to his mother owning pubs while his dad served 30 years in the Royal Marines. Even at an
early age Matt was on track to follow in his dad’s footsteps but a back injury put stop to that so a quick change of paths lead to him running his first pub by the age of 18 near Richmond.
Where’s your favourite local place to go when you get some time off?
We like to go out for a meal or even just a drink, and when you see us out you will also see our three beagles (we’re a package deal) so it’s important to us that we find somewhere dog-friendly. You’ll generally find us at The Ship Inn, West Stour. The food’s excellent, the garden is great. It’s another free house, so it’s lovely see someone operating in the way we do and being so successful.
Tell us about lockdown – why did you start food deliveries in Stur?
We knew lock-down was coming. Great timing – we’d just secured a second pub in Blandford ( Kings Arms Alehouse) and our opening night was supposed to be the Saturday night that they shut us down. Big problem.
But Matt said, ‘Big opportunity’. Stur had been so welcoming to us pre-Covid that we wanted to be able to give something back and show the town how much we truly appreciate their support. Hence the idea of grocery
deliveries was born. For us there was no money to be made from it, that wasn’t the point. We felt if we were in a
position where we had access to the items that people were struggling to get from supermarkets then we could do a great service for the people of this town. All good people pull together in such times. You Brits call it the Blitz Spirit!
What was the biggest challenge in getting ready for reopening?
We had to work really hard to build customers’ confidence to trust that our business was safe enough to visit. We converted the car park into an outdoor garden pretty early on. Matt worked so hard making it ultra Covid-proof, with ordering new garden furniture and spacing it all to meet the regulations.
Which bit are you most proud of?
By making the pub the kind of place you can come for a drink or a meal by yourself and walk out with a new bunch of friends. People feel comfortable enough to strike up conversations with perfect strangers. It’s heart- warming to see those friendships blossom over time and know that they started at The White Hart.
What part of the pub is your absolute favourite?
Maybe the open fire with our great Chesterfields elegantly placed in front. There are quite a few historic feature which makes the building interesting, for example throughout all the old ceiling beams you’ll find hundreds of old coins that have been slotted in the cracks, and a few of the upstairs rooms have signatures carved in the window
How have the locals reacted?
They’ve been fantastic. We came here to run a business, and now it’s our home and we’re surrounded by loyal friends.
What’s on at the moment?
We have extended the ‘eat out to help out’ for all of September in our own way. Monday to Wednesday evening
we are offering 25% off food and drink (non-alcoholic) for the first 20 people that book on the day. We’re also currently offering a £5 lunch menu.
The White Hart Alehouse are on Facebook here
or call 01258 472558