Call to save Doncaster’s ‘oldest pub’
For generations, it was a focal point in the village.
Residents warmly recall family milestones and shared community events at the Old Bells, in Campsall.
There was the time the village was snowed-in, and everyone gathered there to keep warm in front of a roaring fire. There were the family wedding celebrations.
But all that has now changed.
The grade two listed inn, which dates back to the 1600s, is now silent. Residents say they are saddened that it has been closed for more than half a decade, and feel it has been left to deteriorate – to the point where it is becoming an eyesore in what they regard as a picture postcard village.
It is one of dozens of pubs that have closed in Doncaster over the last decade. Some have been pulled down and redeveloped. But the listed Old Bells remains as a building, but still empty.
Its future has been discussed by Norton and Campsall Parish Council, which would like to see it used and linked in with the nearby Campsall Country Park.
But despite the suggestions, nothing has been done to move them forward as the parish councillors say they cannot afford the rent that would be involved to carry the proposals.
Now they are urging Doncaster Council and the buildings owners, to take action and find a use for the historic building.
Resident Eric Lowery said: “It was a really popular place 10 years ago. People used to travel from all over Yorkshire. It is said to be the oldest inn in Doncaster, and its said to be the oldest inn in Doncaster.
“It was somewhere people used to go to as a local too. We’re interested in any use for it. We’d love to take it over locally, but we’re not sure we can rent it.”
Parish council chairman Mike Morgan said: “As the years have gone by, its become an eyesore in the village. We’d like to see some sort of enforcement too do something about its condition.
“We had a meeting inside the pub with Doncaster Council. It was in bad condition by then, because it has been empty for years. There was no kitchen, no furniture and there was some plaster coming off the walls.
“We just want to see something done with it.
“We’d like to take it over, but unless we owned it we couldn’t apply for grants.”
It had been proposed that it could link in with Campsall Country Park. One idea was that it could be used as an information centre and cafe, and a bar as well.
Sue Walker, a member of Friends of Campsall Country Park, said: “We had a meeting to see if we could for a community pub there, but there were many obstacles. We were unable to take it anywhere because of money and time commitments.
“We thought it would would be nice to have a pub front and a cafe for the park at the back.”
Residents near the site are also unhappy.
Ann Winters, who lives in one of the cottages opposite, said: “I think its now a filthy disgrace. We keep our cottages beautiful, and put up hanging baskets, but the Old Bells looks terrible now.”
Husband Paul added: “It's a disgrace.”
Scott Cardwell, assistant director of development at Doncaster Council said: “We are aware of the current condition of the Grade Two listed Old Bells in Campsall and are in continual dialogue with the owners and their agents to encourage them to do everything they can to help with the situation. Our officers are regularly monitoring the building to ensure that it is wind and water tight.”
‘Interest in the building’
Bosses at the company which owns the Old Bells are pledging to put money into improving it – and are hopeful of finding a future for the building.
Christine Kenwright, property manager at Criterion Asset Management, which looks after the building for the Wellington Pub Company, confirmed there was intersted in the building.
She said: “We appreciate the locals concerns on the property which is owned by Wellington Pub Company
“The property is on the market for let with Fleurets. There is some current interest and if successful (they) will be given a capital contribution from Wellington to improve the fabric of the building.”
Resident Sybil Walker has lived in Campsall for 40 years. She says the pub was once thriving, but hsa deteriorated in the last 10 years.
She said: “It was a real local pub. One year, we asked the landlady if she would open on Christmas Day.
“She said that was fine, but we’d have to run it. People took turns behind the bar.
“There used to be hoe downs in the car park, with straw bales and music. There was so much going on there.”
Another resident, Chris Brophy, remembered how the pub become the centre of the village when it was cut off by snow around 10 years ago.
He said: “The Old Bells just filled up. There was no public transport into or out of the village, so the Old Bells become the centre of the village. It was wonderful, with a roaring fire keeping us warm.”
Geoff Kendall, of High Street added: “The restaurant was really popular and you had to book two weeks in advance for a table for Sunday lunch there. The car park always used to be full.”
Another resident. Brian Walker said: “We had our daughter’s wedding reception there. People thought it was the best that they’d been to. I'd love to see something doing with the building, even if it is turned into apartments.”