Landlady 'heartbroken' as her historic Norfolk village pub shuts down
PUBLISHED: 09:29 30 September 2018 | UPDATED: 13:40 01 October 2018
It has stood at the centre of its community for almost two centuries, but the Butchers Arms is opening its doors for the last time today.
Julie Oatham has been landlady of the historic pub in the village of East Ruston, north-west of Stalham, since 1991.
Mrs Oatham, 53, said she was “heartbroken” about having to close the pub, which she said was due to takings going down and overheads going up.
She said: “Unfortunately we’ve tried everything we can over the past 27 years to keep our head above water but times have caught up with us.
“Overheads have overtaken us and we just don’t have the footfall through the door that we used to.
“As we all know, people can buy alcohol from the supermarket much cheaper. And we’ve just seen a big change in the way people use pubs.”
Mrs Oatham said the mortgage company that owned the pub had told them to close up, and the future of the building, which is not heritage listed, is unclear.
She said: “She’s not sold yet, but we assume they want to develop her.”
Mrs Oatham said they could trace the pub’s history back to 1874, but other records show the building has been there since the 16th century and was originally three cottages. The middle cottage was later turned into a butcher’s shop, and a beer-house was first opened there under the licensee Samuel Bates in 1836.
Mrs Oatham runs the pub with her husband Gary, 54, and her sister, Susan.
She said she and Gary did not know what they were going to do next, but their first task would be to find a new place to live, as they currently reside above the pub.
Mrs Oatham said it was difficult to accept this part of her life was now drawing to an end.
She said: “After 27 years there’s an awful lot of things to sort out. Every time I’ve told somebody it’s like another nail.
“They’re not just our customers, they’re our friends and you care for them.
“We did what we could community-wise, there were school meets, pensioners’ meetings and Christmas dinners. We also got a defibrillator for the village last year. We call ourselves quintessentially English.”
The pub will be open until 7pm tonight (Sunday, September 30) for customers and friends to share a final drink with Mrs Oatham and the team.