Villagers cheer as Milbank Arms, in Barningham, reopens
By Trevor Brookes - Editor
VILLAGERS are united in raising a glass to a landowner who has reopened their pub after giving it a major makeover.
People in Barningham packed into the Milbank Arms as Sir Edward and Lady Natalie Milbank unveiled the new-look pub at an event put on just for villagers on Saturday night.
There was universal praise from the community for the makeover. The traditional pub had consisted of just a single small room and closed last year ahead of the renovations. Sir Edward and Lady Natalie say they wanted to keep the historic feel as they created more rooms along with upstairs bedrooms for guests.
Old photos and memorabilia now adorn the walls of the pub, which has been given a plush yet traditional makeover. The Milbanks have teamed up with Coghlans Bakery to offer a menu of hearty food with an aim to source local produce including game from the estate.
Even stools and tables are made of Barningham estate oak. But anyone who thinks it will be a pub aimed just for food lovers will be mistaken, says Lady Milbank, who with her husband owns Barningham estate.
“We want it to still be that old fashioned community pub. You can eat good food here but you don’t have to. Just come for a pint,” she says. “For us it’s the people first. It’s putting the community first and making sure we create a place for the village to help keep the village alive.”
Following concerns about parking, Sir Edward has built a car park.
He said: “People don’t want the village plagued by cars so we built a car park on what was a bad field.”
Sir Edward added: “We’re proud of what we have done. I knew what I wanted but it’s so easy to disappoint when you draw up a big aspirational project.”
Some 40 per cent of the funding came from the EU.
Vanda Vaire was among those at the launch event. She was born in the premises, served at the bar when she was older and met her future husband at the pub. She said: “I think it’s absolutely amazing.”
Husband Martin added: “We met when I played darts for The Milbank Arms. Back then, if you got 15 people in, it was full. The new pub is great.”
Neil Turner, who retired from the Milbank Arms last year after decades in charge, was invited back to the grand reopening.
Just seconds after getting the first glimpse of the changes to the pub, he said: “It’s lovely – they have done a wonderful job.”
Mr Turner moved in as a child with his parents in 1939.
He added: “I can still remember the day we moved in. I was five years old. Back then, lemonade was in bottles and crisps were a penny a packet. My mum told me ‘remember this is my profit – there is plenty of water in the tap’.”
Mr Turner pulled the first pint on the evening. Three glasses of Theakston Best Bitter were served up to Harry Collingwood, Sam Henderson and Roland Clarkson.
The former barrel room is now a snug, with bottles from Mr Turner’s cocktails on display. His legendary cocktail menu also survives.
Ben Johnstone has been employed as the chef, backed up by bar manager Jonathan Moss who was headhunted from Australia.
Andrew Coghlan, who runs Coghlans with his wife Janet, said: “I knew he was the right person and that’s why we brought him here. As we speak, his possessions are in a container ship on the sea.”
Mr Coghlan added: “We think this is the first ever carbon-neutral wine list in a pub in this country.
“We want to source wines from credible producers around the world but they still need to ship it. But a lot of wineries have ways of reducing their carbon footprint and we have gone with those.”