Cheers! Paul Collins.Cheers! Paul Collins.
Cheers! Paul Collins.

Weekend celebrations at run-down ruin that became heart of Watford village community

What was once a tumbled-down and overgrown shack, the Wheelwright’s Arms in Watford village has certainly revived what was once a disjointed community.

And this weekend it reopens its doors again to an enthusiastic public now that the Covid restrictions have been relaxed.

Built in about 1830 as the village wheelwright’s workshop, the building underwent major refurbishments in 2019 to create a traditional village pub – something that was desperately needed in a village that doesn’t even have a shop these days, and with the previous village pub having closed its doors for the last time almost 40 years ago.

However, the Wheelwright's is somewhat different to many local hostelries in that although a modern business, once you enter its extensive grounds it’s like taking a giant step backwards into yesteryear to a quieter period when people had time for each other.

Gone are the rowdy jukeboxes, fruit machines, and chrome fittings to be replaced by traditional hand-pumps, real ales and the joy of sitting in a beer garden with friends listening to the bees buzzing in the apple trees.

“We deliberately designed it that way,” says Dan White, who runs the pub with business partner and licensee David Stilgoe.

“We wanted somewhere people could relax, enjoy a pint or two, and reflect on the joys of traditional village life. We’re more like the 1950s here rather than the 2020s, and as the world seems to have got itself into one big hurry these days, we’re that one place in the countryside that time has almost stood still.”

Residents have certainly taken this small pub to their hearts and now it’s extended in popularity to those from surrounding towns and villages too.

Dan went on: “Long Buckby, Crick, Daventry, West Haddon and even those out on a country walk from further afield too now come and visit us.

"Of course we’ve had some highs and lows already. The low was Covid. Aftermall, who in their right mind would open a pub business just before a pandemic was due to strike? If only we’d known what was coming things might have been very different.”

And the highs?

“Well of course having the building done and everything up and running again is great, but the support from community has to be the biggest high of all. I also have to include in that the police, the district council, and even our MP Chris Heaton-Harris – who have all spurred us along to bring the heart back to Watford village."

The Wheelwright’s Arms at Watford will be open on alternative weekends from July 24 (2pm-11pm).