By Toby Hartwell
The village of Yetminster has recently welcomed new owners to the historic White Hart pub.
David Morgan and Ellis, his stepson, bought the pub in October last year and I had the opportunity to catch up with them as they drew breath during some interior refurbishments.
David has enjoyed a long career as a chartered surveyor specialising in hospitality venues and has years of experience operating some classic village pubs in the Cotswolds.
Ellis, who will be running The White Hart day to day has managed a number of successful bars and restaurants, primarily in the Bristol area.
They are both very enthusiastic about the future at the pub; though keen to stress that it is early days for their plans but have been delighted by the warm reception and support they have received form Yetminster villagers.
They hatched a plan over three years ago to find a ‘perfect’ country village pub to buy and run. Having sold up in the Cotswolds they are very much here to stay as they will both be living on the premises.
The White Hart is the only surviving pub of the eight in existence in 1753 according to local records. An attractive Grade II thatched building in the high street of Yetminster it stands opposite where there used to be a public well and the village stocks, as the local Court House is only a few buildings up. The village of Yetminster itself is mentioned in the Doomsday Book of 1086 and was owned by The Bishop of Salisbury until about 1560.
In more recent times The White Hart was very much associated with the renowned folk group The Yetties and the film Tamara Drewe. TE Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia is rumoured to have stopped off for a drink on his motorbike travels.
I asked David and Ellis what they thought was key to running a successful pub such as The White Hart. They were both very clear that it’s all about a warm friendly welcome, creating a sociable relaxing place that anyone in the village will want to visit, feel at home and enjoy a well-served drink. For them, a good pub is at the heart of the community and is all about meeting the needs of their customers.
In the case of the White Hart they feel strongly that such an traditional pub deserves “to be returned to its former historic glory”, to quote David. Given its age and rich history dating back to the 17th century and undeniable character it’s not surprising that they both fell for its character and future potential.
This is a handsome thatched Dorset pub, spacious inside with outside seating areas front and rear, both being excellent sun traps. There is also ample parking at the back of the pub. It now boasts a handsome new oak bar and the walls feature an eclectic mix of posters, pictures and memorabilia.
It is certainly a brave time to take on any pub with the challenges of Covid restrictions, which thankfully seem to be easing, but they are both very optimistic and had been looking forward to welcoming a crowd for Christmas carols with The Sherborne Town band in December but understandably this had to be cancelled
Ellis and David have firm views about a traditional pub and how it must appeal to a cross section of the local community. It’s a place for friends and family to meet and enjoy a chat over a relaxing drink. Dogs and well-behaved children are very much welcome and they are keen to attract walkers and cyclists passing through the village. They have no immediate plans for food but will be serving nibbles. In the meantime, they have arranged for local takeaway pizza and curry vans to visit, and customers are very welcome to bring their food inside.
Having the right range of drinks for all tastes on offer is very important to Ellis, as he explained that in his view, this is the basis of long-term success for a pub such as The White Hart. With three draft beer pumps they have Copper Ale from Palmer’s as the regular ale alongside Proper Job and a Bath Ale. There is a wide range of ciders, lagers and bottled beer and a broad selection of wines and spirits. David also added that there is a choice of good non-alcoholic beers for driving visitors.
They have a long list of plans for the fut.0ure but stress that they also have a lot of basic updating to address first and as Ellis explained: “This is very much about evolution, learning what works best for customers and taking time to get it right”.
However, we can expect a range of events and activities which will include the introduction of a boules court at the back of the pub. Quiz nights will return and for skittle fans the good news is that the refurbished skittle alley will be very much back in action later in the year. We can look forward to barbecues and music and, as David is something of a classic car enthusiast, he will be inviting classic car clubs to make The White Hart a regular venue for their meets. A Formula One predictions competition will run for all 22 races during the year, on a free to enter basis and there’s a magnum of Fizz for the winner at the end of the season. Ellis is very keen to support local activities and groups and is already sponsoring the Scouts to design and install some new garden planters for the large rear patio.
They will shortly be introducing David’s idea for a ‘Birthday Board’ where customers can enjoy a free drink as a Birthday treat on their birthday.
The future of Yetminster’s pub looks bright and it is clearly in the good hands of caring owners who understand how important it is to the village. I would plan a trip and add your name to the birthday treat board!
For more information about the pub, their website is whitehartyetminster. co.uk