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The former Tavern pub in the Market Place has new owners with big hopes for its future.
The long-standing and popular town centre pub closed its doors for the last time in December – but new owners, Sue and Paul Fister, have ambitions to see the building return to its heyday, as a ‘buzzing’ community focal point.
Currently the couple have no plans to reopen the building as a pub themselves, but they say that they have been approached by interested parties to open it as a pub. “But we are open to suggestions for other business ideas,” Sue told Melksham News. “It’s an ideal property in the middle of Melksham.”
Whilst Sue might be the most recent owner of the Tavern building, her connection to the former pub, and the buildings surrounding it, goes back decades.
Her grandmother, Eliza Townsend, ran a bric-a-brac shop from the former stable block of the property. And her parents Alan and Iris Jaffray, first met there as children during World War Two, before years later opening their antiques business next door, A & I Jaffray Antiques – which is still going strong now.
Sue said, “I have a real close connection with the Tavern building, I used to go and play in there when I was a kid. I’ve always wanted to buy the building. I believe that this is the first time in 82 years that the whole property, the Tavern and the surrounding buildings, are all back together under one ownership. My parents, who live in Atworth, are over the moon, they can’t believe it is happening.
“It’s such a nice place, it has been loved over the years, but it has been let go so badly. We’ve been busy in there cleaning it up and it feels like the energy of the building is coming back to life. It was in a terrible condition – I was at Glastonbury Festival this year, and that was cleaner than this! The carpet, you would wipe your feet on the way out! But after a week of cleaning, you wouldn’t recognise it. We’ve had a lot of help from friends, so I want to say a big thank you to Colin Dowell, Thelma Dowell, Chris Wilcox and Una Crompton.”
Explaining the history of the building and its connection to her family, Sue said, “This (the Tavern) used to be a beautiful house in the Market Place – this used to be the grand area of Melksham. Then it became the Labour club, run by George Chivers and his wife 50-odd years ago, and my grandmother, Eliza Townsend, used to rent the cottage – the stable block to the property – and ran a bric-a-brac shop from it.
“My dad was evacuated down here (Melksham) during World War II from Birmingham, and he lived above the Tavern. My mum was living in the cottage with her mother – so that’s how they met, when they were 10 and 11.
“They got married in 1949 and had their wedding reception in the upstairs room of the building – nobody had any money or food at the time , and everyone in the local area gave their rations towards the party.
“After the wedding mum and dad left the area, but came back to look after my grandmother – and they then bought one of the buildings on the plot of land to open their antiques business – A & I Jaffray Antiques.
George Chivers was now running a steakhouse from the Tavern building, he also owned the Roundabout Club in the Market Place, which was a strip club! He was a likeable rogue, who really made a go of this place. It would be nice if someone would take it on and return it to the George Chivers days – it was a really buzzing place!”
Pictured: New owners Sue and Paul Fister (centre), with friends Thelma Dowell and Colin Dowell during the renovations.