The Stoke Canon Inn is an award-winning, community owned pub staffed by volunteers.

It’s located in the small village of Stoke Canon (approximately 660 residents) which is located near the confluence of the rivers Exe and Culm just outside Exeter.  

Back in 2009, the brewery closed the pub after deciding it was no longer viable. It was then bought by a property developer who let the flat upstairs but the pub itself was left empty. It was missed by the local community, so a group of residents raised £15,000, got permission from the new owner to reopen the pub, and set about staffing it with around 25 volunteers from the village.

Maggy Clark, chairman of Stoke Canon Community Pub Ltd, recalls:

“When the pub closed, the feeling was the village had lost its heart and its hub. So a group of us got together to raise funds to reopen it as a community pub. In 2011 we decided to secure its long term future by setting up a Community Benefits Society to enable local people to buy shares, to raise £285,000 to purchase the pub via achieving the status of an Asset of Community Value (ACV).

“We raised just over £120,000 through selling shares, secured a £15,000 grant from The Plunkett Foundation, got a £15,000 loan, and the rest was raised through a mortgage.”

Since the community took over, the pub has prided itself on being at the heart of the local community, providing space for a wide range of activities - from its popular regular bingo and quiz nights to events such as talks by local people, including ‘An Introduction to Bird Watching’. This 12-part talk was presented by Maureen Mitchell, a keen bird watcher, local resident and the current Stoke Canon Inn Committee Secretary.

As Maureen explains:

“Over the years we have looked at different ways to develop and improve our facilities. In 2016 we were awarded some funding from Pub is The Hub to purchase a digital projector and screen so that we could better host talks and cinema nights.

“Then in 2019, we started to think about how we might create a flexible event space so that we could host more activities. The pub is quite small and it isn’t possible to extend, but we do have a garage that’s useful for storage, a large car park and a lovely garden - so we discussed the possibility of creating an outdoor event space in the car park. We had another conversation with Pub is The Hub, who awarded us more funding to build a craft cabin, which we are calling the Hub, in recognition of the support we’ve received from them.

“Unfortunately COVID struck and our plans were put on hold for a while, but then I approached Pub is The Hub towards the end of 2020 to say we still need to construct something that we can use for events and activities outdoors, especially due to social distancing rules. We received the funding at the beginning of 2021 and work to build the Hub was completed by August 2021.

Since then, the community has been using the space on a regular basis for our folk night, a book club, bingo and quiz nights, local history talks, live music and dancing, and we are hoping that our knit and natter and arts and crafts activities will start back up in the coming months.

"The Hub is available for use by anyone in the local community as long as people are able to volunteer their time to make it happen. We also keep our hire prices low to ensure that our space is affordable and accessible.

“We are run almost entirely by volunteers: we have a team of volunteers who do the cleaning, maintain the pub, look after the gardens and run our activities and events, and even volunteer for shifts behind the bar. We also have a committee of volunteers who meet monthly, one salaried bar coordinator and the chef who runs the kitchen via a franchise. We could not operate without volunteers and we are always on the lookout for new people interested in volunteering.

“In fact we were delighted to be awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Services in 2020 in recognition of all the work our team of volunteers do to keep the pub and the Hub going.”

The Hub, which was set up to bring people together and combat social isolation, was part funded by a Community Services Fund grant from Pub is The Hub, the not-for-profit organisation that helps pubs to diversify and provide essential local services. What better accolade can a community have?

The Stoke Canon Inn is located on the High Street in Stoke Canon, Devon EX5 4AR. Contact details:

You can find out what community activities and events are coming up via the Stoke Canon Inn website here and more about volunteering here.

Special Online Event: Welcoming Creative Groups Into Your Pub

Creative Lives has teamed up with Pub is The Hub and CAMRA to bring you an ideas packed event to help you welcome creativity into your pub.

About this event

  • Date: Tuesday 28 June
  • Time: 9.30am - 11am
  • Location: Online via Zoom
  • Access type: FREE for all
  • Register via Eventbrite

During this online Zoom event we will cover how welcoming creative groups could help to:

  • Reinvigorate your pub following the pandemic
  • Further establish your pub as the hub of the community
  • Help to expand your customer base
  • Create a buzz in your pub during traditionally quieter times

There will be opportunities to hear from both publicans and creative groups, ask questions and explore case studies of existing pub/group partnerships across England. All attendees will receive an introduction to a Welcoming Creativity Toolkit, which is being designed specifically for publicans to provide ideas and resources to suit pubs of all sizes and situations. The Zoom event is free to attend for publicans in England.

Join us on zoom from 9:30am- 10:30am on Tuesday 28 June! We will keep the room for an extra 30 minutes for any further questions and conversations. If you have any questions or need more information please contact [email protected]

If you have any accessibility requirements, please make sure to specify them via the registration form.