Alba Leo Renascitur*
Many of us have fond memories of the White Lion as it was in the past, when there were many pubs around, and indeed there was a large section of society, mainly men, that used pubs on a regular daily basis to have a few drinks, smoke, catch up with mates of the same ilk, and get out of the house for an hour or so.
The White Lion had its share of regulars, but it also had another important role, as it was a popular place in the summer for the community to come with children, and others, and enjoy the pub and the large garden area. Some of us remember the large yellow boot playhouse in the garden that signalled that the White Lion was a family pub and that children were wanted. In the winter months it was also a meeting point for a local fox hunt, and we had hounds spilling along the road and into gardens when the hunt set off.
Later, the conservatory was built and the car park extended, and the White Lion prospered, combining its role as a local, while continuing to attract the summer families, walkers, cyclists, and furthering its attraction by offering good dining.
While not unique, the White Lion is blessed with a super location. It’s highly visible, at the junction of two moderately busy roads, and yet is set back from the road. With a gently sloping large south facing garden, it is in the country but not too far from Reading and other places, easy to find, and with a good sized car park.
It was these advantages that meant that that it was successful, but like any business, success is not a given without the right hard work and actions. Locally, the Highwayman at Exlade Street fell on difficult times, and was closed for a long time, but is now doing well, as is the Bladebone in Bucklebury. Other pubs, particularly those free from the rapacious grasp of the property companies that the brewery companies have become, do well, such as the Bell at Aldworth.
So, how do we see the White Lion operating as a successful community hub? Well, it will continue to be a pub, being a place to meet, to have a drink, and a meal. More than that, it would be a place to have coffee, to meet friends, to WFH** in company, and to be a place where the community links that we already have could be strengthened. It would also aim to attract cyclists and walkers, and perhaps be a location for a farmers market or other trading venue.
Whilst the pub would be owned by a community based company, co-operative or Trust, there would be a core of professional staff, but supported by local volunteers. The volunteer input would be both regular, and occasional, helping out with maintenance and improvements, and contributing to ensuring that the White Lion remains embedded in the community.
* White Lion Reborn
** WFH Work from home