Owners of historic High Peak pub eye summer reopening after major restoration

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The owners of a Whaley Bridge pub which dates back to Tudor times are making tentative plans for a grand reopening this summer as the years-long restoration project nears its final phase.

Matt Sharp and Rob Bann bought the Jodrell Arms, on Market Street, in 2021 with ambitions to run it alongside their property development company Mellor Homes and bring new life to a building where they drank in their youth.

At the time, it had stood empty for 13 years and become a target for vandalism, to much dismay among local residents given the pub’s prominent location and former status as a hub of the community.

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External and structural works have been carried out by Mellor’s own workforce around other business commitments and last month the Jodrell’s former hotel rooms became operational again as a mix of long and short-term rental apartments – but that has prompted a fresh wave of questions about the pub area downstairs.

An architect's image of how the Jodrell Arms in Whaley Bridge will look once work is complete.An architect's image of how the Jodrell Arms in Whaley Bridge will look once work is complete.
An architect's image of how the Jodrell Arms in Whaley Bridge will look once work is complete.

Matt, just back from an expedition to Norway with his military veterans charity Cockleshell 22, said: “We know people are keen to have this as a decent pub and dining option in Whaley again, and some are worried that we’ll turn the downstairs into more apartments.

“We’d like to put people’s minds at rest that they’re going to get a really high standard eating and drinking establishment very soon. We are feeling that pressure and we’re getting on with it.”

The building’s listed heritage status means every alteration has to be agreed in meticulous detail with planning officers at High Peak Borough Council, but Matt says the final proposals for the interior should be submitted within a few days.

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He said: “As soon as all the planning conditions are discharged and we get the go-ahead we’ll get to work – hopefully in the next eight weeks – and then we’ll be advertising for a grand opening in the summertime. Watch this space.

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The building's owners Matt Sharp, left, and Rob Bann.The building's owners Matt Sharp, left, and Rob Bann.
The building's owners Matt Sharp, left, and Rob Bann.

“It’s an interesting building to everyone but especially the heritage experts in the planning department. That ties our hands with things like internal walls, but we think the layout works really well as it is, and then we want to make sure floor coverings, fireplaces and everything else in the fitout is sympathetic to the era it was built.

“Anyone who remembers drinking there before should find it’s very similar when they walk in again for the first time – just with a fresh, homely appearance.”

He added: “The work itself should be straightforward. We think we’ve uncovered all the issues already. There was a lot of dry rot, timbers than needed treating, we’ve replaced all the windows and floors, re-slated the roof, finished the façade and tanked the cellar. It’s really just a case of wiring, plumbing and the internal fitout now.

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“We’re also putting in another planning application to cover the internal courtyard for indoor-outdoor seating. It makes sense to us to try and do all the work at once so we’d like to get that application approved by the time the rest of the fitout is complete. The previous owner got approval for something similar before so hopefully it’s just a paperwork exercise now.

The pub has been an eyesore for Whaley residents for many years. (Photo: Brian Eyre/Buxton Advertiser)The pub has been an eyesore for Whaley residents for many years. (Photo: Brian Eyre/Buxton Advertiser)
The pub has been an eyesore for Whaley residents for many years. (Photo: Brian Eyre/Buxton Advertiser)

“The finances and the workforce are in place, it just hinges on the planning process now. Given the prominence of the building and the difference it would make to the town centre, we’re hoping the planners will be keen to work with us on a quick timeframe.”

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One big change from Matt and Rob’s original plan is that they will now have a hands-on role in running the pub, having previously intended to hand it over to tenants to manage.

Matt said: “We had quite a few enquiries from people with different ideas what to do with it, but none of them really fit our vision, or what we feel is the vision shared by people in Whaley.

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“We think people want a decent, cosy country pub with above-average grub and a nice environment. No one came to us with that idea, so we thought we’d go it alone. We have partnered with an experienced couple who have run pubs in the past, but we’ll run it as a team.“We’ve already agreed a deal with Buxton Brewery to sell their real ales and we’ve got a meeting coming up with Coors to bring in their products and expertise.”

He added: “We’re very aware that lots of pubs like this are more focused either on drinkers or diners, which often alienates the other group. We think there’s plenty of space to give both sets of customers what they want.

“There will be dedicated areas for table service eating, and we’re also going to have a space that can be booked and separated off for functions. We’ve had lots of people tell us that if ever there was a wedding, birthday party, funeral or christening in Whaley, people would book the Jodrell. That’s very much in our thoughts and business plans.

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“We’ve already had a conversation with Whaley Town Council about planting a permanent spruce tree outside where the temporary one usually stands at Christmas each year. I don’t know whether it will be three-foot or ten-foot yet but it should be in and growing by this December.

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“In the meantime, if anyone has family or friends visiting and needs somewhere for them to stay, the four one- or two-bed apartments are available now.”

For booking enquiries regarding the Jodrell Suites, contact thehiveshortstays.com.

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