THE sudden closure of a popular village pub near Chipping Campden has left residents shocked and saddened.

Now they are considering taking over The Churchill Arms, in Paxford, as a community initiative if no-one comes forward after it ceased trading last week.

The 17th Century Grade II listed pub, was brought back from the brink of closure in 2008 by three local businessmen and four years later it was recognised as The Cotswold Best Pub Restaurant 2011 at the Food and Drink Awards.

In an email to residents, one of the three people who took over the pub Richard Shore, said it was no longer tenable for him to continue.

“I would like to thank you all for your loyal support and particularly those who patronised with us regularly over the last five years,” he said. “Your custom and general banter will be much missed.

“It is sad, but unfortunately inevitable under the circumstances.”

Enterprise Inns, which owns the pub, is already advertising the tenancy on its website.

Villager Rachel Tracey said: “The Churchill Arms is such a focus for our small community,” she said. “We also feel it will affect the desirability of Paxford as, often, a local pub is high on the wishlist for buyers.

"It is very sad and very sudden. There's even talk about approaching Enterprise to find out what their plans are for the pub and, if no takers, whether we could take it over as a village initiative."

Resident Maralyn Harvey said: "The Churchill has been a valuable asset to the village despite its ups and down over the last twelve months or so.

"Prolonged closure and possible conversion would be a disaster for the village. We strongly feel that the village should seek a meeting with Enterprise Inns to discuss the future of this valuable village asset."

Villager Mike Sessarego said the pub had been a focal point for many residents.

"When we raised the money for the clock they were very supportive for that," he said. "It's a shame."

A spokesman for Enterprise said: "We can confirm that the Churchill Arms closed last week following the Publican's decision to cease trading.

"However our aim is for the pub to resume trading at the earliest opportunity and we are actively recruiting for a new Publican.

"Anyone interested in finding out more about this pub business opportunity can contact Enterprise on 0800 953 0072.”