VILLAGERS in West Hendred have united to try to save a village pub that is under threat.

Residents say The Hare, in Reading Road, has served up pints to villagers for almost 200 years.

But three weeks ago owners Greene King shut up shop and put the public house on the market.

Now a group has formed to try to buy the pub and turn it into a community-run freehouse.

Piers Denne, who lives in the village, is chairman of the group’s committee.

The 51-year-old said: “We found out several weeks ago about the pub (being up for sale), and after a flurry of emails there was plenty of support to run it as a community venture.

“The feeling is that we want to keep it as a pub because if we don’t there won’t be one in the village.

“We also want to try to stop the site being developed.

“Someone could easily put five or six houses on the site or open a Tesco Express and put the local shops in East Hendred under threat. We need to try to protect it.”

Avis Atkins, who was born in West Hendred and used to work at The Hare, said: “I remember my father used to go to The Hare after being demobbed.

“He played darts and dominoes and ran the thrift club from there.

“Everyone used to go, it was the centre of the village.

“I would hate to see it go.”

A Greene King spokesman said: “We are committed to running friendly, high quality pubs which are enjoyed by everyone in the community.

“We sometimes have to make the difficult decision to close pubs which, due to a reduction in the number of customers using them, are no longer viable.

“This is the case with The Hare, one of our tenanted pubs, which is now closed and currently on the market.”

The group intends to raise the funds to buy the pub, which is on the market for £425,000.

Richard Evans, chairman of West Hendred parish council, said: “We are all fully in support of saving The Hare and we are trying to get it English Heritage listed as it is a very important building architecturally.

“The whole community has thrown its support behind the group and the effort to turn it into a community pub.

The pub was known as The Extraordinary Hare from about August 2013 before reverting to its original name after the landlord left.

Greene King then installed a temporary bar manager until it closed the pub.

As reported in the Oxford Mail, Greene King has also sold a number of Oxfordshire pubs as part of a national deal with Hawthorn Leisure.

Abingdon’s Saxton Arms was sold as part of the £75.6m deal, along with Ock Street’s Cross Keys.

A Greene King spokesman said at the time the sale was part of the firm’s “strategy to reduce the size of its tenanted and leased estate”.

The real ale group CAMRA has said more than 22 pubs across various firms have closed in Oxfordshire in the past five years.

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