VILLAGERS who rallied to buy an historic pub which inspired novelist Lewis Carol have found their efforts have paid off and the pub is now under community ownership.

The Beckley and Area Community Benefit Society completed the purchase of the 300-year old Abingdon Arms Pub on Thursday.

The pub in Beckley High Street, aimed to secure at least £440,000 to meet Brakspear's asking price to ensure the pub's future as a community asset.

The group announced on Thursday it had not only secured the funds but had agreed the sale.

Society chairman Mike Hobbs said he was thrilled with the purchase and added that this was just the beginning of the pub's next chapter.

He said: “We have had a fantastic response to our campaign to save The Abingdon Arms in Beckley and are now the proud owners of a community pub.

"It has been heart-warming to see so many people supporting the project and has created a real sense of community cohesion.

"That’s the reason that we did it.”

The group first launched their community fundraising campaign in October and raised £475,750 in just a month from 270 investors.

The investors are from all across the UK with the majority based at five local villages, Beckley, Horton-Cum-Studley, Elsfield, Noke and Stanton St John.

Spokesperson Georgina Matthews said: "The amount raised shows that locals felt strongly about saving the 17th century pub for the community and maintaining a visual social hub.

"This is a great success story for the Beckley & Area Community Benefit Society but there are still challenges ahead."

The society is now on the hunt for a tenant to run the pub as a business and is in the process of sprucing up the grounds.

Mrs Matthews added: "With loads of potential as a free house close to the city of Oxford, a beautiful pub garden and the community behind the venture, we hope to see applications flooding in now the purchase is complete.

"The Community Benefit Society is busy organising an army of volunteers to come in over the next few weeks and get the pub ready for business with locals on hand to clean, clear the garden, and do basic DIY and decorating."

The society has ambitious plans and said it wanted to develop the pub with additional community-focused facilities such as a local shop selling basic goods, a café, a bike repair service, a parcel collection service and even an art gallery and music venue.

The Beckley and Area Community Benefit Society was set up by four founder-members and now has a management committee of nine.

They have been supported through the process by the Oxfordshire-based Plunkett Foundation as well as a large number of Oxfordshire organisations.