Gosport landlady of The Carisbrooke Arms brought to tears by her daughters' surprise fundraising effort

WITH two Gosport publicans feeling the strain of lockdown, their daughters decided to secretly fundraise to support their family pub - and they’ve been blown away by the community’s response.

Wednesday, 3rd March 2021, 5:08 pm
Updated Thursday, 4th March 2021, 5:43 pm

Amy Thornhill and Elise Bellis launched an online fundraiser to support The Carisbrooke Arms, in Carisbrooke Road, Gosport at the start of last month.

Keeping their efforts secret from their publican parents Darren and Tina Tester, the pair hoped to present a surprise cheque for £2,000.

But the community has rallied around their local – and dug deep to bring the final figure to more than £10,000.

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Darren and Tina Tester with their daughters, Elise Bellis and Amy Thornhill. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Tina, who has run the popular pub for more than 14 years, said: ‘My first reaction was - how are we going to pay this back?

‘I am very very proud and I don’t like asking for help.

‘How can I ever say thank you – it's absolutely wonderful.’

Elise and her sister decided to launch the fundraising effort after seeing the toll the latest lockdown was having on the business and their parents’ wellbeing.

The Carisbrooke Arms in Gosport Picture: Habibur Rahman

Elise said: ‘They have brought this pub up from nothing. They give so much to the community. There are the last to ask for help.

‘Covid has hit many many businesses very hard. We could see the strain it was having.

‘We originally set a target of £2,000, and we thought that was really optimistic – we reached that within 48 hours.’

The 24-year-old added: ‘We kept it a surprise as they are exceptionally proud. We knew we'd have to tell them because we were smiling at our phones all the time.’

Darren and Tina Tester with their daughters, Elise Bellis and Amy Thornhill Picture: Habibur Rahman

While Tina praised Punch, the pub’s owners, for a significant rent reduction over the past 12 months, the landlady said on-going expenditures have been a source of worry even as the pub lay empty.

She said: ‘It hasn’t been easy.

‘Just gas and electricity bills can be £2,500.

‘The government give us these grants, but we don’t get them when we need them.

‘You get them six weeks later, long after your bills are due.’

Now the family is looking forward to opening the pub’s garden – with marquees – when restrictions are lifted in April.

An online raffle will be held this Saturday for all those who donated to the fundraiser, with details to be confirmed on the pub’s Facebook page.