Love Your Local: The Churchillian, near Widley

WE ARE FAMILY Chris Bennett, left, and Rob Hele. Picture: 'Allan Hutchings (1311-270)
WE ARE FAMILY Chris Bennett, left, and Rob Hele. Picture: 'Allan Hutchings (1311-270)
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Chris Bennett loves his job at The Churchillian so much he would tie himself to the building if there were ever plans to knock it down.

Chris, 27, who runs the pub in Portsdown Hill Road, near Widley, on behalf of his uncle Rob Hele, who is the leaseholder, feels like he is part of one big family.

And he says there are big plans for the pub, which has fantastic views of Portsmouth at the front and the countryside at the back, in the new year.

New ‘upmarket’ dishes are being added to the food menu, live music and quizzes will soon be held every Sunday and other fun events will be put on at least once a month.

A flat above the pub is being turned into a business suite with wi-fi and a projector so firms can come and hold meetings. The work is expected to be completed by next month.

Chris, who moved from Paignton, Devon, to the pub to work under Rob when he took over in 2003, said: ‘I love this job.

‘I wouldn’t go anywhere else and if anyone ever thought about knocking the place down I would tie myself to it.

‘It’s part of my life.

‘I’ve never felt that way about a job before.

‘I think I’ve got a strong connection to the pub because it’s family-run.

‘If we are busy then it’s the family that is making money.’

The Churchillian was built in 1966 and named after Sir Winston Churchill after his wife Clementine Spencer-Churchill wrote a letter to the pub giving permission.

It was named after the UK’s prime minister during the Second World War because he helped to plan the D-Day landings at nearby Southwick House in 1944.

The letter is framed on a wall inside the pub, which is decorated with other Churchill memorabilia.

On December 19, 1940s vocal trio The Three Belles performed in the bar and a raffle organised by customer Robert Garnett for The Rowans Hospice on the night raised more than £300.

A quiz held at the pub the day after raised £100 for the worthy cause and an extra £385 was made after customers bought Christmas goodies including crackers, puddings, chocolate and bottles of alcohol that were donated by staff.

The pub employs 26 people who carry out a variety of duties.

‘The best thing about it here is the staff,’ Chris said.

‘A lot of pubs have staff who come and go but we have people who have been here for years. We all know each other and we socialise together out of hours.’


ROB Hele decided to take over The Churchillian because he thought it was in a great location.

He began working at the pub in 1996 and worked his way up to assistant manager before putting in an offer after the previous owners retired.

‘I saw it as a great opportunity and I had got to know the local people well,’ he said.

The pub’s collection of Churchill pictures, local maps, and a picture of a Spitfire plane are all owned by Rob. He sees the memorabilia as a strong talking point with his customers.

‘I’ve had quite a few offers for the Spitfire picture,’ he said.

‘I think it’s important to know about the local area and people who come in love finding out things they didn’t know.

‘The pub’s connection with Winston Churchill is a definite selling point.

‘This is a pub that does well when the weather is great, because people sit outside and take in the views around them.’

Though Rob, 50, admits that the pub trade has been difficult in recent years, he says business is steady at the moment and is confident about the year ahead.

‘It’s been up and down and a lot of people are struggling at the moment,’ he said.

‘When I took over it was the boom period. But I would say we are steady now.

‘Hopefully we will see more good weather this year and that will attract more people.’

Rob’s wife Hilary, 50, runs a business course at Chichester College.

The couple live in Horndean. Rob started life in the pub industry in 1984 when he worked at The Manor Inn, in Brixham, Devon.