A PUB that has been at the heart of a community for 285 years has now closed its doors.
The Fountain Inn, Rowlands Castle, used to be an old coaching inn and was well-known for hosting lively open-mic nights, and bands that played their hearts out at weekends.
The establishment used to be run by award-winning musician Herbie Armstrong, who performed alongside his friend Van Morrison, and became the community’s hub of live music and laughter.
For 14 years 61-year-old barmaid Sandra Kinge worked at the pub, and said she’s devastated to see it go.
‘There’ll be a hole in the community now the doors have closed,’ said Sandra.
‘It’s been open since the 18th century, the building is old but the atmosphere was the best thing about it – Herbie is to thank for starting off all the live music.
‘I’ve got to know many locals over the years, so many people loved coming into the pub. On my last shift it was absolutely packed, you couldn’t move, everyone wanted to say goodbye to me.’
The pub’s lease was most recently held for six months by the owners of the Taste Of India restaurants next to the pub, and in Emsworth.
Lesley Like, 57, from Horndean has been visiting for 15 years. She said: ‘The Fountain Inn was a small quaint village pub that people from further afield went also went to.
‘It was originally an old coaching inn for people who used to travel by horse and carriage and needed to rest on their journeys.
‘Myself and my husband Graham, who has played at the pub with his band The Boost Button, were gutted when we found out it was closing – so were a lot of other locals.
‘The open-mic nights Sandra used to put on were fantastic, and for months in advance she’d book bands in for Fridays and Saturdays. Regulars used to like listening to a variety of music.
‘The pub has certainly been a staple in the community.’
Jasmine Bryant, 23, was another of the pub’s workers. Her family has been visiting the establishment since 2013.
She said: ‘The talented musicians that played there and the open-mic nights were just brilliant. Musicians could go to jam with one another and my sister Eloise Bryant was introduced to singing with a live band by Herbie Armstrong.
‘Sandra, the landlady, is one of the funniest and craziest women I’ve met. She made the pub a fun and lively place. It was always a lovely pub to visit and to work in.’