Ex-overseas workers run pub with library

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An international aid worker, Jessica Stanton has returned to her Cornish roots to run a local pub that now boasts a library thanks to help from Pub is The Hub and Cornwall’s library services.

Jessica and her partner Russ Matterson took over the Halfway House in Polbathic near Torpoint at the beginning of April with the aim of providing a true community pub for the village. This week saw the opening of their latest venture – the pub’s library – with local girl Chloe Powell-Thomas cutting the ribbon in an official opening ceremony.

The pub also has its own organic vegetable patch for home-grown produce that will go straight into the kitchen and Russ has worked closely with the trained pastry chef, Joe Oxberry to produce great local home-cooked food at affordable prices. They have even encouraged the regular drinkers in the bar to ditch the crisps and peanuts for their popular Cornish tapas style bar snacks instead.

Jessica is passionate about providing a true local pub for Polbathic and said: “We’re determined to keep this pub for the locals with great ale, decent food and some great live music. It’s a tragedy to see so many Cornish villages dying as all the businesses and services close down. Often the pub is the last business left and its projects like the library that will help sustain our business and keep people coming in on a regular basis. We are open from 12 ’til 12 every day, we have disabled access and we also have a lovely beer garden for the summer.”

Over the last year, Jessica befriended a local girl, her very own ‘Matilda’ in 12 year old bookworm Chloe, whose family lives opposite and runs Sunnyside Garage and Shop. “Whenever the family came in for a meal Chloe would be reading a book,” added Jessica. “She has patiently waited for the shelves to be built, the books to arrive and was one of the first members to sign up and borrow a book so I promised that she would be the VIP to cut the ribbon for the official opening.”

Within days the library had already had more than 20 members with 30 books being borrowed so far. Run by Jessica and Russ but stocked and maintained by Cornwall Council’s library services the library has online access and an ordering service for any books that the library doesn’t hold and books are refreshed every couple of weeks.

Jessica grew up in the family pub, The Pickwick Inn at St Issey near Padstow but trained as a commercial interior designer. She moved into construction project management before being drawn into the humanitarian aid sector for six years working for Save the Children and Shelter Box in Somalia, Iraq, Haiti and many other disaster and war zones. Somehow, during visits home she managed to meet Russ, who was himself, touring the world in his job as a sound engineer for international music artists such as Lionel Richie and Passenger, and the two of them set up home together in Newquay.

When Jessica’s 95 year old grandmother fell ill in 2013 she decided to return home to care for her. Shortly afterwards her parents bought the Halfway House pub and asked her to take on the refurbishment project that was required. She worked for a year designing, project managing and labouring on the job herself and when the intended licensees decided not to carry on running the pub Jessica and Russ decided to take the pub on as their own.

Reg Clarke, the advisor for Pub is The Hub who has overseen the project and also provided a grant to provide the shelves, signage and computer terminal added: “Jessica and Russ have decided to put their roots down in Polbathic and have already embedded themselves into the heart of their community. They are going to make the Halfway House a cracking locals pub.

“I think Jessica’s next project has to be writing a book about their lives so far for the library!”


Photograph shows: Jessica Stanton and Russ Matterson with their in-pub library.