TWO couples who took over a village pub threatened with permanent closure and transformed its fortunes are celebrating after being announced regional winners of the inaugural Parliamentary Pub of the Year competition.

The Stapylton Arms in Hawthorn Village, near Easington, County Durham, was bought by Dave and Joanne Irwing, along with Steve and Sharron Marley, in 2017.

Following a complete refurbishment, the country pub was reopened in March 2018 and has created more than 14 new jobs in the village.

The pub offers homecooked dishes with ingredients from local suppliers and a range of regional beers, while attracting walkers and local community groups from far and wide.

Mr Irwing said: “The pub was closed and the guy who owned it went for planning permission to convert it into housing.

“There was a campaign by the village to stop that, which was successful.

“It then became a case of 'now the planning application has been withdrawn, what are we going to do with the pub?' So myself and Steve bought it and refurbished it and reopened it.”

He added: “We knew the pub had been viable in the past and there was no reason why it could not be in the future.

“There is nothing else in the village – no shop or anything like that. The pub has gone down really well. We have a good chef, with the the emphasis on using local ingredients, wherever possible, and we have local real ales on tap.

“We are right next to Hawthorn Dene, which is quite a popular area for walkers and cyclists. We have made the pub dog-friendly too, which is working well for us.”

Mr Irwing owns a store maintenance company, while Mr Marley works off-shore in the oil and gas industry.

“We both still have our day jobs, so we take turns between the four of us to run the pub,” said Mr Irwing.

Following nomination by Easington MP Grahame Morris, the pub had to submit a short video portraying its character and their engagement with their customers and community.

All four will be travelling to the House on Commons on Tuesday when the national finalist will be announced.

Launched in the summer of 2018 by chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Pub Group, Toby Perkins, the competition seeks to recognise the important role pubs play in British life and the value they add to the local communities and local economy.

Mr Perkins said: “Pubs play a crucial and much-loved role in our daily life and the enthusiasm that MPs have shown in promoting the claim of their locals to this title shows the pride that our communities take in our pubs."