Save the Tumbledown

August 24, 2013 | By Paul Mackenzie Ross | Filed in: appeal, business, history, Pubs.

I need your help to save our pub, please. If you want to skip the preamble and just get on with objecting to the current planning application then go straight to


In 2008 The Tumbledown Dick pub closed. Situated on the busy A325 Farnborough Road, I spotted that the lights were off and nobody was home. A note on the door said that the pub had failed a health inspection (asbestos in the building apparently) and the owners had closed the doors until further notice but we would be expecting a refit within the year, rumoured to be at a cost of a million pounds.

Nothing happened.

Spirit Group, who also had Ye Olde White Harte, just up the road in Frimley, splashed out a cool million on re-roofing, underpinning and refurbishing that pub but ours remained neglected. That was how the situation remained for nearly five years.

Before The Tumbledown shut it was in desperate need of a revamp anyway. But despite this it was still a vibrant pub. It was also a viable business. The regulars, despite the old tavern’s needs, were a loyal bunch and music was a big part of the pub’s appeal;

The jukebox had a great selection of metal and alternative tracks, there was the “Quarantine” nightclub event in the music hall, which was regularly packed out, and bands played on the stage, pulling in large audiences of happy punters. The place was a Mecca for musos.

I’d been drinking at that pub for 20 years before it was shut. I’d witnessed it change from a quiet, shabby town centre watering hole to a slightly less shabby place that many people were proud call their local. I was never a regular but I did try and pop down once a week for the live bands.

And it was these live band nights that made The Tumbledown such a unique place in Farnborough: not only would there be a couple of hundred people drawn to the cover bands but you’d see some old faces “come out of the woodwork” – friends that I’d not seen in decades might appear at band nights and we’d catch up and have a beer or two.

Those days are no more. But not for lack of trying. Many people have written to the relevant authorities, badgered their councillors, MP, the owners, even some enquiries to buy the pub were put in.

Nothing happened.

Then, at the end of last summer, the mighty oak tree beside the pub was chopped down. Wondering what was going on, somebody noted that McDonald’s, the fast food outlet, were on the Land Registry document for 227 Farnborough Rd, the address of The Tumbledown.

Community interest group, The Friends of the Tumbledown Dick, was formed last year and has worked tirelessly since October 2012 to save the pub. They have gotten the building “locally listed” and nominated it as an Asset of Community Value (ACV), which Rushmoor Borough Council agreed with.

Now, the fast food giant have put in their planning application and want to destroy most of the building so that they can eventually serve their own brand of mass-produced, low cost, high calorie product. The fast food outlet proposes a drive-thru lane and parking for just 30 cars.

Personally, I think it’s absolutely criminal that the owners of The Tumbledown, Bride Hall, an out-of-town property developer, have allowed the building to be neglected for so long. I think the council should have done more to ensure the building’s upkeep and Spirit Group, who lease the pub from its owners, should have splashed out on a refurb.

I also think that the few supporters of the fast food option are damning not just this once-thriving pub but this town too. As a member of The Friends of the Tumbledown, I’ve seen the business plan, the finance options and months of blood, sweat and tears devoted by campaigners. People have given their valuable time to this cause despite having full time jobs, running their own businesses, raising families and suffering from health issues – yes, despite all this, they have continually pushed to fend off the fast food plot, get a plan in place, find the funds and get this pub back.

On restoring The Tumbledown I’d like to say this: yes, it may be considered by some as “an eyesore” at the moment but that’s no good reason to simply go for the drive-thru, that’s not really an option. It will not take much to clean up the brickwork, give it a lick of paint and restock the window boxes and hanging baskets. Did you know that The Tumbledown won the local “Rushmoor in Bloom” in 2005 for its lovely flower displays? The roof needs fixing, the holes need patching, and there are a lot of things to be done. But this pub can be full of local life again. It can source local food, local beers, employ local people and recirculate money into the local economy.

Will it return as it was, as this “den of iniquity” as do many stick-in-the-muds have feared? No. Absolutely not. The reputation the pub may have once had was long gone before it closed. The campaigners and past punters have all grown up and raised their own families now and, being future stakeholders in the pub, they have a vested interest in the success of the business. This includes making sure it continues to be run responsibly and for the benefit of the local people. It is, after all, an asset if community value, right?

So what are you going to do about it?

Object. Object to the destruction of the majority of our pub, object to the inadequate parking, object to the traffic problems that this will inevitably cause, object to the litter, object to the threat to the independent businesses already across the road, object to the mass-produced low-cost high calorie “food” and the effect it will have on Rushmoor’s already above national average obesity problems (especially in young children – Oh the irony of the “Happy Meal”).

Here’s the link to The Friends of the Tumbledown and their post detailing all the issues and how to put in your objection to this awful planning application.

Save the Tumbledown!

Thank you 🙂

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