A historic pub in Appleby in Westmorland is being re-invented for the second time by local couple, Clive and Amie Bissland.
The couple bought The Midland Hotel, popular local pub in October 2010 brought it back to life following 2-years of closure. After a major renovation, 7-months later the bar reopened and in 2012 the couple completed a re-development to offer 5 en-suite rooms for visitors to the area.
After trading successfully for 5 years, tragedy struck when Clive was diagnosed with cancer and 2 years later Amie was diagnosed. Over two and a half years, both had to undergo surgery and medical treatment to bring them back to full health.
This blow impacted on their business and it was with great sadness that they decided to place the Midland Hotel on the market at the time of their illness. Three years later and with full health restored, the couple have not found a buyer. Amie, a former office manager and Clive, a painter and decorator by trade, saw this as a sign and decided not to give up on their dream of running their own pub.
They have rallied their efforts and consolidated what they do by closing the restaurant to focus on offering the venue for function bookings, with full catering for all events held at The Midland Hotel. A measure that means they are able to continue running the pub and rooms, which are booking out well.
Amie explains: “We were almost singlehandedly running the restaurant, functions, pub and servicing the rooms. We had three fantastic part-time staff, who have since found new jobs, but it was becoming too much and to keep the business viable we had to address the strengths of The Midland and what it meant to the local community. To us that is running the pub as a real pub.”
The Midland has been an integral part of local Appleby life since it opened in 1876. Situated next to Appleby railway station, it takes its name from the Midland Railway, which built the famous Carlisle to Settle Line.
It is a pub that already has a reputation for offering a real pub experience and was recognised by CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) as ‘Pub of the Year’ (Westmorland and Eden Branch) in 2013 and 2014. Clive adds: “That will be our focus going forward. We want the local community to see The Midland as their pub. Without local support it will not stay open, so this has to work for us and for the locals.”
The couple are not being dramatic when they say, “Save our pub.”. Pubs are closing up and down the UK and CAMRA have already highlighted the detrimental effect that this has on local communities. CAMRA release a statement to say that “Pub closures are making us all poorer. Four out of five people in the UK have experienced a local pub closure in the last five years. A massive 80% of Brits who expressed an opinion have witnessed at least one pub close, and 21% have seen five or more close, according to new research conducted by YouGov.”
An article issued by CAMRA goes on to state that pubs play a very important role in our national economy, contributing £23.1 billion to the UK economy annually. They also provide a wealth of social benefits to individuals and communities, bringing people together and making them happier, better connected and more trusting. CAMRA have furthered their studies into the social and well-being benefits of a real pub in the local community by commissioning research from Oxford University which found that people who have a local pub are happier and have more friends!
As a local couple, Amie and Clive Bissland are very passionate about offering a pub that brings locals together. They play an active role in community events while also offering The Midland as a pub that is a hub for locals to gather, to either enjoy a quite drink and a chat or to join in the regular pub quiz nights that have become popular. Amie and Clive invite locals to suggest what else they would like ‘their local’ to offer and hope that through their dedication to The Midland Hotel, this historic pub with rooms remains a focal point of local Appleby life for many years to come.