Express & Star

Residents hope disused Black Country pub can be community hub once again as it's put up for sale

In its prime, The Old Stags Head had people queuing down the road for its award-winning food, and served many a famous face – and even a horse.

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The Old Stag's Head in Penn is up for sale.

The pub was a staple of the Penn community in Wolverhampton, but a slow decline in its trade meant the doors being closed in October 2018, and it was put up for sale.

In January 2022, a planning application was submitted by Simply Planning Limited on behalf of the owner requesting to turn the pub into a six-bed family home.

But Wolverhampton Council turned down the request for a number of reasons, one being that it would "result in the loss of a valued community meeting place".

Another was that the existing site "contributes positively to the historic interest, character and appearance of the Vicarage Road (Penn) Conservation Area."

They added that the loss of the building as a pub was "harmful to the character and appearance" of the conservation area.

The planning application did include reference to the green belt, stating that "given the concerns... proposals have been fundamentally revised and significantly scaled back" and that they "seek to retain and enhance the existing former public house building to deliver one family home." However, the council refuted this, saying there were no "very special circumstances", and therefore it would "represent inappropriate development" in the green belt.

Some 300 objections were received after a petition to preserve the pub was shared online.

It is now back on the market for £750,000, listed by Mason Young Consultants, and Penn residents want to see it kept as a 'community building'.

Penn Residents Association, with Marlene Benton (in pink) and Councillor Paul Singh

Councillor Paul Singh believed the plans to convert the pub received the highest number of objections to one site in the whole city.

"Many hundred objections to the change of use were submitted to the council by the community," he said. "We think this was an all-time record of objections in the city. This really showed the force of the feeling that residents had told me.

"I want what the people want and will support them."

Penn Residents Association holds regular meetings where they discuss community topics, with the Old Stags Head being one of them. The group has discussed what they would like to see the building become. Whether a coffee shop, youth centre, or micro-pub, they would like it to remain a 'community hub'.

Debbie Peach, chair of Penn Residents Association, said: "For many people living in Penn, The Old Stags Head pub had been an historic, central community hub for much of their lifetime. Fond memories are attached to the place.

"A number of people had their first date there with the person they later married. Many famous rock bands partied at the pub. It is also a building of key importance in the conservation area."

The residents association produced a report objecting to the planning application. An Asset of Community Value registration for the pub was also made to the council.

Vice chair of Penn Residents Association, Arko Sen, said: "It is a complex issue, but we all hope that whatever happens, it will remain as a place for the community, or be brought back into service as a pub. It is prime within the conservation area and is of huge historical significance.

"We hope that whoever buys it will return it to its former use as a valued community spot."

One member of the association, Marlene Benton, along with her late husband Barry, was the pub's longest serving licensee, notching up 32 years. The couple "dedicated their lives" to it, and won awards for their food.

Barry Benton died in 2010, and was known for his love of race horses. In 1979, he renamed the lounge at The Stags Head in honour of Penwood Forge Mill, the renowned show jumping horse. To the delight of his customers, Barry invited the horse into his pub to officially open the new lounge.

Speaking fondly of her time there, the 74-year-old Marlene said: "There would be queues down the road every single night. Our steak was a fond favourite, the T-bone, and we had huge steak and kidney pies – about 40 dishes on the menu which were all homemade.

"Our fame was quality, quality, and good value."

She said they had weekly visits from Wolves players and famous horse riders, as well as serving Slade's Noddy Holder, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and others.

Marlene said the building could provide for the younger community too.

"It would be lovely if it could be transformed into a community hub with a cafe on site," she said, "a place that young people could come and learn cooking techniques, or even where people can learn about the history of the area."

The listing for the pub can be viewed on Zoopla.