The White Lion, Hankelow is superbly located on the busy A529 overlooking the picturesque village green and duck pond. It has been at the heart of Hankelow for more than two centuries, and contributes considerably to the appearance and charm of the village centre.
However after many years of neglect and mismanagement the pub closed its doors in 2016 and was set to be demolished for housing. Villagers rallied around to oppose the plans, but despite Cheshire East originally refusing permission the owner won an appeal in June 2017.
The villagers did not take that lying down. An action group was formed and managed to raise a staggering £380,000 enabling them to buy the building and land in September 2018.
A new company – the White Lion Community Pub Hankelow Limited – was formed to take the project forward, and work started on saving and rejuvenating the pub. However during the initial work on the building it was discovered that the years of neglect had resulted in unexpected and substantial structural problems. The building was just about ready to fall down! Although at first this seemed to be a massive problem, it was treated as an opportunity and plans were made for considerable restructuring.
Drainage was also a problem so a new water treatment plant was installed in November 2019, before work started on the building. A considerable amount of demolition of the old structure was required, and a new steel framework was incorporated to make the building safe. However the Covid Pandemic came along during this phase, and the pace of the building work slowed down, finally coming to a halt in September 2020 as the second wave of the pandemic took hold.
Needless to say the necessary changes required much more finance and during the pause, the directors were very busy behind the scenes. New finance was secured and even more ambitious plans were drawn up. The new plans were approved in November 2020, and new quotations for the building work were obtained. Building work recommenced in April 2021 and the internal structure and the rear of the pub have now been vastly improved, while retaining the charm and character of the pub as viewed from the village green. The old roof was removed and replaced, and new windows will be fitted soon. Several fireplaces have been built and cosy ‘snug’ areas added.
The redevelopment offered opportunities to make major ecological improvements too. As well as greatly improved insulation, solar panels are being fitted and an innovative electric heating system is to be incorporated.
The aim of the White Lion is to offer a superior dining experience based around locally sourced ingredients, as well as welcoming more casual customers such as ramblers, dog walkers and cyclists. In the distant past, it offered accommodation as the White Lion Hotel, and the newly refurbished pub will return to that tradition by offering three en-suite guest rooms. It will continue to operate as a ‘free house’ and will have an area dedicated to the local community.
When complete, the White Lion will be unique in the area with much to interest visitors from both near and far. An exciting new chapter in the history of the White Lion is about to begin!