A historic pub has been saved after villagers raised more than £300,000 to buy it.
Residents in Bethersden, near Ashford, rose to the challenge of raising the staggering figure before Christmas in order to save and reopen The George.
The 300-year-old freehouse, described by many as the "heart of the village", closed during the pandemic, with the building up for sale.
Fearing the historic building could be demolished or transformed, a group of like-minded residents came together to form The George Community, with the aim of raising enough money to reopen the pub as a community asset.
Efforts were aided by a government boon, which pledged to match any money raised up to £250,000 – meaning £300,000 raised would result in £550,000 in total.
Small fundraising events were held at the pub across 18 months, but with an end-of-year deadline looming the group launched a Community Share Offer, with anyone being able to purchase up to 80 shares of £500 each.
At a party at the pub on Saturday, the good news was announced by Ashford MP Damian Green to a jubilant crowd.
George Community Chair and Bethersden stalwart Robin Draper said he and the whole committee had been "overwhelmed" by the community's response.
"We knew this was a huge ask from the village right now, but they have demonstrated how important The George is to them and this community," he said.
"In return for that vote of confidence, our pledge is that The George will not only re-open as a pub but also as a hub – somewhere that will be a true community meeting place and resource for residents going forward."
With the funds raised, contracts on the purchase are set to be exchanged next week, with the purchase being completed in the new year.
The George Community then plan to prepare the pub for reopening in time for St George’s Day at the end of April.
Mr Green congratulated the village on their achievement, adding: “This is hugely important for the village and a real tribute to everyone involved.
"The fact that they’ve raised this incredible amount of money, to more than match the money coming from the Government, is a real testament to the pride in their community.
“Villages like Bethersden suffered hugely from the pandemic because people weren’t allowed to meet with one another, so one more step back to a normal way of life will be the re-opening of The George.”
To help raise further funds for vital repairs and necessary refurbishments, the share offer is remaining open. More details can be found on the George Community website.
Members of the public who wish to support the campaign without buying shares, can contribute through The George Community’s Crowdfunding account.