One of Kent’s oldest village pubs has re-opened following an extensive refurbishment.
The 600-year-old Woolpack Inn at Chilham, between Canterbury and Ashford, is now in the experienced hands of the Thompson family who rolled up their sleeves and did much of the work themselves.
They are also setting about upgrading the pub’s 14-bed guest accommodation and further rooms in the old stables which will be completed in the new year.
Gordon and Sharon Thompson, who already run three other Shepherd Neame pubs and hotels, admitted the Woolpack was in need of some TLC.
“It is such a beautiful building in such a beautiful location – it just needs a bit of love,” said Sharon.
That involved some serious hard graft over two months by the couple and their daughters Leanne and Molly, who will run it day-to-day, and carpenter son-in-law Alan Cogger.
“All the family have had a hand in the renovation, from sanding and painting to interior design, copper work, graphic design and gardening,” said Sharon.
She and her husband Gordon have four decades of experience in the hospitality industry.
The renovations were supported by Shepherd Neame which owns the building.
Following the stylish transformation, visitors are now greeted by a roaring fire in the restored inglenook fireplace and cosy surroundings in keeping with its long history.
One new feature is the creation of a period reception desk complete with accessories.
During the refurbishment works, they also hosted the winemakers from the 2023 harvest of the new Domaine Evremond sparkling wine, which is a collaboration between Champagne Taittinger and wine specialist Hatch Mansfield Ltd, with the vineyard a stone’s throw away from the pub.
To celebrate the relationship, they are serving Champagne Taittinger not only by the bottle but by the glass, and will be including it in their sparkling cocktails.
The pub re-opened on Friday with a visit by the Sheriff of Canterbury, Cllr Tom Mellish who praised the transformation and wished the new hosts success.
The Woolpack also boasts a new menu, offering a diverse range of pub classic dishes as well as sharing deli-style boards and slow-roasted meats.
Sharon added: “Whether we are serving a homemade pie or a glass of Taittinger Champagne, it is about the service you are getting, value for money and the ambience.
“We want customers to feel comfortable at The Woolpack whether they are here for a pint of beer, fine dining in our restaurant or in their jeans, by the fire, ordering a burger.
“There is thought behind everything we do.”