New publican Victoria Frazer-Smith on the trials and tribulations of re-opening a village pub

People often talk about writing a book or running a pub. Tell your friends you’re penning your first novel and they might feign interest, tell them you’re about to open an inn and they look at you in horror, questions coming thick and fast: “Why would you want to when so many are closing?” “Are you looking for the fastest way to go bankrupt?”

“Experience doesn’t count,” they laugh, while others tell me about the rising number of alcoholic landlords… the negative energy is endless.

But, a bit like telling your teenage daughter her new boyfriend is no good, I had already fallen in love with my pub and there was no stopping me. Besides, I knew that running a pub would be hard work with long hours, but at least every day is different.

The Cock Inn at Combe, with its rather memorable name, needed some love and attention, but the friendly locals and beautiful setting won me over immediately. The highlight of the rennovation was the removal of the sticky, dirty carpets. We then kept digging to reveal the beautiful flagstones in the bar. Most of the village celebrated this fact alone and the floor is a constant source of admiration.

The Oxford Times: Time gentlemen...: Victoria Frazer-Smith

Time gentlemen…: Victoria Frazer-Smith

The local community’s passion for the pub has also helped me get over the many obstacles involved in buying it and the first few weeks in business.

Talking to people has been important from day one and as a landlady I try not to compare myself to Peggy Mitchell or Bet Lynch, but instead focus on our new Cotswold pub and create a relaxed atmosphere. And we are getting there because the regulars aren’t thirsty any longer. As a free house we can chop and change beers, although the real ales have rapidly become favourites, and this week’s annual Combe Feast meant that we enjoyed our busiest nights yet.

The next stage will be food, although the chef search has been a little more trying than we expected, as we want wonderful country food but don’t want to turn The Cock Inn into an expensive restaurant. Watch this space…

But what I’m most proud of is the number of people who have commented on how the pub is back at the heart of the community and the feedback we receive makes it all worthwhile.


The recently opened and reinvigorated Cock Inn is well worth a visit. Find it in Combe, Witney OX29 8NTX

2018-01-18T16:16:05+01:00