Community forges ahead with new village shop

A group of locals in Slindon, West Sussex, are restoring a 130-year old forge in the heart of their village, and turning it into a unique community owned shop after receiving a loan from us.

Slindon – like many small villages – has lost the majority of its vital services in the last 10 years; including its shop, post office and pub. This has left the residents with no immediate access to these amenities, and missing the social interaction that comes from using them.

In 2006 a group of locals came together at a parish council meeting to discuss the possibility of regenerating some of these services. In February 2011 this discussion became reality; the group set up a community benefit society with the intention of opening a new community owned village shop. The society set up a community share issue, which has so far attracted investment from over 30% of locals and raised nearly £50,000.

The group secured the lease on a listed building which stands in the centre of their village; a nineteenth century forge owned by the National Trust. Renovations and an extension on the forge began in April 2012, and the group plans to reopen the building as Slindon Forge Village Shop in October. The new shop will house a cafe and post office, and will sell groceries, newspapers and gifts. Many of the forge’s original features will be retained, and the group hopes the building will become a community hub with a uniquely historical background.

Slindon Forge is one of a number of community projects to have benefited from The Village CORE Programme; a partnership between Co-operative & Community Finance, The Plunkett Foundation and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, and supported by the LankellyChase Foundation. This programme was dedicated to helping communities looking to set up and run community-owned rural shops, and provided advisory support along with a funding package.

Mike Imms, a member of Slindon Forge Society, said: “This project really demonstrates a strong community investment – the shop is much more than the sum of its parts, it is a catalyst for all sorts of new economic initiatives and provides many opportunities for people that weren’t there before.

There’s something for everyone to get involved in; work in the shop, in the garden, on the decoration and renovation, on the finances. It has energised us as a community and really has benefited all of us.”

Ian Rothwell, one of our loan advisers, said: “We are delighted to support Slindon Forge Society as they restore this beautiful National Trust building. It will be great to see the forge transformed and brought back to life, with the purpose of serving the community in both a social and economic sense.”