Before I can get started on the design, this second part of the story is how we came to finally buy Crown Wharf.

Before I can get started on the design, this second part of the story is how we came to buy Crown Wharf finally. As soon as we had finished building the new Joule’s Brewery [technically the fourth, the first one was in Salford, the second created by Francis in Stone, prior to John making the third, obviously the largest] we looked to find a pub so we could have a presence in the brands home town of Stone.

In 2009 we had our first tip-off that Langtrys was available, the pub was owned by Enterprise, so we called them. They were very nice but could only offer us a lease. We called every time the pub changed hands, so that was quite a few times over the years, all to no avail. We also tried the Crown and Anchor, Punch owned at the time. They also said no, nicely, but no. As other than the Crown Hotel, this is probably the best-known pub from the old Joule’s estate. We also looked at the Crown Hotel when it was marketed a few years ago. That was very tough, it is truly magnificent, the heart said yes for obvious reasons, but it is much more a hotel than a pub, and we don’t know the first thing about hotels, so we didn’t bid.

The oddest one was perhaps the Old Ironmongers at the top of the high street, we also enquired about the Police Station – all very unclear if it was or was not available, and we thought about the first bank, but that too was also leased. We talked to our friends at Suma about the Old Joule’s Wine Store, but it was too small. We looked at some edge of town pubs, the Wheatsheaf just outside in Oulton when Punch was selling it, the Bonnie Gem and a couple of others, but nothing was really right for our Stone flagship.

All this time we were adding other pubs, but frustratingly the town which we prized

With the support of the Town Council behind us, we then pitched the idea to the Canal and River Trust, they also supported the proposal in principle. The final piece then fell into place when McCarthy’s withdrew, most seemed out of reach. In 2013 I enquired about Crown Wharf for the first time. DTZ confirmed it was available but a third party was already in discussions, this turned out to be McCarthy & Stone, for a residential scheme. Our bid would need to be unconditional, and we were short of time to bid, plus the small matter that we didn’t really have the money, it was too big a reach. We expressed interest, but we didn’t bid. Shortly after the site then went under offer anyway, so that was that.

3 years later in 2016, when we were invited to Stone Food & Drink for the first time, I noticed the same DTZ for sale board, ever-present on the metal railings, so I wondered why nothing had happened. DTZ confirmed the site was under option, but not yet sold. A little googling and we found that planning consent had been refused and the town council had established the Crown Wharf Steering Group, with the sole purpose of promoting a use that would bring the Wharf into the town centre landscape.

It was an exciting time, Crown Wharf could be our dream site, we could build whatever we wanted, something new would perhaps better mark the return of Joule’s to Stone. A new place offered so many possibilities, add this to the fact that it is a canal-side plot, which is great for a pub, but also because the canal has so much relevance to our history, plus part of site had been the old Brewery footprint, it is next to the old warehouse, opposite the old cooperage and it is just 50 yards from the High street.

To be in the curtilage of the old Brewery would be unique, so we were all pretty excited that this was back as a ‘maybe’, and this time, with NatWest behind us, then we were now ready and able to bid, but only if McCarthy’s dropped out, and we knew they were thinking about appealing.

I met Rob Kenney and Jill Hood, who chaired the Steering Group a month later, and the Steering Group listened to our plans. They were supportive from the beginning and felt that our plans would deliver the kind of use which would promote and benefit the town. At the same time, the Revellers had also made contact with Rob, so we both joined up.

The rest you all know, other than it took us over two years. Ironically we only have a lease, the trust will only sell us the freehold, for a whole £1, if we actually build the pub that we promised them. So buying the site wasn’t really the end of the beginning, we needed the detailed design, and we needed planning approval before we could, begin. Without that, we would have to give the land back to the Trust, so the stakes were high.

So, much to do, but the announcement we made on 7th December 2017 that Joule’s Brewery had acquired Crown Wharf was a very proud day for our company, we once again owned a small part of the old Brewery site, and we had an interest in Stone.

I recall going straight after we had wired the funds, I couldn’t park and had no idea what we would build there, but it still felt great!