ONE of the area's best-loved historic country pubs is to shut down.

There's shock and sadness after staff confirmed to the Echo that the Elm Tree Inn at Langton Herring is to close this Sunday at 5pm.

It is understood about half a dozen staff are facing redundancy.

On its website - despite advertising a Christmas menu throughout December, private hire for Christmas parties, and even open times over the holidays - it is not possible to book tables past this Sunday.

The Electric Pub Company, which has owned the pub since 2020, have been contacted for comment.

The Elm Tree, which dates back to the 1700s, is a character pub with a colourful history. It was once frequented by smugglers and 'wreckers', is said to be haunted, and was visited by (bouncing bomb inventor) Barnes Wallis and Churchill during the Second World War.

It is perhaps more famously known as being the meeting place of Harry Houghton and his girlfriend Ethel Gee from the Portland Spy Ring in the 1950s and early 1960s.

The Echo understands that staff were told of the closure at the end of last week with one worker saying: "The owners have decided to close. I don’t know what they plan to do with it, whether they plan to sell it or lease it."

Dorset Echo:

The Electric Pub Company was established in 2019 by Alasdair Warren and Steve Killingbeck with the objective of building a portfolio of freehold pubs across Dorset. It operates pubs and restaurants across the county including the Pymore Inn just outside Bridport, The World's End between Wimborne and Bere Regis, The Arts Club in Bridport and more.

The Echo understands that Steve Killingbeck left the company in January 2022.

Rich Gabe, from West Dorset Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) said: "It is really sad news because it is a popular pub.

"This is a typical sign of the difficult climate pubs are facing. Let's hope we don't see more pubs closing and the Elm Tree can find new owners or open again very soon."

In March 2022 Paul and Sasha Clarke joined the Elm Tree as head chef and manager following a refurbishment.

Within 12 months it won a prestigious AA Two Rosette award. Very few pubs and restaurants in Dorset have ever achieved the high standards needed to be awarded two rosettes.

The pub has also been awarded Taste of the West Gold Awards for 2022 and 2023.

The pub's closure is revealed just days after Chancellor Jeremy Hunt gave the licensed trade a helping hand by announcing in the Autumn Statement that alcohol duty had been frozen until next August.