Villagers are banding together in a desperate battle to raise money to buy their local pub - to save it from closure.
Hundreds turned up to a public meeting in Balcombe on Wednesday when cash pledges were made to save the historic Half Moon - the only pub in the village.
The pub is being advertised for sale by owners Enterprise Inns for £385,000.
But residents are desperate to keep the pub open as a thriving community hub.
Resident Kevin Bottomley said at the public meeting in the Victory Hall: “The timescale is desperately short if we are to keep our pub. We need people to come forward to make pledges and we need more people to help us make this happen.”
Fellow resident Tim Murrills added: “The Half Moon is at the heart of our community and we need it to continue to be there.”
Martyn Wilson, who has been pub manager for the past four months, said he had to close up on Thursday when the electricity went off.
“It is now up to the village to take the pub back - and I hope they do,” he said.
Villagers have already pledged around £186,000 towards buying the pub and more are still coming in.
But Rodney Saunders, who is secretary of a steering committee formed to save the pub, said yet more was needed.
However, he said: “We expect to be making an offer to buy the pub within the next few days and what happens thereafter we will have to wait and see.”
The steering group is setting up a Community Benefit Society whereby it would become the owner and landlord of the pub, but would establish a management committee elected by members, to run it.
The Half Moon has operated as a pub for centuries and it is rumoured that when workers died while building the village’s famous viaduct in 1841, their bodies were stored in the pub’s cellars.
A spokesman for Enterprise Inns said: “There has been considerable local interest in ensuring the future of the pub, and any individuals or parties interested in taking it on should deal directly with our agents.”
He said a new publican was due to reopen The Half Moon tomorrow (Wednesday) and added: “It will trade as an Enterprise Inns pub until a sale is completed.”
Menawhile, anyone who wants to support the village’s save-the-pub campaign or make a cash pledge should contact firstname.lastname@example.org