Storm brews as the barred of Himbleton take custom away

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It sounds like a storyline from The Archers. But this is more than just an everyday tale of rural life for the residents of Himbleton, who have been barred from their village pub.

The displaced drinkers say that the licensee wants to get rid of village trade and attract a more upmarket clientele to the Galton Arms, a 600- year-old pub in the picturesque Worcestershire village.

They claim that Benjamin Tabary-Davies has barred more than 70 regulars since taking over two years ago and has tried to introduce table d'hote and a la carte menus to bring more prosperous customers to the inn.

The village cricket club's end-of-season match against regulars from the local pub has already been marred by the controversy. By the time it was played, several members of the Galton Arms scratch team had been barred from their pub. So they went into bat under the new name of the IBBBBB XI - I've-Been-Banned-By-Bastard-Ben.

Mr Tabary-Davies, who had been invited to play, did not turn up for the fixture. "Virtually all the team had been banned so we had no choice but to change the name," said the IBBBBB skipper, Vaughan Jones, who lives 100 yards from the pub.

"I was given my marching orders four weeks ago when I was accused of swearing. Mr Tabary-Davies told me I was barred just as I was leaving one night. I thought he was joking, but when I went in the next night the barman said he was not allowed to serve me.

"The place used to be heaving on a Friday night, but now there are only half a dozen people in there. Still, I suppose it's the correct half-dozen he wants. Just wait until the winter comes and he needs the local trade."

Mr Tabary-Davies said yesterday that everyone was welcome at the pub if they dressed nicely and were respectful to people there, but he would not tolerate bad behaviour. He denied that 70 regulars had been barred and said only a handful of cricket players had been.

"Customers are still welcome to come in just for a drink and I don't mind if they are casually dressed - even in jeans and shorts. But some of the regulars used to come in straight from work on farms and building sites with their muddy boots. They used to swear a lot as well and I will not put up with effing and blinding. I have a business to run and I don't want riff-raff," he said.