A community is racing against time to save a historic pub, abandoned by DJ Chris Evans.
Villagers in Lickfold have just six weeks to raise £775,000 to buy the empty 15th century coaching inn near Petworth.
The Radio 2 DJ bought The Lickfold Inn in 2008 but closed it just two years later after struggling to make a profit. It has been boarded up since.
Lodsworth Parish Council chairman Caroline Neville described it as a “proper old English pub” with “plenty of character”.
She said: “It has beautiful stone flooring, wooden beams and fireplaces. They don't make buildings like this anymore and we can't afford to lose it.
“It was a community hub when it was open, it was always busy.
“I would always take visitors there, especially my friends from America. They were blown away by it.”
Mr Evans bought the pub for £1million and famously hosted his ex-wife Billie Piper's wedding reception when she married Laurence Fox.
But locals were turned off after he hired a top chef and transformed the community boozer into a pricey gastro pub.
Mrs Neville added: “People think the area is incredibly affluent which it is in the summer when the polo is here. However, it isn't like that all year round.
“The owners didn't understand local people and they stopped going. They just didn't want to pay that kind of money for food and drink.”
The Grade II listed building was put up for sale in 2010. But when offers didn't come in, it was left to decay.
A recent Heritage at Risk report by Chichester District Council found evidence of broken windows, damp caused by “failing watergoods” and damp walls following this winter's flooding.
Last year parishioners applied to have the building placed on the Community Right to Bid register, so Chris Evans was required to inform them when it was put on the market and then give six weeks for them to stump up the cash.
With it recently going back on sale for £775,000, Mrs Neville said: “We want to restore the pub to being a cornerstone of local life.
“We are looking for either someone to come in and buy it outright or for locals to get the money together between them.
“But we only have six weeks. After that we don't know what will happen to it.”
She added: “There's not much for people to do in the countryside so pubs like this are so important. It is a place we can all meet and socialise.
“The need for community pubs has been demonstrated recently by the floods.
“Instead of us all being stuck at home miserable without power in the cold we could have been in the pub.”
Speaking about its current owner, she said there had been “no communication” and none of their questions had been answered.
The Argus contacted a spokesman for Chris Evans but at the time of going to press he had not responded.
Anyone interested can find out more by contacting Lodsworth Parish Council on 01798 860788 or visiting www.lodsworth.org.uk.
Other Sussex pubs with a celebrity connection
Marco Pierre White's Chequers Inn at Maresfield, East Sussex
Lisa Marie Presley reportedly did a stint helping to serve chips at her local pub in Rotherfield, the King's Arms
The father of pop star Sophie Ellis-Bexter, and former partner of Blue Peter presenter Janet Ellis, Robin Bexter, runs the Moonrakers in Alfriston