From pub to hub as campaign aims to be beacon of hope for women in Barnstaple

An appeal has been launched to create a community hub offering first hand support and advice for women in a former Barnstaple town centre pub. The joint project between Encompass Southwest and North Devon Against Domestic Abuse (NDADA) is seeking to raise funds and support to refurbish the old Watering Hole pub in Castle Street and turn it into a vital community resource.

The project is in its early days but has the support of North Devon Council, which owns the former public house premises and has suggested it as a suitable venue for the new hub.

The aim will be to offer a wide range of support from different agencies under one roof for women who are facing domestic abuse, dealing with mental health issues, addiction or facing homelessness.

The fundraising has already been kicked off with a £1,000 donation from North Devon Samaritans.

A community consultation has just been launched and will run until May but already the charities are hearing from local women that a hub would be very welcome.

Claire Fisher, CEO of Encompass said: “The consultation has only been out for a week and we have already had 70 replies, but we are already seeing women telling us there is a need for this.

“We are really looking for community support and for people to get on board with this, by completing our survey and we will also be launching a fundraising appeal, plus we are looking to set up a stewardship group to run the hub.

“The building is currently a bit of an eyesore and we would be refurbishing it, so any local trades or businesses that would be willing to make donations in kind, especially on the construction side, would be greatly appreciated.”

The hub project is part of the Brave Spaces initiative run in North Devon by the two charities, which works to help women on several fronts but in particular tackling domestic abuse and trying to prevent violence against women and girls.

The latest data for Devon suggests there are 36,000 cases of domestic abuse each year, but only a tiny proportion of those people reach out for support.

NDADA, which provides a refuge plus support for women affected by domestic abuse, receives up to 1,100 per year just in North Devon and Torridge.

Hannah Ashford, CEO of NDADA, said: “Our clients often find the road to recovery difficult. The support offered by NDADA is varied; we have IDVAs (Independent Domestic Violence Advocate’s) in our refuge, at both North Devon hospital and Exeter hospital, in the community connecting with local organisations and other support including talking therapies, group recovery courses (Empowerment), and a service for children and young people.

“However, often people feel isolated from the community following an abusive relationship and the community hub will give the space to not only provide vital, multiagency support, addressing other needs in addition to domestic abuse but also a space to meet others and form meaningful connections and friendships.”

Of the 70 who replied to the hub consultation so far, 45 said they had been victims of domestic abuse, 40 said they had suffered sexual assault and 58 said that they experienced mental health problems, while 43 said they suffered from loneliness.

The charities will be applying for a grant from the Government’s Community Ownership Fund and the project has the backing of North Devon MP Selaine Saxby, North Devon Council, Barnstaple Town Council and Devon County Council.

Claire Fisher added: “Please do complete the survey – we really need the community to back us on this, we need to hear how they feel about it and whether there is a need for it.

“We hope to raise £40,000 to match any grant money and we need support for fundraising plus we’d like to hear from any businesses able to offer time, materials or expertise to help with the refurbishment.”

To have your say on the consultation, please scan the QR code or go to If you would like to make a donation, please visit If you want to find out more about helping as a business by donating time or perhaps materials, please email or alternatively call 01271 370079 (NDADA) or Encompass on 01271 371499. Leave a message if no one is able to answer.