A pub once frequented by artists John Constable and Thomas Gainsborough has finally reopened two years after a community stumped up £500,000 to buy it.

The Lamarsh Lion, which serves Lamarsh and Alphamstone, is now welcoming customers once again.

The pub, where the world famous artists enjoyed a tipple, was closed by its previous owners in May 2016 and plans were in place to convert it into housing.

But the plans were abandoned following strong opposition from the community, who soon rallied together to buy the £500,000 pub in July 2017.

And after months of renovation work, the pub is serving drinks to villagers again.

Robert Erith, chairman of the Lamarsh Lion Community Pub Limited, said: “Getting this historic pub open again is a fantastic achievement from a dedicated band of supporters and a wider group of shareholders and well-wishers.

“It will be a vital asset for the whole community and we hope it will help make Lamarsh a great place to live for the long term.

“We have shown what can be achieved if people really believe such a project is worthwhile.”

The pub will be run by the experienced Michael Fallon and his team, who already manage similar ventures in Suffolk.

Grants obtained from Essex County Council and the GCG Environment Trust have been crucial in funding repair works to the building, which is more than 700 years old.

The kitchen and cellar have both been refitted, while a new wooden floor and windows have also been put in to give the pub a facelift.

Copies of artwork produced by Constable and Gainsborough have also been placed on the walls.

Volunteers have given up their time painting and decorating, supplying equipment and working on the garden to ensure the faculties could reopen in time for the summer.

Treasurer Ruth Alison added: “The Lamarsh Lion has been the heart of the village for generations.

“My vision was to provide a community centre for all not just a beer drinking establishment and I think we have gone a long way to achieve this aim, we have more to do but are certainly on the right path.”

The pub will be hosting an official lunchtime opening event on Saturday, June 23, where there will be a barbecue and hog roast.

The event starts at 12.30pm.

Visit www.lamarshlion.co.uk.