A 'decline in trade' and a 'challenging operating environment' have been blamed for the closure of a well-loved and historic pub.

The Elm Tree Inn at Langton Herring closed for the last time on Sunday at 5pm. It is understood about half a dozen staff are facing redundancy.

The pub has been owned by The Electric Pub Company since 2020.

A spokesperson for The Elm Tree Inn said: "It is with heavy heart for us to write this, however unfortunately, due to the challenging operating environment and declining trade and profitability over the last year, the Electric Pub Company will be closing the Elm Tree Inn with effect from November, Monday 27.

"All Christmas bookings will be able to transfer to our other sites and it is anticipated that the Elm Tree Inn will re-open, under different operating management, in the spring of 2024.

"We would like to thank all our customers and dedicated staff for their support over the last three years and look forward to seeing our customers at our other sites which will remain open and continue to be operated by the company.

"For any further enquiries please contact hello@electricpubs.co.uk. Thank you."

The Elm Tree, which dates back to the 1700s, is a character pub with a colourful history. It was once frequented by smugglers and 'wreckers', is said to be haunted, and was visited by (bouncing bomb inventor) Barnes Wallis and Churchill during the Second World War.

It is perhaps more famously known as being the meeting place of Harry Houghton and his girlfriend Ethel Gee from the Portland Spy Ring in the 1950s and early 1960s.

The Electric Pub Company was established in 2019 by Alasdair Warren and Steve Killingbeck with the objective of building a portfolio of freehold pubs across Dorset. It operates pubs and restaurants across the county including the Pymore Inn just outside Bridport, The World's End between Wimborne and Bere Regis, The Arts Club in Bridport and more.

The Echo understands that Steve Killingbeck left the company in January 2022.

In March 2022 Paul and Sasha Clarke joined the Elm Tree as head chef and manager following a refurbishment.

Within 12 months it won a prestigious AA Two Rosette award. Very few pubs and restaurants in Dorset have ever achieved the high standards needed to be awarded two rosettes.

The pub has also been awarded Taste of the West Gold Awards for 2022 and 2023.

The pub's closure was revealed just days after Chancellor Jeremy Hunt gave the licensed trade a helping hand by announcing in the Autumn Statement that alcohol duty had been frozen until next August.