Sussex pub landlord calls ‘time’ ... after 63-year stint

Chip Sawyer whose family have run the Limeburners pub for the past 63 years. Photo: Kate Shemilt
Chip Sawyer whose family have run the Limeburners pub for the past 63 years. Photo: Kate Shemilt

A landlord whose family has run a Sussex village pub for the past 63 years is finally calling ‘time.’

Robert Sawyer - known to friends as Chip - took over the Limeburners in Newbridge Road, Billingshurst, from his parents in 1981.

And his parents Harry and Freda had run the pub since 1956.

Now 70-year-old Chip is marking the end of an era as he retires from the pub business at the end of September.

Chip has seen many changes throughout his 38-plus years at the helm of the Limeburners.

“When my family first came here, it was just a little one-bar pub,” he said.

“Soon after, they turned it into a public bar and a saloon bar.”

And it has grown steadily since Chip took charge in 1981. “Things were changing. We had to start doing food which we did in a poor way to start with, just trying to heat up frozen food in all honesty.

“Slowly over the years we progressed doing more and more, as per most pubs.”

Now the Limeburners offers good tradtional pub food “but it’s a pub, not a restaurant,” says Chip. “I haven’t tried to be airy fairy about anything.”

Along with the growth in pub meals, Chip has also seen growth in business at a caravan and camping site in a field behind the pub which was first started by his parents.

But one of the biggest changes, he says, came with the smoking ban introduced in 2007.

“You used to not be able to see anything because of the smoke across the bar,” he said.

And he recalled how his mother used to wash the pub curtains in a bath filled with ‘black liquid.’ “It was tar from the smoke.”

Now non-stop worker Chip - who has been married three times and has three children, three stepchildren and 11 grandchildren “with No 12 on the way” - is looking forward to doing some travelling once he has more time on his hands.

“I’d like to hire a motor caravan and have a look at England, and I’ve never been to Scotland or Ireland, although I’ve dipped my toe into Wales.”

He plans to retire to Southwater with his wife Sandra.