A much-loved pub which has been at the heart of the community for more than a decade has closed its doors for the final time.

Over the weekend, bosses at The Crown and Thistle in Hoddlesden announced that Saturday would be their last day of trading – prompting hundreds of people to share fond memories of their time at the popular venue.

Others expressed their sadness at the news, thanking owners Mo and Julie Zhabi for all they have done over the years, including helping to provide thousands of free meals to elderly and vulnerable members of the community during the coronavirus lockdown.

The pub is famed for its homemade fare and fresh cakes, products that proved so popular Mo and Julie opened a bakery, The Crown and Thistle Bakery, on Blackburn Road in Darwen last year.

The bakery will continue to trade following the closure of the pub.

Mo and Julie said: “We took over the Crown and Thistle in 2007 where we opened and served as a restaurant.

“In 2009 we managed to get planning permission for an extension due to demand. We were able to expand to a 120 seater restaurant which meant we could offer a more extensive menu based on customer requests.

“We carried on serving our customers, both local and from afar for the next 10 years.

“During this time we made numerous attempts to convert some unused land which we purchased to make a larger and safer car park. Each time this was denied by Blackburn Council.

“In 2019 we decided to make plans to cut back for retirement so put the restaurant up for sale. Unfortunately, there was no interest at the time.

“During covid then in 2020 we were able to become a lifeline to our local community by offering free hot meals to our elderly and vulnerable completely at our cost. The locals really came together as volunteers to help us with this to deliver through Darwen.

“From 2021 with the support and encouragement from our local community we were able to open a new bakery which is now thriving serving a selection of hot and cold food including our famous Sunday roast along with our extensive homemade cakes - all baked fresh daily on site.

“Finally now, it is with regret that for the restaurant due to location we are short staffed and with the rising cost of utilities and raw materials we have had to close our doors for the last time.”

Responding to the news, customer Angela Guest said: “Wishing you all the best for the future. So sad to hear you are closing we have many happy family get together memories at the Crown and Thistle and a great team of people.”

Mary Stubbs also commented, saying: “You've been wonderful. Thank you for your years of service to the community.”

Susan Kelly said: “All the best to you all. But more importantly Thank you so much for food and deliveries for my Mum and other pensioners during lock down.

“You were a lifeline and it’s a shame you are having to close. Good luck to all the staff for the future.”

To mark their last day of trading, staff put on a free buffet for customers to enjoy while having a farewell drink.

Responding to the feedback they had received, they said: “Thank you so much to everyone for your kind messages and again for your support.

“A few of you have asked about the bakery and we are pleased to say this will remain open! You can still get one of our fabulous Sunday roasts either to collect or for delivery.”