ONE of the New Forest's best-known pubs is closing after 21 years.

The Thomas Tripp, an award-winning eatery and live music venue in Stanford Road, Lymington, is likely to shut in the next few weeks.

Landlord Jon Burdge has decided not to renew the lease after more than two decades behind the bar.

Jon, 51, said: "Twenty one years is a long time and I felt the time was right for all sorts of reasons, but it was a very hard decision to make.

"We started from scratch in 1998 and spent a long time building it up.

"It looks as if the building is going to be advertised and re-let, so there's a possibility it could re-open as a pub. I hope so because it's been an important part of the community."

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Asked about the reaction of customers Jon said: "We've had everything, including tears, and bands have been queuing up to play here one last time.

"People have got a lot of affection for the Thomas Tripp, which is wonderful."

Jon described the associated job losses as "quite minor", adding: "I've only got a couple of people with me - the rest are part-time - so in that sense it's not going to have a bad impact."

Looking back he added: "It's been terrific - a phenomenal chapter in my life and I've loved every minute."

Customers have included TV film critic Mark Kermode and award-winning actress Emma Chambers, who was best known for playing Alice Tinker in the BBC comedy series The Vicar of Dibley.

Veteran film director Ken Russell, who lived at East Boldre before moving to Lymington, used to pop in for Sunday lunch.

Several people have taken to social media to voice their sadness at the closure.

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One woman said: "Such a shame. Lovely pub. Best of the bunch."

Another social media user added: "Great for veggies, dog friendly, family friendly, fab staff, lovely atmosphere."

Others described the pub's forthcoming closure as the end of an era with one person posting: "Such a shame. Fab pub and fab landlord."

Formerly the Anglesey Hotel, the building had also been a fish restaurant, pizza parlour and brasserie before Jon arrived from Cornwall in 1998.

Speaking in 2011 he said: “It was something of a white elephant and had been boarded up for about a year.

“Taking it on was a bit of a risk as there was basically no business to buy, but trade picked up quite quickly."