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When the lease for a pub local to Royal Holloway University of London, in Egham Hill, came up for sale, the University’s Student Union took the opportunity to invest. With declining sales within traditional public houses the Student Union was keen to create a traditional pub environment, appealing to both local residents and students alike, while increasing the employment opportunities for students, who staff the pub. Purchasing the pub in the January, The Student Union re-opened it just over four months later in May. In keeping with its bid to sustain a traditional pub environment, the current name of the establishment, the ‘Monkey’s Forehead’ was reverted back to its original name, ‘The Packhorse.’


Location: The Packhorse Pub, London

Client: Royal Holloway University of London

Timescale: 6 weeks

Value: £225k



  • To develop an attractive, modern community pub appealing to students and locals alike
  • Work with the university during the entire design process
  • Utilise the entire space


  • Utilised entire space within, and surrounding, the pub for maximum trade use
  • Achieved a quick ROI
  • A great social space, popular with locals and students
  • The Packhorse has increased trading since opening with a year on year turnover increase by almost 15%


CIC, who have worked on various projects with the University, were brought in to refurbish the pub and, in keeping with its objective to provide employment opportunities for students, the University engaged the services of a newly qualified designer, an ex-student, to design the bar. CIC worked closely with the designer, providing expertise and applying their experience during the design stage – helping to achieve the designer’s vision within the allocated budget.

The refurbishment included the installation of a new trade kitchen, flooring throughout, decoration and a modern, zinc top to the original bar. CIC also restored previously unused rooms on the top floor and converted them into three meeting rooms - a move in keeping with the Student Union’s bid to maximise the full use of the pub. CIC also realigned the toilets to create two, unisex toilets and, six months following the initial refurbishment, returned to create a new decking area and pergola, extending the trading space.


Royal Holloway Students’ Union purchased a local pub adjacent to their campus, and engaged Creative Interior Contracts Ltd to deliver a refurbishment of the property. RHSU partnered with CIC to work on a design and build project to deliver a modern community pub, which balanced the needs of all major stakeholders in the community. The resulting pub offers an exceptional quality environment, with attractive spaces both internal and external, as well as a number of high quality private meeting/social spaces on the first floor.

Max Ross Deputy Chief Executive & Head of Trading Services, Royal Holloway University