“I FEEL devastated.”

Those were the words of a pub landlord who has been forced to leave his Winchester home and business, just eight months after uprooting his family to work there.

Mark Vincent, 42, along with his wife Jo, 44, and son Sam, 11, lived and worked at The Ship Inn, in Wales Street, but have been booted out after Marston’s sold it to Hampshire-based nursery firm Yellow Dot.

The couple closed the doors for the last time last Friday night after a leaving party, and said that their regulars were in tears about the closure.

Mr Vincent said: “I’m gutted really. I feel devastated for everybody – they found a safe pub where they could drink and now it’s gone. Loads of them were crying, a lot of people have grown up with the pub and it has been around for 40 years.”

Mrs Vincent said that work men had virtually destroyed the interior before they had left on Monday.

“It was absolutely awful,” she said.

“Three work men claw hammered every picture and every mirror and took the bar apart. It was soul destroying. Everything attached they took out. They were ruthless, the place looks derelict now.”

She added: “The worst part is that they have the keys until May 16, so I said ‘why couldn’t they have waited until we had left?’ There is no reason to put us through that.”

Winchester City Council registered a planning application on April 29 for a change of use for the building, which could see it transformed into a nursery catering for up to 70 children.

The family have moved back to the Isle of Wight, where they had left behind four children and five grandchildren.