When you enter The Moonrakers you are first greeted by Luda, the resident 15-year-old Staffordshire Bull Terrier, bumbling around with a toy in his mouth looking for anyone who wants to play.

The pub on Cricklade Road has come a long way from its reputation in the 70s and 80s, when the function room was used as a nightclub and bouncers would regularly throw out unruly guests.

Manager Paula Vernon, 50, said: “It’s definitely changed a lot. It’s not got that reputation anymore.”

Located between Pinehurst and Penhill – often thought of as a rougher part of Swindon – The Moonrakers is one of the areas success stories.

“We’ve had a good year this year,” said Paula.

“But then they’re always good really.

“All the locals who come in here are all decent. I get on with everybody.”

The pub is the biggest one owned by Arkell’s Brewery, and is thought to be the largest in Wiltshire.

“I think people all know The Moonrakers,” said Paula.

“It’s one of the landmarks of Swindon. Where it is and how big it is, I think the majority of people in Swindon know about The Moonrakers.”

Paula has been the manager for four years next February, and before that worked as the assistant manager to the previous landlord and landlady for almost nine years.

“I enjoy it. It’s like any job, you have your ups and downs but everyone who comes in here, they’re nice people and I get on with all of them,” she said.

“I started off by helping clean the function room at the weekends,” Paula added.

“Then it got to working in the kitchen and then I did a few shifts behind the bar, and then they asked me if I wanted to be the assistant manager, so I moved in,” she said.

The tavern now hosts live music from local bands on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights as well as roast dinners on a Sunday.

Paula added: “We’ve always got something going on.”

The inn has its own darts and pool teams, along with a local football club who meet there.

“We’re aimed at everyone,” said Paula. “All ages. We don’t let children in the bar after 8pm in the evenings. But at weekends on a Sunday afternoon when we’ve got music on, quite a few families come with their children.”

So just where did The Moonrakers get its name from?

But running a pub in Penhill doesn’t always go smoothly. The Deer’s Leap had its windows smashed just over two weeks ago.

“It’s really out of order what happened,” said Paula. “But I do think that is a one off. Because since I’ve been here, we’ve had some bits of trouble but nothing major like that.”

She continued: “I don’t stand anything, if I think someone is out of order I will tell them. But I think all landlords and landladies are like that.

“When there is trouble in the pub it’s always somebody from outside the area.”

Paula added that many of her customers frequently drink at The Deer’s Leap.

“It’s never the locals because I think the locals all get on with each other,” she said.

“So normally if there is any trouble, it’s from people that don’t normally drink in the pub.”

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Originally from Manchester, Paula came to Swindon when she was 11 years old. Before moving in above The Moonrakers she had a flat in Penhill.

“I knew quite a few people before I worked here that drank in here, so I think that made it a bit easier when I took over,” she said.

Future plans include a New Year’s Eve party for children, and the introduction of meat draws on Friday nights. Raffle tickets will be sold and winners take home a joint or a meat pack for the weekend. Each summer there is a party in the car park with a barbecue, live music.

“Running a pub is just a way of life,” said Paula. “The Moonrakers is friendly, lively at weekends, and just a great place to be.”