Restoration Work Begins After Fire At National Trust's Fleece Inn

By David Prudames | 05 November 2004
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Shows a photograph of the exterior of the Fleece Inn. The roof is clearly fire-damaged, with charred beams exposed.

The fire took place on February 27 2004 and caused severe damage to the 14th century half-timbered building. © The National Trust.

Restoration work is now underway at the historic Fleece Inn at Bretforton, Worcestershire following a devastating fire in February this year.

Specialist building contractors began work on November 1 and over the next few months will rebuild much of the roof, carry out extensive repairs to the first floor and improve disabled access to the whole building.

Speaking earlier this week, National Trust Property Manager, Ben Shipston explained that the organisation will make it possible for the public to experience the restoration process.

"We are delighted that the restoration project will start this week," he said, "and we are planning a range of events to help local people learn about the range of specialised skills and techniques that will be essential to the rebuilding of the timber-framed construction."

Shows a photograph of the exterior of the Fleece Inn before the fire. It is a timber-framed building with a coat of arms swinging on a sign attached to it.

How The Fleece Inn looked before the fire. © NTPL/Michael Wolchover.

Built in the 14th century as a farmhouse, the building was first opened as a public house in 1848 and up until the fire had hardly changed since.

It was donated to the National Trust, along with its collection of 18th century pewter plates made in Worcester, in 1977 by Miss Lola Taplin whose family had run it for several generations.

For the last few years National Trust tenant, Nigel Smith has been the landlord, but at around midday on February 27 2004 a fire broke out in a thatched part of the roof.

Thanks to immediate action by locals, the first fire engines were at the scene within 20 minutes and the blaze was fully extinguished by 2.45pm.

Fortunately nobody was injured, but part of the roof was destroyed and widespread damage was caused to the first floor.

Shows a photograph of significant fire damage inside the Fleece Inn. There are numerous exposed, charred beams and a mass of ashes on the floor and coating the blackened walls.

A lot of the interior was damaged, but thanks to the swift work of emergency services much of it was saved. © The National Trust.

On the ground floor most of the moveable contents were saved, but water from the fire hoses caused damage throughout the building both to the historic furniture and fittings.

As well as carrying out substantial repairs, the restoration project will see improvements made to kitchen facilities and lavatories, which were originally built in the 1970s and 80s.

If all goes according to schedule, the Fleece Inn will be back open for business in spring 2005.

When the National Trust announced its intention to restore the pub back in March Director for the West Midlands, Liz Roberts explained how much it meant to its community.

"It really is at the heart of the community and we know how important it is to people in the village from the many letters and offers of help we and Nigel, our tenant, have received," she said.

Shows a photograph of the Pewter Room at the Fleece Inn. A low beamed ceiling hangs over a stone floor, large pew and small table and chairs. Stood on a shelf in the background are three large pewter plates.

The Pewter Room at The Fleece Inn, as it looked before the fire. © Credit NTPL/Nick Meers.

"We are really looking forward to raising a glass to celebrate with the regulars when the Fleece opens again."

But, of course, the regulars haven’t had to go without, Nigel Smith having set up a temporary substitute to cater for their needs in the adjacent barn.

One of the original farm buildings, the barn will also be the venue for a full programme of entertainment and events taking place throughout the winter.

A summer of celebration will follow in 2005 to mark the pub’s reopening.

To see the restoration plans and keep up to date with developments visit the Fleece Inn website.

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