13th Century Pub To Be Closed Down Over 1970’s Floor Dispute
One of Britain’s oldest public houses is at risk of closure – over the replacement of a 1980’s floor. The local authorities have threatened to shut the 700-year-old Old Church House Inn because they claim the owner breached the local building code. This has led to a backlash in the local community and an online campaign to save the historic pub.
The Old Church House Inn is believed to have been serving customers in Torbryan, Devon, for over seven centuries. The south of England pub dates back to the era before the Black Death and the fireplace of the pub may date to the 8th century, which is the time when the Vikings were raiding the British Isles. According to Devon Live, it is estimated that the oldest pub in England is the Ye Olde Tripe to Jerusalem in Nottingham, which is built into a medieval wall.
The fireplace in the British pub dates back to the 8th century. (The Old Church House Inn / Facebook)
Removal of a 1970’s Floor in the British Pub
Unlike many other rural pubs in England, the Old Church House Inn is still a busy pub. The proprietor Amanda Mitchell has invested some $250,000 (£200,000) in renovating the building. Among the work that was carried out was laying a new floor. This involved the removal of the previous floor, a rather unsightly poured concrete floor from the 1970s, and replacing it with natural slate, which was believed to be more authentic.
The owner of the historic pub was shocked when the local Teignbridge Council threatened her. They warned the businesswoman that she could face a hefty fine for the work that she had carried out on her premises or a maximum of four years in jail.
Under British law, the pub is of historic importance and is termed a ‘Grade 2’ building. This meant that Amanda was obliged to seek permission from the relevant authorities when making any modifications to her pub.
Initially, she was outraged and decided to take a stand as she felt that she was not doing anything wrong. However, after a meeting with the council, a temporary agreement was found, and this has averted the closure of the pub for now.
British Pub Restoration Penalty
Amanda is still very concerned and she told Devon Live that “the threat of an unlimited fine and imprisonment still hangs over me”. She hopes to keep the pub running until the 22nd December, but it may not be open every day and it may have to close permanently after that.
The owner of the Old Church House Inn is worried that if her business does close this could harm the building. “This is one of the oldest buildings in the country. If it closes it will rapidly deteriorate” she told Devon Live.
The owner put everything she had into the building in an effort to maintain it and now she is threatened with a fine and even jail time. Unless Amanda gets retrospective planning permission, the pub that has been in business for 700 years will close its doors forever, all because of an unsightly concrete floor.
The owner announced the threat facing her pub on a Facebook post and asked people to “please help us to preserve rural pubs and take a stand” reports Devon Live. There was, an immediate outburst of public support and many people condemned the Teignbridge Council.
This post was later removed. However, the outcry on social media persuaded the council to enter into negotiations with the owner, which led to a temporary solution.
Patrons at the British pub. (The Old Church House Inn / Facebook)
Supporters of the British Pub
Among those who supported the owner of the Old Church House Inn was a famous group of traditional dancers, the Beltane Border Morris Dancers. Local people and those who vacation in Devon, have also given their support for the restoration work. The pub is widely seen as central to the life of the village and the wider community. In a Facebook post, the owner wrote “just a note to say thanks for all the comments regarding our little planning difficulty”.
Teignbridge Council is still planning to enforce the building regulations despite the controversy. The council issued a statement that they have “a legal obligation to protect historic buildings from any works – either intentional or accidental – that might interfere with or alter the fabric of the building” according to Devon Live. They also stated that they also work with property owners to ensure that they are compliant with all regulations.
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The historical British pub supports local traditions and has numerous supporters. (The Old Church House Inn / Facebook)
It seems that unless either the owner or the council back down that the historic inn will close on the 22nd of December. Amanda is determined to keep the building open. She is quoted by Devon Live as stating that, “Our closure date will be announced shortly. I fully intend to find a use for the building (currently minus poured concrete bar floor with lovely natural slate on standby) and would welcome any ideas, particularly any charitable endeavors.”
Top image: The Old Church House Inn is a 700 year-old British pub. Source: Thesupermat2 / CC BY-SA 2.0.
By Ed Whelan