Out of the ashes

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Royal oak, 16th century, Royal oak pub

After being gutted by fire the 16th century Royal Oak in Hawkhurst had to undergo a painstaking refurbishment. Michelle Perrett reports.While...

After being gutted by fire the 16th century Royal Oak in Hawkhurst had to undergo a painstaking refurbishment. Michelle Perrett reports.

While thousands of pubs are refurbished every week, the Royal Oak pub in Hawkhurst, Kent, has undergone a more traditional transformation than most. The £1m project saw the pub rebuilt from a fire damaged 16th century property back to its original state.

While that is not unusual in itself the Grade II-listed pub and hotel was rebuilt using materials and methods similar to those employed during the original construction.

The site burnt down three years ago after a fire started in the office and thankfully everyone was able to get out of the pub safely. Helen Burisky, business development manager for Unique Pub Company, said: "I arrived when the building was literally smoking and the firemen were sitting there with blackened faces. I donned my construction hat to have a look at the remains of the pub."

She found that it had been completely gutted but because it was a listed building all refurbishments had to be authorised by English Heritage. This meant that all the blackened remains had to be tagged and photographed and if possible used in the rebuilding of the pub.

As all the rebuilding work from the plastering to the windows had to be authorised by English Heritage the redevelopment of the site took a lot longer than a normal pub rebuild.

This involved the walls and ceilings being plastered in a traditional manner, using nine miles of chestnut lathing, horsehair and lime plaster. Specialist paints were then applied throughout to allow these period materials to breathe.

"The plastering put us behind schedule by weeks because it would not dry. You have to let nature take its course," commented Helen.

It took one year for an 80-tonne green oak aisle frame to be made by specialist English Heritage-approved builders. Each section was carved off site and then, on arrival at the pub, it was put together like a jigsaw using traditional joints and pegs. No nails or screws were allowed to be used.

Paul Crane, project surveyor at Unique, said: "This scheme presented a number of challenges for us. It was important to be sympathetic to the heritage of the Royal Oak, while being compliant with modern building regulations and providing all the comforts that people expect in a pub and hotel.

"It has not been plain sailing. There were a few unforeseen difficulties to overcome such as discovering that the original structure had no foundations!"

The interior is elegant and contemporary in style, designed to complement the historical structure rather than to imitate it. The new Royal Oak has 13 letting bedrooms, a function room, a good sized bar area - with an oak floor - plus a wood panelled restaurant area and a two-bedroom manager's flat.

The site opened on May 6 and has been trading so well that it actually sold out of beer the first week and had to get an emergency delivery.

"This has been a very interesting project to bring to fruition," said Helen. "It is back to being the focal point of the village for the right reasons.

"The fire brigade even came back to visit on the opening night."

Related topics: Sport

Property of the week

The Hazeldene Hotel

- Tenancy

The Hazeldene Hotel is opposite the Famous Blacksmiths Shop in Gretna Green. With 11 letting rooms, it is in a prime location to offer fantastic...

Follow us

Pub Trade Guides

View more