The fire, believed to have been caused by heat transfer from a chimney of the 13th century the Bell Inn at Parkham, near Bideford, took hold of the pub’s thatched roof with "alarming speed", destroying it completely in a matter of hours, leaving the old cob walls to smoulder for another three days.
However, pub licensees Michael and Rachel Sanders, with the help of 80 firefighters from Devon & Somerset Fire and Rescue, and their neighbours, managed to save almost all of the furniture in the pub.
As such, thanks to support from the local community and commercial insurer NFU Mutual, the Sanders temporarily recreated the popular local and have been operating from the village hall – now nicknamed the Inn Over the Road – since April.
Michael said: “It will not be a silent night this Christmas and we would like to thank all those who are helping the Bell to ring again; the fire service for saving us and our belongings, our insurers NFU Mutual for acting so quickly to put a roof over our head and keep our business operating and all our friends and neighbours in this wonderful community who’ve been so amazing in their support for us this year.
“We saved nearly 99% of the fittings, including all of the tables and chairs and pictures from the walls and when we opened 'the Inn Over the Road' in April, we were able to use everything to recreate our much-loved local.”
Part of the community
Julian Bennett of NFU Mutual’s Bideford office added: “We heard about the fire within minutes of it happening on 13 February because it’s a small and close-knit community, and news travels fast.
"We were able to act very swiftly to put Mike and Rachel up in a local hotel, fewer than 500 yards from the pub and we’ve supported their move into a cottage nearby.
“Keeping the business running, albeit from temporary premises, while the repairs to the pub are under way, has been an absolute priority for the Sanders. The pub is an integral part of the community and everyone is relieved and happy that it’s been able to continue.”
To help get in the Christmas spirit and to say thank you, the Sanders put on a festive lunch this week, with staff from the NFU Mutual Bideford team helping to serve food. And, for those who weren’t able to make it to the Inn Over the Road, there was a meals-on-wheels delivery service.
Refurbishment work is under way at the Bell Inn and it is expected to reopen in summer 2018.