Pub ravaged by fire to be revamped into 'unique social hub' after £1m grant

Firefighters at the scene of a fire at The George, Wickham Market, in 2013

Firefighters at the scene of a fire at the George, Wickham Market, in 2013 - Credit: Su Anderson

A Wickham Market pub that was left scorched by a fire eight years ago has received a grant of almost £1million to restore it into a "unique social hub".

The George, the last remaining pub in the east Suffolk village, has remained closed since it was ravaged by a fire on April 18, 2013.

Villagers have been attempting to revamp the High Street pub, which is about 500 years old, with a community benefit society having more than 300 shareholders.

The effort has now been boosted by a National Lottery Heritage Fund Heritage Enterprise grant of £988,200.

East Suffolk Council gave the scheme the green light back in June this year, with the total cost for the revamp expected to be close to £1.5m.

Scaffolding outside the damaged pub in 2016

Scaffolding outside the damaged pub in 2016 - Credit: Simon Parker

Developers are aiming to revamp the George as a community hub to tackle isolation and loneliness, with a pub and restaurant on the ground floor.

The project will also bring previously unavailable parts of the building into public use for the first time, with the upper floors being converted into community rooms.

A spokesman from the George Management Committee said: "This fantastic award from the National Lottery Heritage Fund has now made this project possible.

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"We are so grateful to the many shareholders and supporters who believed and invested in this project and particular thanks go to National Lottery players everywhere.

"Wickham Market has everything apart from a village pub. That has just changed and the George Community Pub will be far more than a pub, it will become a unique social hub and, in the process, an important piece of Suffolk heritage will be saved."

Anne Jenkins, director of Midlands & East at the National Lottery Heritage Fund, added: "Investing in heritage means investing in the community it belongs to, which is why we are so pleased to support the George Community Pub in Wickham Market.

"Not only will this grant conserve and restore this historic building, it will also help regenerate the local economy, ensuring that this heritage is enjoyed by locals and visitors alike."