'By George we did it!' Fire-ravaged pub wins funding to start rebuild project
PUBLISHED: 15:17 20 September 2019 | UPDATED: 15:17 20 September 2019
A historic pub gutted by fire which has stood empty for more than six years has won the first part of a £1million boost to restore it to its former glory.
Villagers clubbed together to buy the fire-hit George pub in Wickham Market last September in a bid to salvage its future following the devastating blaze in 2013.
They are hoping to eventually get £1m from the National Lottery Heritage Fund to restore the Grade II Listed Building, with the hope of pulling pints again by mid-2023.
And now the organisation has announced that it will give The George Community Pub (Wickham Market) Ltd £82,000 to help develop plans for the site, which it is hoped will be the first part of a much larger investment.
Bill Wolfe-Evans, chairman of the community benefit society, said: "By George we did it!
"On behalf of shareholders and supporters we are absolutely thrilled and extremely grateful to have received support from National Lottery players.
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"For centuries The George Inn has served Wickham Market and it was almost lost forever following the fire.
"Thanks to our community's generosity, that of previous funders who have recognised and shared our vision.
"Now we can now look forward to restoring this wonderful building for future generations."
Neighbours have rallied round the rebuilding project, with nearly £130,000 of shares bought by 330 residents and supporters of the pub - which is the only one left in Wickham Market and is thought to date back to the late 15th century.
Once restored, the group hopes the pub will serve as a space for a wide range of community activities, including heritage-related experiences.
Any surpluses made by the pub in the future will be used to support other community groups and initiatives in the area.
However the National Lottery Heritage Fund will have to consider more detailed proposals before deciding whether The George is to receive any more money.