The Bell ‘rings again’ as fire-damaged pub celebrates community Christmas lunch

The Bell Inn has hosted a Christmas lunch for the community in its temporary premises.
The Bell Inn has hosted a Christmas lunch for the community in its temporary premises.

The community has pulled together to help landlords of The Bell Inn in Parkham re-open in a temporary premises, celebrating with a Christmas lunch for all.

A determined North Devon landlord whose thatched pub was destroyed by fire has been making room at the inn for locals this Christmas.

In February a devastating fire swept through the 13th century Bell Inn at Parkham, but has set up a temporary local in the village hall - The Inn Over The Road.

Julian Bennett from NFU Mutual (centre) helps landlord and landlady Michael and Rachel Sanders from the Bell Inn in Parkham serve a Christmas lunch to members of the community in the village hall. Picture: Guy Newman Julian Bennett from NFU Mutual (centre) helps landlord and landlady Michael and Rachel Sanders from the Bell Inn in Parkham serve a Christmas lunch to members of the community in the village hall. Picture: Guy Newman

Eighty firefighters, with the help of pub landlord and landlady Michael and Rachel Sanders and their neighbours, managed to save nearly all of the furniture in the pub.

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.

The Bell Inn at Parkham was devastated by the fire in February. The Bell Inn at Parkham was devastated by the fire in February.

“We saved nearly 99 per cent 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.”

The fire, believed to have been caused by heat transfer from a chimney, took hold of the pub’s thatched roof with alarming speed, destroying it completely in a matter of hours and the old cob walls smouldered for another three days.

Landlord and landlady Michael and Rachel Sanders of the Bell Inn in Parkham served a Christmas lunch to members of the community in the village hall helped by Julian Bennett (3rd from left) and his team from NFU Mutual Bideford office. Picture: Guy Newman Landlord and landlady Michael and Rachel Sanders of the Bell Inn in Parkham served a Christmas lunch to members of the community in the village hall helped by Julian Bennett (3rd from left) and his team from NFU Mutual Bideford office. Picture: Guy Newman

Julian Bennett, of NFU Mutual’s Bideford office, said: “We heard about the fire within minutes of it happening because it’s a small and close community and news travels fast.

“We were able to act very swiftly to put Mike and Rachel up in a local hotel, less than 500 yards from the pub, and we’ve supported their move into a cottage nearby.

The Bell Inn in Parkham, North Devon which burnt down earlier this year and is being rebuilt with the help of the insurer NFU Mutual. Picture: Guy Newman The Bell Inn in Parkham, North Devon which burnt down earlier this year and is being rebuilt with the help of the insurer NFU Mutual. Picture: Guy Newman

“The pub is an integral part of the community and I think everyone is relieved and happy that it’s been able to continue.”

Staff from the NFU Mutual Bideford team helped serve Christmas lunch to the community 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 underway at The Bell Inn and the village hostelry is expected to reopen in summer 2018.


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