Published: 06:00, 27 January 2021
| Updated: 08:07, 27 January 2021
One of Kent's oldest pubs is undergoing a £100,000 refurbishment in readiness for its re-launch.
It follows the purchase of the 15th century Abbot's Fireside in Elham, near Canterbury, by property restoration enthusiast Peter Malkin.
He used to own Bridge Place - now the luxury Pig Hotel at Bridge - where he had lived for 53 years and ran the famous Bridge Country Club.
Yet at the age of 81, he shows no signs of retiring and is again indulging his passion for restoring old buildings and traditional English pubs.
And they don't come much more traditional than the Grade II*-listed, beamed Abbot's Fireside, which opened as a tavern in 1451, then called The Smithies Arms, and retains many of its original features including three inglenook fireplaces.
"People say I must be mad to start another project," said Mr Malkin, who lives in Lyminge.
"But I just love old buildings, especially pubs which I hate to see closing down."
A sign bearing its original name still hangs outside but its name was changed to the Abbot's Fireside in the 1930s.
Mr Malkin, who now lives down the road in Lyminge, seized the opportunity to buy it when it came onto the market last year, having previously been owned and run by Eric and Helen Gaskell.
"I wanted to re-launch Bridge Place as a hotel and restaurant but it was just too big a job," said Mr Malkin, who has been impressed by the new owners' refurbishment and extension of his former home.
"But the Abbot's Fireside is a much more realistic prospect although I am spending up to £100,000 to get it how I want it."
Mr Malkin has restored up to 30 old buildings throughout the county, including Westenhanger Castle and several pubs.
But despite his love of traditional inns, he says he is not a big drinker but simply enjoys the ambience and social gatherings they offer.
"I've got quite a few ideas and am doing some of the work myself but also bringing in craftsmen.
"I have already enlarged the bar and it will have roaring open fires and cosy sofas.
"I have quite a bit of antique furniture which used to be in Bridge Place and I am creating a lovely patio garden at the rear.
"The pub also has seven lovely en-suite rooms which will be refurbished."
He added: "I will also want to assemble a top notch kitchen and front of house team and have a manager run it for me, although I plan to be around overseeing things."
Mr Malkin hopes to complete the refurbishment by the beginning of April but says the relaunch will depend on when pubs are allowed to re-open.