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History of former New Inn pub in Queen Street and Milton Road in Gravesend which was destroyed by fire

A piece of a town's history went up in smoke when a massive blaze took hold and devastated the listed building.

The fire a week ago today in Queen Street, Gravesend, saw the former New Inn pub destroyed.

The fire in Queen Street on Thursday

At its height, firefighters in nine fire engines and a height vehicle were tackling the flames as huge plumes of smoke billowed into the sky.

By the evening, this had been been scaled back to six engines and firefighting reduced to turning over and damping down.

Operations were finally completed at around 1.30pm on Friday – almost 24 hours later.

The fire is believed to have started due to an electrical fault and, thankfully, no one was hurt.

The New Inn Pub in Milton Road in 1913. Picture supplied by: Christoph Bull
The New Inn Pub in Milton Road in 1913. Picture supplied by: Christoph Bull

The blaze has all but wiped out one of the town's oldest buildings, which prompted us to take a look back at the origins of the town centre landmark with the help of local historian Christoph Bull.

The former pub was originally in Fort Gardens but when the area became an artillery base in the 1780s it moved.

The building it took over – on the junction of Milton Road and Queen Street – was originally home to a man called Dr Holker and had a bowling green behind it.

In April 1734, The Prince of Orange – a title bestowed on Prince William IV – stayed in the house for what was meant to be only two days but was extended after the weather took a turn for the worse, and he was unable to travel.

By 1791, the New Inn had moved into the western portion of the building and took up around a fifth of the row of shops.

The building when it was a vape shop in May 2020. Picture: Christoph Bull
The building when it was a vape shop in May 2020. Picture: Christoph Bull

That said, a print from 1835 shows that at one point it occupied all of the house and was one of many hotels catering to a vast number of visitors.

Christoph said the pub also provided sanctuary for an over-worked police officer.

"When Gravesend ran its own police force between 1836 and 1942 the police constable used to have a dire time. They would go 12 hours without a break but he had an agreement with the pub.

"He would go there to have a sit down while on his shift and a beer, and he would overlook if the place was open longer than it should be."

The historian thinks the building would have dated back to the 17th century.

The building has been destroyed
The building has been destroyed

He added: "We do not exactly know when [it was built] but it was one of the oldest buildings. The town does not have that many very old buildings any more."

According to Tom Baine’s book "A Pub On Every Corner", the New Inn closed in 2010 after more than 200 years.

It was replaced by the Coyote Ugly which closed in 2011 and then became Bar One in 2012 for five months until it became multiple vape shops.

The demise of the historic premises has been branded a "devastating" loss to the town and many hope it will be rebuilt to mirror its former glory.

Nick Brown, Gravesham Borough Council’s director for environment, said work would continue to decide what happens next.

The remains of the old New Inn on Friday, May 27
The remains of the old New Inn on Friday, May 27

He said: “We watched with dismay the fire that caused so much damage in the town centre on Thursday and would like to thank Kent Fire and Rescue Service for their efforts to save the buildings involved."

He said council officers had been at the scene throughout that day, and met again on site last Friday with colleagues from building control "to fully assess the extent of the damage to the old New Inn building and neighbouring properties".

He continued: “Given the building’s listed status, there are legal considerations that need to be followed in respect of any potential urgent works in the interests of health and safety or for the preservation of the building.

“We have been in contact with representatives of the owner since Thursday afternoon to ensure they are fully aware of what needs to happen now, and we will continue to provide them with advice and assistance in the coming months.”

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