Arkesden pub fire: Investigation under way after Axe and Compasses is destroyed in Mother's Day blaze
Fire chiefs have praised residents in Arkesden who formed a human chain to help remove furniture and valuable items from their village pub, the Axe and Compasses, as flames ripped through its thatched roof shortly before it was due to open on Mother's Day.
Ten fire crews from Essex and Hertfordshire battled throughout Sunday (March 27) to save the grade II listed building in Main Street, which has been run by the Christou family for more than 30 years, managing to salvage most of the contents and passing them to villagers before the blaze took hold.
By late afternoon, the pub's first floor and roof had collapsed and the building had suffered extension water damage. Crews remained at the scene overnight and an investigation is now under way to establish the cause of the fire, which broke out in a barn conversion attached to the pub at around 11.45am.
Incident commander Craig McLellan, of Essex County Fire and Rescue Service (ECFRS), said: “Crews worked really hard and used a collaborative approach to tackle the fire as effectively as possible.
"Due to the thatched roof, the fire spread quickly and unfortunately both the roof and first floor fell in.
"We’d like to thank members of the local community who were on hand to collect furniture salvaged by our firefighters to a designated safe space away from the building. When disaster strikes, it’s heart-warming to see communities come together to make a positive difference.
“Our thoughts go out to the long-term landlord of the Axe and Compasses, where 150 people were due to eat for Mother’s Day. It's looking like the cause of the fire was accidental, but a full investigation is being carried out.”
A passer-by had noticed flames inside the building and fire crews from Saffron Walden, Newport and Stansted were the first on the scene.
A spokesperson for Saffron Walden fire station said: "On arrival our crews were faced with a rapidly developing fire in a barn conversion attached to the pub. This quickly spread into the thatched roof. Crews wearing breathing apparatus went into the property to tackle the fire."
Appliances from Harlow, Halstead, Bishop's Stortford, Royston and Buntingford were drafted in as the situation developed.
"Despite the best efforts of the attending crews, the pub could not be saved," said the spokesperson. "However, we were able to salvage a lot of the pub contents before it took hold of the whole building.
"We would like to thank the local community of Arkesden who came out in force to set up a chain to help remove the furniture and other valuable items, opening up their gardens and garages to store the contents of the pub."
John May, chairman of Arkesden Parish Council, said villagers' thoughts and prayers were with the Christou family, who do not live at the pub. No-one was reportedly injured as a result of the blaze.
"Arkesden is pretty devastated by this tragic event and our thoughts are very much with the family and everyone who works there and who enjoys being in the pub because it was very much part of our village," said Mr May.
"I'm sure the village will continue to rally round. The emergency services were fantastic and everyone did what they could to help.
"The pub is in a pretty bad state, but it's something the village would like to see up and running again and we will rise to the challenge.
"The silver lining in this cloud is to recognise the community spirit. In the world we live in at the moment, it's a great example of charity beginning at home and perhaps we can all reflect on how we can help each other."
Police closed the village road while fire crews tackled the blaze. Ambulances were also on hand.