Bressingham pub reopens 18 months after thatch fire

The new landlords of a village pub have pledged to return it to the heart of the community and become a popular dining venue after reopening following a devastating fire.

The Chequers Inn at Bressingham, near Diss, was left gutted more than 18 months ago following a thatch blaze that ripped through the building. But the 16th century pub has now begun a new era after the building, off the A1066, was restored to its former glory under new management.

New landlords Jason and Andrea Orton reopened to the public this week after the listed thatched pub was rebuilt by its owner Enterprise Inns.

The couple, who have experience in the pub and hospitality trade, said they were focusing on turning the Chequers into a 'gastropub' using as much local produce and home-made food as possible.

An open evening was held at Bressingham's only pub on Monday before its grand opening to drinkers and diners on Tuesday. The inn, which will be open seven days a week, will also employ 18 people.

Mr Orton, 36, who will be running the kitchen, previously worked as a chef at the Sibton White Horse, near Saxmundham, which won Suffolk's best dining pub of the year award in 2008 and 2009.

He said they would be aiming to win the Norfolk equivalent next year with dishes inspired by local produce.

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Mrs Orton, 34, a former assistant manager at the Cornwallis Hotel in Brome, said it was exciting to be relaunching the village pub and local people had missed it.

'It is almost like a resurrection. Everyone knows that it has not been around for 18 months and because of the coverage of the fire, people in a 20 mile radius know of the pub.

'Upstairs we have got 50 good luck cards and most of them are from people who we have just met.

'We want it to be a community pub, but we want to better that by making it something quite unique with food and drink.

'It feels like we have won the lottery. We have met incredible people and we have a beautiful pub.'

Most of the building's original wooden beams were salvaged and reinstalled following the thatch blaze in October 2009.

During the construction work, a stash of 1940s American pistols and ammunition were found buried under the bar area, which were hidden during the second world war.

A skeleton, which predates the construction of the pub more than 400 years ago, was also found by contractors while digging new foundations.

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