Dad's Army hotel hit by fire

An historic Norfolk hotel made famous by Dad's Army but now threatened with demolition has been ravaged by fire.

An historic Norfolk hotel made famous by Dads' Army but now threatened with demolition has been ravaged by fire.

In a battle worthy of the Home Guard team that starred in the BBC comedy, residents of Thetford last year launched a campaign to save the town's Anchor Hotel from being destroyed.

But their fight to get the hotel listed status, preventing its demolition, received a setback on Saturday evening when much of the now-derelict building was hit by fire.

Station manager Phil Berry, the firefighter in charge of dealing with the blaze, said five fire crews were needed to tackle the blaze, which had started on the ground floor.

Firefighters were called at 7.39pm on Saturday and remained on scene to the early hours of Sunday as the blaze spread to the second floor and the roof.

First, officers had to check each room of the boarded-up building to make certain that squatters, known to use it in the past, were not on the premises.

Most Read

“It is a large building and the fire affected the front of it, and there was heavy smoke-logging throughout,” said Mr Berry. “We were aware that people from time to time seek refuge in the building and could have been trapped, but there was no one in there.”

The buildings' owners have, legitimately, cut away fire escapes to prevent people gaining entry into the building - but that makes it far harder for people to escape in a blaze.

Mr Berry said the main damage was done to the roof at the rear of the building but that the ridge of the central chimney had also been destroyed and there was smoke staining to the boarded-up windows at the front of the property.

An investigation into the cause of the fire has been launched, but the building is known to have been hit by arsonists in the past.

Last August firefighters were called to three small fires in short succession, which saw rubbish set alight on the ground floor, in the roof and a shed destroyed. Each was deemed an arson attack.

Between 2001 and 2005 Norfolk County Council reported that “bored youngsters” had been responsible for 353 fires in Thetford.

The 18th century Anchor Hotel shot to fame after being used in the first scene of the first episode of Dads' Army in 1968 and is now the first stopping point on tours of the town based on locations featured in the comedy.

Last year new owners The Zog Group, a Hertford-based property company, told the EDP the building was “an eyesore” and that they wanted to replace it with homes and a shopping complex on the Bridge Street site.

But the town's Thetford Society has since launched an application to make the building Grade II listed, preventing its demolition and preserving it for future generations.