Fire Severely Damages UK Pub with 1,000 Years of History

The pub is said to date back to the 11th century when it was used by Pilgrims on their way to Canterbury.

The pub is said to date back to the 11th century when it was used by Pilgrims on their way to Canterbury.
Photo: Michael Melia / Alamy Stock Photo

Building fires are always devastating events, but a recent incident in England has resulted in damage of literally historic proportions: On Sunday night, a fire tore through a 1,000-year-old pub considered one of the oldest in the county of Kent.

The Dirty Habit pub located in Hollingbourne — a village on the outskirts of Maidstone about 40 miles southeast of London — suffered significant damage when a fire broke out around 8 p.m. on Sunday evening. An aerial image posted to Twitter by the Kent Fire and Rescue Service showed the extent of the destruction, much of which appeared to strike the interior of the building.

"I was watching Strictly when my grandson came running in from playing his PlayStation and said the Dirty Habit is on fire. We went out and the flames were terrible," explained Glenda Dennett — who lives across from the pub — referencing the popular British dance competition show akin to Dancing with the Stars, according to Kent Online. "They were so high and began spreading across the pub. I saw through the bottom window the fire was spreading in the main dining area. The flames just shot up through the back and became so high. It was so bad. People were in tears getting evacuated and haven't been able to go back to their homes yet."

The pub is currently owned by the Elite Pubs chain which said they were "truly devastated by the events."

"All staff and customers were evacuated swiftly and accounted for," the chain's statement continued. "Unfortunately, there has been significant damage to the pub. Each and every one of our pubs is extremely special to us, but the history of this one holds a very special place. The pub has been closed and will remain so until repairs have been made."

Though the exact age of the Dirty Habit — which has previous gone by names including The King's Head and the Pilgrim's Rest — is up for debate, according to The Drinks Business, the building has been billed as an inn used by Pilgrims on their way to Canterbury and apparently was once a stop for King James II. Kent Online has called it one of the oldest in the county.

As of yesterday, the cause of the fire was unknown, and as of this afternoon, three fire engines were still on the scene with Kent Fire & Rescue saying, "Crews are damping down any remaining hotspots inside the property, working to preserve the building as much as possible and make the scene safe."

"At the height of the fire we had 12 fire engines here, two water carriers, and a turntable ladder which was still being used this morning," incident commander Alan Standing was quoted as saying yesterday.

Elite Pubs also acknowledged the importance of emergency services. "We'd like to thank Kent Fire & Rescue Service for their immediate response and to all who have sent well wishes — we truly appreciate your kind words," they stated. "In true Elite fashion, we'll pick ourselves up from this and return stronger than ever before and the pub will be restored to its former glory."

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