NEARLY a year after a fire devastated a beloved 256-year-old pub, punters are finally being welcomed back to their local.

It cost more than £300,000 to revive the Grade II-listed Kings Arms in Wheatley, near Thame, which was almost destroyed by a blaze just nine days before last Christmas.

Hawthorn, the company that owns the pub, began restoring the historic building in August after planning permission for the works was granted.

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With 700 pubs under its wing, the hospitality business invested almost £50,000 to modernise the Church Road building, upgrade services, and develop a new covered, lit and heated outdoor area for all-year-round.

However, landlord Maria O’Brien, who has run the Kings Arms for 15 years, has also had to invest her own money to help renovate it:.

She said: “It is back, with a fresh look and original features.

“Because it dates from 1764, and includes historically important features, Hawthorn had to work closely with the local authority before reconstruction could begin.

Oxford Mail: Kings Arms in Wheatley finally reopens almost a year after a fire devastated its premisesKings Arms in Wheatley finally reopens almost a year after a fire devastated its premises

“Now I am looking forward to welcoming back regulars, and attracting new customers, too.

“The pandemic has led to people living and working in different ways, we have some new features we hope will prove popular, including coffee for the first time, a super fast wi-fi connection, and lots of power sockets.

“Wheatley has lots of commuters who’ve had to work from home for most of the year, so we hope now we’ll see them working from here.”

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As Covid-19 restrictions have eased, the Kings Arms will now be able to offer classic bar meals, favourites such as steak and ale pie and beer battered fish and chips, along with some of its favourite Thai dishes.

Ms O’Brien revealed she contributed to the new furniture, kitchen, and ‘state-of-the-art’ music system.

All the improvements follow the massive fire that engulfed the pub just before midday on December 17.

Oxford Mail: Renovation at the Kings Arms in Wheatley began in August after owner Hawthorns received planning permission Renovation at the Kings Arms in Wheatley began in August after owner Hawthorns received planning permission

There were no customers inside the Kings Arms at the time as the pub had not opened, so no-one was injured.

But the flames caused serious structural damage, particularly to the roof of the building.

Photographs from the day showed the building surrounded by thick smoke and at least six fire engines on Church Road, where the pub is located.

The publican said she believed that the pub, which is understood to have been a courthouse and jail, could have been lost altogether, but for the swift arrival of local firefighters.

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Ms O’Brien added: “I would like to say a massive 'thank you' to the emergency services.

“And now almost a year to the day, villagers are really, really pleased to see one of their local pubs come back to life.

“Ours is an ageless pub, catering for young and old, and where people are able to come alone and feel welcome and comfortable.”

Andrew Parker, Hawthorn director of leased and tenanted operations, praised all the staff who were determined to bring back the Kings Arms and support Ms O’Brien in reopening the popular village pub.

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