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White Horse fire warning made a year before blaze destroyed historic pub

PUBLISHED: 17:00 25 September 2020

The White Horse pub was gutted by fire on Sunday, September 20. The cause of the blaze is unknown. Picture: Craig Cook

The White Horse pub was gutted by fire on Sunday, September 20. The cause of the blaze is unknown. Picture: Craig Cook

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A warning about the risk of fire at a disused pub was made one year before a blaze destroyed it.

Andy O'Sullivan at the planning meeting on September 16, 2019, tells councillors another fire at The White Horse pub Andy O'Sullivan at the planning meeting on September 16, 2019, tells councillors another fire at The White Horse pub "could easily happen". Picture: LBBD

A meeting at Barking Town Hall on September 16, 2019, heard a fire “could easily happen” at The White Horse in High Road, Chadwell Heath.

The warning came from Andy O’Sullivan, who had been lined up to take on the pub near St Chad’s Church, at a planning committee meeting which saw a scheme to build homes on the site approved.

Mr O’Sullivan, speaking in favour of the bid, said at the time: “The whole site is a mess. There’s lit fires in there all the time. There’s junkies out the back.

“The fire brigade have been called there twice. If there’s another fire there, the gardens are overgrown, the church could go up as well as the gardens. It could easily happen.”

The pub had been due for redevelopment. Picture: Lauren FlorenceThe pub had been due for redevelopment. Picture: Lauren Florence

About 40 firefighters fought the flames for almost three hours at the 400-year-old, locally listed pub in the early hours of Sunday, September 20. No one was injured.

Investigators have been unable to figure out the cause because of how severe the damage was to the two-storey building.

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Mr O’Sullivan, speaking to the Post, said: “I knew it would go up. I’m the only one with keys to the front door. I bricked up the windows and within a week someone had put a sledgehammer through the back windows.

The White Horse had survived for 400 years, but the fire left most of it in ruins. Picture: LBBD Archives/Valence HouseThe White Horse had survived for 400 years, but the fire left most of it in ruins. Picture: LBBD Archives/Valence House

“Every time I went in, furniture had been moved. People were living upstairs. There were ashes in the two fireplaces and lots of mattresses upstairs.”

The pub was a magnet for anti-social behaviour with youngsters getting on the roof and throwing tiles off, Mr O’Sullivan added.

But the granting of planning permission had thrown the pub a lifeline with a guarantee from the site’s owner to restore it as part of a redevelopment which would see more than 50 homes built on the site.

READ MORE: White Horse pub to return to its ‘former glory’ despite fears for St Chad’s remembrance garden



“I said this place will go up and that’s where we are today. It’s gutting, absolutely gutting. It has to be rebuilt. It was a great pub and still could be,” Mr O’Sullivan said.

And on the future, he added: “I’m totally unsure at the moment.”

READ MORE: The White Horse pub fire sees 400 years of history ‘go up in flames’


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