Surprise demolition of Lancashire's famous "most haunted" listed building the Punch Bowl Inn

Now you see it - now you don't . An historic landmark listed building, reputed to be the "most haunted" building in Lancashire, was demolished yesterday without warning.

Passers by were astonished to see that the historic Grade II listed Punch Bowl Inn, on the outskirts of Hurst Green, near Longridge, had been reduced to rubble.

In recent times the once popular pub and restaurant had fallen into disrepair and been vandalised.

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One local resident said: "I went past in the morning and it was there and I drove back in the evening and it had gone."

The Punch Bowl Inn had been vacant since 2012.

Stonyhurst resident Katherine Turner said she saw a digger on the site on Tuesday: “It’s so sad. It has always been a part of village life. I was driving past and couldn’t believe it. There was one woman directing traffic, no fencing, dust flying everywhere (and) a digger.”

Another passer-by commented: “I was horrified to see that it has been demolished! I have not seen any application for planning permission.”

Coun Alison Brown, chair of Ribble Valley Borough Council’s planning committee, said: “It is very sad to see such an old building go - our officers are looking in to the matter.”

In 2018 permission was granted for the 18th century building on Longridge Road to be converted into five holiday lets and a cafe.

All that remains of the listed Punch Bowl Inn on Longridge Road, Hurst Green

The project was to include some demolition work and the building of extensions. At that time permission was also granted to Donelan Trading Ltd of Whalley Road, Wilpshire to create a 15 unit static caravan holiday park on the site.

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The site has had a turbulent history. Notorious highwaymen Dick Turpin and Ned King were reported to have stayed at the site and the ghost of ‘Old Ned’ was reputed to roam the pub.

The property has been vacant since 2012 and its condition had deteriorated to such an extent that at the time of the granting of the permission for holiday accommodation access could not be gained to part of the premises for the Heritage Statement report submitted to Ribble Valley Council.

At the time those consulted on the changes ranged from the Ancient Monuments Society and Victorian Society to the Lancashire Gardens Trust as well as local residents.

The rubble on the roadside site where the Punch Bowl Inn stood until earlier this week
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The Heritage Statement, submitted to the council, stressed: “Owing to the building’s designated heritage status care is needed to avoid harming the significance of the building in line with the requirements of planning law and policy.”

The building has been the subject of numerous planning applications. Most recently in March 2020 permission was refused for an application by Donelan Trading Ltd to remove an unsafe roof and replace with a new truss and slate roof and remove defective building render to assess stonework underneath.

The pub’s roots can be traced back to a row of three single cottages built in 1793. By 1844 the buildings were known as The Fenton Arms and by 1910 it had become known as the Punch Bowl Inn.

A previous application to convert the pub and create 20 static holiday units was refused.

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The Punch Bowl Inn sign

A Historic England spokesperson said:“We are saddened to hear reports that the Grade II listed Punch Bowl Inn has been demolished without consent, and we will be investigating this with our regional partners. All listed sites are of national importance and are protected by law. In the very rare instances where a listed building needs to be demolished, Listing Building Consent is needed."

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The view from higher ground - The Punch Bowl Inn has been reduced to rubble