The Saracen’s Head at Wolterton near Erpingham, owned by Burgh residents Tim Elwes and his wife Janie, is to reopen after six months of extensive repair work to major flood damage.
The 200-year-old pub-restaurant was completely inundated by a burst water main during a severe cold spell in March. The final cost of repair and refurbishment is likely to be more than £200,000 not including loss of business and running costs.
Built in 1806 by architect G S Repton in the style of a Tuscan farmhouse, the Georgian inn, famous for speciality dishes made from fresh, locally-sourced produce, will be open from Wednesday 29 August – and it will be business as usual.
Tim said: “We have worked closely with the conservation officer and tried to keep to the original construction wherever possible. This has meant finding specialist tradesmen who were proficient in traditional plaster work. We found some lovely old features under the old plaster which will now be on view to all.
“With some fresh new colours in the bar and parlour, combined with new carpets and curtains the cozy Saracen’s feel will still be very much part of the atmosphere. Menus on the blackboards is still the way that we let you know what Mark and his team have been preparing for you in the kitchen. Some classic Saracen’s dishes and some new ideas, everybody is in for a treat.”
Even the staff will be the same with head chef Mark Sayers and his team continuing to provide a seasonal menu seven days a week.
Disaster struck on 3 March during a cold spell when a freak combination of a change in freezing wind direction and full-on central heating caused an upstairs water pipe to burst allowing mains water to gush through the floors and down the walls. It was several hours before the flood was discovered. “When I walked through the front door it was like walking into a monsoon, just horrendous and heart breaking”, said Tim. “Everything was soaked through, but you imagine that it will only take a few weeks to put right. However, with lath and plaster ceilings and lime plaster walls soaking up the water, everything was going to have to be stripped out.”
It was early June when tons of plaster had finally been removed and then several weeks of drying time involving fans before any repair work could start.
But while the downstairs restaurant area will be open, the upstairs bedrooms will not be ready before the end of September.