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Historic London pub damaged in fire ‘such a shame’

The scene of the fire at the Burn Bullock in Mitcham (David Bell/Mitcham Cricket Club)
The scene of the fire at the Burn Bullock in Mitcham (David Bell/Mitcham Cricket Club)

A heritage-listed London pub thought to date back to around the 16th century has been damaged in a fire.

The blaze on Friday night damaged three floors and destroyed the roof of the grade II-listed Burn Bullock in Mitcham, south-west London, that was reportedly visited by a British king.

King George IV “briefly frequented” the institution that was a meeting place during the Napoleonic Wars, according to Merton Council’s local heritage service.

The left wing of the three-storey property dates between the 16th and 17th century and the front between the early and mid-18th century, according to Historic England’s official list entry.

The fire-damaged Burn Bullock in Mitcham
The pub was damaged in a fire on Friday night (David Bell/Mitcham Cricket Club)

Historic England has listed the Burn Bullock on its Heritage at Risk Register which states it was in “very bad” condition and “had been illegally occupied as a House in Multiple Occupation and has suffered associated deterioration”.

Julia Gault, secretary of Mitcham Cricket Club which is across the car park from the pub, said the property had been occupied by squatters for a decade.

She said: “We’ve been sitting next door to what has been going on since 2009 – watching a listed building fall into a greater state of dilapidation.

“Since it closed in 2014 it has been occupied by various collections of people who have been reported locally as squatters.”

An “unauthorised car sales business” has been operating from the rear car park, she claimed, adding “there were more cars than I had seen there in ages” when she drove past on Friday evening before the fire broke out.

Firefighters putting out the blaze on Friday evening
Firefighters putting out the blaze on Friday evening (David Bell/Mitcham Cricket Club)

She said: “On the previous Saturday I seemed to notice that that car sales business seemed to have a porter cabin, so it was looking more and more established even though it’s not supposed to be there.

“The (main) building has had a chain link fence put around the outside, it hasn’t been maintained; at times when the largest numbers of squatters have been there, we have had people in horse boxes in the car park, there has been rubbish and dog excrement visible from the street.

“Because we’re just across the car park from them, having a building that you think might be not particularly being safely maintained is a worry.

“We’re immensely relieved that no one was actually hurt in the fire.

“It is an absolute tragedy that such a historic building is so badly damaged – it has a history of a connection to cricket that is all gone, but it goes back way further than that, it’s a horrible thing to have happened.”

She said the pub was previously called the King’s Head Hotel and was renamed after its landlord, “first-class” Mitcham cricketer Burn Bullock, who died in 1954.

The club cancelled its match on Saturday but is planning to open its pavilion for the community on Sunday.

In a post on X, formerly Twitter, it said: “A black day for Mitcham. Named in honour of our former player and its former landlord. Disgracefully neglected for years.

“The original Association of Cricket Umpires and Scorers was formed by Tom Smith in an upstairs room here. Firefighters are doing their best to save what they can.”

Independent councillor for Merton Park Ward, Edward Foley, said firefighters were still dousing the building when he visited on Saturday morning.

He said: “It’s just such a shame that this historic building has gone, it’s been a concern for residents.

“It’s very sad, it’s a lovely building that’s fallen into disrepair, covered in graffiti.

“It hasn’t sunk in yet, to be honest, I was there this morning at seven o’clock, there were lots of dog walkers really upset”.

He added that “people had feared something would happen to the pub” for “quite a while”.

Around 80 firefighters and 12 fire engines from Norbury, Wimbledon and Tooting responded to reports that a building was on fire at around 7.30pm on Friday, London Fire Brigade (LFB) said.

It said it received 34 emergency calls and local residents were warned to keep their windows and doors closed due to a “significant amount of smoke”.

Ambulance crews assessed four men at the scene and two gas cylinders were removed from the building as “some cylinders can explode when exposed to heat”, the fire service added.

Half of the ground, first, and second floors were damaged.

Eyewitness Amzy, 18, who did not want to share their surname and lives near the pub, told the PA news agency: “When I got a closer view of what was happening, of the pub burning, it looked like the roof timbers were showing on the side.

“I saw flames arising from the building which looked like it had been burning for a while, whilst firefighters had a stream of water going into it via hose.

“I felt quite distraught to see such a nice valued building go down in flames, and I’m sure I’m not the only one that was disheartened to see that.”

A Historic England spokesperson said: “We are very sad to hear about the fire at Grade II listed Burn Bullock pub in Mitcham which is on our Heritage at Risk Register.

“We will be offering support and advice including with assessing damage and considering next steps for the building’s future.”

The public body’s Heritage at Risk Register states: “Essential repairs had been carried out to make the building weatherproof and it was decorated externally.

“No applications for development and re-use of the building have been submitted, although early discussions have taken place and a building archaeology study undertaken. The Local Authority are taking enforcement action to secure its repair.”

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

PA has attempted to contact the Burn Bullock’s landlord for comment.