The Punch Bowl Inn on a quiet country road in Lancashire, England, had stood for 300 years when its owners took a bulldozer to it in 2021. They must regret doing any such thing, and not just because of reports suggesting they disturbed the building's rumored ghosts. As the Washington Post reports, the pub was a Grade II building of historical interest on England's National Heritage List, meaning alterations needed to be approved by the local authority. The Ribble Valley borough council hadn't given the green light to the pub's destruction and sued in response. In a unique ruling confirmed last week, a judge ordered the owners to reconstruct the building "brick-by-brick," per Food & Wine. "And he meant that literally."
"If you could see the pile of rubble, by golly, what a job that's going to be," tourism officer Tom Pridmore tells the Post, which shares a photo of a massive pile of stone and wood where the inn formerly stood in Hurst Green. More challenging for owner Andrew Donelan is that the judge required that the rebuild be completed within a year. Donelan's company, Donelan Trading Ltd., had purchased the pub with ties to the famous 18th-century highwaymen Dick Turpin and Ned King in 2015 and received council approval for a "pitch holiday lodge park with 15 units" at the site in 2018, per the Lancashire Telegraph. But Donelon and associates later claimed the building was in disrepair and at risk of collapsing into the roadway, per the Guardian.
In reality, the damage was not enough to require tearing down the entire building, a move that left locals "horrified," the chair of the local planning-and-development committee tells the Post. According to the Guardian, one developer had even been forewarned that the demolition would be illegal. Though they claimed good intentions, Donelan and four others were convicted last year and subsequently ordered to pay $85,000 in fines and court costs, a ruling that will stand as their appeal was rejected last week. The rebuild will cost another $1.8 million, per the Guardian. Developers must pull all salvageable materials from the rubble. All other materials used will need to be approved by council first. (Read more England stories.)