HENLEY’S oldest building is awaiting repairs after it was damaged by a scaffolding collapse.
On Thursday last week, a Biffa tipper truck hit the scaffold outside the Clarks shoe shop in Bell Street so that it toppled over into the Old Bell pub opposite.
The impact smashed tiles on the edge of the pub roof and ripped the guttering from the wall as well as scraping exposed timbers and smashing a window.
As the Standard reported last week, the street was closed to traffic, causing jams on roads in and out of the town.
Businesses on both sides of the road between Sainsbury’s Local and W H Smith had to shut all day.
The Brakspear pub, which dates back to the 14th century, has been closed since the incident and Oxfordshire County Council put up barriers outside it while temporary repairs were carried out.
Landlord Bill Dobson was trapped in his home above the premises after the crash. He was unaware of what had happened until a friend phoned him at 9am.
Mr Dobson said: “He asked me if I was okay and I said, ‘yes, fine’. Then he asked if I was injured, which I thought was a strange question.
“I said, ‘no, why?’ and he said, ‘I suggest you have a look outside’. I went into the lounge and all I could see was scaffolding and planks.
“I went downstairs to open the door and see how close it was and the police shouted, ‘Don’t come out’, which I had no intention of doing.” Mr Dobson walked free at midday after being told it was safe to leave and was able to return to the pub that night.
He said: “The pub has been here since 1325 and it survived the Black Death, so hopefully a little bit of scaffolding isn’t going to hurt it too much.”
Police closed Bell Street to drivers and pedestrians just before 6.30am and did not re-open it until 7.18pm.
The mess was cleared up by men from Gloucester Scaffolding, who braced the fallen structure with metal poles and dismantled it using a cherry picker. The scaffolding smashed the front window of the neighbouring flat above Timpson as well as breaking Timpson’s front sign.
The Health and Safety Executive is investigating the incident.
Matthew Humphreys, Biffa’s group head of safety, said: “Biffa takes health and safety very seriously and is working with the police and conducting its own investigation into the circumstances surrounding how the vehicle came into contact with the scaffolding and why this subsequently collapsed.”
Tony Lewis, property manager for Brakspear, said: “The damage is nothing massive but there are lots of little bits and pieces that we need to put right.”
Tom Davies, chief executive Brakspear, said the pub had lost money by having to closed and said the company might seek compensation, depending on the outcome of the investigation.
Ruth Gibson, secretary of Henley Archaeological and Historical Group, said: “I’m very relieved the damage wasn’t worse — we don’t have another building that old in Henley.
“The Old Bell is a sturdy, timber-framed building and has a bit of ‘give’. I think if it was a brick building it might have been demolished.”
Watch our video interview with landlord Bill Dobson here