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‘I could not believe my eyes’: Landlord’s reaction after car crashes into The Wortwell Bell pub





A pub landlord has spoken about the devastation that greeted him after a car ploughed into the side of his establishment.

Paul Holland, who only opened the Wortwell Bell in March with his wife Michelle, said he could not believe his eyes after a driver crashed into one of the pub’s porches on May 17.

Work to repair the 17th century pub could take months and thousands of pounds to fix.

The car hit one of The Wortwell Bell's porches. Picture: Paul Holland
The car hit one of The Wortwell Bell's porches. Picture: Paul Holland

The 57-year-old said: “I had been to York races, got off the train and drove past the pub at about 10.15pm,” he said.

“I could see a couple of people in there and our head barman, Daniel Snelling, behind the bar, so I thought I would get myself off home.”

Little did Mr Holland know that just over an hour later, disaster would strike.

A view from inside The Wortwell Bell after the crash. Picture: Paul Holland
A view from inside The Wortwell Bell after the crash. Picture: Paul Holland

“I had just got into bed when my wife took a call and said I needed to get down to the pub straight away as a car had crashed into it,” he said.

“I thought someone might have backed into our fence but, when I got there, there were emergency services on the scene and I could not believe my eyes. I was totally shocked.”

When Mr Holland got inside, he found debris everywhere.

“The porch, along with a lot of rubble, was inside the bar,” he said. “The door and the supports for the main beam that goes across the bar were laid across the floor, and the radiator was off the wall.

The side of the porch and part of the pub's wall was hit in the crash. Picture: Paul Holland
The side of the porch and part of the pub's wall was hit in the crash. Picture: Paul Holland

“The window was laying on the sofa, which people had been sitting on less than an hour before, and the whole bar area was just an absolute mess.

The landlord said they had been lucky in one respect that no one was injured in the incident.

He added: “If it had happened an hour before, it would have been a total disaster as we had around 25 people in the bar area at the time.

A team of pub volunteers helped to clear up the debris. Picture: Paul Holland
A team of pub volunteers helped to clear up the debris. Picture: Paul Holland

“Luckily, everyone had started to go by then and Daniel was starting to clear up. We only had three people left in that section.”

But the landlord said one of those customers had a very lucky escape.

“One of the young lads we know was just about to go out for a cigarette through that door but his friend called him back to finish his drink so they could head off,” said Mr Holland.

Head barman Daniel Snelling with landlord Paul Holland outside The Wortwell Bell. Picture: Mark Bullimore
Head barman Daniel Snelling with landlord Paul Holland outside The Wortwell Bell. Picture: Mark Bullimore

“He went back, picked up his drink and then bang, the car hit the building. I think that call to finish his drink up saved his life.”

Since the crash, Mr Holland has had structural engineers in to assess the damage, which he said was only superficial to the main building.

He added: “There are joints that need to be repaired, while the porch roof will need to come off, the brickwork rebuilt and a new door frame will need to be made.

Paul, right, is in talk with pub owners, Stonegate Pub Partners, about when the repairs can be done. Picture: Mark Bullimore
Paul, right, is in talk with pub owners, Stonegate Pub Partners, about when the repairs can be done. Picture: Mark Bullimore

“Hopefully, we can salvage the door, and the window can be put back in as it is a listed building.”

The one aspect though which did warm Mr Holland’s heart was the response from the community in the immediate aftermath of the crash.

Thanks to their efforts, the pub was tidied and the porch area boarded up and made safe, meaning the pub was able to open again by 11.50am the following day.

A team of pub volunteers helped to clear up the debris. Picture: Paul Holland
A team of pub volunteers helped to clear up the debris. Picture: Paul Holland

“We cannot thank everyone in the local community enough for helping us after this all happened,” he told the Diss Express.

“People came together as quickly as they could and Jordan Developments answered a call in the early hours of the morning and had troops on site to help us structurally.

“One guy even took a day off on Saturday to help us; he gave up his time up with others to pick up all the pieces of debris and load up a skip.

“It is amazing to know that, in a short space of time, me, my wife, my son and Daniel have become such a part of the family community that everyone pitched in to help us in our hour of need.”

The landlord is now in talks with the pub’s owners, Stonegate Pub Partners, to find out when the repairs can be undertaken.

Norfolk Police were called to the incident at around 11.30pm, with the driver fleeing the scene.

After inquiries, officers were led to a property in Redenhall, where a woman in her 20s was arrested on suspicion of drink-driving and dangerous driving.

She has since been released on bail until July 25, pending further investigations.



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