All hands to the pump as historic pub counts cost

Mopping up: Charlotte and Jess House cleaning up at the Wagon and Horses in Lancaster. Left, owners Paul and Carole. Right, the floods in Lancaster, and the pub cellar after the flood
Mopping up: Charlotte and Jess House cleaning up at the Wagon and Horses in Lancaster. Left, owners Paul and Carole. Right, the floods in Lancaster, and the pub cellar after the flood
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Two months ago Lancaster was hit by severe flooding, forcing residents to flee and many businesses to shut up shop.

The scene of devastation spread as the effects of Storm Desmond brought power outages to all across the district.

Now eight weeks on some businesses are back on their feet hoping to put the chaotic past behind them.

But for one historic pub, escaping the flooding is not so easy.

The Wagon and Horses, which sits on St George’s Quay, has been shut since that night.

Carole Crossley and Paul Tarry have owned the pub for four years.

But nothing could prepare the 16 members of staff for what was to come on Saturday December 5 2015.

The water came into the front cellar at 10pm that night and continued to rise as quay drainage systems struggled to cope. After the power outage, staff were forced to leave and residents staying over were told to go to their rooms.

In one of those rooms one man suffered an angina attack and emergency services battled to get him to safety.

By 3am the water entered the pub through the floorboards and Paul and Carole could only watch.

Carole said: “It was the drains that caused the flooding here. We just sat and watched it because we didn’t know what else we could do.

“When we thought the water was coming in we tried to barricade the doors with carpets and rugs and anything we could find, not thinking it was going to come through the floor, you could hear the water bubbling, it was really eerie.

“We had to throw all the stock out because it was contaminated. It was - and is - heartbreaking.”

Staff member Jess House, who has worked at the Wagon and Horses for three years, said: “We have a good reputation and anyone who used to come in would say we had the neatest, tidiest cellar they have ever seen.

“We really pride ourselves to that high standard, so all this is really soul-destroying.”

Paul and Carole believe they have lost £150,000 since they have been shut, with an £8,000 loss in just drink stock.

Around 800 people were booked in from Christmas to New Year, and all bookings had to be cancelled.

Carole said: “I never want to see that amount of water again. We have had nothing from the insurance company and its been eight weeks now; they’ve doubled my excess on flooding to £50,000.

“We have paid all this money out of our own pocket to just be stressed. The council have been great; we applied for a flood grant and that came in right away.”

Beer, food and electrical equipment, including freezers and a large PA system were ruined during the flood.

Cellars have been ripped out and replaced and workmen are installing a sump pump to the front cellar to keep it protected for the future.

The sandstone flooring which runs throughout the pub has started to lift because water is trapped between the wood and membrane.

This has set the opening back by four weeks as workmen get set to rip and replace all the flooring.

Staff have been on hand cleaning, painting, scrubbing tiles and doing anything they can to get the Wagon and Horses back open.

Paul said: “In December the cellar flooded 25 days out of 30. “Staff have been really good; for nine weeks I have paid all my staff but I can afford to do that, other businesses can’t.”

Carole said: “We have good days and we have bad days. When everybody is in here and we are all doing it together you can see a light at the end of the tunnel.

“Even though we all work together, front of house don’t speak much to the kitchen staff or the chefs, so they have all been together, cleaning and painting and have all got to know each other a bit more.”

Jess said: “If anything good has come out of this, it is that we all get on a little bit better now rather than shouting orders at each other.”

The pub has been decorated throughout and new signage now hangs outside.

Paul and Carole hope the Wagon and Horses can reopen by March and are thankful for all the support they have received from customers, other businesses and residents.