A HELSBY teenager has been arrested on suspicion of arson after a derelict village pub was destroyed by fire last Friday.
Fire crews from Runcorn, Widnes, Chester, Frodsham and Stockton Heath battled to save Robin Hood Hotel, on Chester Road, Helsby, as flames ripped through the building which had stood as a landmark in the village for decades.
Traffic ground to a halt across Frodsham and Helsby at 2pm as police closed the A56 for the safety of residents and motorists.
Robin Hood Lane was closed to allow emergency vehicles ready access to the fire.
Police arrested a 16-year-old man on suspicion of arson yesterday morning following ongoing investigations.
The alarm was raised after thick black smoke was seen billowing from the roof by motorists driving towards Frodsham.
A team of five fire crews which included two aerial platforms battled for hours to stop the blaze which ripped through the hotel, destroying rooms and causing the roof and walls to collapse.
Residents left their houses and watched in horror as the disused pub, a landmark in the village for decades, became engulfed in flames.
Chairman of Helsby Parish Council Cllr Chris Ellams, who was at work when the fire started, said that villagers were shocked.
He said: “We had all come to terms with the fact that the pub was going to be demolished in the coming weeks, it is just such a shame that it went up in smoke like that.”
Cllr Ellams, who regularly drank and socialised at the pub before it closed, added: “Everyone who was standing watching the fire said that it was such a shame.
“We are in shock and deeply saddened that someone has done this.”
“I just cannot understand why anyone would want to do something like this, it has not achieved anything.”
Since the last pint was pulled at the pub the boarded-up building had fallen into disrepair, attracting vandals and criminals and being blamed as the ‘eyesore’ which stopped Helsby winning Best Kept competitions and community prizes.
But Cllr Ellams said that the pub still evoked special memories for villagers and that the blaze had destroyed plans for the residents to save parts of the pub.
He explained: “We wanted to save the sign and the lamps so that everyone could have a reminder of the good times we had at the Robin Hood.
“We wanted to get some pictures and put the sign up in the hall in the community centre,” said Cllr Ellams.
“We were hoping to get the lamps as well to put in the park. Hopefully we will still be able to get hold of the pub sign as the fire doesn’t look like it has touched it, but we will not be able to get anything inside. It is a real shame.
“If anyone has any old photos of any celebrations or of the pub from the road it would be great if they could sent them to me so that we can make a lasting memory of the pub in the village.”
The blaze came less than a week after Halebank Development removed the steel shutters from the windows of the pub in preparation for demolition to make way for 13 new homes on the site.
The developers refused to comment on the blaze but said that the building would be demolished ‘as soon as possible’.
Spokesperson for Cheshire Police Shelly Williams confirmed that a 16-year-old male had been arrested and was being questioned at the time The Chronicle went to print.