SEVERE damage was caused when a fire ripped through an historic pub in Stow just days before one of its busiest weeks of the year.

Nearly 40 firefighters were called to the blaze at The Porch House, in Digbeth Street, after flames quickly spread through the extractor system and into the bedrooms.

Residents and staff were evacuated as crews spent nearly two hours tackling the blaze, which started in the kitchen area and damaged two bedrooms.

The fire broke out at the Porch House – which has parts dating back to 947AD and is thought to be among England’s oldest inns – at about 12.30pm on Wednesday, March 5.

But thanks to the efforts of an eight-man cleaning team, the pub was able to open its doors again on Monday – just in time for the start of the Cheltenham Festival.

Manager James Rogers said they were determined to re-open as soon as possible.

“There were a few rooms affected but it’s business as usual,” he said. “We’ve lost a couple of bedrooms for the foreseeable future.

"There was a fair amount of damage caused but we will have everything up and running as fast as possible.

“It was quite gutting as we’ve all put a lot of hard work in to get it up and running and we were one of the only hotels in Stow to be fully booked during race week.

It is one of the busiest times of but luckily the guests all understood and we’ve managed to find alternatives for people we haven’t been able to accommodate.”

Mr Rogers, who lives in Stow, has been overwhelmed by the support from local businesses, restaurants and residents.

“We’ve had locals offering help to come and get things back up and running, it’s really quite heart-warming,” he said.

Incident commander Steve Bateman said crews did a good job to prevent the fire from destroying the whole roof at the Grade II listed building.

“It could have been a lot worse, it took hold very quickly and needed controlling due to the nature of the ageing premises.”