Wagon and Horses cleanup goes on after Lancaster floods

Paul and Carole owners of the Wagon and Horses, in Lancaster.
Paul and Carole owners of the Wagon and Horses, in Lancaster.

Two months after Storm Desmond battered the city causing severe flooding and power cuts, GEMMA SHERLOCK visits a Lancaster pub still battling to reopen.

Two months ago Lancaster was hit by severe flooding, forcing residents to flee and many businesses to shut up shop.

Charlotte and Jess House, staff cleaning up at the Wagon and Horses in Lancaster. Picture by Gemma Sherlock

Charlotte and Jess House, staff cleaning up at the Wagon and Horses in Lancaster. Picture by Gemma Sherlock

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 dreaded night.

The water coming up the flooding steps during the flooding at the Wagon and Horses in Lancaster.

The water coming up the flooding steps during the flooding at the Wagon and Horses in Lancaster.

Carol Crossley and Paul Tarry have owned the popular quayside pub for four years.

Priding themselves on being one of the tidiest pubs and inns in Lancaster staff work hard to keep up the high standards, resulting in a continuous fully booked calendar.

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.

The aftermath of the flooding in one of the cellars at the Wagon  and Horses in Lancaster.

The aftermath of the flooding in one of the cellars at the Wagon and Horses in Lancaster.

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 their beloved pub go to ruin.

Carole, landlady at the Wagon and Horses, 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 every little bit of stock out from the cellar because it was all contaminated. It is and was 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 currently 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 due to water being 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. Destroying all the beer brought tears to my eyes.

“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, there is probably more bad days than good. 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 gotten 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.