The owners of Sir Francis Drake’s former local pub have been forced to re-paint the 16th Century interior – over health and safety fears.
The Minerva Inn is full of historic timber beams – stripped from galleons of the vanquished 1588 Spanish Armada.
Its ceiling is also covered in thousands of hand-written messages left by regulars and sailors dating back over 500 years.
But officials ruled the interior was a fire hazard and warned landlady Shelly Jones that if she didn’t redecorate she would be shut down.
Shelley has now been forced to paint the ancient historic timbers with seven coats of thick black fire-proof paint.
She has also covered the ceiling with fire-retardent magnolia – wiping out thousands of signatures left by visitors and sailors before they set off for war.
Dismayed Shelly, 43, tried to use clear varnish to preserve the pub’s character and leave the scribbled notes visible.
She said: “We found clear fireproof varnish but it didn’t go well. A lot of the writing is running or coming off so it just looks a mess.
“The only option was to paint over it with magnolia paint. It’s so disheartening, so sad.”
Sir Francis Drake is said to have lived a few doors from the Minerva – established in 1540 and the oldest pub in Plymouth, Devon.
The central pillar of the staircase is thought to be a mast from one of the defeated Armada ships.
Drake was among the commanders whose own ships beat the Spaniards – reputedly after finishing his game of bowls on nearby Plymouth Hoe.
He was a regular at the pub – where the ceiling was covered in signatures of visitors, celebrities, and servicemen.
But the whole ceiling is now covered in magnolia paint while the oak beams themselves needed seven coats of thick, black retardant before they were properly covered.
Somerset Fire and Rescue Service said the last thing it wanted to do was damage the pub’s character.
A spokesman said: “Safeguarding heritage from the ravages of fire is a vital part of the protection work of the fire service.”
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