Wiltshire Publications

Demolition of Oak Inn goes ahead

DEMOLITION of the former Oak Inn on Warminster Road started last week, despite efforts from local protestors to save one of the town’s historic buildings. 

The Oak Inn and brewhouse buildings are being demolished as part of Aldi’s plans for a new supermarket and car park in Warminster Road.

Although local man John Bowley made a last minute appeal to English Heritage to have the building listed, the Department of Culture, Media, and Sport turned the application down.

Having contacted the Wiltshire Historic Building record, John Bowley discovered the Oak Inn had 16th and 17th Century features, and believes the building had a “real case to be listed”.

He said, “I went past Westbury’s old Oak buildings on Friday and I saw that the lovely brewhouse had already been smashed and I felt ill.

“I am deeply saddened that Wiltshire councillors and senior officers made no effort to think out the obvious solution whereby the fine old buildings were saved for future good use as people’s homes. I suspect that procedures were not properly followed.  It was not done fairly.

“Though I have been a Wiltshire resident for over 18 years and take an interest, I am wholly unaware of any public consultation about the Oak Inn and brewhouse buildings.  Doubtless any information was buried within the minutes of crass council meetings.

“The Oak inn and brewhouse buildings were on about 10% or less of the overall site area.  So, these historic buildings could easily have been retained for further good use anyway, while the supermarket and enough parking were accommodated on the rest of the site.”

English Heritage says that, although they attempted to visit the site ahead of demolition, they were prevented from doing so. The organisation said, “We contacted the owners in order to arrange a site visit to inform our assessment, but were told access could not be given until later [in the] week. We were then informed on 31st October that demolition had begun on site, and as a result, we immediately compiled a report based on available information, which included good photographs and documentary sources.”

However, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport decided not to list the building, with no reason given.

Although the demolition of the Oak Inn has been disappointing for some people in the town, others support Aldi’s development.

Town and Wiltshire councillor  Mike Cuthbert-Murray said, “Aldi have been sensitive to the issue and have allowed the historical aspects to be recorded. Inside, they have made a point of removing artifacts for future generations and have gifted these items to the Westbury Heritage Centre. I think the vast majority of the town will welcome the new store as a point of providing employment, helping the town’s economy grow and giving Westbury people a choice. The Oak for many people in the town has happy memories, but the pub has been allowed to fall into such a state that people viewed the building as an eyesore. Aldi have agreed road improvements which are beneficial for the town.”