Back from the flames

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Webb’s Of Tenterden Reopens After Fire - By Tricia Jamieson

The sim­ple open­ing of a door marked the welcome re­turn of an old friend to Ten­ter­den High Street.

The Webb’s of Ten­ter­den kitchen and home­ware shop re­opened on Satur­day, nearly two years af­ter a dev­as­tat­ing fire gut­ted the his­toric build­ing.

A queue formed out­side for the open­ing at 11am. Staff wel­comed cus­tomers back with a smile and a glass of bub­bly.

Wait­ing for them was a trans­for­ma­tion with dou­ble the re­tail space, themed rooms and a lift be­tween the ground and first floors.

Di­rec­tor Carol Webb said: “I feel a bit of ev­ery­thing – re­lief, ex­cite­ment and trep­i­da­tion.

“It has been a long 22 months to get to this. Ev­ery­one has worked so well but it is a listed build­ing so it all took time.

“I am thrilled with how it looks and what we have now. It is how we vi­su­alised it and a great achieve­ment.

“I want the shop to be some­where that peo­ple can en­joy and get ideas.”

Since the fire on the night of Novem­ber 5, 2013, Mrs Webb has been trad­ing from part of the fam­ily’s iron­mon­gers shop three doors away.

The new shop houses not only kitchen and home­ware goods but the linens and baby­wear that was next door but one. That shop has now closed.

“The fire gave us the op­por­tu­nity to do what we wanted to do,” said fel­low di­rec­tor Nigel Webb. “Although it was dev­as­tat­ing, we have brought the shop into the 21st cen­tury which we could not have done be­fore.”

As a re­minder of the fire, a black­ened beam re­mains in the ceil­ing of the ground floor.

Mrs Webb said that the range of prod­ucts sold had not been in­creased but the amount of stock had and there was now more room for cus­tomers to look round.

Af­ter the open­ing day, Webbs took to Twit­ter to thank peo­ple, say­ing: “We’ve had an amaz­ing, busy day with sup­port and good wishes from all you lovely peo­ple.” At the height of the blaze on the night of Novem­ber 5, 2013, there were 60 fire­fight­ers from all over Kent on the scene.

The fire in the Grade II listed build­ing spread to neigh­bour­ing Water­stone’s book store and Cafe Rouge, but no one was in­jured. The cause was ac­ci­den­tal.

Re­pair work be­gan in Fe­bru­ary, 2014. The con­trac­tor was lo­cal firm Ten­ter­den Build­ing and Restora­tion.

There has been a Webb’s of Ten­ter­den iron­mon­gery, hard­ware and home­ware store in the fam­ily since 1935. The third gen­er­a­tion of Webbs now work there with broth­ers Nigel and Graham run­ning the firm, to­gether with their step-mother Carol.

Pic­ture: Re­becca Hol­l­i­day FM4009461

NOW: Hollie Dyer serv­ing a cus­tomer

Pic­ture: Re­becca Hol­l­i­day FM4009457

Ea­ger shop­pers wait­ing to go in the shop at 11am

THEN: Flames leap from the roof in this pic­ture taken by Ed Hoad

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