Owners of bar built from 16th century shipwreck told to paint over original wood

The Minerva Inn in Plymouth, UK is a famous landmark, with part of its structure made of wood from sunken 16th Century Spanish Armada ships in 1588.

Safety officials have decided the timber beams and woodwork of the 16th century Minerva Inn in Plymouth pose a fire risk, and must be covered in flame retardant paint. Pictured is landlady Shelley Jones (right) and her daughter Hayley

But the historical location is now facing a mandatory makeover, with city officials saying the 500-year-old wood is a fire hazard and must be painted over with a flame-resistant coating. In addition, the paint could conceal hand-carved messages written by thousands of servicemen and celebrities over the years.

“I don’t think Drake would have thought very much of the idea,” manager Shelley Jones said in an interview with the Plymouth Herald, referring to Sir Francis Drake, whose forces defeated the Spanish Armada that provided the wood for the Minerva’s construction. “The place has been here for nearly 500 years and it hasn’t burned down yet.”

After the Spanish Armada was defeated, Drake himself lived in a small home next to the pub.

The Minerva is rich with centuries of history, claiming to be the area’s oldest establishment, dating back to the late 1500’s. Some people claim the establishment is haunted by both members of the fallen Spanish Armada and by some of the thousands of patrons who frequented the Inn over the past several hundred years.

There have been so many claims of supernatural activity over the years that Jones even acknowledges the claimed phenomenon on the Inn’s website:

“The Minerva always has a welcoming friendly atmosphere, yet occasionally there has been felt a ghostly presence. First hand experiences in recent years have included a levitating spoon, numerous instances of the cellar gas being turned off, the juke box playing after it has been switched off, and a small figure standing at the bar.”

Jones, 43, said her objections to the request from the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue are not limited to the location’s historical value.

“It’s a 16th century timber-framed building. If it catches fire, I’m not sure a coat of paint is going to do much good,” she said.

The fire department says the request is being made to help ensure the safety of Jones and her husband, who live in on a floor above the Inn.

“We live upstairs and the paint is meant to retard the flames to give us time to escape,” Jones said. “Although to do that, we’d have to jump from one of the upstairs windows anyway.”

In the meantime, Jones is working on a compromise with the fire department, hoping that perhaps a coating of varnish could be used instead of paint.

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