RUMOURS of smugglers roaming secret tunnels and a devastating fire provide a stark contrast to the relaxed and charming family establishment the Peterboat in Old Leigh is now.

The quaint pub is nestled along the sea wall in the High Street and provides a warmand inviting atmosphere, varied menus and stunning views of the seafront from its bar area.

Locals and tourists are attracted to the pub because of its views and the family-run pub certainly lives up to its charming reputation.

Over the years, many changes have been made to the building, which dates back to beyond the 1700s including an extension of the bar area, as these pictures taken in years gone by, given to the pub by previous residents, show.

But Paul Barthaud, a director of the East Anglia Pub Company which owns the Peterboat, has been assured the changes have not destroyed the pub’s original charm.

He said: “A few hundred years ago the pub burnt down. It was destroyed and had to be rebuilt again.

“The car park used to be occupied by homes until the early part of the 20th century when they were demolished.

“The bar area used to be in three rooms, a men’s bar, a public bar and a family bar, although it’s more open now.

“We’ve done a lot of work and extended the kitchen, the bar area too.

“But it’s nice as we have visitors who used to live here – they actually put up a plaque on the wall with their father’s name on, Len Williams, which is still there today.

“They gave me lots of information about how the rooms used to be. It was really interesting. We had a proper look around and they told us how it had changed since they lived here.

“They were quite shocked by the changes which had been made in the last 50 years but enjoyed coming back and were really pleased to see the changes we had made.”

When Mr Barthaud took over the running of the pub five years ago, they completed some work in the cellar and had high hopes of finding some of the rumoured cigarette smuggling tunnels.

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He said: “There was always talk and rumours of smugglers’ tunnels in the cellar as the pub is one of the oldest in Leigh and is close to the sea.

“People would say it was used for smuggling and there were tunnels which had been blocked in.

“We were always curious and wondered if we would find anything in the cellar space.

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“We found a big concrete slab, it was huge and had no real value or reason for being there so we wondered if there was anything behind it.

“It was in the way so we removed it and were expecting to find something but sadly nothing was there so we believe the tunnels must have been blocked up.”

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