AN investigation has been launched after a blaze ripped through a derelict pub.

Six crews of firefighters, two from Colchester and one each from Tiptree, Coggeshall, Chelmsford and Halstead, were called to tackle the fire which had started in the old Queens Head pub, in Old Road, Surrex, just off the A120.

The blaze began shortly before 11.30pm on Thursday. Firefighters used an aerial ladder platform to tackle the fire from above. Crews had it under control by 3.45am on Friday but stayed on the scene.

Police and the highways agency partially closed the A120 as smoke billowed across it. There were long delays in the area as traffic was diverted past the section of the road near to the pub. The road was re-opened by 6.26am.

Three fire engines remained at the scene to extinguish the fire, which has been contained to within the building, throughout Friday morning.

Crews damped down hotspots and monitored the area to ensure the building was cooled and safe.  The fire service said a full investigation into the cause of the fire will take place.

A spokesman for Essex Police said: “Officers received reports the derelict Queens Head pub was on fire.  “A section of the A120 was closed as a precaution because of thick smoke covering the road until 3am. Inquiries are ongoing to establish the cause of the fire.”

The former pub has been empty since 2011 when former landlords Christine Johnson and Paul Lofthouse left the premises. 

The couple had invested thousands of pounds on repairs and refurbishment of the building and reopened the pub in 2008. It had previously been shut for 13 years. 

Over the years the pub has had many different names including The Surrex Inn, the American Pilot, the East Anglian Roadhouse and the Porterhouse Inn.

The land, the building and the access to the pub are said to be owned by three separate entities.

Tony Smith, communications officer for Colchester Camra, said: “It is always a bad thing when a pub has to close down.

“There are someone’s hopes and hard work invested in it and in this case they have literally gone up in flames.  “The best we could hope for is that the building will eventually reopen again as a pub to serve the community.”

Witham MP Priti Patel said: “I would like to pay tribute to our emergency services, who were on the scene quickly and dealt with this incident efficiently and effectively. 

“I support the need for a full investigation to identify the origin of the fire. 

“Should evidence lead to this being arson, the perpetrators should face the full force of the law.”

The current owner of the building is believed to be a Chinese investor.

The Gazette was unable to contact them.