A FORMER pub named after one of the best-known artists of the early 20th century is being turned back into a hotel.

The Augustus John in Station Road, Fordingbridge, was opened by Eldridge Pope in the 1860s and was originally known as the Railway Hotel.

After the station closed in 1964 the pub became the Load of Hay.

New Forest Post:

But it was later renamed the Augustus John in honour of the celebrated portrait painter, who often used the pub after he moved to the town in 1927.

His subjects included Lawrence of Arabia, who also lived in the New Forest in the late 1920s.

Now Hampshire businessman Brian Currie, who restored the Regal Cinema in Shaftesbury Street, Fordingbridge, is turning the pub back into the Railway Hotel.

It will boast seven en-suite rooms in what were once livery stables around a courtyard.

Mr Currie said: “I enjoy restoring buildings with an interesting history so I’m very pleased that this will be re-opening as the Railway Hotel.

“Since the Ashburn Hotel closed Fordingbridge has been without a hotel, so I hope it will encourage tourism back into the town and be somewhere local residents enjoy frequenting.”

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The hotel, which is due to open in the autumn, will create about 15 full and part-time jobs.

In 2017 a controversial housing scheme that would have resulted in the pub losing half its parking area was thrown out.

London-based Newriver Property Unit Trust, which owned the building, submitted plans to build a two-storey block of flats in the car park.

But the proposal was rejected by the district council in 2015 amid fears it would create extra parking problems in the area.

Objectors had included the landlord of the Augustus John, Bryan Greenwood, who said the pub’s “unique selling point” was its large car park.

In a letter to the council he said: “We can cope with busy times as well as large parties. with this gone we would really struggle.”

Hampshire County Council, the local highways authority, also lodged a protest.

“It cannot be shown that the development can be accommodated in a manner that would not cause increased danger and inconvenience to highway users,” it said.

Two years later Newriver’s appeal against the district council’s ruling was rejected by a government-appointed planning inspector.

He said people living in the proposed new flats would be disturbed by the sound of pub customers “chatting, laughing and shouting”.