HUNTINGDON’S oldest inn, the historic Falcon Tavern in the market square, which has lain empty for nearly two years, is rapidly deteriorating inside and out.

HUNTINGDON’S historic Falcon Tavern in the market square, the town’s oldest inn, which has lain empty for nearly two years, is rapidly deteriorating inside and out.

The 16th century Grade II-listed Falcon closed in December 2008 after leaseholders Orchid went into administration shortly before Christmas, and the property reverted to head-lease owner Punch Taverns.

Punch this week admitted that the building was in a poor state and promised action.

“We are aware of this issue and plan to do an inspection within the week,” a spokesman said yesterday (Tuesday). “We are monitoring the condition of the property and necessary steps will be taken to address any issues.”

Last year,

Punch Taverns invited offers for a 10, 15 or 20-year tie-free lease for the building, which includes a spacious self-contained three-bedroom flat, through Sudbury-based agents Fleurets, who said it was in need of total refurbishment. But there were no takers.

The price Punch was asking for the lease could have been an issue, believes Richard Meredith, chairman of Huntingdon and Godmanchester Civic Society.

“They want £40,000 for rent, which is an awful lot of money. They have also said they want to close 1,500 of their 6,000 inns,” he told The Hunts Post.

“The Falcon is a very fine example of an old inn with a good historic footprint, but there’s ivy growing round the roof, there are cracks in the plasterwork, the windows have been enclosed against vandalism, which can’t be helping, and the cellar is probably under water most of the time.

“It looks as though it’s going to fall down.”

The state of the Falcon has also been worrying Huntingdonshire District Council’s conservation department, where James Simmins said the building was regularly monitored.

“We inspected the interior after six or eight months [of closure], and the condition then was reasonably good. But there are pigeons in the roof space, and it’s now on our risk register as a result of prolonged lack of occupation.”

The Falcon was used by Oliver Cromwell as headquarters for Civil War troops he raised in Huntingdonshire. Cromwell’s father is buried in All Saints’ churchyard across the market square, and Cromwell was schooled across the square in what is now the Cromwell Museum, then Huntingdon Grammar School. The pub is also rumoured to have been a haunt of highwayman Dick Turpin.