A SOUTHAMPTON bank has reopened almost six months after being damaged by fire.

Barclays in Above Bar, Southampton, sustained smoke damage when Waterstones bookshop next door went up in flames in March.

During the fire, black smoke billowed from the front of the shop, and the city centre was brought to a standstill as firefighters fought the blaze.

Duty manager Rod Chamberlain, who called 999, told the Echo shortly after: “It was only as we were leaving that we saw the flames coming.

“I’m just so shocked and devastated, I have no clue what comes next.”

A 39-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of arson but later released and remains under investigation, say Hampshire police.

Following the fire there was doubt cast over the future of the Waterstones Above Bar branch.

The Echo asked if and when the shop was to reopen but at going to press had received no reply.

At the time it was reported that staff from Above bar would be switching to Waterstones in Westquay.

The official relaunch of Barclays saw the Premier League trophy make a rare appearance in Southampton.

The sought-after silverware featured in a football-themed event to tie in with the bank’s sponsorship of the Premier League.

During the event, visitors to the branch had the opportunity to have their picture taken with trophy and meet Saints legend Francis Benali.

The branch has undergone a revamp to include two new traditional counters [with screens] and a new ‘digital bar’ showcasing the latest technology, enabling customers to interact with staff in more comfortable surroundings.

Alli Perry, Barclays market leader for Southampton, said: “The launch event was planned as a thank-you to our customers for their patience while we were undertaking the refurbishment following the fire damage earlier in the year.

"We hope everyone enjoyed the opportunity to see first- hand the coveted Premier League Trophy and meet local football hero Francis Benali.”

The branch will be open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm, Wednesday from 10am to 5pm, and Saturday from 9am to 4pm.