ONE of Hampshire's oldest pubs has been given permission to raise the height of its chimneys to avoid the risk of a devastating fire.

Civic chiefs have approved an application to safeguard the Sir John Barleycorn by increasing the distance between the top of the chimneys and the pub's thatched roof.

The 12th century building at Southampton Road, Cadnam, was originally a row of cottages - one of which was owned by the Purkiss family.

One of their ancestors found the body of King William Rufus after he died during a hunting expedition in the New Forest in 1100. The body was placed on a cart and taken to Winchester Cathedral, where it was quickly buried by the monks.

Now the New Forest National Park Authority (NPA) has supported proposals to raise the height of the two "live" chimney stacks to 1.8m.

The application, by Fuller Smith & Turner, said the stacks used to be much taller than they are now.

It added: "The reduced height is not solely due to the loss of historic masonry but also the result of the increase in the layers of thatch over many decades.

"It is clear our forefathers realised the need for chimneys to terminate well above the ridge line to reduce the the risk of a thatch fire."

The application said the pub needed to "re-establish" the height of the chimneys.

"It is proposed that any subsequent re-thatching is conditioned by the requirement to maintain the current height of the ridge level, negating the need to raise the chimney height each time the roof is re-thatched."

An NPA report said 1.8m was a "suitable height" to avoid the risk of a fire being caused by sparks landing on the thatched roof.

It added: "The taller chimneys would be in proportion with the building and would not look out of keeping. There would be no adverse impact on the character of the conservation area or on neighbours."

The Sir John Barleycorn, just off junction 1 of the M27 motorway, is thought to have been a pub for at least 125 years.