DRINKERS have spoken of their sadness after a "landmark boozer" was badly damaged in a fire.

Residents say the blaze at The Welcome Inn, Well Hall Road, Eltham, marks the passing of an "old-fashioned community pub".

Firefighters worked through the night to tackle the blaze, which took hold at around 9.30pm on June 1.

And fire crews were still at the scene the following morning, trying to control the flow of smoke which continued to pour from the building.

The pub, at the junction of Westmount Road, was formerly owned by the Beefeater group but had been closed for around six months.

It was rumoured to be a target for housing developers.

But those who used to enjoy a pint in The Welcome Inn still harboured hopes it would once again open as a pub.

John Wright, 58, of Well Hall Road, said: "I used to drink in there. It was a real old fashioned community pub.

"They seem to be a dying breed now. It's a real shame."

Janet Humphries, of Dunblane Road, Eltham, said: "It is a real landmark boozer.

"Everyone around here knows where The Welcome Inn is."

Around 30 firefighters dealt with the fire, which gutted the first floor and roof of the mock-Tudor building.

The fire crews were still at the scene 15 hours later, trying to make the building safe.

Patrick Collins, who raised the alarm, said: "The fire was raging. You could see the flames from about a mile away."

The 54-year-old added: "If it was vandals who did this they have done a pretty good job."

Police and fire safety officers are now both investigating the cause of the fire.