A retired firefighter who built a firehouse-style man cave in his garden has been named winner of Britain’s Best Pub Shed of the Year.
Kevin Francis, 51, spent several months and around £3,000 building the stunning DIY garden boozer at his home in Anna Valley, Hamps.
The engine house comes complete with its own pole, vintage uniforms, hose and a fully functioning bar that he rescued from a fire station before it was demolished.
There’s also a selection of fire-themed home-brewed beers, including a golden ale called Brass Helmet, a ruby red ale called Old Steamer and a stout called Smokey.
Kevin collected equipment, photos and memorabilia for years while working for the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire Brigades for more than three decades.
But when his wife told him to put away all the fire department memorabilia in the attic, he went to work on a replica of the station where he worked with his father.
Father-of-two Kevin has now beaten over a thousand entries to be named owner of Britain’s Best Pub Shed 2023.
Kevin’s wife, Kim, encouraged him to build the shed in 2017 after their attic became overrun with firefighting memorabilia.
He served in the fire department for 33 years before retiring in May of this year and had collected everything related to his time as a firefighter.
The grandfather-of-one estimates he spent almost £3,000 building it but considers his labor of love a bargain compared to what some cost.
Kevin, who now works for the emergency services, added: “I built everything from scratch.”
“I had a rough drawing and when I started in January it was finished and built in a few weeks.
“The idea came to me when my father and I were both in the fire department for several years.
“We had both been given lots of memorabilia, photos etc and it ended up in the attic.
“My wife said it was taking over the attic and I had to get rid of it.
“In the end I said, why don’t I build something to store it in? I said if I can convert it like a fire station, it’ll be a good fit.”
“But I don’t know if I wanted it to be as big as it is.”
He added: “I’m really excited and happy. It was pure elation and I was really, really happy and gave everyone lots of hugs.”
“They reported live on Two Fat Blokes radio that they were outside the winner’s house – and then suddenly they came down my garden path.
“The cheers were huge.
“They came over with a live DJ and we celebrated with family and friends until 11 p.m.
“The runners-up congratulated me, so of course big congratulations to them too.”
“In the back of your mind you think you won, but then maybe you think you didn’t.
“But it was a complete surprise until they walked down the garden path.
“We’re heading to a fire memorabilia sale in Rochdale next week so we’ll see what items I can add!”
Kevin’s mother and father, Mervyn and Linda, helped him build the now award-winning shed and helped him model it after the Grayshott station they worked on.
Kevin added: “When you first walk in there you see firefighter uniforms from the Victorian era with wool tunics and axes to the equipment I wore until I retired.”
“There are models of fire engines and fire hydrant signs, just parts I collected.
“In the bar area I tried to make it feel like it was in a small village somewhere.
“I tried to keep it as authentic as possible. The bar came from Basingstoke Fire Station, which I helped build. I asked if I could have her.”
“I still have fond memories of the work.
“I have a beer cabinet where I brew and make my own beer.
“Since it was originally built, I added a tower. There is a clock inside. We have a hose in it. We’re still adding pieces now.”
“Pre-Covid it was used as a venue for parties with friends and family, every year we host a charity party in the garden.”
“And during the pandemic it’s been a great place for me and the family to go to the pub. It gave us a space away from the house.”
“Although I built it for myself, of course I also built it for others to enjoy, and any other shed lovers are welcome to take a look.”
The Engine House beat out an homage to Only Fools and Horses called Nags Shed and an Irish-style pub called The Irish Pirate.
The annual competition was organized by Drinkstuff.com and Twofatblokes.co.uk and attracted more than 4,800 public votes.
Ashley Turner from Two Fat Blokes Bar Sign Emporium said: “The Engine House impressed the judges with its fantastic attention to detail and huge collection of memorabilia, all in a workshop shed.”
“The Engine House just looks like a pub, a real inspiration to all other ‘pub sellers’.”
“The judges were really impressed with the way Kevin summed up the theme of this fantastic back garden pub.
“This is the perfect essence of the Drinkstuff.com Pub Shed of the Year competition and a worthy winner.
“Two Fat Blokes Bar Signs also designed a custom fire truck bar sign for Kevin to present to him.”