A DISTINCTIVE pub that has been an Old Town landmark for more than 100 years is being given a new lease of life with real ale and live music.

The Royal Oak has been spruced up with a refit of the bar area and beer cellars ahead of a re-launch on Saturday.

The pub, on the corner of Devizes Road and Newport Street, has had a succession of owners in recent years and had been lying empty.

The re-launch takes place with a performance by rap and soul duo Benji and Hibbz, with more live acts planned in coming weeks.

Manager Tom Titcombe, 20, said: “I’m really enthusiastic about getting the Royal Oak going again. “It’s nice to have people who drank in here 50 years ago coming in and saying how good it is to see the place back on its feet and how much cleaner it looks.

“I want to give the pub the stability it deserves.’’ Tom, from Covingham, started out doing the washing up at the Rat Trap three years ago before becoming a waiter, barman and chef at the Stratton pub.

He has introduced table football, bar billiards and live music at the Royal Oak and plans a mid-week ‘rock and roll bingo’ night.

Tom plans to offer six real ales and cider by the time the freehouse is up and running.

The Royal Oak’s licensee is Mark Richardson, landlord at the Rat Trap, and the Grade II-listed building is owned by Gibbs Property Letting. The new management also plan to restore the heraldic sign outside the pub, where records show the first landlord began trading in 1848.

Mark said: “The area is a real ale destination already and we want to fit in with what’s there as well as adding live music. We have completely refitted with new lines, taps, pumps and cooling units which mean we can serve crisp, clean beers and ciders. It’s an exciting time for Old Town and it’s nice to be part of a real ale strip and an area that’s on the up.”

The Royal Oak has had a ‘soft launch’ over the past fortnight and a second phase of work – including to restore the signage – is planned in forthcoming weeks.

The former inn features in a history of Swindon pubs by David Backhouse, who said it was built on the site of two cottages and a wool-spinning shed.