Fire destroys three cottages
On Good Friday, March 28th, 2013, just after 6.00pm, the thatch of Brook Cottage caught fire. By the time the fire brigade had reached it, the two thatched cottages on either side, had also caught fire, and there was nothing which could be done to save the buildings.
Edward Roberts had written notes on Hockley Cottage, the house at the eastern end of these three thatched cottages. He described it as “A 3 or 4 bay hall house of the 16th century, with curved arch braces in both elevations and large panel framing ….Cross section: undiminished principal rafters, clasped purlins, raking queen struts and curved hind braces….. Long Section. In the roof, while both C/D and B/C have thickly sooted rafters, the wattle and daub partition at C/C is sooted on the side facing C/D. Therefore, C/D must have been unfloored with an open hearth.
Roberts never had the opportunity to investigate Brook Cottages from the inside, but suspected from their exterior that it would also have been a hall house of similar antiquity. In mediaeval times, the River Meon was forded opposite these cottages, leading to a path between Riverside and Forge Sound on the other side.
The third cottage, also destroyed in the fire, was a more modest structure, effectively a lean-to which was originally part of the larger Brook Cottage.
2009 Brook Cottages fire
By bitter irony, a similar fire had burned the thatched roofs of the two Brook Cottages. The Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service reported: “At 1603 on Sunday January 4th 2009, more than 100 firefighters were called out after fire broke out at a 300-year-old thatched house in the High Street. Brook Cottages are a listed building comprising two houses; another house with a thatched roof, Hockley Cottage, is linked by a narrow walkway; firemen struggled to prevent the blaze from spreading to the other buildings.; it is listed as one of Hampshire’s Historic Treasures.”
March 28th 2013
The fire started just in Brook Cottage just after 6.00pm on Good Friday 2013. The couple who had been evacuated from the same house four years previously had completed the restoration of their house, and the small dwelling next door had also been refurbished. New owners had recently bought Hockley Cottage and had done extensive decoration; they were in the USA on a short break following the refurbishment. Neighbours raised the alarm and called the fire brigade – part of which was at the time engaged in fighting another thatch blaze at Wherwell near Andover. (A third thatch fire broke out soon after, at Hythe …)
By the time the first fire engine reached the High Street, the thatch of Brook Cottages was ablaze. According to the firemen, it was already too late to stop the fire destroying the roods of all three cottages. Here is the Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service report:
“The attendance of twelve pumping appliances was necessary and involved over 100 firefighters. The fire involved the thatch roof of three properties measuring approximately 34metres by 7metres. Salvage work is in progress along with the protection of surrounding properties. In use have been 5 main jets, eight breathing apparatus worn and the Ariel Ladder Platform Monitor. Four water carriers were used also.”
“At the peak of the fires, around 200 firefighters from across the country were engaged in battling the thatch blazes in Hythe, Wherwell near Andover and East Meon.”
From the Petersfield Post
Two East Meon couples were indoors on Good Friday, unaware that a raging fire that would destroy their homes was igniting above their heads. Sharron and Mike Aldridge live in Brook Cottages, and next to them in the semi-detached 300-year-old thatched terrace live James Murphy and wife Joanna.
Between the Aldridges and the Izaak Walton pub is Hockley Cottage, into which Andy and Sara Jameson moved about a year ago, after over-seeing extensive renovations.
Neighbour Helen Lynbery lives the other side of the pub and was one of the first to realise something was wrong at about 6.45pm on Good Friday. The palliative care nurse was talking to a friend when James and Joanna and Mike and Sharron arrived, said Helen, and went into their homes.
Inside, customers were relaxing into the Easter weekend or having a drink of collecting the pub’s Friday speciality – takeaway fish and chips. But then the bar door opened, Helen and others noticed a faint burnin gsmell. She said “I went outside and saw a glowing patch of thatch about two to three feet high. I rushed back in side and grabbed a mobile phone off the bar and called the fire brigade. At the same time she rushed along the terrace of cottages, banging on the doors to alert those living inside.
The Murphys and Aldridges took what they could and left. The Jamesons, away on an Easter break (in the USA), returned after hearing the shocking news by phone.
But even though 130 fire fighters battled through the night to put out the fire in the cottages, one registered as a historic treasure by Hampshire County Council, they were left gutted.
It is likely that restoring the three Grade II listed cottages to their former beauty could cost more than £2millions in total.
By the following morning, it was apparent how extensive the damage had been. Firemen were still hosing the smouldering remains of the thatch. The front walls of the cottages were still standing, but the backs were completely gutted and the chimney stacks stood gaunt and isolated – the fire brigade pulled two of them down. At the time of making this entry, it is not known what caused the fire, or what will happen to the remains of the buildings.
For source materials on East Meon fires, in the online archive, click here.