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Church Green Cottage Fire - 21/8/2005

On the 21st of August 2005, fire severely damaged 5 cottages on Church Green in the heart of the village. The fire started at 1-30am and at its height was tackled by 70 firemen from around Oxfordshire. The cause has not yet been determined.

Sergeant Eddie Young, 35, from Dalton Barracks spotted the fire while driving past on his way home from a night out with his girlfriend. Eddie woke the nine residents by banging and kicking on doors, and in two cases had to break in and help elderly residents to safety. He then ensured the cars were out of the way before co-ordinating traffic and helping with the effort to salvage as many possessions as possible from the homes. He later received a Bronze Medal from the Royal Humane Society.

The fire quickly spread through the cottages and within 30 minutes had spread across all the thatched roofs. In total 15 people were forced to leave their homes. Villagers provided beds for those who were left homeless by the fire.

Read the BBC News article

On the left, the cottages before the fire, taken August 2003. On the right, the cottages after reconstruction, November 2006.


A photo taken 10 days after the fire, on the 31st August, by Dan Huby

The rebuilding work, April 28th 2006, Dan Huby

The first cottage being re-thatched, May 22nd 2006, Dan Huby

A photo of the cottages taken in 2003 by Dan Huby

Update 12/04/06: Featured in Cornerstone magazine

The church green fire has been featured in the Cornerstone magazine, which is the magazine of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB).
Click here to view a scan of the article.

Update 23/11/05: A Joint Statement From The Residents:

I have been asked to post this note on behalf of owners of the thatched cottages at Church Green which suffered a serious fire on 21 August 2005. We appreciate that there is a great deal of local interest in what will happen to the Cottages and hope that people will understand why we have not felt able to post information earlier. Obviously for those involved this has been quite a traumatic time. Apart from the loss of their homes, some residents have lost virtually all of their possessions as well. This has been particularly difficult for the three elderly residents who have had to leave the homes they have lived in for many years and the two couples who only purchased their cottages this summer.

We would like to reiterate our gratitude for the support that we received from the local community when this event occurred. There is no doubt that without the excellent efforts of the Fire Brigade, supported by local residents who turned out during the night of the fire to lend a hand, much more property would have been lost. And, of course, we are especially grateful for the efforts of Sergeant Eddie Young, without whose intervention in getting people out of the Cottages the consequences of the fire could have been even more serious. We wholeheartedly endorse his Royal Humane Society award. Simon Gibbs (one of the owners) also deserves a mention for his efforts on the night in helping evacuate residents.

Since the fire we have had to attend to clearing the properties and recovering what we could. Various contractors have had to be engaged to deal recovery, cleaning and temporary storage of contents, the erection of scaffolding and a temporary roof, and fencing the site. The need to deal with the various owners, insurers, loss adjusters and contractors involved creates a significant liaison problem. We have been holding regular owners' meetings to try to deal with this. We are especially grateful to Gerry McMorrow, the Chairman of the Parish Council, for his support during this period, for ensuring we have somewhere to meet, and for his valuable contribution to those meetings. Gerry is very much 'in the loop' and we are keen for him to maintain his involvement.

Two surveyors have been appointed by the various owners to draw up plans and to oversee the project. The two listed building applications were submitted to Vale of White Horse District Council in early November and the consultation period is currently running. The plans can be seen at the District Council offices.

All the owners agreed that the Cottages should be re-instated with thatched roofs and that their historic character must be retained. The intention is to re-build the Cottages so that they look virtually the same as they did before. Obviously it may be possible to make some improvements at the margins e.g. to meet modern standards for fire safety, but Stanford can expect to get back this important feature pretty much as it was before. There is a lot of internal damage but we are hoping to save as much as possible of the remains of the current structure. The external walls are of varying ages and of limestone of varying thicknesses, so we are going to have to rely on our professional advisers as to how much can be retained, but no-one has suggested that it is necessary to demolish and start from the ground up. Our surveyors will shortly be inviting tenders so we can appoint contractors. This will be a significant contract and will require substantial building firms with the right experience of working with older stone properties and thatch. The hope is that the re-build can start early in the New Year with an estimated six month contract period. Realistically, none of the owners are expecting to be able to re-occupy their property before August 2006 at the earliest. It could take longer.

We believe that what we (and Stanford) will end up with is something that is actually better than the original. But we still have a long way to go. We are not intending to post further information at this time.

Dianne Miles

Photos taken the night and early morning of the fire, thanks to Janet Smith of Chapel Road. Click images to enlarge.

Photos taken the morning of the fire by Dan Huby at around 11am. Click images to enlarge.

Photos from the BBC News article