A COUPLE whose thatched cottage burnt down as they looked on helplessly have vowed to restore their chocolate-box home to its former glory.
Alf and Gloss Harmer have been inundated with offers of a place to stay from complete strangers following the unexplained blaze at Gordon Cottage in South Marston on Tuesday.
Friends, family and neighbours were yesterday packing up items that were salvaged from the burning building by fire crews, including all the Harmers’ precious family photographs.
A passing motorist alerted Mr Harmer, 69, to the smoking building as he returned from walking the dog on Tuesday afternoon.
He said: “I went inside to get Gloss, we rang the fire brigade and then I got up the ladder and put the hose on it.
“I thought it was out and then a gust of wind came and that was it – the roof went up.”
Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service were on the scene within minutes, starting a two-day operation to douse the flames and salvage treasured possessions.
“I am absolutely thrilled by the fire brigade,” said Mr Harmer.
“There were about 60 of them doing all they could to save the place – thanks to them the walls are intact and so much of our stuff was saved. We’re both very grateful for that.”
Gordon Cottage, which at 400-years old is the oldest home in the village, was bought by the Harmers in 1990.
The couple spent four years painstakingly renovating the three-bedroom property and say they will do the same again to return it the home they cherished.
“It will look beautiful again,” said Mr Harmer.
“I have promised my dear lady it will be exactly as it was – so it will be.
“To be honest, I know the house is burnt down and I know we have lost so much but we both got out, we both survived and so I can still keep smiling.”
Daughters Nicola and Sharon said they would be mourning a greater tragedy if the fire had happened at night. Nicola, 43, who also lives in the village, said: “There’s just no way mum and dad would have got out.
“Of course they have smoke alarms but the first thing they would know of the fire was when the roof collapsed on top of them. It doesn’t bear thinking about.”
Sharon, 47, said: “This is absolutely heartbreaking but it could be so much worse for us – we could be saying goodbye to mum and dad.”
Mr and Mrs Harmer want to thank the people who have offered accommodation, food and help in the last few days, including Denniss Removals whose staff helped pack and store the possessions saved from the blaze, and NFJ insurers who have helped assess the damage.
“Everyone has been so very helpful,” said Mrs Harmer.
“I’ve been so touched by everyone’s kindness I could cry.
“I wish I could thank everyone individually but there are so many names, they’d take up the paper.”
Mr Harmer added: “The generosity and kindness of people following this terrible fire has really put the great in Great Britain.”
The original article is available here.