RESTORATION of a ‘chocolate-box’ thatched cottage is nearly complete, a year after it was destroyed by a fire. A blaze ripped through Gordon Cottage in South Marston in May last year, leaving the owners with a huge clean-up operation. Alf and Gloss Harmer were lucky to escape from the fire without harm but the roof and the top floor of the property were completely destroyed.
A passing motorist alerted Mr Harmer, 69, to smoke coming from the building as he returned from walking his dog. Mr Harmer went inside to get his wife, and rang the fire brigade before getting on a ladder and using his garden hose in a desperate attempt to put out the flames. Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service were on the scene within minutes, starting a two-day operation to douse the fire and salvage treasured possessions.
After the blaze Mr Harmer promised his wife that they would restore Gordon Cottage which, at 400-years old, is the oldest house in the village and was bought by the couple in 1990.
Mr Harmer said: “I promised my wife it would be restored to exactly how it was and the builders have done a brilliant job to stick to that.
“We have just kept ourselves busy in the last year and we’ve been round to the house every day to check on the works and tend to the garden.”
The couple spent four years painstakingly renovating the three-bedroom property before the blaze and Mr Harmer says he is amazed that the builders have managed to restore it to the same condition.
“There was nothing left of the top floor and the work the builders have done has been first class,” said Mr Harmer. “It is brilliant we have been upstairs and it looks almost identical to how it was before the blaze – I don’t know how they have done it. It will be really nice when we get to move back in. Everything will be very familiar as it is exactly the same.”
Friends, family and neighbours helped the pair salvage items from the building, including all the Harmers’ precious family photographs.
Since the disaster they have rented a property in Shrivenham but are looking forward to returning home with the building works expected to be completed within a month.
“We’ve had a lot of support from people in the village and have received cards and bunches of flowers from a lot of people we didn’t know from all over Swindon, which has been really nice,” said Mr Harmer.
“The generosity and kindness of people has been great. We are just getting on with life and you can’t dwell on what has been and gone – we both got out and we are just looking forward to getting back home.”