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Thatched cottage blaze leaves homeowners looking on in horror

PUBLISHED: 16:15 05 July 2018 | UPDATED: 09:08 06 July 2018

Paul Rutter and Karen Roseberry, being positive and upbeat as they assess their burnt out thatched cottage at Rockland All Saints. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Paul Rutter and Karen Roseberry, being positive and upbeat as they assess their burnt out thatched cottage at Rockland All Saints. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2018

A Norfolk couple have spoken of their heartache after they were forced to watch on helplessly as their uninsured Grade II listed thatched cottage went up in flames.

Paul Rutter and Karen Roseberry being positive and upbeat as they assess their burnt out upstairs rooms of their thatched cottage at Rockland All Saints. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYPaul Rutter and Karen Roseberry being positive and upbeat as they assess their burnt out upstairs rooms of their thatched cottage at Rockland All Saints. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Paul Rutter and Karen Roseberry could only stand and hope flames would not spread to the thatched roof of Yeoman’s Cottage, in Rockland All Saints, near Attleborough, after a blaze broke out in the next door garage on June 24.

More than 70 firefighters spent several hours tackling a blaze which engulfed the roof of the pink cottage leaving it partially destroyed.

The couple had just returned from watching the England-Panama World Cup match at the village pub when the fire, which may have been caused by a 12-volt inspection lamp left to recharge in the garage, broke out at 4.15pm.

The blaze spreads from the garage to the thatched roof of Yeoman Cottage in Rockland All Saints. Picture: Karen RoseberryThe blaze spreads from the garage to the thatched roof of Yeoman Cottage in Rockland All Saints. Picture: Karen Roseberry

Karen Roseberry said: “We were sitting in the sunroom when suddenly a big black cloud of smoke went past the window. The wind was blowing away from the house so I thought we may be OK then it swung around and caught the corner of the house.”

They were left looking on in horror as fire spread until firefighters arrived.

Mr Rutter said: “We just had to watch our house go up in flames. You think that third has gone but they’ll save the rest. But then it’s ‘oh no the second third has gone’, but at least they will save the last. But unfortunately they couldn’t.”

Fire spreads across the thatched roof of Yeoman Cottage in Rockland All Saints. Picture: Karen RoseberryFire spreads across the thatched roof of Yeoman Cottage in Rockland All Saints. Picture: Karen Roseberry

Ms Roseberry added: “We did think that it was under control because we were watching at the front where the firefighters where tackling it from. Then we suddenly saw all the white smoke coming up and then we realised we could see our bedroom was on fire.”

The cottage in Low Lane is one of the oldest thatched properties in Rockland All Saints dating back to the 1630s. Its chimney stack was mentioned in one of art historian Sir Nikolaus Pevsner’s famous architectural guides to the UK.

The fire comes a year since the house and its garden were featured in EDP Norfolk magazine. Despite the devastation caused by the fire, the couple still plan to open the gardens to the public next month as part of Rocklands Garden Gadabout.

Firefighters tackle the fire at Yeoman Cottage in Rockland All Saints. Picture: Karen RoseberryFirefighters tackle the fire at Yeoman Cottage in Rockland All Saints. Picture: Karen Roseberry

The couple, who have lived the cottage since 2002, say they have overwhelmed by the support they have received from villagers and the Red Cross who supplied valuable essentials.

Mr Rutter said: “We have had so many offers of support that we have not had time to feel sorry for ourselves. Things like food parcels, washing, places to stay and clothes - these are borrowed clothes. Because when you lose your house you lose everything.

“The whole house was under a metre of horrible half burnt straw and timbers and with the help of about 40 people from the village we managed to clear it in under a week.”

Paul Rutter and Karen Roseberry being positive and upbeat as they assess their burnt out upstairs rooms of their thatched cottage at Rockland All Saints. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYPaul Rutter and Karen Roseberry being positive and upbeat as they assess their burnt out upstairs rooms of their thatched cottage at Rockland All Saints. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The village pub, the White Hart, has also held a fundraising event in aid of firefighters’ charities attended by local fire crews and at which Paul and Karen dressed in fire uniforms.

“The community’s help and support has been incredibly uplifting,” said Mr Rutter. “We have cried about that, not for the loss.”

The couple have vowed to re-build the cottage after taking advice from English Heritage despite it not being insured.

Paul Rutter and Karen Roseberry, being positive and upbeat as they assess their burnt out thatched cottage at Rockland All Saints. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYPaul Rutter and Karen Roseberry, being positive and upbeat as they assess their burnt out thatched cottage at Rockland All Saints. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Ms Roseberry said: “We’d previously had insurance but suddenly NFU introduced a load of extra stipulations that we knew we couldn’t comply with. With funds being short the house won’t be liveable for two or three years, but we’re very keen to reinstate as an interesting and valuable part of Norfolk’s history as opposed to knock it down.”

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