Search

Video and photo gallery: ‘It’s really sad’ - just a shell remains after devastating fire guts Norfolk hall

PUBLISHED: 17:24 27 December 2014

Boxing Day evening fire which has gutted Hickling Hall, a grade II listed building in the broadland village.

Picture: James Bass

Boxing Day evening fire which has gutted Hickling Hall, a grade II listed building in the broadland village. Picture: James Bass

Archant Norfolk © 2014

This is the tragic sight after a chimney fire gutted a historic hall in the Norfolk Broads.

Around 60 fire fighters battled the inferno at Hickling Hall last night, with more than 20 fire service vehicles in attendance before the blaze was brought under control.

One chimney stack at the grade II listed building has already collapsed, and it is understood the burnt-out shell of the building may need to be demolished.

Hickling Hall is owned by Bernard Ellis, who together with his son Stuart runs a potato farming business from the estate.

The hall has been in the family for three generations, since it was bought in 1964, and the building itself dates back to about 1700.

Hickling Hall in 1910. Photo: Broadland MemoriesHickling Hall in 1910. Photo: Broadland Memories

Roy Harold, deputy chief fire officer for Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, explained that Mr Ellis senior had made the emergency call at around 7.50pm on Boxing Day.

Mr Harold said the fire had spread from a chimney to a bedroom, and then took hold of the building - with firefighters unable to contain it due to the difficulties of fighting a fire in a historic building.

“It’s an old building and they have a lot of hidden spaces,” he explained. “It spread through the rest of the building.

“The fire was developing rapidly in the upper floor bedrooms.

Boxing Day evening fire which has gutted Hickling Hall, a grade II listed building in the broadland village.

Picture: James BassBoxing Day evening fire which has gutted Hickling Hall, a grade II listed building in the broadland village. Picture: James Bass

“They attacked the fire as fast as they could but were driven back.”

Local retained crews including Stalham - whose appliance was first in attendance - helped fight the blaze, along with Aylsham, Wymondham and Norwich.

Mr Harold said the fire was called in as a chimney fire, and he believed that the property had had problems with jackdaws nesting there in the last few days.

Despite the best efforts of the crews, the fire burnt for most of the night, and was still smouldering this morning.

He said the service struggled to get a sufficient water supply to fight the fire, and crews had even investigated a nearby pond - but found it to be too shallow.

While the rural mains supply was adequate to fight a domestic house fire, Mr Harold said it was not ideal for fighting a fire such as that at Hickling Hall.

Among other problems the fire service encountered were plasterboard found in old buildings, which is built with horse hair and gives off cyanide fumes when burnt.

The property also had a basement, which served to fuel the fire.

“It’s really sad,” said Mr Harold. “It’s part of a really thriving farming estate, and it affects the whole local community.

“We tried to salvage what we could from the premises.

“It’s very sad at Christmas.”

He added that among the items they tried to protect were records relating to the farming business, that had been stored in a fire-proof safe.

The hall is currently cordoned off, and will be handed over to insurers - who will work to source a building assessor.

It is understood that demolition is a possibility, though it is unclear whether any of the structure can be saved and what bearing the grade II listing will have on the next steps.

The fire service stressed that the prevention message was key, and was a real concern in a county with many historic buildings.


If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Eastern Daily Press. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Most Read

Comments have been disabled on this article.

Most Read

Latest from the Eastern Daily Press