Neighbours speak of shock after fire tears through historic home

Neighbours Sally and Patrick Lort-Phillips in their garden with the blackened windows of the Jones’ home behind them

The fire-damaged hall of Frank and Sarah Jones’ home

Fire crews in Market Lavington on Tuesday. Picture by Paul Morris

First published in News by

Villagers in Market Lavington, near Devizes, were shocked by the fire which spread quickly through a 17th century listed home in the High Street on Tuesday.

The owners of the house, Frank and Sarah Jones, and the two next door neighbours in the terraced row were out when the alarm was raised by plumber Andy Ottaway.

But villagers quickly contacted them all.

Sally and Patrick Lort-Phillips, whose house at 48 High Street was once part of the same property as the Jones’ home, were in Pembrokeshire.

Mrs Lort-Phillips said: “I took the call and my first thought was for all of our photographs which are irreplaceable.

“I asked my friend who is also the keyholder to make sure they were removed if possible.

“We drove straight home but luckily from our point of view the fire had not spread as much as we feared and nothing of ours was destroyed.

“Our thoughts are really with Frank and Sarah who we have known since we moved in 15 years ago. For them it must be terrible.

“We weren’t able to sleep in our house on the night of the fire as we had no water or electricity but we do not have a lot of damage.”

Mr Jones, who is on Market Lavington Parish Council and is chairman of the village’s First World War Commemoration committee, and his wife Sarah, a teacher, have three children.

Mr Jones is also a member of the skittles team at the Green Dragon pub in the village and landlady Nicky Wragg said regulars were upset for the family.

Firefighters managed to rescue a hamster owned by their younger daughter and took rabbits from the back garden.

Mrs Lort-Phillips said: “It looked like a pet shop coming out.”

Paul Churchill, who lives on the other side of the Jones’ home, was at work in London when he received a telephone call about the fire.

He said: “I headed straight back but when I arrived in the village I couldn’t get to my house at first because the road was closed and the area cordoned off.

“I think I was very lucky that more damaged was not caused. Just a few windows at the back blew out because of the heat.”

He praised Mr Ottaway for raising the alarm.

He said: “The work he was carrying out had nothing to do with the fire.

“Some work by another contractor had been done on a flat roof at the back of the house but I don’t think that had anything to do with it either.”

Devizes fire station manager Darren Nixon said fire investigators are still preparing a report on the blaze and it was not possible to give the cause until this was finalised.

He said: “We can say the fire was accidental and not deliberate but beyond that we can’t say at the moment.”

Working smoke detectors were in the Jones’ house but he warned other homeowners to check theirs and to make sure doors were closed before leaving home as this slows down the spread of fire.

The main road through Market Lavington re-opened at about 7pm on Tuesday but firefighters remained until midnight damping down the fire-damaged house.

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