A DEVASTATED couple from Bishops Cannings say they will be forever grateful to the friends and family who have supported them after more than 80 per cent of their home was destroyed by fire.
Despite the best efforts of 11 fire crews, The Old Manor, in Chandlers Lane, has been left in ruins after a fire tore through the building's thatched roof and much of the house on Wednesday night (April 12).
Owners David and Jean Sheppard were in the house when the fire started at just after 9pm. Along with firefighters and staff from the Crown Inn pub, they managed to salvage some furniture, clothes, jewellery, photos and other possessions from the grade II listed building.
Although the couple are devastated at losing their home, they have been deeply touched by the way friends, neighbours and family have offered them somewhere to stay, cooked meals for them and also given them temporary accommodation in a caravan.
"It has been a devastating time for us, losing the home we have been in for more than 30 years but the way the community has got behind us is incredible – we are forever grateful for their help," said Mr Sheppard, who runs the nearby Baltic Farm.
"I was in the kitchen at the time and my wife was taking the dog outside. When she returned a few minutes later she ran in saying the roof was on fire.
"I have never been in a situation like that and I never want to experience it again, it was very frightening. Luckily nobody was hurt but it was still very shocking.
"What has helped us get through is how the community has supported us. Looking after our belongings, letting us stay over, having meals with us. One friend lent us his caravan. These are wonderful people."
Crews have been back to the house several times since the blaze to tend to hotspots from the thatched roof.
"The fire crews were incredible, they did a marvellous job getting out what they could. And staff at the Crown Inn pub were brilliant, they helped us out all night," added Mr Sheppard.
"The roof has fallen in and the walls and ceilings have been badly damaged. We still do not know the cause and the structural survey has not been carried out yet. So we will wait and see what will happen to the house.
"We will look for new places to live but it will be very tough as this house meant a lot to us. If we can find somewhere close to Bishops Cannings that would be good."