A building in the grounds of the historic Castle Ashby House in Northamptonshire, which houses a number of valuable artefacts, has been severely damaged by fire.
Staff were evacuated from the building, which is used as the site’s estate office, at about 2.25pm yesterday (Wednesday).
Flames and smoke could be seen coming from the building just metres from the main house.
A total of 12 fire crews attended the incident with between 50 and 60 firefighters tackling the blaze.
David Harding, area manager for Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Crews arrived to find the estate office fully involved in fire. All persons were safely evacuated from the building and no one was injured.
“The fire is now under control,” he said at about 5pm.
Fire bosses at the scene said it was too early to say what had caused the fire.
The estate office housed various different artefacts and memorabilia relating to the historic house.
Ian McDonald, group manager, said: “We have managed to salvage as much as we could from the building. The estate have worked very hard with us. All the firefighters have worked extremely hard to contain the fire and stop it spreading.”
Steve Rogers, who had been walking his dog, said: “I could see the smoke from miles away, it’s such a shame because all the buildings on the estate are absolutely beautiful. To lose any one of them would be a tragedy.
“I hope the fire service can save it, or as far as is possible.”
One eyewitness said: “It looks a big one to me and it looks like the office has been gutted.”
An employee at The Larder Deli, a four-minute walk away from the building, said: “It was a massive, massive
fire. You could see it from outside our shop.”
Another man who works nearby said: “There were no explosions, just sirens and then lots of smoke, large flames all over.”
The ‘stop’ message, given by the incident commander when crews are finished at a scene, had not been given when the Chron went to press .
Castle Ashby Estate declined to comment prior to going to press.
The medieval Castle Ashby estate was bought by William Compton in 1512 before his grandson, Henry Lord Compton, replaced it 62 years later with the building that stands there today. It has, since then, been passed down to Compton heirs for 15 generations.
It has been visited by various British royals since its refurbishment, including Queen Elizabeth I in 1600 and King James in 1605, who called it a “princley mansion.”
Part of the building was severely damaged by fire during the Civil War. Folklore tells that an old woman, named Elspeth, who lived over the nearby church, first alerted the village, thereby saving the rest of the house. Marks of flames can still be clearly seen on the window lintels.