Brothers behind Northamptonshire aquatics centre determined to rebuild one year after devastating fire

The pair lost nearly everything in blaze other than the clothes on their backs and have lived in static caravans on-site ever since

Thursday, 3rd June 2021, 4:55 pm
Updated Thursday, 3rd June 2021, 4:56 pm

The brothers behind a Northamptonshire aquatics centre destroyed by a fire just over a year ago are determined to get back on their feet.

Hobby Fish went up in flames in the early hours of May 25, 2020, along with Jonathan and Julian Chalmers' home, after an electrical fault.

Many of the animals at the premises on the A5 near Old Stratford were rescued but nearly all of the pair's possessions were lost.

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Brothers Jonathan and Julian Chalmers, who have kept Hobby Fish going in temporary buildings after the fire in May last year.
Brothers Jonathan and Julian Chalmers, who have kept Hobby Fish going in temporary buildings after the fire in May last year.

They have lived in static caravans on-site ever since to maintain security and set up a temporary shop with a large selection of fish and aquarium products.

A planning application has been sent to West Northamptonshire Council to rebuild the centre and a new home for the family as the brothers aim to get the business back up and running again.

Jonathan said: "Once planning permission is granted, we are looking forward to the building work completing and life returning to a bit more normality, doing what we do best, keeping fish and supporting others to enjoy the hobby."

Just before 4am, Jonathan was woken during the night by the noise of the fire and his cat, Bill, patting him on the face.

Firefighters working to extinguish the fire at Hobby Fish in May last year. Photo: Cameron Walton/Northants On Blues

He called the fire service and worked with them to move fish and a variety of reptiles from one of the buildings.

Unfortunately the fire could not be contained despite the best efforts of several fire crews and burned throughout the day, causing the end to the family home and business.

Jonathan was left in trainers, shorts and a tie dye t-shirt resembling the final minutes of Pulp Fiction - not the outfit he would have chosen, but the closest to hand, he said.

While Julian was staying away for the night so all he had left were the possessions were took with him.

The smoke damage inside one of the Hobby Fish buildings caused by the fire in May last year.

A year on, Hobby Fish's temporary shop has a large selection of products care for aquariums and ponds as well as a well-stocked range of tropical fish and aquarium plants.

Despite the poor weather, the brothers prepared for one of their busiest weekends of the year, the late May bank holiday, with a large selection of ponds, pond plants, Koi and goldfish available.

Jonathan said: "The Covid lockdown made everything more complicated, relying on friends and family for clothes and essentials initially while we came to terms with the shock of what had happened and what we had lost.

"We were overwhelmed with the kindness and the response of those around us.

The fire destroyed much of the buildings at Hobby Fish, including the family home.

"Hobby Fish, established by our father 50 years ago last year, is seemingly a household name locally for all things fish and water garden."

Marquees have been set up to cover the stock at Hobby Fish.
Inside Hobby Fish's temporary shop, which has a wide range of tropical fish.