Fire wrecks roof at historic farm

An historic farm house hs been ravaged by fire only one month before massive restoration works were due to be completed.

After six-months of hard work to bring Chester House Farm, in Irchester, back to life, the Grade II listed building was badly damaged by a midnight blaze.

In the early hours of yesterday morning, more than 30 firefighters were called to the old farm house - which is owned by Northamptonshire County Council - after flames were seen leaping into the sky by motorists on the A45.

The fire was so severe that a large part of the roof and the half of the first floor of the three-storey house completely collapsed, with only three lone chimney's left standing.

Councillor Andre Gonzalez De Savage, cabinet member for customers and communities, said the fire was terrible, as work to renovate the building, including repairs to windows and the roof and structural renovations, were only one month from completion.

He said: "It's devastating. Chester Farm has undergone significant renovations and a lot of investment has already gone into it.

"We've done all that work and now it's all lost. It's an enormous loss.

"It really is a very special site and it's very important to the area's heritage. It's a significant loss but once we know more, we will be looking for a way through."

Chester House farm dates back to the late 17th century and has been on the English Heritage 'at risk' register for 12 years.

The whole site was bought by Northamptonshire County Council in 2004 and they have been working with English Heritage and Wellingborough Council to restore the building and create a visitors centre. The site also contains a walled Roman town, including a cemetery, and elsewhere on the site there is the medieval village of Chester-on-the-Water.

However, only the farm house was damaged by the fire, which firefighters were called to 12.20am.

David Harding, area manager for Northamptonshire Fire Service, said it was too early to tell what started the fire or where in the building it began.

He said: "On arrival, crews found the building well alight, which has caused the building extensive damage and it's severely damaged internally."

A spokesman for Irchester Parish Historical Society said: "It's a tragedy and it's devastating.

"It's a loss of part of our county's history, which is completely unique.

"There is so much history on just one site, and part of that has now gone."