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'We lost everything' - couple still suffering after cottage destroyed by pub fire

PUBLISHED: 11:49 23 March 2019 | UPDATED: 15:23 23 March 2019

A fire which started in the Ingham Swan soared through the adjoining Town House cottage and destroyed the property and its contents. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

A fire which started in the Ingham Swan soared through the adjoining Town House cottage and destroyed the property and its contents. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

Archant

A woman whose Norfolk cottage was gutted in a blaze 18 months ago has spoken for the first time about the devastating impact it has had on her life.

Some of the charred remains of family photographs after the fire. Picture: Ella WilkinsonSome of the charred remains of family photographs after the fire. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

Tom and Sarah Scott were staying in Kent when their home of 35 years, where their three children grew up, went up in flames in September 2017.

And while the adjoining Ingham Swan, near Stalham, where the fire started, has reopened to great fanfare, their home is still a damp and mouldy shell.

Their insurance company, Sagic spent about £500,000 restructuring their home and making the roof watertight, but they settled the claim last October and the company won’t pay out anymore.

Mr and Mrs Scott are trying to make some of the house habitable, as they are moving back at the end of April.

The Town House cottage, on the left, and the Ingham Swan before the fire. Picture: ArchantThe Town House cottage, on the left, and the Ingham Swan before the fire. Picture: Archant

But they will have to camp out in the two rooms at the back of the house that were least affected by the fire.

Mrs Scott, a former teacher, said: “Words cannot explain the stress of dealing with all the insurance professionals.

“Before I had low blood pressure and now it’s high. It’s caused a hell of a lot of stress.”

She said they were only moving back to their Grade 2 listed home, parts of which date back to the 14th century, because they can no longer afford the rent in Barton Turf, where they have lived for a year.

The Town House, on the left, and the Ingham Swan at the time of the blaze. Picture: Nick ButcherThe Town House, on the left, and the Ingham Swan at the time of the blaze. Picture: Nick Butcher

Mrs Scott said: “We have not got any choice other than to return, as we have no money. Before living in Barton Turf, we were at different places, from week to week.

“We’ve no idea how long it will take to totally repair our house or how much it will cost.

“We might have to sell up. But if we do we will face a huge financial loss. Before the fire, the house was worth about £500,000, but it will be much less now.”

Since last October they have had to pay out of their own pockets for repairs.

It cost about £30,000 to rethatch the roof, which they had to borrow, and they’ve also paid for the party wall that separates them from the Ingham Swan.

Mrs Scott added: “Friends gave us an old cooker and we’ve still got one hell of a lot to do.”

Dozens of firefighters battled the blaze in the early hours of Monday, September 11, 2017.

Crews from Stalham, Martham, Wroxham, North Walsham, Sprowston and Mundesley attended and, at the time, John Baker, Norfolk Fire and Rescue’s incident commander for the scene, praised the colossal team effort of his firefighters to quell the flames.

Mrs Scott said: “We lost everything, including irreplaceable things.

“All our daughter’s school and degree artwork was destroyed, all the family photos, the furniture - and it was through no fault of her own. I ran a Studio at the house and all my artwork was lost.”

The couple, who are close to retirement age, are taking legal advice and contacting the financial ombudsman.

She added: “We would normally have been asleep upstairs when the fire started.

“We found out when a friend called at about 8.15am.

“Everything then went into a strange time warp. We got back home at 4pm.

“The police had to verify our identities, because they did not know we were not in the cottage.

“But if we thought it was bad then, immediately afterwards, it was nothing compared to the situation now.”

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb has been fantastic in his support, she said.

“We are so thankful for the support and help of many wonderful friends and family,” she added.

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