THE owner of a Grade II-listed, thatched cottage has been left “heartbroken” after he watched his home and priceless possessions go up in flames.

Steve Nicholls watched on helplessly as 70 firefighters tried to tackle the blaze which started at around 7.50pm on Saturday, destroyed two historic cottages and raged for more than 14 hours.

Crews from Basingstoke, Andover, Rushmoor and Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue were dealing with the incident in High Street, Monxton, and evacuated a couple from a third cottage while trying to save their thatched roof from setting alight.

Mr Nicholls said: “I was just hoping they were going to save it. I kept looking at the bedroom windows for flames and when I didn’t [see them], I was just hopeful they would save it but eventually I just saw orange and I knew the ceiling had gone.

“I have lost all my personal possessions in the loft going back to my childhood and I’m absolutely devastated for the house itself. It is over 320 years old and there are parts of it that have been there from when it was built.”

No one was injured in the fire and firefighters were still at the scene on Sunday morning to minimise damage to neighbouring homes.

Next door neighbours Peter and Diana Coldicott had their thatched roof sprayed with foam to stop the blaze spreading to their house, with their son Emlyn telling The Advertiser one crew member sat on a ridge spraying their roof all night.

While the incident carried on into the morning, the couple, 87 and 91-years-old, stayed in a house across the road, and when they were moved back the fire service had even put the electricity and central heating back on for them.

Emlyn Coldicott said: “They really went out of their way to protect the roof they just did everything possible to protect it.

“The praise for the fire brigade, [my parents] can’t speak highly enough. They were just brilliant.

“Yesterday [Sunday] morning four of them [firefighters] carried my dad back out in his wheelchair, he felt like royalty! But now my parents are in a bit of shock and they feel very lucky but reasonably shaken.”

A crowdfunding campaign has also started up to raise £5,000 for Steve’s neighbours who’s home was also destroyed that night.

So far more than £1,500 has been donated for them to get back on their feet.

Hampshire Fire and Rescue’s official report into the cause of the fire is yet to be released however Mr Nicholls said it was treated as an accidental fire in the thatch and that it was probably smouldering before anyone smelt it for a couple of hours.

Fellow Monxton High Street resident Helen Mead said she watched the incident unfold and she is now concerned her own thatched roof could be vulnerable to a fire.

She said: “Thatches can’t do much about it, I’m now terrified if my neighbours get a fire it would spread to mine.”

Hampshire Fire and Rescue said while thatch fires are not common, more than 90 per cent of them start as a result of a faulty flue or chimney.

Maintaining a good working chimney and ensuring only to burn seasoned or kiln-dried wood in wood burners or open fires are among some of the advice tips listed on the service’s website.