Historic home in ruins after fire

A PROMINENT Suffolk businessman has spoken of his family's horror after a thatch fire destroyed their 300-year-old family home.The dream cottage of Christopher Gurteen - whose family has played an integral part in the Haverhill economy for more than two centuries - was last night in ruins after the first floor became engulfed in flames.

A PROMINENT Suffolk businessman has spoken of his family's horror after a thatch fire destroyed their 300-year-old family home.

The dream cottage of Christopher Gurteen - whose family has played an integral part in the Haverhill economy for more than two centuries - was last night in ruins after the first floor became engulfed in flames.

Mr Gurteen revealed how his desperate and brave attempts to tackle the blaze were hampered by the freezing conditions and it took about 40 firefighters to dampen the fire, which completely gutted more than half the property.

But the managing director of large clothing manufacturing company, Gurteen & Sons Ltd, has vowed to rebuild his shattered home in Sturmer.

Relieving the dramatic incident on Wednesday night, Mr Gurteen said he was at home with his wife Silvia when he noticed smoke rising from the roof around the chimney.

Mrs Gurteen then heard a loud bang outside the window before her husband told her the house was on fire.

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Initially Mr Gurteen believed he could tackle the blaze, but his hose reels were frozen and in minutes the roof was engulfed in flames.

“I saw a small fire in the roof and I never thought it would destroy the whole house but in the three minutes before the fire brigade arrived the whole loft was on fire - it was terribly destructive,” said Mrs Gurteen.

“I was running in circles and I tried going upstairs to save our belongings but it was too dangerous.”

The entire first floor of the house was destroyed by the fire, which took with it clothing, jewellery and family photos.

However many of the historic records relating to the Gurteen clothing company, which has been established in Haverhill since 1784, were safely stored in its offices in the centre of town.

Mr Gurteen, 65, spoke of the couples' shock at the destruction of their dream cottage, which they have lived in since 1966 but while vowing to rebuild their shattered home.

Mr Gurteen said: “The last 12 hours have been horrific - the house has been totally destroyed.

“All my personal records have been destroyed. We have lost everything. The house is a complete write off.

“We will cope but it is going to be a traumatic time. We haven't had time to assess the situation but for the next year or 18 months it will be difficult.

“We will return but I think the house will have to come down - it was our life. I bought the cottage in 1966 and we have built it up over the many years we have spent here.

“We have a mature garden and we love gardening which has been damaged by all the water - the whole place looks like a ploughed field.”

Mrs Gurteen, 66, spoke of the couple's horror when she realised the fire was out of control destroying years of work.

“I don't think there is much hope for the house but one of the firefighters told me the house could be rebuilt but we will never be able to restore the features of the old house,” she told the EADT.

Mr Gurteen praised firefighters for their prompt action and the help they gave moving furniture away from the blaze.

Ten fire appliances from Suffolk and Essex used water from the swimming pool to douse the flames in a three-hour battle to control the flames.

A spokesman for Essex County Fire and Rescue Service said they were not treating the fire as suspicious after initial investigations had been carried out.

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