SEEING the thatched cottage fire in Hartley Wespall last week brought back fond memories for 94-year-old Joyce Earwicker of her time living in the cottage.

The 94-year-old said she was watching the news on the television when she was saddened to see that flames had destroyed the thatched roof of the 14th century, grade II listed building.

Speaking to the Gazette at her home, which had several photos of Pembroke Cottage on the walls, Joyce said she was "horrified" when she saw the news.

"It's so awful isn't it?

"I just couldn't believe it really, it's there all the time and I think of my brothers and sisters quite a lot.

"It was a happy childhood."

She was born in Pembroke Cottage and lived there until she was 28, before moving to Axford and then to Brookvale.

Joyce adds that she remembers how her mother acted quickly to prevent a similar chimney fire destroying the house in the 1950s.

"She was out in the garden feeding the chickens and all of a sudden she saw smoke coming out of the chimney.

"My mum saw it and knew the fire should be out. She came in and the whole thing was on fire. She scratched it out, she saved it from burning."

Her mother was in the garden when she saw smoke billowing out of the other chimney stack, and managed to avert disaster.

She says that she is pleased that the roof is going to be rebuilt, saying she "couldn't bear" to see the aftermath of the fire.

More than 60 firefighters were called to Hartley Wespall on the night of Sunday, January 5, after the thatched roof caught fire.

The fire brigade was called at 6pm with the first floor and roof "well alight", according to Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service.

Jerry Leonard, Group Manager who was incident commander, said: “On arrival we were faced with a well-developed thatch fire in a remote location with a limited water supply and worked well with our colleagues from Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service and other partner agencies to overcome these challenges.

"It is a devastating incident for the owners of the property but due to the incredible efforts of our firefighters we managed to implement a good fire break, save all the possessions and half of the building.”