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Twenty-two people are homeless as the result of a fire at Hickling early on Friday evening, when seven cottages, dating from the 17th Century, and one house were gutted.

The cottages, situated in the Old Market Place, immediately opposite the church, were owned by Mrs Groom, who was away from home at the time.  It started about 4 p.m. at No 4, and was probably caused by a spark from the oven setting the thatch alight.

The alarm was quickly raised and willing helpers were soon running from all parts of the village to help the cottagers to remove their furniture.The breeze carried the flames from one thatched cottage to the next with great rapidity, but the villagers, darting in and out of the doomed cottages with arms full of cherished possessions, were quicker still and hardly any of the furniture was destroyed.

The flames rose to a good height, attracting crowds from neighbouring villages, and sparks were falling like rain.

Excitement reached fever pitch when a little tongue of flame appeared on a thatched roof at the Church Farm on the opposite side of the Market Place.  But the villagers were undaunted.  Ladders were rushed to the building, and with buckets of water the flames were extinguished and the thatch well drenched.

At about a quarter to five, the Stalham Fire Brigade arrived and commenced operations on the blazing cottages.  A good supply of water was found about 150 yards away, but the fire had obtained such a hold that there was no hope of saving the cottages, and all that could be done was the prevention of any extension of the area affected.  North Walsham Brigade arrived just before six , and both Brigades continued to pour water on the flames until a late hour.  About 9 p.m. they were pulling down the gable ends of the cottages.

Meanwhile there were many offers of hospitality and shelter for the homeless cottagers from their more fortunate neighbours, and we understand that all were provided with a roof and bed.

Page updated 1/5/18