VILLAGERS have expressed their shock at seeing a row of historic thatched cottages gutted in a fire.

The three terraced Grade II listed properties on High Street, Farndon, suffered significant damage after a blaze swept through them late on Thursday.

Fire crews from across Cheshire and North Wales worked through the night to tackle the blaze at the 200-year-old buildings, with firefighters still present the following day.

Occupants of the properties escaped unhurt.

In daylight it was clear the thatched roofing had been badly fire-damaged.

Witness Jeff Nevitt, owner of Jeff’s Hair Lounge, situated just yards from the cottages, said he heard a firework being set off moments before the reports of a fire at around 8pm.

With other villagers, he was involved in contacting the fire brigade and spraying a garden hose at the building before the fire service arrived.

He said: “Initially it was just the one property that was on fire. At first it didn’t look like it would spread like that, but it did.

“It was at its worst about 9.30pm to 10pm, we had up to 10 fire engines here.

“The fire service did a good job keeping it under control.

“The main thing is nobody was injured, the people who lived there got out quickly.

“Those buildings are of massive historical importance. I think we would all like to see them be restored in some way.”

Villagers helped residents bring items out of the burning properties. Mr Nevitt said the fire evoked memories of a blaze about 30 years ago, on the site of his salon, which also caused significant damage.

Mike Adams, owner of Adams Clocks, said: “The buildings are between 200 and 300 years old, they are an integral part of the village.

“It’s very sad to see this has happened, you can see how bad the damage is.”

Five adults are thought to live in the properties.

After the fire, the evacuated residents took refuge in the nearby Farndon Memorial Hall.

At lunchtime on Friday the properties remained cordoned off and unoccupied, with two fire engines and an aerial appliance still at the scene.

Margaret Marshall, who lives on Farndon High Street, said: “These cottages are very important to the village.

“I hope we can build them up again.”

A spokesman for Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service said they were initially called out at 8pm on Thursday. He said: “Four fire engines were sent to the scene and on arrival the first crew requested an aerial appliance and a further four fire engines as the fire had spread to three thatched cottages.  All residents were able to get out of their homes safely.”

North Wales Fire and Rescue Service was also involved in tackling the blaze.

The spokesman added: “The fire started in the middle cottage out of a row of three and spread to those on each side.”

Fire crews worked to stop the fire spreading to neighbouring homes and businesses, with the High Street closed by police overnight.

Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service is continuing to investigate the cause of the fire.