A RELATIVE of Sir Winston Churchill has thanked the 'extraordinary' effort of villagers who rescued pieces of family history as a fire tore through his grandmother's thatched cottage.

Alexander Spencer-Churchill, the first cousin three times removed of the war leader, said he owed so much to villagers who helped when Anne Wyndham's home in Chilson, West Oxfordshire, went up in flames.

About 40 firefighters tackled the blaze in the village near Charlbury and Mr Spencer-Churchill described the moment residents formed a human chain to help with the rescue.

He said: "I emailed out to every member of the village to say thank you for what they all did to help, it was most extraordinary.

"It was like election night when everyone lines up and all the ballot boxes are passed along.

"They helped get all the artwork out, all the photo albums and every single valuable item in the house.

"Of course the fire brigade too deserve an enormous amount of respect.

"It could have otherwise been horrendous and the fire could have got the houses to the left, right and down the lane."

The blaze took hold of the cottage in Pudlicote Lane about 4.50pm last Monday and the fire service believe was started as a result of a chimney fire that spread to the roof.

The home of Lady Wyndham, Mr Spencer-Churchill's grandmother, was severely damaged but thanks to the quick thinking of residents herself and many family belonging were able to be saved.

The blaze spread through the cottage destroying the roof and upstairs.

Mr Spencer-Churchill added: "My grandmother has lived in the village for 37 years and is the longest serving resident in the village.

"She has a lot of historic pieces in her home and if the villagers hadn’t done what they did.

"As you can imagine it has been quite traumatic for our family.

"The most important thing is my grandmother is safe, fine and unhurt.

"what they (villagers) were doing was incredibly dangerous to help rescue every single valuable and words can’t describe how grateful we are.

"It is horrific what has happened and we may have lost the house but my grandmother is okay, she is a strong as an ox."

Mr Spencer-Churchill, the third son of Lord Charles Spencer-Churchill, whose father was the 10th Duke of Marlborough, sent an email to all the villagers to thank them on behalf of his family.