A HUGE fire has destroyed a historic thatched barn that was the centrepiece of a south Oxfordshire village.

Residents in Denchworth, near Wantage, described the blaze, that started shortly before 3am yesterday morning, as “horrific”.

They watched as 70 firefighters battled to stop the flames spreading to neighbouring homes.

The blaze was so intense that at one point firefighters were unable to walk past the buildings due to the heat and flames which also brought down nearby power lines. Fire crews used chainsaws to cut down trees to stop the fire spreading.

The 100-metre-long building in Brook Lane, used as offices, was thought to be one of the longest thatched barns in the country and dated to the 17th century.

Known as Brook Lane Barns, it was part of Denchworth Manor, a Grade II* listed building set in 19.5 acres which had recently been sold by Savills UK with an asking price of £4.75m.

Rosemary Jones, 67, who lives in a nearby thatched house, said: “It was horrific when we looked out the window and saw the flames going up, especially as we live in a thatched building.”

Her husband, Mike Jones, 70, added: “We were concerned about it spreading until we spoke to the fire chief and they said it was under control.

“But if the wind had been up and coming from that direction everyone would have had a problem.”

Denchworth resident Ian Cater said: “It was one hell of a blaze. I was standing 200 yards away and I could feel the heat.

“From what I could see the firefighters could not put it out, but they contained it from getting to the manor house or any other buildings. They did a great job.

“But they were beautiful, elegant thatched barns with a lot of history and significance to this village. It is a disaster to this area.”

Yesterday, the barn was a smouldering wreck.

The village’s main road remained closed as firefighters filled it with engines and a vast pool, which they used to store water due to the village’s low pressure. Flames reached so high that at about 4am a nearby electricity pylon was damaged, cutting power to the community for an hour and a half.

Incident commander Dave Bray, Rewley Road station manager, said the service was expecting to be on the scene until late last night damping down.

He said no-one was in the building at the time of the blaze and fire investigators were on site trying to establish the cause.

Resident Ben Heavers, 29, said: “They were beautiful buildings and had the most amazing, vast span of thatch. They were definitely a village landmark.”

Fire service group manager David Heycock said: “The spread of the fire was so quick we were unable to prevent the loss of the building.”

He said the fire was jumping to surrounding trees and bushes and firefighters had to deal with live electrical supplies as nearby telegraph poles were affected.

Brook Lane Barns was home to Ignite Energy, which provides energy advice for businesses.