A day in the Life - Fire at Brooker Farm, 31st January 1971

Recollection by John Apps

One of the worst things that happened to me at the piggery was the fire on Sunday, 31st January 1971.  Rodney Yeatman was looking in at the farrowing houses in the evening when he thought he saw a small fire in one of the buildings, but by the time he had phoned me and I had run to the piggery, Margaret had phoned the Fire Brigade, the fire had got out of control.  A lot of people from the village of Newchurch all came to help to move a lot of the pigs out of some of the buildings.

The local fire engines from Dymchurch and New Romney came out, but it was not until the Folkestone fire crews arrived that any real progress was made to put the fire out.  I asked the firemen to play some of their hoses on the buildings next to the fire which were the farrowing houses, because there was no way we could get the sows and little pigs out.  It was not until the next day before the last of the fire crews went.

In the fire we lost 120 light weight pork pigs, 118 had some burns which we treated with an antibiotic spray and liquid paraffin, and they eventually got better.

Gazette Fire Article from 1971

The big problem was where to put the pigs as some of the buildings were burnt to the ground.  We had to put pigs in any odd place that we could find and we also had to sell a lot of pigs for pork that would normally have been kept on for bacon.  Unfortunately Mr and Mrs Cragg were on holiday aboard at this time.  John Seward, the farm manager, arranged for some of the farm staff to come to the piggery to help put some temporary accommodation up.

As well as some of the pig buildings which had burnt down we also lost the straw barn and some building materials for a new building, plus a Ferguson tractor.  It was a long time before everything got back to normal again.

Newspaper Fire Article from 1971
Chris Homewood after a fire at Brooker Farm, c.1970

Chris Homewood after the fire at Brooker Farm, 1971

The next winter Mr and Mrs Cragg had the piggery staff and their wives plus John and Sue Seward for a meal when the presented the four of us with an inscribed tankard, each one with the words “For Fire Fighting, Brooker Farm, Sunday 31st January 1971”.  This was very much appreciated by us all.

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