Martin Read – Reporter
Members, staff and visitors are shocked and saddened by the substantial fire damage inflicted on the much loved Cottesmore Hotel, Spa and Country Club’s buildings in Buchan Hill between the villages of Colgate and Pease Pottage. The fire service received calls for assistance at 17.03 on Monday and immediately attended to find a well developed and rapidly spreading fire with roaring flames and black smoke billowing skywards. A further 10 fire engines were deployed, along with specialist vehicles equipped with ladders and an Ariel Ladder Platform. 60 firefighters were on site, working in shifts and specialist officers remained overnight and on Tuesday to continue damping down. Forensic investigations are underway to establish the cause of the blaze, which the fire service estimates to have severely damaged 50 per cent of the main building, extinguishment water and smoke also having taken their toll. The premises were evacuated and no injuries were reported.
Roffey Cricket Club Chairman Mark Hamilton told the District Post: “I’ve been a member at Cottesmore for years and, on Monday, I had been in the gym and was heading for the pool when the fire broke out. I grabbed a fire extinguisher, but it quickly became obvious that the fire was out of control, being fanned by the breeze, so all I could was to pick up my clothes and get outside. It was horrendous and really upsetting – this is such a nice club, but the staff did well to get everyone out.” Cottesmore General Manager Johnny Porter said: “Our first objective was to ensure that everyone was safe and it was a great blessing that nobody was hurt. We’ve got a fantastic team here and we’re all pulling together to get as many activities as possible back up and running as quickly as we can.”
Ladies’ Golf Captain Heather Skinner organises charity fundraisers at Cottesmore, saying: “This is an amazingly strong club and fortunately the staff were well trained to deal with the emergency. Our priority is to get the course open again and we plan to use the lodges for facilities once we can restore power with a generator. Cottesmore is great and we’re all working hard to make sure that it rises phoenix-like as an even better club.” And, spare a thought for Richard and Bonnie, a pleasant young couple from Horsham who were due to be married at Cottesmore and have their reception there next week, with guests flying in from the States. Richard says: “Jackie at Cottesmore was brilliant with our arrangements and we made the booking a long time ago. We’re very sorry that we won’t be able to have our ceremony and celebrations there, but Cottesmore have been as helpful as they could be and we’ve managed to rearrange our wedding at a registry office and now need to find a venue to accommodate the 100 people coming to our reception!”
The beautiful Cottesmore golf course has a surprising history: it was originally a farm, with buildings (which became the clubhouse) built by some of the many French prisoners in Britain in 1815 at the end of the Napoleonic wars. The golf course opened in 1975, with another course added in 1983 before, nine years later, the country club complex, complete with its superb indoor pool, health and beauty club and fully licensed function rooms came on stream. Nine hotel rooms were provided in 2002 and seven, two-bedroom holiday lodges in 2007. Prior to the fire work was in hand to further enhance the facilities for disabled members and visitors.