Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Ropley church gutted by blaze

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Media captionThe church dates from Norman times (video Hampshire fire service)

A huge fire has destroyed a Grade II listed church that dates back to Norman times in a Hampshire village.

The fire was spotted at the Church of St Peter, Ropley, near Alresford shortly before 09:00 BST.

The blaze engulfed the main body of the church destroying its roof and bell tower.

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service said crews had to work in "arduous conditions" to bring the fire under control.

Image copyright Suzanne partridge
Image caption The church dates from Norman times
Image caption The fire broke out shortly after 09:00 BST

Twelve fire engines and several water carriers were involved in the effort to tackle the blaze.

The vicar, Reverend Royston Such, said the fire was "devastating and heartbreaking".

"Although we have tragically lost our church building, the real value of a church is its congregation and community and these, thank God, are all safe," he added.

Fire service area manager Steve Foye said: "This was a significant fire that has seriously affected a prominent building within the village."

It is not yet known how the blaze started.

Image copyright Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service
Image caption Smoke from the church could be seen billowing out across the village

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