A HAMPSHIRE village has united in support of their 800-year-old church which was destroyed by fire.

St Peter’s Church in Ropley, near Alresford, went up in flames on Thursday, leaving the roof, bell tower, medieval architecture and doorways completely devastated.

Last night heartbroken villagers rallied round to think up ways to restore the historic building as investigations into what caused the blaze continued.

The Friends of St Peters (FOSP) annual meeting had coincidently already been planned to take place, but the priority for all those attending was to ensure the future of their church.

The group are responsible for fundraising to help renovate and restore the old church, and was formed 32 years ago to help re-roof the grade II listed building.

They met in a resident’s garden.

Alison Wood, chairman of FOSP for five years, said: “It’s about people coming up with ideas and letting them talk about the disaster.

“Of course we are devastated, but we are a great village and pull together if something needs to be done.”

She added: “Everyone wants to get started and I’m saying ‘hold on and see what we are able to do first’. People are very upset, but are being very positive too.”

The group will feed their ideas back to Rev Royston Such, vicar of the church.

Before any decisions are made, Alison says the building must be assessed to see if the remaining stone walls are safe enough to build on.

Paying tribute to the villagers’ resolve, Tana Riviere said: “People have been wonderful, so supportive and heart-stricken themselves – it has been very touching.

“If you can say anything good has come from a tragedy it’s people’s recognitions and responses.”

The investigation into what caused the fire is continuing.