A MEMORIAL to a Titanic victim and dozens of graves were engulfed in a fire at a historic cemetery.

Flames ripped through Southampton Old Cemetery leaving a huge area of scorched grass.

It came within days of fires at Peartree Green in Woolston and Miller’s Pond nature reserve in Sholing, which police are investigating as possible arson.

The blaze blackened an area 30m square containing dozens of historic headstones in the cemetery at Southampton Common.

Arthur John Rous was a 26-yearold plumber who was among the 1,500 people who lost their lives when Titanic hit an iceberg on its maiden voyage in April 1912.

Born and bred in Southampton, he had just finished his apprenticeship for Harland and Wolff, before he boarded the ship.

His memorial is one of 65 in Southampton Old Cemetery to people who died when Titanic sank.

Members of the Friends of Southampton Old Cemetery Group (FSOCG), which looks after the cemetery and holds heritage and nature walks around the Grade II - listed burial ground, spoke of their sadness.

Secretary Valerie Ferguson, from Maybush, had been concerned for her great-grandparent’s headstone, laid in 1893.

She said: “It could have been quite devastating because many people use the cemetery on a regular basis.

I just thought thank God it wasn’t too badly damaged. It could have been so much worse because of the hot weather.”

Fellow member Bruce Lorner said that a week before the fire he saw discarded food and packaging in the same area and was worried the fire may have been caused by people having a barbecue.

He said: “There is smoke damage to at least two of the headstones. We put a lot into looking after the cemetery.

It is not a picnic area, it is a working cemetery.”

A spokesman from Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service confirmed that the blaze which happened just after 5pm on Tuesday, July 23 was attended by six firefighters who tackled the flames with two high pressure hose reels and four beaters.

He added that the cause did not appear to be suspicious.