TWO families had to be evacuated from their homes after fire broke out in a 19th century cottage.

The blaze started in the chimney of the 161-year-old cottage and quickly spread through to the cottage next door, causing a large hole in the roof.

Joy Booth, 53, who was evacuated along with her husband, John, 71, and their grandson, Michael, 18, said: "I started to smell smoke in my house and I checked all round but couldn't find where it was coming from. So I went next door where my neighbour was having a wood fire, and eventually he discovered his chimney was on fire."

Fire crews from Woolston and Eastleigh spent nearly two hours on Saturday evening tackling the blaze at Romill Close, West End, Southampton.

The Booths and their neighbours - a couple with two young daughters - were looked after by the fire service victim support unit until returning to their homes about 11pm.

Mrs Booth added: "The fire service and the victim support unit were absolutely brilliant."