MORE than 80 firefighters battled a blaze at a historic manor house near Wantage after it was struck by lightning.

Fire broke out at the 16th century Fawler Manor, in Fawler, which belongs to the Blackwell family of Blackwells booksellers, shortly before 3.30pm on Saturday.

Part of the roof of the Grade II-listed building was destroyed but neighbours helped save the family’s belongings.

No-one was hurt and it is believed Philip and Christine Blackwell, along with their children, were away.

One of the Blackwells’ neighbours, said: “It was struck by lightning, it hit the roof.

“They’re on holiday, but I think the sister was looking after the place. I know no-one was hurt. The roof has gone, but the firemen saved half of the upstairs and the downstairs. The neighbours managed to get most of their possessions out.”

At the height of the blaze, 12 crews from across Oxfordshire and parts of Berkshire were on the scene. Engines were sent from as far afield as Witney, Hungerford and Reading.

A fire service spokesman said: “Crews battled in heavy rain initially to fight the fire in the large two-storey manor house which suffered a section of roof destroyed by fire.

“This was tackled by fire crews in breathing apparatus using ladders who were able to limit the spread and tackle the fire from the roof and the first floor. The property was occupied by family members who raised the alarm, and were able to be evacuated safely.

“Investigations in to the cause of the fire are on-going however it is not believed to be suspicious.”

The manor house is just yards from the site of the Uffington White Horse show which was expected to attract thousands of people yesterday and today.

A section of the road outside the property was closed into Saturday night but firefighters rallied to reopen the road in time for the show.

The Blackwell family sold the Oxford-based Blackwells chain in 2006.