A 400year-old Grade II listed barn was burnt to the ground after being set ablaze in a suspected arson attack.

A dog walker alerted fire crews to the blaze last Thursday evening at the barn in the grounds of Southlands Arts Centre, The Green, West Drayton.

Fire crews battled for an hour to stop the fire spreading to the arts centre.

A spokesperson for the London Fire Brigade said: "Crews were alerted at 6.46pm, and when they arrived the barn was already well alight with flames reaching about 15 feet in the air.

"Firemen from Hayes, Heathrow and Feltham stations managed to prevent the fire from spreading to the Victorian community arts centre next door, and the fire was under control an hour later."

She confirmed: "Police are treating the fire as suspicious"

Police say that the fire at the councilowned building started in an alleyway between the buildings.

They have recovered a small petrol can nearby which is currently undergoing forensic tests.

A spokesperson for Hillingdon Council said: "The barn in the grounds of Southlands Arts Centre was very badly damaged in the fire.

"Originally a farm building, the barn dates from the 17th century. It is on the council's local list of buildings of historical and architectural note.

"It was being used for the storage of tables and chairs.

"Following an inspection of the barn by a council officer last Friday, the site is being fenced off as a safety precaution.

"The council is awaiting the fire brigade report on the likely cause of the blaze and will also be consulting the council's insurers."

The spokesman added: "It is still far too early at this stage to say what will happen with the site."

"The loss of a building that formed a link with West Drayton's agricultural past and that was an important part of Southlands is extremely disappointing to say the least."

The arts centre is owned by the council and run by a trust.

January 23, 2003 09:30