A MAJOR fire has gutted a treasured village pub.

Up to 60 firefighters spent more than three hours tackling the blaze at the Wise Man Inn, West Stafford, near Dorchester, which broke out in the early hours of yesterday.

A man and a woman who were inside at the time managed to scramble out of the building and raise the alarm.

Investigations have begun into the cause of the fire but it is thought to be linked to a faulty boiler.

A spokesman for Dorset Fire and Rescue Service said most of the thatched roof had to be removed because the internal structure was unsafe.

The pub, which had featured in promotions and reviews in the national press, was renowned for its good food and service.

Alan Thacker, councillor for West Stafford, said: "It's a real tragedy.

"It's such a prominent building in the centre of the village.

"It will be missed by everyone.

"It was the heart of the village, with villages losing everything else to lose one of the central buildings like the pub is such a tragedy.

"All they really have left, as a central meeting point, is the church and village hall."