A CHURCH in Southbourne has been severely damaged in a blaze early Sunday morning.

Nine fire engines and an aerial appliance were called to Cranleigh Community Church at 1am following multiple emergency calls from the public.

The fire ripped through the building, causing "terrible damage" inside and to the roof, according to the Dorset and Wiltshire Fire Safety Team.

But crews managed to save the building, tackling the blaze using 18 breathing apparatus, four main jets and two hosereel jets.

The cause of the fire is being investigated, but it is not thought to be suspicious.

The church was unable to hold a formal service Sunday morning, but people were due to gather outside with church leaders for worship and prayer at 10.30am.

In a statement posted to Facebook, the church said: "Praise God that no one was hurt, but please continue to pray for the church as we try and work out the long term implications of this."