VILLAGERS have vowed to rebuild bigger and better after a pavilion was destroyed in a suspected arson attack.

The Dowlish Wake pavilion went up in flames last Thursday in a blaze which was started in two sheds behind the building.

Firefighters battled the blaze for more than three hours, with it finally being extinguished around 11pm.  Now, villagers from Dowlish Wake and the surrounding hamlets, who all relied on the pavilion, are coming together to rebuild the community hub.

Mike Lane, chairman of the Lawrence Kellett Playing Field Trust, said: “Around 7.15pm some people were driving past and they saw what they thought was a bonfire behind the pavilion. We all came out and the two sheds at the back of the pavilion were really ablaze.

“The wind was was blowing the flames up and it was so strong it blew the fire onto the back of the pavilion. There is no reason the sheds would go up on their own.

“All of us there that night are still in shock from seeing the ferocity of the fire, and thank goodness no-one was hurt.

“This much loved community asset was designed, built, and funded entirely by volunteers in 2005, and is run by the local community through the Lawrence Kellett Playing Field Trust.”

The pavilion was the home of the Dowlish and Donyatt Football Club, Dowlish Wake Golf Croquet Club, and a local Mah Jong club, who had only just moved in.

The pavilion has been damaged beyond repair, and much of the equipment and internal fittings have been lost.

Mr Lane added: “We have started a campaign to rebuild the pavilion and we want to make it bigger and better than before.

“Although properly insured, the insurance amount is unlikely to cover the full cost of rebuilding and re-fitting the pavilion. We have already had many promises of financial help from the local community, but we will need the goodwill of everyone to be able to rebuild the pavilion.

“I have set up a JustGiving page as we require an immediate fighting fund to enable work to start, and provide temporary facilities.

"I have been asked by many people how they can donate money, and hopefully this page will provide the answer. All donations received will go directly to the rebuilding of the pavilion.”

Tony Carter, a member of the Dowlish Wake Golf Croquet Club, said: “A neighbour told me, he came up to me and said the pavilion was on fire. I was there very early on but there was nothing we could do.

“It means that essentially to carry on playing we need some kind of temporary arrangements. We will find a way to continue. The show must go on.”

A South Somerset District Council spokesman said: “The District Council Ward member Sue Osborne has been out there and SSDC’s Area Development Officer for the locality has spoken with them on the phone and offered help and support with moving forward to build a replacement, for example help with business planning and bid-writing.

“Our Community Health and Leisure team will advise the football club (as one of the main users of the pavilion) about their immediate short-term options in order that they can continue playing football, whether this be at an existing or different site, and will also offer support with regards to moving forward to build a replacement in the future.”

To donate to the trust's efforts, click here.