A community left reeling after a huge fire destroyed a number of art studios and offices has come together in an ‘overwhelming show of compassion.’

A fire broke out at St Michael’s Trading Estate, Bridport, on Saturday evening.

It is thought the fire started on the third floor of St Michael’s studios - which contains a number of artists’ studios and offices – and is believed to have been caused accidentally, according to the fire service.

Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service said the cause could have been 'an electrical issue or through refracted light on combustible materials.'

As work takes place to make the building safe, artists and business owners based at the studios now face an agonising wait to find out whether or not they have lost everything.

But the community has been pulling together to help those affected by the fire.

A fundraiser aiming to raise £20,000 to provide support for the artists as they look to replace equipment and materials raised more than £3,000 in just 24 hours.

Andrea Jenkins, an artist from Shaftesbury, set up the fundraiser.

Ms Jenkins said: “When I saw the post on Facebook on Saturday evening, my heart went out to my artist friends and those whose studios have been destroyed. I wanted to help as quickly as possible.”

“I know what a brilliantly supportive lot the artists of Dorset are.

It's not just the artists but all those who enjoy visiting exhibitions and studios around Dorset, and St Michael's Studios has a particularly big following."

Landscape artist Kit Glaisyer was one of the first people to call the fire brigade after noticing smoke pouring out of the building’s roof. 

“The fire alarm went off but I just thought it was a false alarm,” he said.

“I went outside to look and saw smoke coming out of the attic window.

It wasn’t a huge amount, but it escalated very quickly.”

Mr Glaisyer has 15 years’ work inside the studio and he, along with other artists based in the building, now face an agonising wait to find out what damage has been caused.

“We were on the floor below the fire,” he said.

“We’re not allowed to go back in just yet so we don’t know if anything is salvageable.

"I know some people on the floor above are very upset and have lost everything. It’s horrid.

“But the community has been amazing. I’ve never experienced anything like it – it’s overwhelming.

"It shows you that people cherish our community and our artists.

"It’s been one of the most uplifting things about this.”

Artist Caroline Ireland, who has rented a studio on the second floor for 16 years, said the fire was 'heartbreaking.'

“We all absolutely love the building," she said.