POLICE were today investigating three arson attacks last night following the arrest of a man in his 40s.
Firefighters were first called to the Deanery at Winchester Cathedral at 6.56pm, where it is believed a box of books and cardboard were deliberately set on fire.
As firefighters tackled the blaze, 120 people were evacuated from the nearby open air ice rink as a precaution.
The flames caused damage estimated at £2-3,000 to the doors of the listed building and to a number of secondhand books, the value of which has not yet been established.
Fortunately the Dean, the Very Rev James Atwell was not in at the time and the three residents living in the upstairs flat were unharmed.
Shortly afterwards crews from the city were called to Phase Eight clothes shop, on the corner of Parchment Street and the High Street, at 7.09pm, after a commercial bin was set alight and pushed through the window of the store, causing serious damage inside.
A third fire was then discovered at the Bengal Sage restaurant at 7.11pm, behind the Port House pub on Upper Brook Street, but thanks to the quick actions of the chefs, the flames were quickly put out.
Today Chief Inspector James Fulton said: "As the incident covers three sites, one historic, one business and a near-miss at a restaurant, the impact on a range of people is significant. Fortunately nobody was hurt but clearly the potential was there and we will be following all lines of inquiry this morning to secure evidence."
A police spokesperson said that no one was injured in any of the fires and that police cordons would remain in place at each of the three scenes until the morning.
They added that a man, believed to be in his late 40s, was arrested close to the scene of the fires and is currently in custody.
Officers have spoken to a number of witnesses but anyone with any information should contact Winchester Police Station on 101.
A spokesman for Phase Eight said staff had not been let into the building yet as it was still being treated as a crime scene.
She said: “We have no idea how much damage has been caused or how long we will have to close for because we have not been allowed in yet.”
The shop was empty when the fire started.
Two appliances from Winchester Fire Station attended the Deanery blaze while two appliances from Eastleigh were called to Phase Eight.
One appliance from Sutton Scotney also attended the shop fire before moving on to the Bengal Sage.