A historic mansion in south-west England has been ravaged by a fire in what is suspected to be an arson attack.

As many as 20 fire engines attended the blaze in Parnham House, Beaminster, Dorset, after it was reported in the early hours of Saturday (15 April).

Images of the grade I listed home – reportedly owned by Austrian hedge fund manager Michael Treichl and his wife Emma – circulated social media showing it engulfed in flames with smoke billowing out of the windows.

Dorset Police, who are investigating the fire, confirmed they were treating the incident as suspicious.

A force spokesperson said: "Officers arrived at 4.25am to find an extensive fire at the premises – all occupants were accounted for.

"At this stage the cause of the fire is unknown. However, police are treating it as suspicious and an investigation is under way."

The building dates back to the 16th century and is considered one of Dorset's oldest and most historic homes.

Built in 1522, it was first acquired by Richard de Strode and his wife Elizabeth Hody, who were prominent aristocrats at the time.

It was then inherited by his son Sir John Strode of Chantmarle whose wife is said to have been killed in the property by a parliamentary soldier during the English Civil War.

According to the Telegraph, it was then renovated in 1810 and went on to be used as a country club during the First World War.

During the Second World War, it is said to have been commandeered by the US army and was used as a planning hub.

The Treichls and their four children have lived in the property since 2001. Michael Treichl is a founding partner of the London-based hedge fund Audley Capital Advisors.