A shocked group of bell ringers had to be evacuated from a church after flames eight feet tall burst through the pavement following an explosion.

The area around St Martin's Church, in Front Street, Brampton, had to be cordoned off on Wednesday afternoon following what police called a "small electrical explosion".

Police, firefighters and engineers from Electricity North West raced to the scene to try and avert any further danger.

Eyewitnesses reported hearing a "loud bang" and seeing black smoke coming from the pavement next to the church.

Wendy Griffiths, a member of the deanery synod for Brampton and the church's parochial council, was there at the time of the incident doing some work on the church's notice board.

"In the first instance the flames were about eight feet and they appeared to be coming through the pavement," she told The Cumberland News .

"We were concerned it was from the church and the church was evacuated."

Among those ushered out of the church was a group of visiting bell ringers from Hertfordshire who were doing a tour of bell towers and had just started their session in Brampton.

Mrs Griffiths added: "There were two incidents. The fire came up through the pavement for some time but it then died down and restarted later.

"By the time the fire brigade got here the flames were down but it was still smoking."

Electricity North West (ENW) say the fire was caused by a fault on a piece of equipment underground, directly underneath the pavement.

The engineers spent all day on site yesterday trying to repair the damage and the road remained closed.

A spokesperson for ENW said that repair work would likely carry on into today (FRI).

They added: “An underground cable fault caused the loss of supply to 60 customers in Brampton at 4pm on Wednesday.

“Our engineers quickly arrived on site to ensure the area was safe. They worked through the night and restored power to 27 customers at 9.30pm, another 27 customers at 11.30pm and the remaining six customers at midnight.

“The fault, which occurred on a piece of equipment underneath the pavement, caused smoke and external damage on site, but we would like to assure customers that incidents of this nature are extremely rare and we regularly maintain our underground network to ensure customers across the north west receive a reliable supply of electricity."

They said Front Street will be reopened "as quickly as possible".

"We would like to thank Cumbria Police and Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service for their support and if customers would like any further information they can contact us on social media or on our website," the ENW spokesperson added.

Fortunately there is no damage to the inside of the church, a grade I-listed building.

Mrs Griffiths continued: "The outside of the church, though, is blackened. At the moment we are waiting for ENW to complete their work."

Video courtesy of Richard Elliot.