Police had to evacuate houses after a fire engulfed a barn used to store gas bottles and petrol.

At about 11.50am today, four fire engines from Halstead, Sible Hedingham, Suffolk and a water bowser from Coggeshall were sent to Hilltop Farm in Bulmer.

Crews reported that the barn was being used as a workshop and the blaze involved cylinders, gas bottles and a store of petrol.

Police were called to evacuate neighbouring homes and to deal with onlookers.

Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus used one hose reel, one main jet and a ground monitor to tackle flames and to cool the cylinders.

At 12.10pm, one of the cylinders exploded.

The fire was under control by 1.30pm and the crews carried on trying to cool the oxygen cylinders.

Firefighters put the blaze out by 2.30pm and a joint police and fire service investigation will be carried out to establish the cause.

Some 500 yards from the fire, a woman riding a horse was taken to hospital by air ambulance after the horse was startled and threw her off.

More information to follow.