A playgroup today made a desperate plea for toys and games after its equipment was destroyed by fire just days before Christmas.

Come and Play playgroup has been left without any equipment for youngsters after its meeting place, St Mark’s Church Hall in Teddington, burned to the ground.

The blaze, which started in the early hours of last Thursday, gutted the 100-year-old church hall in St Mark’s Road. Fire officers have not ruled out arson.

Jo Massie, who helps run the playgroup, which has been running for 20 years, said: “Obviously we are devastated at the sad news of the fire.

“We had a massive storage room full of bought and donated toys and games that are now in ashes.

“During that time it has brought so much support and joy to a growing number of mums and toddlers.”

Puzzles, dressing-up clothes, tricycles, musical instruments and painting tools were just some of the items in the endless list of equipment lost in the fire.

The group is now asking the community for donations and is hoping people will be feeling extra generous as new toys replace old ones over the festive period.

Staff are hoping to continue the popular playgroup inside the church, which was not affected by the fire, until a permanent alternative can be found.

Mrs Massie added: “All the mums agree this cannot be the end of Come and Play’s history.

“Obviously it is going to take some time before we can resume back at St Mark’s, so in the meantime, we are going to get together in the new year to see how we will carry on “We hope to be able to temporarily meet in the church itself as there is a carpeted area where we could do stories and singing.“

Richmond’s London Assembly Member, Councillor Toby Arbour, sent his support to the group and said he was sure the “resilient community” would help secure a stong recovery for users of the hall.

Firefighters received reports of the fire at the hall at about 5.30am last Thursday.

About 25 firefighters attended the scene and battled the blaze for more than an hour-and-a-half.

St Mark’s Vicar David Lund said fire officers had told him they were “not convinced” the fire was an accident but a spokesman for the London Fire Brigade said the investigation into the cause of the blazewere still underway.

Donations of toys or funds can be sent to Jo Massie, Absolute Concepts Ltd, 8 The Causeway, Teddington, TW11 0HE.

Alternatively email joandcolin@hotmail.co.uk if you would like donations to be collected from your house.