Three schoolboys have been arrested in connection with an arson attack which engulfed a house once owned by members of the Cadbury chocolate dynasty.

The youngsters, aged 12, 14 and 15, were detained yesterday by officers investigating the blaze at Northfield Manor House in Birmingham.

A police spokesman said the boys had been bailed pending further inquiries after being questioned about the fire, which broke out at about 8.30pm on Wednesday.

West Midlands Police are still appealing for anyone with information about the fire to come forward by contacting officers directly on 101 or the Crimestoppers hotline on 0800 555 111.

Northfield Manor House, which was severely damaged by the blaze, was acquired from the Cadbury family by the University of Birmingham in 1953.

The substantial but disused property is believed to have been lived in by social reformer George Cadbury, a son of the firm's founder, until his death in 1922.

Fire crews were also called to the house at about 2.30pm on Tuesday to deal with a minor blaze.

In a statement released last night, the University of Birmingham said planning approval had previously been sought from the city council to convert the building into flats.

The university said it retained its desire to keep the structure of the Manor House, but was now working with engineers and the local authority to understand the level of damage and secure the site.