Midhurst hotel fire: Ukrainians including children are homeless again

Midhurst hotel fire: Tragedy as dozens of Ukrainian refugees including children are left homeless again after devastating fire tore through historic 400-year-old inn

  • The Angel Inn in Midhurst, West Sussex, was engulfed by an inferno overnight
  • West Sussex Fire and Rescue investigating cause. No casualties are reported 

A devastating fire that ripped through a 400-year-old market town hotel overnight has left dozens of Ukrainian refugees, including children, homeless today.

The Angel Inn in Midhurst, West Sussex, was among a number of buildings engulfed by a blaze in the early hours of this morning including a terraced property linked to HG Wells. 

Despite the scale and ferocity of the fire, no casualties have been reported, with four people briefly treated at the scene. Around 70 firefighters fought the blaze and the cause is still being investigated. 

The small historic inn was housing Ukrainian refugees, including several families with children, all of whom were evacuated. Sussex locals are now collection donations to help them. It is not yet known if they will be asked to help house them tonight or whether they refugees will be moved to a new hotel or temporary accommodation.

Andrew Ashton-Smith, a sales engineer from the nearby town of Petworth, volunteers at Petworth Ukraine Relief and said that the local community is ‘rallying together’ to provide aid for the Ukrainian refugees who were evacuated from the hotel.

Firefighters dealing with a fire in Midhurst, West Sussex which includes a 400-year-old hotel that was housing Ukrainian refugees who are now homeless

The fire was thought to have broken out shortly after 1am on Thursday at a property on North Street before spreading to the roof of the hotel next door

Fire has destroyed several buildings on North Street in Midhurst, West Sussex in the early hours of the morning, including the historic Angel Inn (pictured)

The scene from above earlier this morning shows the scale of the destruction to the hotel and other historic buildings

The Angel Hotel shortly before the inferno and – right – in a vintage illustration 

‘We’ve been helping Ukrainians since the start of the war, gathering aid and shipping tonnes and tonnes of stuff from West Sussex to Ukraine,’ said Mr Ashton-Smith, 44, who is friends with a number of Ukrainians affected by the fire.

‘We will dip into what we’ve already collected to help the Ukrainian refugees.

‘It has been a harrowing set of events for them, particularly as some have been faced with seriously war-torn arrangements to start with.’

‘It’s why we’re here rallying and pulling together as a community to see what we can do to help them.’

The sales engineer, who has a daughter who attends school with some of the affected Ukrainian children, said he feels shocked by the event but he is focused on helping those in need.

‘I feel shocked, but more keen to try and make sure that we can do all we can to help the Ukrainian families here as some of them have children,’ Mr Ashton-Smith said.

Coun Eileen Lintill, leader of Chichester District Council, said the occupants were being looked after at the authority’s rest centre.

She said: ‘Earlier this morning there was a significant fire at a hotel in North Street, Midhurst.

‘All occupants were safely evacuated by West Sussex Fire and Rescue, and they are now being cared for within our rest centre.

‘This must have been a terrible ordeal for those affected and our thoughts are with them. Our staff are currently doing everything they can to support them.

‘Local residents are being advised to keep their doors and windows closed, due to the smoke that is still in the area.

‘I would like to thank the fire crews for their exceptional work in safely evacuating the residents from the building, and our staff who quickly organised the rest centre for those who are affected.’

The Angel Inn in Midhurst, West Sussex, was among a number of buildings engulfed by a blaze in the early hours of this morning.

The fire broke out shortly after 1am at a property on North Street before spreading to the roof of the hotel next door. 

Local resident Hilton Holloway, who witnessed the inferno, said that around 30 people, including some children, were evacuated from the Grade-II listed former coaching inn. 

Most of the flames have now gone out and firefighters are hosing the wreckage of the building 

An aerial view of the building – an old coaching inn located on the town’s high street 

The historic building, which may date back as far as the 17th century, is pictured before the fire 

A picture of the hotel when it was still being used as a coaching inn 

Another historical photo of the hotel, which occupies a prominent position on the high street 

‘There were a number of Ukrainian refugees in the hotel, which had around 15 rooms,’ he said.

‘I spoke to one young woman who seemed relatively calm.’

Photos and video taken by Mr Holloway, who lives opposite the hotel, showed the spread of the fire from an adjoining building to the roof of the Angel Inn.

The hotel was previously a coaching inn which provided refreshment and rooms to travellers passing through the town. 

Its owners claim the business originated in the 17th century, although the official Historic England listing dates the building itself to the 18th century. 

Former guests, according to the owners, include writers HG Wells and Hilaire Beloc. 

West Sussex Fire and Rescue Services called the fire ‘significant’. Ten fire engines, an aerial ladder platform, water carrier and off-road vehicle responded to the incident.

Shortly after 6am the fire service said the incident had ‘escalated’ and 14 fire engines were on the scene tackling the blaze.

‘Over 30 people have been evacuated from the building and firefighters are working hard to bring the fire under control,’ West Sussex Fire and Rescue Services said.

A picture of the early stages of the fire that began at around 1am this morning (left) and the scene after daybreak (right) 

Members of the public gather behind a cordon at firefighters deal with the inferno 

Around 70 firefighters were fighting the blaze this morning in Sussex

Ten fire engines, an aerial ladder platform, a water carrier and an off-road vehicle were at the scene. The fire may have started in the property being targeted by the hose here

Speaking from the scene, Area Manager Richard Abbot advised commuters North Street would remain closed and asked the public to avoid the area.

‘It is too early in the incident to know the cause of the fire, however we will be investigating as soon as it is safe to do so,’ he said.

Sussex Police, which sent officers to the scene, warned road closures would be in place in the local area.

A spokesman for South East Coast Ambulance Service said that four people were treated at the scene but did not require hospital treatment.

He said: ‘I can confirm ambulance crews, including our Hazardous Area Response Team (HART) attended the scene alongside fellow emergency services.

‘Four people were treated and all were discharged at the scene. While the majority of our resources have left the scene, a small number remain to support the fire service.’

A local charity helping Ukrainian refugees has begun accepting donations to aid those affected by the fire.

Smoke pours from the building after an hour of water being fired into the Angel Inn

The centre of Midhurst is closed off today because of the fire

Witnesses said the fire spread to the historic hotel, and has destroyed its roof 

The blaze appears to have started in a smaller property but spread via the roof to buildings next door 

The three-star hotel boasted of its rich history. Pictured is one of the bedrooms 

The restaurant area of the hotel, which was ranked four our of five stars on Google 

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