The owners of a 400-year-old hotel destroyed by fire have described losing “a rare gem”.

The Angel Inn in Midhurst caught fire on Thursday, March 16, with the roof and interior of the building ravaged by flames.

Now the owners of the hotel, which previously played guest to author H.G. Wells, have shared their heartache at watching the Grade II listed property “burn down before our eyes”.

In a statement on Facebook, the owners said: “We witnessed our beloved and immensely precious hotel burn down before our eyes.

“We have lost a rare gem, an iconic lady who looked over our beautiful town and we are all trying to come to terms with this immense loss.

“She was not just a building, but our whole livelihood and business for our family and loyal staff and in a matter of hours it has been ripped away from us.”

The Argus: The aftermath of the fireThe aftermath of the fire (Image: Sussex News and Pictures)

The owners also shared their relief that the Ukrainian refugees housed in the hotel had been evacuated safely but added “they now again need to rebuild their lives and start over and that has given our family an incredible amount of heartache”.

Fire services reached the hotel in the early hours of the morning after a blaze reportedly started in a neighbouring building and spread to the 17th century property.

The owners thanked emergency services “for their effort and the support of our staff, friends and family who have been so steadfast for us”.

The business also thanked restaurant Lime and Spice for opening to accommodate the families evacuated from the building.

A spokesman for Midhurst Fire Station previously said: “So much has already been said about this incident and the response from the local community. We would like to take this opportunity to express our appreciation to all our neighbouring services and partner agencies who supported us.

“We’d also like to express our heartfelt thanks for the enormous community support provided from the moment we arrived, too many of you to mention individually, but you know who you all are thank you and also for the overwhelming number of kind messages of support.”