Osborne View fire: Former staff member shares memories of "formative" time at Hill Head pub

The Osborne View pub was destroyed by a fire in the early hours of Wednesday, February 22.The Osborne View pub was destroyed by a fire in the early hours of Wednesday, February 22.
The Osborne View pub was destroyed by a fire in the early hours of Wednesday, February 22. | Liam Reeves, Sarah Standing
A former employee of a beloved pub destroyed in a fire has shared his memories of the "formative" time he spent working there.

Liam Reeves, 28, grew up in Hill Head and worked at The Osborne View from the ages of 16 to 21. Crews from 10 fire stations were called to tackle a large fire in Hill Head this morning, with local people asked to avoid the area and keep windows and doors shut.

Liam Reeves and Ellen Day at The Osborne View in 2016.Liam Reeves and Ellen Day at The Osborne View in 2016.
Liam Reeves and Ellen Day at The Osborne View in 2016. | Contributed

Liam described working at the pub - named for the fact that historic royal residence Osborne House on the Isle of Wight is visible from it on a clear day - as something of a right of passage for local people in the "tight-knit" Hill Head community . He heard about the shocking incident from his mother via text this morning, and was in touch with former colleagues from the pub through a WhatsApp group.

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Liam, who now lives in London, told The News: "I was really shocked. The first thing I was worried about was if everyone was okay - some of my ex-colleagues live in flats there. I was quite concerned because I have friends who live on the road. I've spoken to them all and they are fine - just a bit shaken up, obviously. It's lucky that there were no casualties.

Scene of the fire following the fire at the Osborne View in Hill HeadScene of the fire following the fire at the Osborne View in Hill Head
Scene of the fire following the fire at the Osborne View in Hill Head | The News

"It's sad because they were very formative years of my life. Hopefully they will be able to reconstruct something there. There's only a handful of pubs so it's where people would meet at Christmas and New Year's. If you spent the day at the beach, you'd go in and have a sandwich and a pint. For me, it's where I made quite a lot of life-long friends as well. It's sort of like a right of passage to work at The Osborne when you grow up in the village."

Liam worked there for five years, during one of which he lived on a flat on the ground floor of the grand building. He has continued to visit the pub regularly since moving away from Hill Head, and added that he has many happy memories associated with the historic building.

He added: "Guests would always come in and ask where Osborne House was, but it wasn't very well kept on the Isle of Wight side - so it would always be behind loads of trees. We used to just point and circle our fingers around at somewhere in the distance."

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Responding to The News' coverage of the pub's destruction, local people have shared their sorrow at seeing the carnage.

Commenting on our Facebook page, one person said: "This is so sad, I hope everyone is safe. loved visiting this beautiful pub - food was amazing, many happy memories visiting the Osborne pub."

Another added: "How sad! Had many happy memories there. Lovely food, great views."

Speaking this afternoon, Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service incident commander Jim Clarke said: “We are currently using six fire engines, the aerial ladder and jets to dampen down hotspots. We anticipate an emergency service presence for a large portion of the day and we’re liaising with local residents about safety precautions such as keeping doors and windows closed whilst the incident is ongoing.

“There is sadly a significant amount of damage to the building. Our empathy is with the owners, staff and local residents as we know The Osborne View is an asset to the community.”

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