Express & Star

The Crooked House: Where things stand six months since destruction of Britain’s wonkiest pub

Six months ago on a quiet August Saturday night, the iconic Crooked House was mysteriously destroyed in a fire, just over a week since it had been sold for a reported £675,000 to a buyer who reputedly wanted to change its use.

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The sad remains of The Crooked House six months after the fire and demolition

The use of building, which dates back to 1735, was changed from a farmhouse to a pub in 1830 and became a well known tourist attraction due to the mining subsidence which caused one side of the building to be approximately four feet (1.2 m) lower than the other.

Famous for its wonky appearance and marbles appearing to roll uphill, many people visited from far and wide to see it and it was a popular venue in the area for social functions.

The fire caused shock waves amongst the community in the immediate Himley and surrounding area but also worldwide, with news outlets from countries across the globe reporting on its demise.

Worse was to follow though when just two days later the remaining structure of the stricken pub was bulldozed in broad daylight on a Monday afternoon. Far from just shock, the act sparked a campaign backed by MPs, pub champions, historians and members of the public, to rebuild it 'brick by brick.'

The Save the Crooked House (Let's Get it Rebuilt) group has over 35,000 members and is this weekend marking the six month anniversary of the historic 18th century pub being burned down.

Members are more determined than ever to get it re-built and save other historic Black Country Pubs, such as the Blue Brick in Brierley Hill, being developed for other use. Six months on their determination is greater than ever as we shall see.

Here is a timeline of events that put 'Britain's Wonkiest Pub' back onto the map for all the wrong reasons.

March 28 2023

The Express & Star reports the unique pub is one of 61 in the Marston's estate being sold off, with a guide price on Right Move of £675,000.

July 27

A Facebook post on The Crooked House's page says it has been: 'Sold to a private buyer and unlikely to open its doors again.'

The post, from the present landlord continues: "Marston's have sold the site to private buyer for alternative use, that is all we know. This is just to update the page so nobody makes any wasted journeys to the site .

"Again, thanks all for your custom and support in the 10 months I had there and wish things could have been very different but unfortunately not. Keep supporting the great other local pubs to make sure they stay as they should be."

August 5

The Crooked House catches fire in a devastating blaze just over a week on from being sold, on a Saturday evening,

Thick smoke and flames tear through the historic building, and they can be seen for miles around despite it being night. Over 30 firefighters tackle the blaze which is shown in dramatic pictures from eyewitnesses. Other pictures capture the aftermath of the blaze. A joint investigation by Staffordshire Police and Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service is launched immediately and road closures around the site continue until the next day.

The Crooked House ablaze. Photo: Chris Green
The burnt out remains of The Crooked House pub near Dudley. A fire gutted the 18th century pub just days after it was sold to a private buyer. Firefighters and police were called to the pub in Himley, West Midlands, at 10.45pm on Saturday. The blaze was extinguished and no-one was reported to have been injured, Staffordshire Police said. Picture date: Monday August 7, 2023. PA Photo. See PA story FIRE Crooked. Photo credit should read: Jacob King/PA Wire.

August 6

As people wake up to the devastating news about The Crooked House and heartfelt tributes are left at the site, a petition is launched calling for the pub building to be saved. It also calls for the pub to be rebuilt at the Black Country Living Museum. It attracts hundreds of signatures within just 14 hours.

Flowers and a card left on signage outside the remains of The Crooked House pub near Dudley which was demolished two days after it was gutted by fire.

August 7

The Black Country Living Museum rules out being able to save the pub, with bosses saying it is not a realistic option and that the museum is 'not in a position to save, let alone relocate, the building'.

On the same day, a Monday afternoon, The Crooked House is demolished in broad daylight less than 48 hours after the devastating fire. Manned diggers leave a pile of rubble in their wake. Hundreds of people gather at the site in Himley, where the pub once stood and express their anger and upset at the news

The Crooked House after it was demolished
Former customers of the Crooked House, Rob Brown and Hayley Mason. join a vigil to the pub after it has been destroyed

August 8

Just a day after its destruction, West Midland's Mayor Andy Street calls for The Crooked House to be 'rebuilt brick by brick and plans for the site to be blocked'.

On the same day South Staffordshire Council confirms the demolition of the pub and say it was 'not agreed or deemed necessary,' giving them the opportunity, they say, to take action against those who bulldozed it to the ground.

August 9

After days of speculation, Staffordshire Police confirm The Crooked House blaze is being treated as arson A spokesperson for the force said: "Our investigation into a fire at the Crooked House on Himley Road last Saturday (August 5) continues as we try to understand the circumstances, which we are now treating as arson.

"This fire has shocked and upset so many given the, albeit not listed, cultural importance and heritage of the building. This is not lost on us and a robust investigation using all available information and forensic opportunities is being carried out.

"We’re conducting a joint investigation with colleagues at Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service and are liaising closely with their fire investigators who have confirmed that the cause of the fire cannot currently be determined. But police are following up on a number of lines of enquiry."

August 15

The Express & Star reports the new owners of the demolished Crooked House run a Leicestershire based business called ATE Farms which is listed as having the main purpose of the letting and operation of real estate.

On the same night, Dudley North MP Marco Longhi tells a meeting at Himley Hall packed with supporters and national media he wants the Crooked House to 'rise from the ashes' and backs the Save the Crooked House (Let's Get it Rebuilt) group, which is growing in numbers. He pledged to campaign for a 'Crooked House Law' which will give more protection to heritage pubs and buildings and help rebuild the historic pub 'brick by brick.'

Marco Longhi addresses a packed meeting about the Crooked House held at Himley Hall
Dudley North MP Marco Longhi addresses hundreds of people at a meeting at Himley Hall, close to the Crooked House site, just a week after its burned out shell was demolished following an arson attack
MP Marco Longhi with Jane Baker from Halesowen, campaigning to 'Re build the Crooked House'

August 21

A stand off takes place between contractors working at the former site of the Crooked House and members of a protest group.

Save the Crooked House campaigner Jane Baker holds a sign during a sit-down protest in front of a lorry on the lane leading to the remains of the pub in Himley, near Dudley.

Workers from Putnam Construction Services move onto the site after the new owners contacted South Staffordshire Council, but they illegally block off a public access path from Himley Road .

Protestors face off with workers outside The Crooked House site in Himley

At one point two protestors sat in the middle of the access road and blocked a lorry from the construction company until police intervened.

Police and an official from South Staffordshire Council are called, along,with Mr Longhi, who acts as an intermediary between the parties.

August 22

South Staffordshire Council says it has reached an agreement to keep the bricks and foundations of the former pub on the site after talks with contractors and the present owners.

Meanwhile West Midlands historian, author and radio host Carl Chinn visits the site of the ruins with councillors Claire Sullivan, David Stanley and Bryn Challenor, They all pledge their support for the campaign to rebuild the pub

DUDLEY COPYRIGHT TIM STURGESS EXPRESS AND STAR 19/08/2023.Dr Carl Chinn supporting the 'Re-build' of the Crooked house, Himley, campaign, visiting the site with Gornal councillor Bryn Challenor. Pictured, left, Cllr Bryn Challenor, Cllr Claire Sullivan, Paul Turner, Cllr David Stanley and Carl Chinn...

August 24

Two men are arrested by police on suspicion of arson with intent to endanger life after the fire earlier in the month

September 2

Thousands of bricks from the demolished remains of the pub are securely locked away in a container in a symbolic padlocking ceremony. Featherstone based company Squire Locks would later provide secure locks for the containers.

DUDLEY COPYRIGHT SHROPSHIRE STAR STEVE LEATH 02/09/2023..Pic at Crooked House, Himley, where the bricks were being locked away. MP Marco Longhi..
DUDLEY COPYRIGHT SHROPSHIRE STAR STEVE LEATH 02/09/2023..Pic at Crooked House, Himley, where the bricks were being locked away. The locks go on, MP Marco Longhi and in the middle in the black T-Shirts: Campaigners: Ian Sandall and Paul Turner from Sedgley and Wombourne and in the high vis from demolition company: Putnam isAdam Marshall..

September 7

A third arrest is made over events surrounding the fire.

September 10

The unofficial Crooked House camp is left empty amidst reports of clashes between two rival groups on a Saturday night.