Ex-landlord has a drink in rubble of UK's wonkiest pub Crooked House

One last drink for the Crooked House: Ex-landlord toasts Britain’s wonkiest pub in emotional final farewell as devastated campaigners gather near rubble of demolished remains and vow to rebuild it after devastating fire

  • Crooked House in Himley, Staffordshire, was severely damaged in weekend fire
  • Campaigners furious after 18th century site was reduced to rubble on Monday 

A former landlord at ‘Britain’s wonkiest pub’ has drunk a can of Banks’s Mild amid the rubble as a final farewell after the building was destroyed by fire then demolished.

Tom Catton, who ran the 18th century Crooked House with his wife Laura between 2006 and 2008, said he was ‘absolutely gutted’ about the blaze, adding that the ale house was where he met his wife, proposed and where they had their first child.

The pub in Himley, Staffordshire, was severely damaged in the fire over the weekend before being reduced to rubble on Monday. Diggers moved in to knock down what was left of the venue within hours of police and firefighters leaving the site.

Police are probing the cause of the fire while South Staffordshire Council lawyers are investigating potential breaches of the Town and Planning Act after the demolition.

Speaking to the PA news agency at the rubble yesterday, Mr Catton said the couple’s lives would have been very different without the historic Black Country pub. He bid farewell to the pub with a Banks’s, which is brewed six miles away in Wolverhampton.

Mr Catton said: ‘Absolutely gutted. It means so much to us this place. This is where I met my wife Laura. I proposed to her here, we had our first kid here, so it holds a lot of memories. Even after 15 years away it means a lot to us, a lot of memories.’

Mrs Catton said the ‘crazy’ subsidence-hit pub was ‘wonkier upstairs than downstairs’, with Mr Catton adding: ‘A lot of people thought they were drunk when they walked in because everything was all over the place.

‘It doesn’t do it justice, the name Crooked House. It was all over the place. It had to be seen to be believed and it can’t be, unfortunately, any more.’

Locals now hope the pub can be rebuilt. Paul Turner, who had started a petition to save it, told ITV’s Good Morning Britain (GMB): ‘I’d like to think that we could do something to get it rebuilt in some form so the history is not lost. It’s been here 1765.’

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street also wants the pub to be rebuilt and said the local authority should consider barring any change of use application for the site.

Tom Catton, who ran the 18th century Crooked House with his wife Laura between 2006 and 2008, drinks a can of Banks’s mild amid the rubble as a final farewell to the building yesterday

People inspect the rubble of the Crooked House pub in Himley, Staffordshire, yesterday

Paul Turner, who had started a petition to save it, told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: ‘I’d like to think that we could do something to get it rebuilt in some form so the history is not lost’

People inspect the rubble of the Crooked House pub in Himley, Staffordshire, yesterday

Stuart Hall, who had set up a Facebook page to save the Crooked House, told Good Morning Britain: ‘Absolutely devastating. I can’t talk about it, I get emotional, it’s terrible.’

The Crooked House, which was dubbed ‘Britain’s wonkiest pub’, is pictured before the fire

Stuart Hall, who had set up a Facebook page to save the Crooked House, also told GMB: ‘Absolutely devastating. I can’t talk about it, I get emotional, it’s terrible.’

Britain’s ‘wonkiest pub’ where coins rolled UP the bar before being destroyed by fire: How Staffordshire venue The Crooked House sunk 4ft into ground due to mine subsidence

A wonky historic 18th century pub that burned down last week was famed the world over for its baffling appearance and optical illusions that saw coins and marbles appear to roll up the bar.

The Crooked House in Himley, Staffordshire, attracted tourists from across the world and was a popular wedding venue – and brings a sorry end to its nearly 200-year-old history.

Prior to its destruction, the venue was often described as Britain’s wonkiest pub, sitting 4ft lower on one side than the other.

The Crooked House pub, pictured in 1907 

It was first built as a farmhouse in 1765, but gradually sank into the ground on one side due to subsidence from mining works carried out in the 1800s.

It was converted into a pub in around 1830 and was first known as The Siden House – ‘siden’ being Black Country dialect for ‘crooked’.

It was later renamed the Glynne Arms after Sir Stephen Glynne, a brother-in-law of Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone, who owned the land on which the tavern stood.

While the Glynne Arms name remained above the door into the 1970s, the pub had acquired a more affectionate nickname among locals by then – the ‘Crooked House’, which was later adopted as the formal moniker.

Inside, drinkers might have been convinced they had one too many before they had even sipped their first pint – because while the floors and fixtures such as the bars and seats were level, the ceilings, walls and windows were not.

A picture postcard from the early 1900s shows marbles appearing to roll up the bar

A mind-boggling optical illusion known as a ‘gravity hill’ meant that coins and marbles appear to roll uphill when placed on slightly downhill surfaces that were sitting at a less jaunty angle than the rest of the pub.

Picture postcards of the era – a popular way for visitors to show families back home where they were visiting in the years before photography was commonplace – made much of the pub’s quirks.

Many are captioned ‘The Crooked House’, while one even features a table of well-dressed country gentlemen marvelling at a marble appearing to roll up their table.

The pub had been threatened with closure in the 1940s after it was deemed unsafe. By this time, one side of the building had sunk a full 4ft into the ground, despite the owners installing buttresses to stop it from slipping any further.

Wolverhampton and Dudley Breweries then purchased the building, reinforcing the supports with girders, and it remained open until earlier this year when the same brewer – now known as Marston’s – announced that it was closing it as part of a cost-cutting regime.

The brewing giant said it was selling off 61 locations to ‘maximise returns from our core estate’.

The Crooked House went on the market in January with a guide price of £675,000 and was sold last month to ATE Farms Limited, a company controlled by Carly Taylor, 34.

Mr Hall had set up a Facebook group to campaign for the preservation of the Crooked House as a pub when it was put up for sale by Marston’s.

Speaking yesterday, he said of the last few days: ‘It was just a shock on Saturday to find out it was on fire – absolutely devastating. I could get emotional, it’s terrible.

‘My parents used to have a pub in Dudley in the late 60s and early 70s, and they used to bring us here 50 years ago. To see what it’s like today is gut-wrenching, it really is.’

The 59-year-old, whose Facebook group has swelled to more than 6,000 people from around the world since the fire, added: ‘Pubs – that’s a big, passionate thing for Black Country people.

‘Yesterday (Monday) I was at home and people were messaging me on Facebook. About five o’clock last night they just completely destroyed it. Anger was there and I am not an angry person.’

Mr Turner, whose online Save The Crooked House petition has attracted more than 12,000 signatures, said the pub was a tourist attraction and particularly popular with those who visited it for the first time.

Mr Turner, from nearby Wombourne, said: ‘First of all there was the fire. I was absolutely devastated. We had all sorts of ideas about what we were going to try and do to make sure the place stayed as a pub.

‘The next thing is it was burning down. Two days later we suddenly found out it had been flattened as well. We thought the shell looked reasonably secure from what we could see.’

The 58-year-old continued: ‘I remember driving down this road with my parents when I was about six years old and laughing at this funny building. It was part of my childhood. The landlord would show us the marble rolling up the ledge on the wall. It was something we were proud of as Black Country people – it was ours.’

Asked what the future might hold for the ruined pub and what he thought of calls to rebuild it, Mr Turner said: ‘I think the only possibility really is some sort of replica. We need to do something, we can’t just lose it.’

Police said they are investigating ‘all of the available evidence into the cause’ of the blaze with Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service, with no cause yet established.

The authority said officers had visited the site near Dudley on Monday but had not agreed to ‘the demolition of the whole structure’ or deemed that it was necessary.

Now, a married couple are facing questions after the Crooked House was destroyed just days after they bought it.

Police said detectives would be speaking to the new owners of the pub, which was sold by Marston’s Brewery in July to ATE Farms Limited, a company controlled by Carly Taylor, 34. It had been listed for sale for £675,000.

Mrs Taylor is married to Adam, 44, who is shareholder and former director of Himley Environmental Ltd which runs a landfill site next to the pub.

A source told the Daily Mail the purchase was ‘all about access’ and followed disagreements between the firm and Marston’s over an access road to the pub which they shared.

Himley Environmental’s director Richard Longley could not be reached for comment. 

Mr Taylor declined to comment when approached at his home in Lutterworth, Leicestershire, yesterday. Marston’s did not respond to request for comment.

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street has said ‘questions need answering’ over the fire, which happened just days after the pub was sold by Marston’s for ‘alternative use’.

It has also emerged that firefighters were hampered in their efforts to put out the fire by mounds of dirt which had been dumped across the only access road, meaning they had to pump water from a local stream down the lane with hoses.

The building had been operating as a pub but closed last month to repair tens of thousands of pounds of damage caused during a break-in.

In a letter to Staffordshire council leader Roger Lees, Mr Street said a ‘tragic act’ should not be the end of The Crooked House.

In the letter, which was also signed by West Midlands night-time economy adviser Alex Claridge, he added: ‘We therefore ask that you consider ensuring the property is rebuilt brick by brick (using as much original material as possible) before any further discussions about the future of the site take place.’

People inspect the rubble of the Crooked House pub in Himley, Staffordshire, yesterday

Rubble of the Crooked House pub is pictured yesterday following the fire over the weekend 

People inspect the rubble of the Crooked House pub in Himley, Staffordshire, yesterday

Rubble of the Crooked House pub is pictured yesterday following the fire over the weekend

Two chairs are seen outside the Crooked House pub yesterday after its demolition on Monday

Staffordshire Police are reviewing ‘all of the available evidence’ into the cause of the fire

Furniture from the Crooked House pub is seen in the rubble yesterday after it was demolished 

‘We are aware that the Crooked House has only very recently been sold by Marston’s to a private developer with the intention of the site being used for ‘alternative use’.

READ MORE Married couple face questions after 18th Century boozer dubbed ‘Britain’s wonkiest pub’ was destroyed by fire and then demolished

‘However, our understanding is that any alternative use would have to be approved by your council’s planning department or committee, and so we would therefore ask you to strongly consider not allowing any alternative use and instead keeping this iconic location as a pub.’

Mr Street said was ‘not inferring’ that the Crooked House was deliberately set alight, but that there are ‘major questions’ over the timing of the blaze.

In a second letter addressed to Staffordshire Police Chief Constable Chris Noble and Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Chief Fire Officer Rob Barber, he said: ‘Whilst we will avoid any speculation as to what has occurred, clearly there are major questions to be answered given how swiftly this fire happened following the sale of the pub to an unknown private developer.

‘We are also intrigued by the fact that your officers faced blocked access when trying to get to the scene.’

The Crooked House was demolished on Monday just hours after it was devastated by a fire

The remains of The Crooked House pub are pictured yesterday after the demolition

Primary school teacher Steven Banfield said he warned police the building was not secure and at risk of vandalism a week ago.

READ MORE Revealed: Experts urged Historic England to give Britain’s wonkiest pub listed building status just ONE WEEK before it burned down as remains of 18th century boozer – which was sold to developers last month – are demolished

He visited the site in the village of Himley, West Midlands, to take photographs on July 28 – the day the sale was announced and found the door open and no security.

Mr Banfield, 41, from Dudley, said he contacted police but only heard back on Sunday, the day after the fire, when officers got in touch asking him to send them his photographs.

‘I found it really strange that someone would spend all that money then not secure it. It is in a very remote location, I knew it was a sitting duck,’ he told the Daily Mail.

‘I contacted the police as it was playing on my mind because of the building’s history and how vulnerable it was.’

The pub, which was famed for being the place where coins and marbles seemingly rolled uphill along the bar, had only recently been put forward for listed status protection.

Heritage body Historic England received a submission from experts just a week before the inferno requesting that the pub be given protection as a listed building.

Staffordshire Police said on Monday that investigations into the cause of the fire are ongoing

Aerial shots after the fire showed just how badly the 18th century pub in Himley was damaged

Locals had started a petition calling for the pub to be saved after a sale was announced 

Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service and West Midlands Fire Service extinguished the flames 

An extension built to the rear of the pub in Staffordshire contained a restaurant space

Such measures mean property owners must first get local council permission before all works of demolition, alteration or extension on the building.

READ MORE Crooked House pub fire: Demolition of Britain’s wonkiest pub was carried out ‘without permission’ as council orders probe into ‘unacceptable’ planning breach after JCB tore down fire-ravaged boozer that was sold to ‘private buyer’ last month

Campaigners the Georgian Group are also looking into whether the Crooked House can be protected now after the fire, and if there are other options available than it being ‘left as a ruin’, reported the Daily Telegraph.

As a video of the demolition circulated on Facebook, many of the pub’s regular punters were left devastated by the sight.

One person wrote: ‘No way?!!! They have demolished the place THAT quickly?!!! Really???’

Another added: ‘Standing since the 18th century, been through war, mining, subsidence…the walls were still standing and a hope of saving something of a landmark, even if just the signage but these disgraceful individuals couldn’t even honour that.’

For decades, customers have flocked to the 18th-century hostelry, fascinated by the illusion that allowed them to roll a coin uphill along the bar.

In recent years it also became a popular wedding venue for people wanting to tie the knot at a location with a quirky backdrop.

Built in 1765 as a farmhouse it became a pub in the 1830s. It was initially named the Siden House; ‘siden’ means ‘crooked’ in the local Black Country dialect.

Its wonkiness is down to subsidence caused by mining, leaving one side 4ft (1.2m) lower than the other.

It was deemed unsafe in the 1940s and was scheduled for demolition, before it was bought by Wolverhampton and Dudley Breweries, which used buttresses and girders to make the structure safe while maintaining its lopsided appearance.

A blaze at Black Country pub the Crooked House engulfed the building over the weekend

Police arrived at the scene of the pub at 10.45pm on Saturday after the blaze began

In a statement issued yesterday, a day after a mechanical digger was used to reduce the remaining structure to rubble, Mr Lees said: ‘Our officers carried out a site visit to the site yesterday (Monday), prior to the demolition of the building.

READ MORE Britain’s ‘wonkiest pub’ is flattened after devastating fire tore through 18th century boozer

‘Officers agreed a programme of works with the landowner’s representative to ensure the safety of the building and the wider site.

‘The agreed course of action included the removal of three elements of the first-floor front elevation only. This was only to avoid the weak parts of the structure from falling.

‘At no point did the council agree the demolition of the whole structure nor was this deemed necessary.

Mr Lees added: ‘This council finds the manner in which the situation was managed following the fire completely unacceptable and contrary to instructions provided by our officers.

‘As such, we are currently investigating potential breaches of both the Town and Country Planning Act and the Buildings Act. As soon as we were made aware of the breaches during the demolition, we notified the Health and Safety Executive.

‘The council is incredibly saddened by the loss of the building which, whilst not listed, was a heritage asset and important landmark to the local area and community.

‘Over recent months, the council had been in conversation with the relevant national bodies regarding how best to protect and preserve this important heritage asset.’

The pub had attracted visitors from all over the world who marvelled at its appearance

Even in the modern era, before it closed, the pub retained its unique character. The floor, sofas and tables were perfectly upright – but the walls, ceilings and even the windows sat at an angle

Inside, its windows and walls all appeared crooked due to a bizarre effect through subsidence

The crooked nature of the pub attracted punters from around the world for decades

Detective Inspector Richard Dancey, from Staffordshire Police Criminal Investigation Division, said: ‘This incident has caused a great deal of speculation locally and we understand the significance of the building within the local community.

‘We would like to remind the public that our investigation is ongoing and we are reviewing all of the available evidence alongside fire investigators to determine the cause of the incident.

‘Due to the excess damage caused to the structure of the building, the cordon remains in place (on Monday) and we’re asking people to avoid the area.

‘Those who may have any useful information are urged to get in touch with us whilst we continue to complete our lines of enquiry alongside the fire service.’

Anyone with information can contact Staffordshire Police quoting ‘761 of August 5’

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