The charming West Midlands pub with its 16-degree list burned down a week ago. Locals are heartbroken; police are suspicious:
When locals awoke on Sunday morning to the news that the pub, famously wonky due to mining subsidence, had burned to the ground the previous night, there was mounting anger.
As more details emerged, suspicions grew. The road to the pub, which had been sold to new owners nine days previously, was blocked with mounds of earth so fire engines were unable to get close to the burning building.
There was already nationwide concern over the blaze, but the events of Monday caused a huge outcry. While Staffordshire police were releasing a statement saying they were reviewing all evidence to investigate the cause of the fire, a video appeared online showing a digger knocking down the remains of the building. South Staffordshire council disclosed that they had spoken to the owners but did not agree to a full demolition. It also emerged that the digger had allegedly been hired and brought on site before the fire took place.
All that remains is a pile of rubble, along with scattered placards from locals who have been staging protests at the scene, demanding that the pub be rebuilt.
The Times has more:
The Crooked House had faced tough financial circumstances, a local councilor, Roger Lees, said, although other customers said the spot had still been doing relatively brisk business. The new owners intended to redevelop the property for “alternative use,” said the West Midlands mayor, Andy Street, rather than maintain the pub.
The previous proprietor, Marston’s, sold the building to a company called ATE Farms Limited in late July, a Marston’s spokesman wrote in an email. ATE could not be reached for comment.
In a statement on Wednesday, Staffordshire’s police department said the fire may have been started deliberately, although it did not name any suspects. The police and firefighters visited the demolition site this week with a dog specially trained to detect accelerants, the department added. The police and the fire service declined to comment further because the investigation is ongoing.
I had hoped to visit the pub next year. This is disappointing, to say the least. The pub's destruction has spurred new calls for legislation to protect the UK's historic pubs. I hope it gets through Parliament soon, and also that whoever burned the pub down goes to jail for a long time.
Next trip, though, I'll make sure to stop by the Carlton Tavern, just a few blocks from Abbey Road Studios in London. The pub opened in 1921 and was the only building on its street to survive the Blitz in 1940-41. Tel Aviv-based CLTX Limited demolished it illegally in 2015—just two days before it would have been listed officially as an historic building. Outrage over its destruction led to the Westminster City Council to order it rebuilt brick by brick. It reopened in April 2021, six years and three days after its bulldozing, under new ownership.