Experts wanted listed building status for 'wonky pub' before fire

Experts wanted listed building status for 'wonky pub' before fire

August 8, 2023

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

  • The Crooked House in Himley, West Midlands, was damaged in fire on Saturday 

Britain’s Wonkiest Pub was put forward for listed status protection just days before it burnt down, it has emerged.

Bulldozers flattened The Crooked House in Himley, West Midlands, yesterday after it was extensively damaged by fire over the weekend.

The blaze came just two weeks after the 18th century boozer – which attracted visitors from across the world due to its unique leaning effect – was sold by brewer Marston’s to a private buyer.

It was famed for being the place where coins and marbles seemingly rolled uphill along the bar.

Today it emerged that 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.

Britain’s Wonkiest Pub was demolished yesterday afternoon just two days after it was devastated by a fire

The building was constructed in 1765 as a farmhouse but became a pub in the 1830s with people flocking to see how one side is 4ft (1.2m) lower than the other 

A fire ripped through the famous pub just two days after it was sold to a private buyer

Bulldozers tore down the beloved structure, leaving a massive pile of rubble in its place

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

How to get historic buildings or sites protected through listing 

Historic England only takes forward applications where the building or site is under serious threat of demolition or major alteration, is within the remit of one of its strategic listing priorities or has very strong potential for inclusion on the National Heritage List for England.

The heritage body recommends including in any application:

The property address, or location information for sites without a postal address, so that we can clearly identify the building or site you are proposing

Ownership details including contact details. This is essential information so we can ensure people are informed and consulted when appropriate. If unknown, ownership information can usually be found on the Land Registry web site

Details of any current planning applications, permission or marine consent. This information can usually be found on your council website, or see the Planning Portal for further information

Photographs to support your application

The reasons why you believe the building or site should be assessed for listing (historic, architectural, archaeological, and/or artistic interest)

Documentary evidence to support your application, such as historic maps and research reports

A list of the books, articles, websites etc that you have used in completing your research

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’, the Telegraph reports.

It comes as West Midlands Mayor Andy Street said today that the pub ‘holds real cultural and historical significance’ and should be rebuilt ‘brick by brick’.

Mr Street penned a letter to South Staffordshire Council leader Roger Lees, which was also signed by West Midlands night-time economy adviser Alex Claridge, saying the pub should be rebuilt and the local authority should consider barring any change of use application for the site.

The two men said: ‘Whilst we do not yet know the cause of the fire or the outcome of any investigation being conducted by Staffordshire Police or Staffordshire Fire and Rescue, it is clear that we should not allow such a tragic act to be the end of The Crooked House.

‘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.

‘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’.

‘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.’

The blaze, which was tackled by 30 firefighters, came just two weeks after the building was sold by pub company Marston’s to a private buyer for ‘alternative use’.

Staffordshire Police said on Monday that they are reviewing ‘all of the available evidence’ into the cause of the blaze, which was extinguished by Sunday morning.

But there have been multiple reports that mounds of dirt were blocking access roads to the pub after the fire started, something Mr Street and Mr Claridge confirmed in a separate letter to the police and fire services.

The pair said they ‘make it clear we are not inferring’ that The Crooked House was deliberately set alight, but that there are ‘major questions’ over the timing of the blaze.

Staffordshire Police said on Monday that investigations into the cause of the fire at the pub were ongoing and a cordon remained in place around the site

Aerial shots after the fire showed just how badly the 18th century boozer was damaged

Police say nobody was injured and no one was found inside the building when they arrived on the scene at 10.45pm on Saturday

Locals started a petition calling for the pub to be saved after a sale was announced to a private buyer who intended to pursue an ‘alternative purpose’ for the site. They have since doubled down on calling for The Crooked House to be restored

Six fire crews from Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) and the West Midlands Fire Service needed a high-volume pump and several jets to extinguish the flames 

An extension built to the rear contained a restaurant space. It was also completely destroyed in the fire, with just traces of the roof remaining

The quirky entrance to the Crooked House, which brewers Marston’s sold off before the fire

The Crooked House pub in Himley, near Dudley in the West Midlands, operated as one of Britain’s more unconventional watering holes for nearly 200 years. This photo from 1907 shows how popular it was even back then

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 caused by mining in the 1800s

The crooked nature of the pub attracted punters for decades, with walls, doorways and windows all appearing slanted 

Their second letter was addressed to Staffordshire Police Chief Constable Chris Noble and and Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Chief Fire Officer Rob Barber.

It 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.

READ MORE: How Dudley bar The Crooked Pub sunk 4ft into the ground due to mine subsidence before being rescued from demolition and attracting admirers the world over 

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

In a tweet on Tuesday morning, Mr Street added: ‘We believe that great pubs have immense cultural and historical value here in the West Midlands – and we should be taking steps to protect and preserve their heritage.

‘The reaction of so many of you to the tragic fire at The Crooked House tells us we’re not alone. We’re on it.’

Detective Inspector Richard Dancey, from the 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 that may help the investigation is urged to contact Staffordshire Police quoting incident 761 of August 5.

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