The Crooked House Demolition

It occurs to me that a rapidly moving story like the Crooked House demolition saga will benefit from a series of updates about what’s gone on, as far as we know. I’ll update this as quickly and often as I’m able.


The Crooked House at Himley, once Britain’s wonkiest pub, was built in 1765. It gained its notoriety after 19th century mining subsidence made it lean. The angles involved meant that it created all kinds of fun optical illusions, like marbles appearing to roll uphill (look up gravity hills if you want to know more. The Telegraph reports that the Crooked House was not listed, but in the first week of August 2023 Historic England received a request from “experts” (unknown) that it be granted listed status and therefore enjoy legal protection of its structure and features.

The Sale

25th June 2023: The pub closes after a break in which causes severe internal and external damage. They expect to be closed for 2 weeks, but then are told they cannot return to the building. Scroll down for more details on this, because I only noticed this aspect of the timeline on 15th August!

27th July 2023: The pub confirmed on its Facebook page that Marstons had sold the building for “alternative use”. We later discovered that the landlord handed over his keys on 18th July.

Unlikely to be open it’s doors again..marstons have sold the site to private buyer for alternative use that is all we know.

The Crooked House demolition

August 2023 – The Fire

10.45pm 5th August 2023: Firefighters and police are called to attend a fire, sweeping through the iconic building, as reported the next morning by Sky News and multiple outlets.

The Crooked House Demolition

“Sometime this afternoon” 7th August 2023: The remaining structure of The Crooked House is reported to have been demolished by multiple outlets, including the Birmingham Mail.

What happened next?

  • In a letter to the Leader of South Staffs Council dated 7th August (before news of the demolition broke) West Midlands Mayor Andy Street called for the pub to be rebuilt brick by brick. He tweeted a photo of the letter here.
  • 7th August – There are lots of interesting details in this piece by The Mirror. Including the suggestion that “mounds of dirt were blocking access roads to the pub after the fire started.”
  • 7th August – Local police release a statement. I found the drone footage of the surviving structure quite interesting. In that, there is quite a lot of surviving structure, though the roof has gone.
  • 7th August – anonymous footage appears on social media of a digger reducing the remaining structure of the building to rubble. As reported by the Mirror.
  • 8th August – Guardian journalist Jessica Murray reveals the previously unnamed buyers of The Crooked House were one ATE Farms Ltd. Read her piece here. The Times reports that the police will be contacting the owners regarding the fire.
  • 8th August – South Staffs Council state that the demolition was not lawful. Read it in the Shropshire Star.
  • 9th August – There is a lot of speculation on social media about the new owners of the former Crooked House, their business interests and possible links. I’m not going to get involved in conspiracy theories until we hear more about proper investigations through the correct channels. So far reported in the press we see that the owner, through ATE Farms, was Carly Taylor. Her husband, Adam, is reported by the Sun to be “shareholder and former director of Himley Environmental Ltd which runs a land fill site next to the pub.”
  • 9th August – 2.37pm – Historic England have just confirmed that they received a request to list the Crooked House before the fire, which they were in the process of considering. Tweet here.

The case is treated as suspected arson

  • 9th August – 6.30pm – Police have confirmed they are now treating the case as arson. Police and fire officers were seen investigating the site earlier this afternoon. Watch the ITV News report here.
  • 9th August – the Daily Mail has taken an unsurprisingly Daily Mail angle on the whole story, but one section of their report stood out to me. It would be very interesting to know who their source is and what their relationship is to the story.

A source told MailOnline that 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.

Read more at MailOnline

A significant cultural moment

  • 10th August 10.30am – You know we have hit an important cultural moment as a nation when Pam Ayres pens a few lines about the situation. It’s clear that the Crooked House has resonance with people up and down the country. Many are expressing surprise that it is a pub that has united us. Having written about the importance of pubs for the last 5 years I am not in the least surprised.
  • Read Pam’s poem here.
  • 10th August – “The new owners of ‘Britain’s wonkiest pub’ destroyed by fire then demolished had also bought and allegedly gutted another traditional pub, it was claimed today” the Daily Mail reports.
  • Watch this space for more from West Midlands Night Time Economy Advisor, Alex Claridge.
  • 10th August – The Telegraph reports that the well known antique grandfather clock was removed from the pub sometime before the fire, it appears to have been gone by the first week in August. This article also confirms that the landlord handed over his keys on 18th July.
  • 10th August – a nice piece on the history of the pub and some treasured memories.
  • 11th August – Crooked House owners accused of ripping up woodland to build holiday homes. LBC
  • 12th August – Historic England confirm that they feel the pub should be rebuilt

(Apologies for the break in service – I’ve been on my holidays.)

  • 13th August – we’re mostly in the “speculation and commentary” stage now as there hasn’t been anything significant to report. The Independent have focused on the excavator used for the demolition being hired before the fire, which had already been suggested in the press.
  • 14th August – an opinion piece by Simon Jenkins for the Guardian.
  • 14th August – South Staffs Council release a fresh statement.
  • 14th August – The Architects’ Journal – ‘Crooked Houses’s demolition highlights a major deficiency in the UK listing system
  • 15th August – a summary of what we know about the new owner of the Crooked House, with an interesting quote from Marstons that the pub was sold “as a going concern”. I highlight this because so many people have commented “well, if it made any money they wouldn’t have sold it” which is a. not true and b. not actually relevant.
  • 15th August 8.30pm – just adding a couple of observations that had escaped my notice previously. The Crooked House was broken into on the evening of 25th June, as recorded on their Facebook page. They reported it to be “severely damaged internally and externally.” They closed, hoping the repairs would not take longer than 2 weeks. (27th June status) Then, on the 8th July, the status update reads:

Unfortunetly due to the damage done after the break in and now marstons sale of the site I have been told I can no longer trade or operate at this site. This happening so quick and is as much of a shock to myself than it is to everyone else.

The site is made safe

  • 15th August – The Birmingham Mail reports that the site has been fenced off (finally!) at the request of the Health & Safety Executive. Let’s hope that stops people taking ‘souvenirs’ because it’s never going to be rebuilt brick by brick if everyone nicks the bricks.
  • 15th August – Historic England are willing to explore options for rebuilding the site in conjunction with South Staff Council, reports LBC.
  • 16th August – The BBC reports on the Crooked House owners’ links to a previous major fire.
  • 16th August – MP appeals to public to have patience, reported in Shropshire Star.
  • 17th August – A Midlands MP appeals for a ‘Crooked House Law’ at a public meeting, so that heritage venues receive better protection, reports Beer Today.
  • 17th August – The Times reports that the owner of the company who hired the digger to demolish the building (rented before the fire occured remember) is a convicted drug smuggler. He is not suspected of acting illegally in this case. The Times also reports that the owners of the Crooked House are currently MIA.
  • 18th August – Luckily the Mirror is on it, they are on holiday in Corfu.
  • 19th August – The Taylors have told reporters to “piss off and let us have a holiday” because obviously it’s been very stressful to have new property purchase almost immediately burn down and then be bulldozed. That would stress me out for sure.

The Crooked House pervades the popular consciousness further

  • 20th August – Chants about the Crooked House were heard at Wolverhampton’s defeat to Brighton, reports the Express and Star.
  • 21st August – We are to blame for letting pubs go unloved, writes Sathnam Sangera for The Times.
  • 21st August 9.30pm – protesters block the road to the Crooked House to hamper contractors on the site, the BBC reports.
  • 22nd August – the Crooked House has gone, any attempt to rebuild would be a “worthless fake” says one architect.
  • 22nd August – Well, I didn’t expect that. Local paranormal society stages all-night vigil to watch over the carcass of the building, The Guardian reports.

Arrests made

  • 24th August – Two men have been arrested in connection with the fire, The Guardian reports.
  • 25th August – Dudley & South Staffordshire branch of CAMRA are making the Crooked House the symbol of their annual beer festival, CAMRA’s What’s Brewing reports.
  • 25th August 7.50pm -The two men arrested over the pub fire have been released on conditional police bail, the Guardian reports. They were arrested “on suspicion of arson with intent to endanger life”.
  • 25th August – Update on the investigation from South Staffs Police.
  • 28th August – Campaigners renew pleas for the Crooked House to be rebuilt on This Morning, the Express & Star reports.
  • 28th August – Police continue to appeal for information about the fire.
  • 30th August – CAMRA pushes for an Asset of Community Value vote to protect the remains of the Crooked House.

My latest article for What’s Brewing

Read about my thoughts on whether the Crooked House can rise again here.

In other news…

  • 31st August – The derelict Windmill pub in St James’s Road, Croydon saw the second floor and roof destroyed in the early hours of this morning, while just streets away, the first and second floors in the Drum and Monkey pub on Gloucester Road were also destroyed in a separate incident. The BBC, amongst others, has reported.
  • 31st August – “Camp Wonky” are at the end of their second week keeping watch over the site, The Guardian reports.

September 2023

  • 1st September – Contractors move off site as ‘ceremony of locks’ due to be held, the Express and Star reports.
  • 1st September – The latest statement from South Staffs Council about the 25,000 bricks that have been salvaged from the site and are undergoing cleaning, plus the ongoing status of their investigation.
  • 2nd September – The padlocking ceremony is held to protect the remaining bricks as some reportedly go for £50 on Facebook (stay classy everyone). The BBC reports here.
  • 7th September – a third man has been arrested under suspicion of conspiracy to commit arson, the Shropshire Star reports.
  • 10th September – Take a look at the footprint of the site – all that remains after the rubble is shifted. Express and Star.
  • 10th September – Now this may just be me, but this article ‘Can fire-hit Crooked House rise from the ashes’ on the BBC seems to share striking parallels to my own piece for What’s Brewing from a couple of weeks ago. But that’s probably just my imagination.
  • 11th September – Really quite disturbing news as the police report they are investigating disorder at ‘Camp Wonky’ over the weekend. The BBC report too, but it doesn’t add a lot to the Police statement.
  • 14th September – Man held over violence at the site.
  • 21st September – Public footpath near the site to be closed off for 6 months due to concerns about the instability of the ground, the Express & Star reports.

List Your Local

  • 23rd September – the List Your Local scheme is launched to encourage West Midlands residents to submit details of pubs they believe to be of historic significance. Head to the WMCA website to add your suggestions.

What can I do?

I will try and keep on top of events as they unfold. But in the meantime, it demonstrates starkly the importance of the work that CAMRA do to get important pub buildings listed. The Crooked House was not yet listed and the building had scant legal protection.

If you’re feeling angry and frustrated by what may or may not have happened to The Crooked House. If you definitely don’t want lose more historic pubs, then please check out the Pub Heritage Group. Consider volunteering your time and expertise to help them get more pubs listed. Or join CAMRA. Your subs will help to support this campaign and others that they run in support of UK beer, brewing and pubs.

Image of The Crooked House: © Copyright Stephen McKay and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

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