Developers Who Leveled ‘Britain’s Wonkiest Pub’ Ordered to Rebuild

Developers Who Leveled ‘Britain’s Wonkiest Pub’ Ordered to Rebuild

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The Crooked House, a pub in England’s West Midlands that was demolished last year after a suspicious fire, could soon be rising from the rubble after its owners were ordered to restore the pub to its former lopsided glory.

The tavern, known as “Britain’s wonkiest pub” for its slanting walls and floors, was sold to a private developer in July 2023. Around two weeks later, the pub caught fire in a suspected arson attack and the developers who had bought it brought in the bulldozers. Locals were outraged. With the support of local politicians, they launched a public campaign to see the building restored and someone held accountable for its destruction.

Now, they may be one step closer to those goals becoming a reality. South Staffordshire Council, the local authority for the area where the pub once stood, on Tuesday ordered the owners to rebuild the pub within three years, restoring it using original materials and with its original character maintained.

The council said in a statement that it had “engaged with the owners since the demolition, but has reached a point where formal action is considered necessary.” An initial attempt to reach the owners by phone and email went unanswered.

The pub, located in Himley, a small village just west of Dudley, was not a listed building, which would have given it legal protection. But it was considered a “heritage asset” and registered on the Historic Environment Record as a building of local importance, according to the council.

Roger Lees, the leader of South Staffordshire Council, said in a statement that a “huge amount of time and resources” had been put into investigating the unauthorized demolition of the pub, and the enforcement order had not been taken lightly.

“But we believe that it is right to bring the owners, who demolished the building without consent, to account,” he said. “And we are committed to do what we can to get the Crooked House rebuilt.”

The building, constructed in 1765 as a farmhouse, began to slouch in the 19th century because of coal mining under its foundations. For generations, its window frames had slanted sideways and its walls seemed to tilt at a near gravity-defying angle, delighting both patrons and passers-by.

Despite its wobbly looks, the building was structurally safe after being shored up by steel bars and other supports. But its fate had become as precarious as its appearance.

In recent years, the pub had faced financial hardship like so many others across Britain in the wake of the pandemic and amid a cost of living crisis. The developers who bought the building planned to convert it for “alternative uses,” local authorities said at the time. Then last August, a suspicious fire broke out one Saturday night partially destroying the building. Before the locals even had a chance to take stock, it was leveled.

Last year Staffordshire Police said it had arrested six people on suspicion of conspiracy to commit arson, but no one has been charged and those suspects remain on conditional bail.

Marco Longhi, a member of Parliament who represents the area where the pub was based, Dudley North, said the demolition of the beloved pub “shook our community.”

“So it’s fantastic news that an enforcement notice has been served on the owners for demolition without consent,” Mr. Longhi said in a statement posted to Facebook on Tuesday.

He added that the owners would be required to “rebuild the site back its former glory, and I will not rest until the Crooked House is built back brick by brick.” Mr. Longhi concluded with a warning: “Let this serve as a warning to anyone who wants to launch an attack on our heritage sites — you will not get away with it.”

Those involved in the awareness campaign were hopeful but realistic that it would still be some time before the pub was restored.

Marie Stokes, 62, who lives in nearby Wolverhampton, has taken part in protests at the site since the pub’s demolition and said she was “over the moon” to hear the news of its potential restoration.

“I am so proud to have been a part of it,” she said through tears when reached by phone. “It was a lovely pub, I had many great memories there with my husband who has now passed.”

The order, she said, was a testament to the power of a small group of committed people. “I am in for the long haul, and we aren’t going anywhere,” she said of the locals who demanded the return of the pub.

The enforcement notice that ordered the owners to rebuild the pub can be appealed within 30 days, and if the order is not appealed or the restoration completed within three years, the owners could be prosecuted.

Campaigners may find some hope from other communities that have fought similar battles before. The Carlton Tavern, a 1920s pub tucked away between newer buildings in London’s Maida Vale neighborhood, was also unceremoniously destroyed in 2015, igniting local outrage.

After a long public campaign, the developers who had knocked down the Carlton Tavern were also ordered to rebuild brick by brick. They may have had a slightly easier task, though.

Firstly, the building was not slanting. Secondly, the preservation society English Heritage had done an earlier survey of the Carlton Tavern as it was being considered for historical status.

During that process, the society had created a detailed record of the pub’s rooms and taken molds of its distinctive architectural features. When it was time to rebuild, there was a clear blueprint.

Six years later, as Britain was emerging from a pandemic lockdown, the pub finally reopened its doors.

La entrada Developers Who Leveled ‘Britain’s Wonkiest Pub’ Ordered to Rebuild se publicó primero en Genérico Inglés.

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