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Two men arrested after fire at Crooked House pub, dubbed Britains’s ‘wonkiest’ boozer

Two men have been arrested on suspicion of arson with intent to endanger life after a fire at the Crooked House pub in Himley.

A 66-year-old man, from Dudley, and a 33-year-old man, from Milton Keynes, remain in custody and are being questioned by officers while the investigation continues, Staffordshire Police said.

The pub, known as Britain’s “wonkiest” boozer, was gutted by a suspected arson attack before being demolished, without permission, by a digger earlier this month, causing outrage from the owner and locals.

The blaze was reported to the emergency services at 10.45pm on August 5 and within 48 hours the pub was demolished.

The historic pub was sold by pub company Marston’s to a private buyer two weeks before the fire, after being on the open market since January.

Campaigners have called for legal changes to protect pubs after the demolition of the Crooked House, which they called a “national scandal”.

The Campaign for Pubs wrote to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, urging a change to planning law which would prevent pubs aged 50 years or older from being sold for alternative use, converted or demolished until they had been marketed as a pub for at least a year.

Greg Mulholland, campaign director of the Campaign for Pubs, said: “This would stop the cynical destruction of pubs and allow licensees, local breweries, entrepreneurs and communities to buy our historic pubs and make a success of them.”

South Staffordshire Council said it had given permission to the Crooked House’s owners to demolish the first floor of the building on safety grounds but had not agreed to, nor deemed necessary, the site’s total demolition.

People inspect the rubble remains of The Crooked House (PA Wire)
People inspect the rubble remains of The Crooked House (PA Wire)

On Tuesday the council said it will closely monitor work at the pub after securing an agreement that bricks and foundations will be kept at the site.

The local authority said the “positive step” followed ongoing engagement with the site’s owners, a contractor, the Health and Safety Executive, and police.

“We are very pleased that we now have agreement that the bricks will remain on site, and that the foundations and slabs will remain to assist our future investigation,” the council said in a statement.

“There will be activity on site over coming days to remove hazardous waste and to make the site safe, and this will be closely monitored.”

Campaigners took direct action, including a sit-down protest on Monday, after heavy machinery and staff moved on to the site, amid claims that checks for the presence of asbestos were taking place.

The Crooked House was built in 1765 at its site in Himley, in South Staffordshire, originally as a farmhouse before becoming a pub in the 1830s.

Its name and appearance are owed to nearby mining — the site is surrounded by quarries — which has seen an effect known as subsidence cause a sloping of the earth in the area.

This led it to become known as Siden House — ‘siden’ being a Black Country term for wonky — before taking its Crooked House name in 2002. At its peak, the pub could pull in national and even international crowds, and pound coins could be seen to roll along the bar against the direction of gravity.

As they revaled the arrests in their investigation, a spokesperson for Staffordshire Police said: “We continue to appeal to anyone with any information which could help us to get in touch. Call 101, quoting incident 761 of August 5 or message us using Live Chat on our website – www.staffordshire.police.uk.

“You can also report anonymously by calling Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”