The Crooked House in Himley, Staffordshire has become the most famous pub in Britain after it was demolished earlier this month following a devastating fire. The jury is still out on why the fire started and why the remaining shell was so quickly demolished, but the subsequent political and public outcry says a lot about what people feel when part of what they consider to be their community heritage is lost. It seems that playing with (the aftermath of a) fire can get you burned.
The pub was originally The Glynne Arms, named for the family who lived in the original 1765 farmhouse. It was only renamed The Crooked House in 2002 as official recognition of the affectionate name given to it by locals a long time before.
Whilst no Leaning Tower of Pisa in terms of tourist pulling-power, it was nonetheless a source of love and pride for its regulars and gave its village and nearby Dudley a distinctiveness that all good places should have. It was the best example of common heritage phenomena in the Black Country – buildings made crooked by subsidence resulting from the area’s extensive coal mining.
Emma Smith, a local resident, was quoted in the Observer: “My nan and grandad brought me here when I was little, and I’ve brought my kids here. Everybody knows the Crooked House, it’s part of Dudley, part of our history, and now it’s gone…everyone is so angry.”
Its swift demolition has been condemned by local politicians – Andy Street, the West Midlands Mayor says he is “laser-focussed” on making sure it’s “rebuilt brick-by-brick”. He told the Independent, “This is a part of our heritage, our history, and somebody thought it could literally just be confined to rubble. That is not right.” These places are important.