Suspicious Fire Destroys Britain's 'Wonkiest Pub'

Crooked House blaze is being treated as arson
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 11, 2023 1:54 PM CDT
Fire at UK's 'Wonkiest Pub' Treated as Arson
People inspect the rubble of the Crooked House pub near Dudley, England, Tuesday Aug. 8, 2023.   (PA via AP)

A pub celebrated as "Britain's wonkiest" as a result of its slumping foundation and sloping walls burned down in mysterious circumstances Saturday and police say they're treating it as arson. The 18th-century Crooked House pub near Dudley, England, was demolished before an investigation into the blaze had been completed. Staffordshire Police said in a statement that following an assessment from a specialist fire investigator, they believe the fire "may have been started deliberately," the AP reports. An outpouring of anger among local residents following the blaze was compounded on Monday when the shell of the pub was flattened by a mechanical digger.

The fire occurred two weeks after it had been sold by pub and hotel operator Marston's to a local firm, which said it planned an "alternative use" for the historic building. The company is controlled by Carly Taylor, whose husband is a former director of the neighboring landfill site, the Times of London reports. More questions were raised when it emerged that mounds of dirt had blocked firefighters from reaching the site—and that the digger that knocked down the remains of the pub was hired days before the fire. Authorities are investigating whether the demolition of the pub was illegal.

The pub was originally a farmhouse when it was built in 1765 and subsequently began sinking on one side as a result of extensive coal mining in the local area, which is part of the central England region widely known as the Black Country. It became a pub in 1830 and had long been a tourist attraction, with visitors marveling at how coins and marbles appeared to roll uphill on the bar. Andy Street, mayor of the West Midlands, has called for it to be rebuilt "brick by brick." The rubble attracted plenty of visitors this week, including Tom and Laura Catton, who were live-in managers for more than two years, the BBC reports. Tom—who proposed to Laura in the pub—sat in the rubble for a final beer. (More pubs stories.)

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