Ex-landlord toasts Crooked House after 'wonkiest' boozer is demolished as calls grow for it to be rebuilt brick-by-brick

9 August 2023, 11:36 | Updated: 9 August 2023, 11:49

Tom Catton raised a beer to his beloved former pub the Crooked House
Tom Catton raised a beer to his beloved former pub the Crooked House. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

The former landlords of the historic Crooked House pub in the West Midlands has toasted the beloved boozer after its demolition.

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The 18th-century building, known as Britain's wonkiest pub, was damaged by a fire before swiftly being taken down by a digger.

Its destruction has outraged locals and police are investigating the blaze, which happened two weeks after Marston's brewery sold it to a company in Warwickshire.

The demolition is also being probed by South Staffordshire Council.

Read more: Mystery surrounds 'UK's wonkiest pub' fire with access 'blocked' during blaze as police prob 'intruder' claims

Tom and Laura Catton, who ran it between 2006 and 2008, joined more than 100 people at the site in Himley, Staffordshire to toast it farewell.

"It means so much to us this place. This is where I met Laura. I proposed to her here," he said as he enjoyed a can of Banks's mild - which is produced just a few miles away.

"It held a lot of memories. Even after 15 years away it means a lot to us."

Tom raised a can to his beloved pub
Tom raised a can to his beloved pub. Picture: Alamy

The pub was iconic for its slant, thanks to subsidence, amusing punters who are appalled about the building's rapid demise.

Tom said: "A lot of people thought they were drunk when they walked in because everything was all over the place.

"It doesn't do it justice, the name Crooked House. It had to be seen to be believed and it can't be, unfortunately, any more."

Laura said the "crazy" pub was "wonkier upstairs than downstairs".

Read more: 'Britain's wonkiest pub' demolished days after going up in flames - as police probe cause of blaze

Strong calls to rebuild the pub have been backed by West Midlands mayor Andy Street, who said it should be put back together brick by rick.

A Facebook page set up before the sale has seen its followers swell to more than 6,000 since the fire.

Campaigner Stuart Hall, who set it up, said: "It was just a shock on Saturday to find out it was on fire - absolutely devastating. I could get emotional, it's terrible.

The pub was known as Britain's wonkiest pub
The pub was known as Britain's wonkiest pub. Picture: Alamy

"My parents used to have a pub in Dudley in the late 60s and early 70s, and they used to bring us here 50 years ago. To see what it's like today is gut-wrenching, it really is."

He added: "Pubs - that's a big, passionate thing for Black Country people.

"Yesterday I was at home and people were messaging me on Facebook. About five o'clock last night they just completely destroyed it. Anger was there and I am not an angry person."

A petition to Save the Crooked House has also reached more than 12,000 signatures.

The petition's starter, Paul Turner, from Wombourne, said: "I remember driving down this road with my parents when I was about six years old and laughing at this funny building. It was part of my childhood. The landlord would show us the marble rolling up the ledge on the wall. It was something we were proud of as Black Country people - it was ours."

He hopes "some sort of replica" will be built in its place.

The destruction has devastated locals
The destruction has devastated locals. Picture: Alamy

Mourners gather at rubble of Crooked House to lament pub’s destruction

The pub was sold to ATE Farms Ltd, owned by Carly Taylor, 34, from Warwickshire, on July 27.

It is registered with the same address as Himley Environmental Ltd, which operates a landfill next to the pub.

Locals had claimed people were partying inside the building before the fire on Saturday night, but police said nobody was inside when the blaze began.

Fire crews from Staffordshire and West Midlands raced to the scene but one of the first firefighters at the scene revealed his crew's access was hampered because a mound of dirt blocked the rural road.

They were left having to park a third of the way up the lane and roll out 40 lengths of hose to get to the fire.

South Staffordshire council leader Roger Lees was furious at the demolition work that followed the fire.

"The agreed course of action included the removal of three elements of the first-floor front elevation only. This was only to avoid the weak parts of the structure from falling," he said.

"At no point did the council agree the demolition of the whole structure nor was this deemed necessary."

The authority is investigating potential breaches of the Town and Country Planning Act.

The pub was not listed but it was considered a heritage asset and a landmark to the community.