Ben Kentish 10pm - 1am
'We don't want people to think we leave a mess': Locals tidy and guard rubble left after Crooked House pub bulldozed
12 August 2023, 14:25
Angry locals are standing watch over and tidying the heap of rubble left behind after the demolition of the Crooked House pub.
Adam and Carly Taylor recently bought "Britain's wonkiest pub", which was gutted in a fire last Saturday, then demolished without permission.
Police investigating the fire at the Dudley pub are treating it as arson. There is no suggestion that the Taylors are accused of any wrongdoing.
Outraged locals have been visiting the scene of the suspected crime over the past week to pay homage, share stories, stop the rubble from becoming a rubbish dump and prevent people taking 'souvenirs'.
Lisa Newton spent much of a day this week picking up rubbish from the heap of bricks left after the demolition.
"Well, we don’t want outsiders thinking we’re the kind of people who leave a mess, do we?," she told the Telegraph.
Others are standing guard over the rubble to stop people taking bits of building material, in hopes that the pub can eventually be rebuilt.
Strong calls to rebuild the Crooked House have been backed by West Midlands mayor Andy Street, who said it should be put back together brick by brick.
Mr Street urged local residents to avoid taking items from the site on Friday as, he said: "The kindest thing you can do is leave the site alone so that the investigations can continue and then as much material is there as possible for any potential rebuild."
After the blaze, a Facebook group called for the historic 18th-century site to be rebuilt was set up, which has attracted more than 10,000 members.
But Black Country Living Museum (BCLM), an open-air museum which displays a number of rebuilt historical buildings, has said it cannot “save, let alone relocate, the building”.
“It’s a very complicated and costly endeavour and that’s one of the reasons we’re not in a position to just suddenly drop everything and go and get the Crooked House,” Andrew Lovett, the chief executive of the Black Country Living Museum (BCLM), said according to The Guardian.
"The thing about Black Country folk is that we have patience, long memories, a wealth of resources and a dogged determination to relentlessly pursue a vendetta."
Lyndon Thomas, owner of Lyndon Thomas Group, which delivered the equipment for the demolition, said on Wednesday that the pub owners hired the excavator a week and a half previously - which would have been before the fire took place.
“If you give me your insurance and all your details and I deliver [equipment] to you and then you just tried to knock down your neighbour's building, what can I do? I have done nothing wrong," he told Construction News.
“We just hire a digger to a customer. I can’t be responsible for what they do with the machinery.”
The firm owner Mr Thomas revealed the incident has resulted in some “horrific” emails and comments online.
"They are not very nice. We’ve had a lot of people ringing the phone and putting it down again.
"If I knew this was going to happen I probably would have done something different, but I'm not Mystic Meg."
The BCLM is situated roughly four miles from the site of the former pub.
Detectives are treating the blaze at the pub as arson. There were suggestions people had been partying inside before the fire though police said nobody was inside when the fire broke out.
Police are "engaging" with the couple but they have not been identified as suspects.
It comes after campaigners have called for legal changes to protect pubs after the destruction and demolition of the Crooked House, which they have called a "national scandal".
The Campaign for Pubs said the "appalling" case of the 18th-century site was evidence of "predatory purchasing and asset-stripping of historic pubs" which should be banned.
The Campaign for Pubs has now written 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: "What has happened to the historic and unique Crooked House pub is a national scandal, as well as a loss to the local community and its history and heritage."