In the latest turn of events in the destruction of the Crooked House pub, Marco Longhi MP for Dudley North, has told a public meeting he will pursue a law granting better protection for heritage venues, in the name of the pub.
The ongoing saga
About 100 people attended the meeting after firefighters were called to the landmark 18th Century Crooked House pub, near Dudley on the 5th of August. After the blaze took hold, fire engines were unable to get near to the building because of the mounds of earth blocking the road, forcing them to use extra-long hoses and a high-pressure pump to extinguish the flames.
South Staffordshire Council visited the site after the firm and discussed a plan of works with a representative of the landowner. Council officers did not deem in necessary to have the whole structure demolished. However, two days later, a digger was brought on site and the building was demolished, even as police said an investigation into the cause of the fire was continuing.
The fire is being treated as arson, and as Chamber recently reported, the new owners have had a history of demolition and construction. They have been previously linked to another major fire at Finmere landfill in Buckinghamshire. South Staffordshire Council has said it was looking at possible enforcement action against those responsible.
Speaking at Himley Hall, Mr Longhi urged patience and asked residents to avoid speculating about the circumstances of the fire on social media. He said the building, which sank due to subsidence caused by mining works in the area, would “rise from the ashes”, but it would be a “marathon, not a sprint. I don’t believe our current legislative framework is strong enough. I would love to see, in future, a Crooked House law. It is important we make a change in the law. Our historic pubs and buildings are not protected adequately” he said.
Mr Longhi has pledged to bring the matter to Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, as soon as parliament reconvened in September.
The pub, known for its sloping walls and floor, was bought from Marston’s by ATE Farms Limited in July. Members of the public voiced concerns about a smell from the stream that runs alongside the pub and rubbish being dumped at the site. Speaking after the meeting, residents reiterated their support for the venue to be rebuilt. Dawn and Paul Craig said the landmark should be reconstructed in the same spot, but better lighting would be needed on the approach to avoid people using the driveway as a “tip”.
John Hutchinson, who ran the pub as a relief manager in the 80s and 90s called for the new owners to explain what had happened. “Where are they, why haven’t they come on camera and faced the public?” he asked. Others expressed disappointment South Staffordshire Council did not attend the meeting. Fencing has now been erected around the ruins, after the Health and Safety executive ordered the owners to make the site safe. Mr Longhi said the behaviour of people who had been removing bricks and other debris from the rubble was “disgusting” and said he was happy the fencing was up.
South Staffordshire Conservative MP Sir Gavin Williamson has also spoken out about the pub, voicing his support for it to be rebuilt.
In the wake of the unfortunate destruction of the Crooked House pub, a significant step towards safeguarding heritage sites has emerged. The commitment by Marco Longhi MP to advocate for a new legislative initiative, aptly named the Crooked House Law, shines a beacon of hope for the protection of cherished historic venues. As the community rallies behind the revival of the Crooked House, this call for change resonates, echoing the sentiment that our iconic structures deserve the utmost care and preservation.