One thing that really triggers me is those who think that money can elevate them above the law. A case in point this week centres around a local quirky landmark - The Crooked House pub (dubbed by the press as "Britain's Wonkiest Pub"). As the dramatic events of the last 7 days have unfolded, this is shaping up to be a very crooked tale.
First, a little history for those unfamiliar with the site.
The pub was originally built as a farmhouse in 1765. Subsequent mining in the Black Country region in the early 19th century caused one side to begin to sink giving the building its distinctive angle.
In the 1830s the property became a pub called The Glynne Arms after local landowner and part owner of Oak farm Iron and Brickworks, Sir Stephen Glynne (also the brother-in-law of Liberal politician William Gladstone.
Condemned in the 1940s, the pub was saved from demolition after work was undertaken on a buttress to help strengthen the structure. However, by the early 1950s, the its future was still uncertain.
In 1957, the pub's then owners, The Wolverhampton and Dudley Brewery, spent £10,000 on repairs, safety measures and finally installing electricity.
Flames first threatened the pub in 1986; a fire resulting in damage necessitating a £360,000 facelift.
The pub began to be referred to as The Crooked House in 1900 as its quirky appeal gained traction...and so it began.
This pub is part of the Black Country heritage. Everyone in this part of the world will have childhood memories of this place. I recall the excitement of glimpsing The Crooked House at the end of a seemingly endless winding lane and experiencing the thrill of seeing a marble roll uphill inside. You don't believe me? See for yourself.
The pub was put up for sale by Marston's PLC after a review in 2021 and finally closed its doors in March this year.
It was sold in July this year as a going concern for £675,000 to a buyer based in Warwickshire (ATE Farms Ltd) - far enough away from the Black Country. It transpires that said buyer also owns the 15 hectare quarry and landfill site next to the pub. Notably, the landfill site is now being developed with permission being sought to develop another part of the land. Access might be an issue. Doubtless it would aid that access if the pub wasn't there. Still with me?
Incidentally, a "burglary" took place in June this year. The burglars didn't rifle through drawers and cupboard, but instead set about smashing up the kitchen and toilets. Doesn't that strike you as odd?
Back to the present. On Sunday morning, we awoke to the news that the pub had been gutted by fire on Saturday night. Mounds of earth blocking access to the pub had slowed the Fire Service's efforts to tackle the blaze.
Still reeling from this news, two days later, a digger operator appeared on site and proceeded to demolish the building. Bear in mind this was in the midst of a police investigation into the cause of the fire.
Locals flocked to the site demanding answers. The Council claimed that they had agreed for safety reasons, that the building be taken down partially - only the upper floor. Clearly this instruction had been ignored. There were also allegations of the digger being given rear access to the pub. By whom you may ask?
To further rub salt into the wound, Historic England has confirmed that the pub was being explored to be listed, after the organisation received a request in July.
It didn't take long for the owner's name to be published in the press. She is unsurprisingly refusing all requests for an interview. Having married into money, she and her husband appear to have form. Reports have stated that they bought and gutted another pub in recent years.
These were the last photos I took of the pub, back in 2019.
We visited the site yesterday. There was a police presence and we were politely asked if we could return a little later (there is a public right of way running up to the pub) as the sniffer dog was in action and they needed to keep the site clear. Whilst chatting to the policemen, they confirmed that this was the strangest case they had worked on and pointed out that the news had now gone international; a CBS news crew were standing to our left.
We took a final (for now - let's not begin speaking of this in the past tense) look at the small pub garden, still blooming and intact.