Think Forward.


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This is a story about barbarians who destroyed an unusual and much loved pub in the west midlands of England. I wrote this tale some months ago for my website, Recent news suggest that the barbarians, as my article suggests are going to be forced to rebuild The Crooked House! Locals of a demolished pub near where I was born can take heart from the story of a demolished pub near where I live now - one which was ordered to be rebuilt ‘brick-by-brick’. Judging by calls and emails I’ve had from folks who know that I’m a Black Country boy, the news of the recent burning and demolition of the Glynne Arms, aka the Crooked House near Dudley in the English west midlands must have gone around the world. I was born a mile or so away from what we locals knew as the Siden (side-on?) House, and as our local gang of kids grew up in the 1950s and 60s, the pub was a regular curiosity for us to view as we roamed the countryside around the disused pit workings that had contributed to the Crooked House’s subsidence. Later on, I'd often run past it on one of my training stints on the disused railway track which overlooked it. My father had been born even nearer to the pub, and as I grew into drinking age, it would be on our itinerary for an occasional pint, and the traditional rolling of a ball-bearing seemingly ‘uphill’ on the bar or the window sills. It was also a must-see for anyone visiting the area. Now living in north-west London, the last time I was there was four years years ago, showing the place off to some French visitors who’d come to the family home to celebrate my mother’s 100th birthday. The story of the pub’s demise last weekend has been across the national news for days. Originally built as a farmhouse in the late 18th century, it had been a pub since the 1830s. Despite a campaign to preserve it as such, it was sold two weeks ago, apparently to be repurposed. The building then burned down last weekend in circumstances that the neighbourhood websites have universally described as SUSPICIOUS. The fire service arrived to find its way blocked by mounds of earth on the access road. The delays in getting high pressure fire hoses close enough to the blaze meant that the building had already been gutted by the time that fire was extinguished. Then, to pile anguish onto injury for the locals, bull-dozers were brought in the next day, to reduce the place to rubble. Drinkers, devotees and dignitaries across the West Midlands are up in arms, demanding explanation and restoration. They might take heart from the tale of the Carlton Tavern in Maida Vale, a couple of miles from where I live now. In 2015, the Carlton, which had been rebuilt as a pub in 1921, was bought by a company who turned out to be developers. An immediate application from them to build flats was turned down by Westminster Council; and alert locals sought a Grade II listing from Historic England, to prevent further threat to the pub. But two days before the listing was to be awarded, the new bosses gave staff a day off, allegedly for stock-taking, and avoiding the inconvenience of a fire in a residential area, the bulldozers were drafted in and reduced the pub to a shell within a few hours. Cue mayhem! But, as the Guardian reported two years ago on its reopening, ‘… the Carlton’s story did not follow the usual plot, where the developer presents the fait accompli to the local authority and pays a fine before pressing ahead with the redevelopment and counting their profits.’ Over 5000 locals, including councillors had mobilised to set up a campaign entitled Rebuild The Carlton Tavern. They pressured Westminster Council, not noted for its public spirit, and not only did the council turn down the developers’ further application for flats, they ordered the company to rebuild the Carlton ‘brick by brick’. That was a pleasant surprise for James Watson, the pub protection adviser for the Campaign for Pubs, who advised the Carlton group. “I never imagined that I would see a planning inspector order a developer to put back what he’d just knocked down, to look exactly as it was. I thought the developer would get a slap on the wrist, a £6,000 fine. But I was flabbergasted – and it has set an incredibly useful precedent. Other planning inspectors will remember it, and so will developers”. With hundreds of locals descending on the site of the former Crooked House in the last two days to bemoan and complain of its passing (and to take away a souvenir brick), pressure is only going to grow around the Black Country and West Midlands for something to be done about the wanton destruction of such an unusual historic landmark.  Roger Lees, the leader of South Staffordshire council has already confirmed it is investigating planning breaches, and the over-zealous destruction of the property, which his body had not authorised. Council and aggrieved locals could do worse than study the case of the resurrected Carlton Tavern. Could the Crooked House yet rise from the ashes?