Earlier this month, a fire gutted an 18th century pub that police are now treating as arson. It’s part of a wider trend across the country. What’s happening to Britain’s pubs?
Until recently the Crooked House in Staffordshire was known as Britain’s wonkiest pub. Its sloping 18th century structure created illusions that made it a local landmark.
When firefighters were called to a fire at the pub they were delayed in reaching it because nearby roads were blocked by large mounds of earth. The flames were eventually extinguished and no one was injured.
After the fire, the pub’s new owner, Carly Taylor, was given permission from the local council to demolish the first floor for safety reasons. Instead the whole building was swiftly demolished by a digger that was reportedly rented a week before the fire.
The police are now treating the fire as arson. No one has been arrested. But the Crooked House isn’t the only pub to be demolished without permission.
According to the Campaign for Real Ale, 31 pubs were converted or demolished between January and June the year. The group claims that in all of those cases no planning application had been registered, potentially breaching planning laws.
There are now calls, including from West Midlands mayor Andy Street, for the Crooked House to be rebuilt brick by brick.
In 2015 the Carlton Tavern in Maida Vale was demolished after planning permission to convert it into flats was denied. The pub was about to be granted Grade-II listed status by Historic England before the owners ordered for it to be demolished.
After six years of campaigning, the pub was rebuilt – with some parts of the bar and fireplace reclaimed from the rubble. The same could happen for the Crooked House pub after Historic England said it was considering “all possible avenues” with the local council.
The demolition of this historic building has drawn attention to an industry struggling with soaring energy prices, staff shortages and a slowdown in consumer spending that means pubs are closing at the fastest pace in a decade.
Today’s episode was written and mixed by Imy Harper.