By BRIAN MELLEY, the Associated Press
LONDON (AP) — Two men were arrested Thursday on suspicion of torching an historic British pub in central England that was famous for its lopsided walls and sagging foundation, police said.
The suspects were being questioned by Staffordshire Police about the Aug. 5 blaze that gutted the 18th century Crooked House pub in the village of Himley, 110 miles (180 kilometers) northwest of London.
Locals mourning the loss of the tavern, which had recently been sold, were doubly devastated when it’s charred skeletal remains were bulldozed two days later before the cause of the fire had been determined and before local authorities had granted permission to demolish it.
Fans of the pub dubbed “Britain’s wonkiest” for its slumping foundation and sloping walls had hoped it would be restored and many are now pushing for it to be rebuilt brick by brick.
A 66-year-old man from Dudley, and 33-year-old from Milton Keynes were arrested on suspicion of arson with intent to endanger life, police said.
The pub, built as a farmhouse in 1765, began sinking on one side because of extensive coal mining in the area. It became a pub known as The Siden House around 1830 — named for the word in the local dialect that meant crooked.
In the 1940s, after being renamed Glynne Arms, the pub was condemned as unsafe until new owners shored it up so it was structurally sound but retained its asymmetrical charms.
It was then called The Crooked House and became a tourist destination. One side of the building was about 4 feet (around 1.2 meters) lower than the other and it was known for its tilting grandfather clock and a bar where coins and marbles appeared to roll uphill.
Days before the fire, an online petition was launched to save the bar because the developers who bought it planned to use it for something else. The “Save The Crooked House” petition was up to more than 22,000 signatures Thursday.
When the blaze broke out, firefighters were unable to reach the pub because a large mound of dirt was piled in a rural road.
Protesters showed up Monday to try to prevent heavy machinery from taking part in a salvage operation.
The South Staffordshire Council said it reached an agreement with the new owners to keep the bricks and foundation pieces at the site and would monitor the work.