The Crooked House
I returned to The Crooked House in Dudley in the West Midlands after 40 years, having last been there as a boy in the 1960's. It was always a treat to go out with my parents on a Sunday afternoon in my father's Hillman Minx and end up at The Crooked House for a bottle of Tizer and a packet of Smith's crisps with the little blue salt wrapper. What memories!
As I negotiated the narrow zigzagging lane off the Himley Road and saw the sign ''Beware The Bend Or Yow'll End Up In The Cut'' all those memories came flooding back and it was pleasing to see that The Crooked House had changed little in all that time. Now dwarfed by ground excavations on one side, the remnants of the former mining area, the building still bore the fascination it had for me in the 60's - sloping windows and doorways and a roof line that resembled a sinking ship.
The Crooked House started life as a farmhouse around 1765 and was later converted into a public ale house called the Sidden Arms in 1830 to help ease the thirst of the local miners and farm workers. For some years the left side of the building had been sinking due to excessive mining of coal underneath its foundations. Sidden means crooked in Black Country dialect. One side has sunk by about 1.2 meters and for many years and since around 1800 a series of efforts were made to stabilise the building with dubious success.
Located on the boundary of the lands once owned by Himley Hall, it was renamed the Glynne Arms in respect of the local landowner, Sir Stephen Glynne, during the mid-1800's.The owners were quick to capitalise on its uniqueness and it was even featured on postcards and promoted as a tourist attraction as early as 1830. Shortly after the end of WW II the house was condemned as not safe and closed to the public. Fortunately the building was stabilised and restored by Wolverhampton and Dudley Breweries. The foundations were pinned and three large buttresses built to shore up the sinking walls. It apparently hasn't moved in years and is now quite safe again.
The car park was empty at 12.15pm when I arrived, and so I knew that the place would be relatively quiet and I could take in the ambience of the 'old place'. I chose to walk downhill into the lounge as oppose to uphill into the bar and true to form, the place was deserted. I ordered a pint of Mild - a true 'Bonk's' favourite, and it proved to be the sweet tasting brew that we love in the Black Country. Perusing the menu, I resisted the seasonal turkey and cranberry sandwich and went for a cheese and pickle variety. Handing over a tenner (£10), there was just enough to add a packet of pork scratchings and a pickled egg to my lunchtime menu. The staff were polite and friendly and I sat myself in the corner next to the black fire range that had just been fuelled with a hefty log.
The Crooked House's interior still bears the Victorian charm of yesteryear with terracotta tiled flooring, basic wooden stools, tables and benches and some padded window seats. The recently installed Christmas tree in a former chimney alcove could have been straight out of a Dickensian novel and probably the only modern elements evident were the beer pumps on the bar and the stereo speakers, quietly humming a festive song.
Although the floors of the building have been levelled, the walls, frames, and windows have been left at odd angles and it takes a fair bit of effort to open some of the doors against the pull of gravity. There are still some counter tops and tables where a coin placed on the surface will mysteriously appear to roll upwards.
My food arrived within a short time of ordering and my only disappointed was the sandwich not being an expected ‘door-stop’ but a filled baguette - why have we adopted this French bread? Nevertheless, the food was nicely presented with a side salad and a handful of crisps and the mature cheddar cheese and the pickle were tasty and filling. It all went down beautifully with my pint of Mild.
The place began to fill-up as I was leaving, with guests arriving for office Christmas parties in the back room, and a couple intrigued by the crooked nature of The Crooked House. I hope the place continues to survive for another 40 years, but I'll certainly return again before that, as I won’t be around in 2054!
If you're in search of the eccentric, unusual and offbeat then you need look no further than the Crooked House bar, pub and restaurant in. An old Dudley crooked house rhyme translated from the Black Country dialect goes:- "Come in and have some home brewed ale, and stop as long as you are able, at a pub they call the Sidden House, where the beer runs up the table."
For further details see: http://www.thecrooked-house.co.uk/