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‘We’ve become one big family’: Camp Wonky continues watch of Crooked House site

Aug 31, 2023Aug 31, 2023

Locals are monitoring site 24/7 and are ready to lock up 23,000 bricks they hope can be used in a rebuild

Affectionately named Camp Wonky, a group of Black Country residents are nearing the end of their second week keeping a 24/7 watch of the site where the Crooked House pub stood.

“It’s not exactly how I expected to be spending my summer,” laughed Emma Smith, from Kingswinford, who has been visiting the camp every day with her young daughter. “But we’ve become one big family, it’s been nice. And now we can see what’s going on [with the pub], we all feel a lot happier, we can actually sleep at night.”

A month on from when the pub was gutted by fire, this weekend the group will hold a “locking ceremony” in which approximately 23,000 bricks that have been salvaged from the site will be enclosed in two metal containers.

Campaigners will place their own padlocks on the containers to ensure the bricks will not be touched until they are satisfied a rebuild is going to take place. They believe it will be the first step in a long journey to getting the famous wonky building rebuilt on the site where it stood for more than 250 years.

“It’s been agreed the bricks will stay where they are, and our hope is that at some point in time we’ll be getting them back out again to start rebuilding,” said Paul Turner, one of the campaign leaders. “But there are a lot of hurdles to jump through before then.”

Turner said that when a building company arrived on the site of the former pub, which was demolished less than two days after the fire, local residents feared the rubble would end up in landfill.

But South Staffordshire council has placed restrictions on the site that mean no materials can be removed without permission, and workers have gone through the rubble by hand to carefully pack up all the bricks.

One local who has been keeping a watchful eye on the proceedings is Rob Brown, who has been living in his van just outside the site gates to monitor goings on during the night. “I’m getting messages from all over the world saying we’re doing a cracking job,” he said. “I loved that pub, I have many memories of it.”

Those camped outside the gates have had a constant stream of visitors, as well as donations and food. “Black Country folk, we stick together, especially in times like this,” Brown said. “She will be rebuilt, she will.”

Last week, West Midlands police announced that two people had been arrested on suspicion of arson in relation to the fire.

The push to have the pub rebuilt shows no sign of abating. “We expected the momentum to drop after two or three days but that didn’t happen, it’s still going strong. And it’s not just local, it’s national and international,” Turner said.

“We just have to keep on pushing so that the powers that be support our cause. We just don’t have a lot of information about the legal side of things so we have to trust the work is going on behind the scenes.”