Himley’s Crooked House: Exploring Its Ghostly Mysteries

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The Crooked House in Himley, West Midlands, recently hit the news when it mysteriously burned down. ANDREW HOMER says the historical pub was known just as much for its ghosts and hauntings as it was for its wonky architecture.

The Crooked House in Himley, Staffordshire, pictured in 2018.
The Crooked House in Himley, Staffordshire, pictured in 2018.

The fire and subsequent destruction of the Crooked House pub at Himley in the Black Country has recently attracted national and international media attention. The Black Country is a former mining and heavily industrialised area to the west of Birmingham.

The Crooked House was far more than just another public house; it had become, over the years, an instantly recognisable symbol of the Black Country. Blackpool has its tower, and the Black Country has its Crooked House.

The Crooked House was a strangely lopsided building, and the Evening Despatch in May 1932 went so far as to describe the strange phenomena inside as ‘eerie’. To explain how this came about, it is necessary to delve into a little bit of history.

History of The Crooked House

The building was originally a farmhouse on the Oak Farm Estate, dating from 1765. The estate came to be owned by the Glynne family through the marriage of Reverend Sir Stephen Glynne to Mary Bennett of Farmcott Salop in 1779.

It was later owned by his grandson, Sir Stephen Richard Glynne, whose sister was married to the Liberal Prime Minister William Gladstone. The farmhouse was situated right at the very edge of the Glynne Estate, where it bordered on land owned by Lord Dudley. Coal mining on the Glynne side of the property from 1835 onwards resulted in subsidence, which caused the south side of the building to sink into the ground by several feet.

The former farmhouse became a pub around 1830 and was officially called the Glynne Arms after Sir Stephen Glynne. It was also known locally as the ‘Siden House’. In the Black Country dialect, siden means ‘side-in’ or ‘crooked’. The pub was officially renamed the Crooked House in the early 1990s.

The Crooked House's seemingly crooked - but really quite vertical - grandfather clock. The clock's pendulum seemed to defy the laws of gravity!
The Crooked House’s seemingly crooked – but really quite vertical – grandfather clock. The clock’s pendulum seemed to defy the laws of gravity!

As if the outward appearance wasn’t enough, the inside was even more bizarre. Marbles appeared to roll uphill. A grandfather clock appeared to be set at an acute angle, but in fact it was quite vertical. The whole interior was a confusion to the senses, and it was impossible to determine what was upright and what was not. A table in the tap-room was lower at one end than the other. A bottle placed on the lower end would roll upwards and fall off the upper end if not caught. John Timpson, in his 1995 book English Country Inns, commented that ‘it is not often one can drink in an inn which is itself tipsy’.

Of course, this phenomena within the pub, although strange, was simply a mix of optical illusion and physics. Like many pubs, though, it has its own legends and ghost stories associated with the building itself and the surrounding area.

Beggars often seem to feature in Victorian ghost stories. A classic example is the Starving Rascal in nearby Amblecote, where a beggar who was refused food and warmth one winter’s night froze to death on the doorstep and allegedly haunts the pub by leaving wet footprints and moving beer glasses around. The Cat Inn at Enville, a few miles away, has a similar story of a beggar who was put in stocks one freezing night and froze to death with his dog, who is still heard to howl in the dead of night.

The legend of the Crooked House beggar is that he was laboriously making his way along the lane, using two crutches to support himself. When the pub came into sight, he let out a shriek at its extreme crookedness. Throwing away his crutches, he ran across the Black Country as fast as his legs could carry him, miraculously cured by just the sight of the Crooked House!

A Penny Dreadful depicting a story about Spring Heeled Jack
A Penny Dreadful depicting a story about Spring Heeled Jack

In the 1800s, the Black Country, along with other areas across the country, was plagued with stories of a figure with glowing red eyes, cloven hooves, and horns leaping across buildings and often leaving hoof prints on the roofs. This was the legendary Spring Heeled Jack. There were reports from right across the Black Country, including Himley, in 1877, near the Crooked House.

A group of willing and not-so-willing, volunteers were assembled to apprehend the fiend. They proved grossly inadequate to the task when Spring Heeled Jack suddenly loomed out of the darkness at them and could be heard laughing maniacally as the men ran away. A local farmer proved to be of slightly sterner stuff, and he at least managed to fire a shot at Spring Heeled Jack, but it exploded harmlessly in a ball of flame. Only a circle of scorched grass remained as evidence of the farmer’s self-professed bravado. No doubt related to anyone who would listen in the bar of the Crooked House.

Children have also been seen playing in fields off the Himley Road in the vicinity of the pub. Nothing unusual in that, except that these particular children are usually seen dancing in a circle and wearing clothes that date to a much earlier time. A few miles away in Trysull, a remarkably similar group of children have been seen dancing in a circle on the village green.

Ghosts at The Crooked House

The Crooked House itself was home to at least two reported ghosts. A young girl dressed as a parlour maid, complete with cap, had been seen standing near the old fireplace. A visiting psychic who saw her was able to name the young lady, and she was known locally as Polly. She was thought to be responsible for any mischievous activity in the pub, such as things going missing or getting moved. It seems Polly was more likely to have been associated with the earlier Georgian farmhouse.

Inside the bar of The Crooked House, where only the hanging lamp appears to be vertical.
Inside the bar of The Crooked House, where only the hanging lamp appears to be vertical.

On occasions, staff and customers alike reported seeing an old man, described as being quite short and in his 60s or 70s, entering the old bar silently. At first, nothing seemed untoward until it was realised that he had suddenly disappeared, with nobody seeing him leave. It was thought by staff that he may have been a former landlord returning to check on his old pub.

In a rather strange portent of future events, a rumour was circulating in 1952 that the Crooked House had been demolished, and people were actually turning up to view the ruins. It was even reported in the Birmingham Gazette that a group from Rochdale who stopped off at Wolverhampton on their way to the Crooked House were told it was a waste of time as the pub no longer existed.

There is a strong local feeling to get the Crooked House rebuilt from the remaining bricks, which are now in storage. If it is, it will be interesting to see if Polly and the old landlord return to their former home.

Did you ever seen anything ghostly at The Crooked House? Tell us about it in the comments section below!

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