'Arson' wonky pub owners own landfill site which also caught fire

Owners of wonky pub The Crooked House destroyed in ‘arson attack’ have links to landfill site which caught fire almost exactly five years earlier

  • Finmere landfill site in Buckinghamshire is owned by plant hire boss Adam Taylor
  • Cause of 2018 fire that destroyed 400 tonnes of rubbish was never established
  • Mr Taylor’s wife Carly is boss of the firm that bought the ill-fated Crooked House

The owners of ‘Britain’s wonkiest pub’ that went up in flames before being demolished experienced another huge fire at a landfill site they owned almost exactly five years ago.

Carly Taylor, 34, bought the Crooked House pub in Himley, near Dudley in the Black Country, last month.

Flames then engulfed the landmark on August 5, reducing it to a charred and hollowed out shell. Police are treating the incident as arson.

It has since emerged that a landfill site owned by her husband Adam Taylor, 44, caught fire in August 2018. 

AT Contracting and Plant Hire, which is controlled by Mr Taylor, is the owner of Finmere landfill site in Buckinghamshire.

The Finmere landfill site caught fire on August 4 2018, prompting a huge emergency response. A cause was never established

The Crooked House pub caught fire earlier this month, almost exactly five years on from the fire at the landfill site. Police are treating the bar blaze as deliberate

The pub as it stood on Monday August 7. A day later it was rubble

Adam and Carly Taylor. Mr Taylor owns the Finmere landfill site through AT Contracting and Plant Hire while his wife owns the Crooked House through ATE Farms 

The cause of the fire was never established, according to BBC News.

Mrs Taylor, meanwhile, is the director of ATE Farms Ltd, which bought the Crooked House from pub giant Marston’s in July, and is named as a ‘person with significant control’ in AT Contracting and Plant Hire.

AT Contracting and Plant Hire hired a digger from contractors Lyndon Thomas plant hire ‘several days’ before the pub burnt down.

The demolition was carried out two days after the pub was scorched, without council permission, prompting anger from locals and criticism from construction  industry bodies.

The National Federation of Demolition Contractors (NFDC) said: ‘No respectable demolition contractor would carry out works in the manner seen in the pictures.’

Plant hire boss Mr Thomas, who hired the digger out, said of the use of his equipment: ‘I can’t be held responsible for what he [the customer] does.’ 

South Staffordshire Council is conducting an investigation into the demolition ‘without appropriate permissions’, while a police probe into the fire is ongoing.

The Crooked House in its heyday (left) and the morning after it burnt down (right). Locals have called for the pub to be rebuilt

A digger was hired ‘several days’ before the Crooked House caught fire and was subsequently used to demolish the pub without council permission, prompting outrage

Locals inspect the remains of the Crooked House the day after it was demolished. Historic England says it is ‘considering all possible avenues’ to see the watering hole restored

Crooked House owner Carly Taylor. She has made no comment on the watering hole’s fate

Marston’s sold the pub as part of a cost-cutting exercise that saw the Crooked House flogged off alongside around 60 other pubs, despite only recently undergoing refurbishment.

The company has since said it was ‘shocked and disappointed’ to learn of the building’s fate, two weeks after it sold the site to the Taylors. 

Ex-landlord Lee Goodchild said of the sale: ‘I feel very much let down by Marston’s, and I’m sure the local community also feel devastated.

READ MORE: The 192-year-old ‘wonkiest pub’ where coins rolled UP the bar: How The Crooked House sank 4ft into the ground due to mine subsidence before being rescued from demolition and attracting admirers the world over

‘They’ve sold off one of the oldest pubs around. It’s massively known in the area and worldwide in fact, but it’s their pub to sell, and it was an expensive place to run – but obviously, does the unique heritage of the site outweigh the cost?

‘It’s disappointing that the place has gone up in flames.’

A petition to save the pub, created before it burned down, has gathered 18,000 signatures, while another plea to rebuild it has amassed a further 13,000.

Historic England, which was urged to give the pub listed building status a week before it went up in flames, has since hinted that the pub could be rebuilt.

Heritage campaigners have also called for legal loopholes allowing for the ‘predatory purchasing and asset-stripping of historic pubs’ to be curtailed.

The Campaign for Pubs has written to Rishi Sunak urging a change to planning law which would prevent pubs more than 50 years old from being sold for alternative use, converted or demolished until they had been used as a pub for at least a year by their new owners.

Greg Mulholland, campaign director, said: ‘What has happened to the historic and unique Crooked House pub is a national scandal, as well as a loss to the local community and its history and heritage.’

The Taylors have not made any statement following the destruction of the Crooked House, which entertained curious customers for nearly 200 years.

First built as a farmhouse, mining works caused subsidence on one side of the pub, which stood four foot lower than the other.

Buttresses were used to hold it in place and punters would enjoy coming in and watching as the cash for their pints appeared to roll uphill to the barman.

It has since emerged that Mr Taylor also owns the Sarah Mansfield Country Inn, a pub in the Warwickshire village of Willey around five miles away from his home. 

He bought the pub in 2020 and is said to have ripped out the interior, before council planners issued a ‘stop notice’ to prevent any further works. It is now closed.

Adam Taylor. His firm, AT Contracting and Plant Hire, owns the Finmere landfill site, and was responsible for hiring the digger that was later used to demolish the Crooked House

Mr Taylor also owns the Sarah Mansfield Country Inn in Willey, Warwickshire (pictured in 2009, left, and now, right). The pub has since been gutted and local authorities issued a ‘stop notice’ to prevent further works

Inside the Sarah Mansfield pub in Willey, owned by Mr Taylor. It has been suggested he had hoped to remodel part of the building as accommodation

One local resident told MailOnline that the ‘ruthless’ businessman bought the Sarah Mansfield with ‘the intention of gutting in and turning it into rental accommodation’.

The woman, who declined to be named for fear of recrimination, said: ‘The new owner did just that, he bought it and in two to three days he got his team of workers in, the skips were in place, and they gutted it.’

A fellow villager added: ‘We know Mr Taylor by reputation and when we heard it was his new Crooked House pub bulldozed, it was a weird feeling of déjà vu.

‘He comes into communities and wrecks them, with no regard to local people, and for his own profit and gain.

‘The guy is absolutely minted from all his business deals, he has a crew of people running around for him 24/7 who no doubt he rewards well, but how much more money does he really need to make?

‘What he is doing to local communities, ripping down well-known pubs for development and his greed, is outrageous and the authorities should put a stop to it.

‘He does whatever he wants to do and seems to get away with it. We’ve heard he’s worth a shed load of money. He drives around in a Bentley with personalised plates.’

Fences have been put up around what is left of the Crooked House while nearby footpaths have been closed off. A public meeting has been arranged for Wednesday night at 6pm for residents to share their views on the site’s future.

Anyone with information on the Crooked House can contact Staffordshire Police using its Live Chat system or by calling 101 and quoting incident number 761 of 5 August. Anonymous reports can also be made via Crimestoppers. 

The Taylors were contacted for comment. 

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