Destruction of “Britain’s wonkiest pub” caused national outcry after it was damaged by fire and then unlawfully demolished last year

Heritage practice Donald Insall Associates has confirmed it will bid for the job to rebuild the Crooked House pub in the West Midlands if it comes out to tender.

Last month, South Staffordshire Council ordered the owners of “Britain’s wonkiest pub” to recreate it as it was before it was damaged in a suspected arson attack and then unlawfully demolished.

The loss of the two-storey pub, in Himley, near Dudley in the Black Country, caused a national outcry and its reconstruction is now one of the country’s most high profile restoration jobs. 

It was originally built in 1765 but started to sink on one side in the 19th century and leaned at a 15 degree angle before its destruction in August 2023.

Crooked House 2

The local council has ordered the owners of The Crooked House pub to rebuild it exactly as it was before it was unlawfully destroyed

In an interview with Building’s sister title Building Design, Donald Insall Associates practice director Matthew Vaughan said he would “100%” be bidding for the scheme despite describing the task as “crazy”.

“We’ll be at the front of the queue if it comes out to tender,” Vaughan said. “But it’s going to use everybody’s ingenuity, all the ingenuity out there to do this thing. You’ve got to be going in there knowing it’s going to be a real challenge.”

In its enforcement notice, the council ordered the building’s owners to rebuild the pub within three years.

The job will likely require a team of specialist contractors and craftspeople to recreate the pub’s irregular brickwork, windows, doors and internal furnishings, which have deformed over nearly two centuries.

Vaughan said reassembling the pile of rubble on the site where the pub once stood would be like creating a “Zaha Hadid building with traditional materials”.

But he also suggested a version of the building could be created using a steel frame faced with brick slips, decorative tiles which have the surface appearance of bricks.

Liz Smith, chair and regional partner at heritage practice Purcell, which is likely to be one of Donald Insall Associates’ main rivals for the job, said it was “entirely possible” to rebuild the pub. “Many buildings have been built over the centuries that are not square, either by design or not,” she added.

The practice said: “If the intention is to rebuild with a heritage-led integrity that will add value to the community, Purcell would be well placed to bring our excellence in creative conservation to design and deliver this unique project.

“Our vision would be to use the project as an opportunity to upskill and train local apprentices in building with traditional materials and techniques to current building standards.”

Vaughan estimated the scheme will cost around three to five times as much as building a normal building of the same size, meaning the owners could be hit with a bill of up to £10m.

Projects Donald Insall Associates are currently working on include the £437m redevelopment of part of Smithfield Market as the new home of the Museum of London and a £450m student accommodation and life sciences scheme in Manchester.