If you're in search of the eccentric, unusual and offbeat in the UK then you need look no further than the Crooked House bar, pub and restaurant in Gornalwood, Himley, near Dudley in England. When you first arrive and see the tilting structure you might be forgiven for wondering if you'd already had a few to drink. The Crooked House Dudley lives up to its name and leans alarmingly to the left. A quick measurement suggests an angle of about 16 degrees which is at least twice that of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
It 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 the local Black Country dialect. According to the owners, one side has sunk by about 1.2 meters. For many years and since around 1800 a series of efforts were made to stabilise he building with dubious success.
Located on the boundary of the lands once owned by Himley Hall near Dudley, UK, it was renamed the Glynne Arms in respect of the local landowner, Sir Stephen Glynne, during the mid 1800's.
The new 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. The pub is at the end of a narrow lane which for many years was little more than a cart track but is now tarmac. Watch out for the narrow brick tunnel and a couple of sharp corners.
An old Dudley 'serie' crooked house rhyme translated from the local dialect went:
"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."
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 a local company, 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. Never-the-less it is constantly monitored and tiny glass filaments are positioned over any cracks to check for movement. If they break it will mean the pubs shifting again.
Although the floors of the building have been leveled, 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 counter tops and tables were a marble placed on the surface will mysteriously appear to roll upwards.
To add to the curious ambience many of the signs still use Black Country dialect and it's not uncommon to hear greetings such as "Aah Dooo?" (how do you do) bandied about.
As with many older buildings in the UK it's rumoured to be haunted by several different apparitions which include a dog, a servant called Polly, a young girl and a pair of Irish miners. It can certainly seem a little spooky late at night. This feeling isn't made any easier if you also know that just over the ridge of trees is a huge open cast mine now full of seemingly bottomless green water.
Over the decades it has become a something of a tourist attraction in the UK but still appeals to lots of the locals. As with many pubs it now features a restaurant which is both attractive, comfortable and not overlarge. The food was first class and the coffee was really excellent. The staff were friendly and helpful ... even if they were a little suspicious about all the cameras we had with us.