Essex pub shuts doors as backlash over golliwog doll collection

A pub in Essex has been forced to close after police seized its collection of golliwogs, which are now largely seen as racist caricatures based on 18th-century minstrels. Suppliers apparently boycotted the White Hart Inn in Grays and leaseholders Benice and Chris Ryley chose to close the bar to patrons on Monday night as a result of the incident.

Following a hate crime allegation, five officers removed the dolls on April 4, and the pub was subsequently boycotted by Carlsberg and Heineken, who stopped supplying lager.

Meanwhile, the maintenance firm Innserve also refused to work at the pub.

The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) also became involved in the argument, removing the pub from the Good Beer Guide and prohibiting it from earning awards.

Mrs Ryley had been displaying her collection of around 30 dolls, which had been donated by her late aunt and customers, in the pub for nearly 10 years.

Following the seizure of the dolls, the pub was vandalised on April 16, with graffiti and damage to five windows

Mrs Ryley told Thurrock Nub News: “I feel gutted, totally and utterly gutted. Hurt, upset. I’ve had very, very much support from many people about the gollies.

“We’ve had a few bits of hate, which I personally don’t understand because it’s part of our life.”

She insisted: “young people these days don’t understand” the history of the dolls, saying some of her “collection” are “antiques”.

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She added: “I want them back. Basically, this is my life now, that they’ve ruined because we’ve got a stigma with our name now and with the pub.

“I’m going to miss the pub, I’m going to miss the people. We have had so many laughs in here. We have had so much happiness in here.”

She said she “probably would have plodded on with the pub” if the police had not become involved, but claimed “they’ve ruined our name”.

An Essex Police spokesperson said: “At this stage, our investigation is still ongoing.”

Last month, the police force denied receiving direct reprimand from Home Secretary Suella Braverman after the removal of the dolls.

However, according to a source close to the Home Secretary, her dissatisfaction with the incident had been conveyed to the force, as reported by the Mail Online.

The publication cited a Home Office source who stated that police forces should not involve themselves in such issues and instead focus on capturing offenders.

Mrs Ryley previously previously told the PA news agency: “They’re my childhood history, it’s a part of our inheritance. I can’t see any harm.

“I really am angry because what they’ve taken away is valuable.

“I don’t know how they can find it offensive. If they don’t like it, they don’t have to come through the door.”

Camra national chairman Nik Antona said: “Following the announcement that the White Hart in Grays, Essex, has closed, Camra now hopes this heritage venue is preserved as a pub and will provide a warm welcome to all.

“We believe pubs are for everyone – there is never a place for discrimination.”

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