White Hart Inn closes after offensive doll backlash

By Amelie Maurice-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Shutting down: Operators Benice and Chris Ryley will move to Turkey (credit: Getty/ meanmachine77)
Shutting down: Operators Benice and Chris Ryley will move to Turkey (credit: Getty/ meanmachine77)

Related tags Social responsibility Camra Essex

The White Hart Inn, Grays, Essex, which sparked a racism row after choosing to display golly dolls, has shut down.

Essex police seized a collection of the offensive dolls​ on 4 April as part of an investigation into an alleged hate crime dating back to 24 February. 

The dolls are widely regarded as racist as they are based on blackface from 19th​ century minstrelsy. 

The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has since axed the pub​ from its Good Beer Guide​ and said it would not consider it for future awards as long as the dolls were on display. 

Heineken and Carlsberg had also told the pub to stop serving its lager, while maintenance company Innserve refused to continue working on the site, according to reports from The BBC.

A spokesperson for Carlsberg Marston’s Brewing Company said: “We believe pubs should be an enjoyable place for everyone and we will take steps to seek removal of our beers from venues who do not share our values.

"While we do not directly supply the pub in question, after being made aware of the police investigation we contacted our third-party distributor to make our views clear.”

In an interview with Thurrock Nub News​, the White Hart owner Benice Ryley said she felt “hurt and upset” by the backlash. 

Owner's reaction

She continued: “I’ve had very, very much support from many people about the gollys and a few bits of hates that I don’t personally understand because it’s our part of life. 

“Young people these days don’t understand from years ago where do the gollys originate from. It’s such a shame. 

“It’s my collection. They are antiques some of them and I want them back.​ This is my life now that they have ruined. We have a stigma about our name now and our pub.” 

Vandalised pub

The building was vandalised with white paint and had its windows damaged on 16 April. 

Benice and her husband Chris plan to retire to Turkey after 17 years of running the pub. 

The pub previously won the South West Essex CAMRA Pub of the Year Award in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2015, 2017, 2019 and 2020 according to its website. 

Its leaseholders closed doors to customers on the night of Monday 1 May.

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