A pub at the centre of a race row after placing more than a dozen golliwogs behind the bar has been given the go ahead to keep them up.
Landlord Chris Ryley and his wife Bernice were left reeling when their local council received an anonymous complaint about the White Hart in Grays, Essex.
Thurrock Council launched an investigation after a whistleblower claimed the golliwogs were offensive and represent a racially aggravated crime.
But Mr Ryley said the dolls were ‘here to stay’ and his no nonsense approach paid off after the council confirmed no further action will be taken.
Chris Ryley and his wife Bernice were told by Thurrock Council that they can keep the dolls behind the bar
It said in a statement: ‘Following the investigation, this issue is not a matter for the council under the Licensing Act 2003 or Public Order legislation.’
Chris, 59, welcomed the announcement, saying: ‘I would like to thank the council for their time and the eventual realisation that we do not mean anything racial.
‘I would also like to thank people, both locally, nationally and abroad, who contacted us and gave their support.’
Following news of the council’s investigation well-wishers from around the country got in contact with the popular couple with some even sending golliwogs in a show of support.
The White Hart in Grays, Essex, has about 15 behind the bar of various sizes in full view of customers
The couple believe the anonymous complaint probably came from a council employee – located near the pub – who popped in for lunch.
The pub, just a stone’s throw from the River Thames, has about 15 golliwogs of various sizes in full view behind the bar.
Chris and Benice put their first golliwog behind their bar three years ago.
Speaking after the probe was launched last month, Chris said: ‘The head of licensing at the council phoned to tell me a complaint had been made and said the same person had also gone to the police.
‘He asked me ‘would I consider taking them down’?
‘I was shocked – I told the council I would think about it but I cannot see how I have committed an offence so they are here to stay.
‘Since we have had them up behind the bar in the past three years, there has only ever been two complaints.
‘One was from a Canadian lady who said ‘those would not be allowed back in my country’ and another was from an English woman who insisted they were racist, despite no-one else in the pub agreeing with her, including a black man who was drinking in here at the time.
The couple put their first dolls behind the bar three years ago, and said there had only ever been two complaints
The couple have run the White Hart pub for the past 12 years since taking over the premises when it had become run down
‘It’s all about political correctness isn’t it? Children can’t play conkers anymore or have snowball fights in case they are hurt.
‘The council has enough things to be getting on with, rather than worrying about this. The golliwogs are staying up.
‘No-one has said anything to us and my message would be ‘go somewhere else to drink if you don’t like it – nobody is forcing you to come here’.
‘If the customers start complaining, that would change my mind but it is our customers who brought most of them here for us as presents.’
The couple have run the White Hart Inn for the past 12 years after taking over when the premises had become run down.
History of the golliwog doll: How the outdated children’s toy became a symbol of bitter controversy
Marmalade firm Robertson’s removed its iconic golliwog logo (shown) from its preserve jars in 2002 following complaints from campaigners
The issue of whether the dolls are racist or not often sparks fierce debate.
The golliwog was created by Florence Kate Upton in 1895 in her book ‘The Adventures of Two Dutch Dolls and a Golliwog’, where it was described as ‘a horrid sight, the blackest gnome’.
After the author created the golliwog, it became a favourite for collectors and was popular in the UK as the mascot of Robertson’s jam.
But by the 1980s, it was increasingly seen as an offensive racist caricature of black people.
Some people hark back to fond childhood memories of the dolls, whereas others argue golliwogs are a racist icon of a bygone age.
Marmalade firm Robertson’s removed its iconic golliwog logo from its preserve jars in 2002 following complaints from campaigners.
In a YouGov poll last year 53 per cent of respondents said they thought selling or displaying golliwogs was ‘acceptable’ compared to 27 per cent who did not.
Asked if it was racist to sell or display a golliwog doll, 63 per cent of respondents said it was not, while 17 per cent did.
Chris said he is proud of his pub’s welcoming attitude to people of all races and backgrounds and said they regularly provide outside catering for Indian weddings.
Benice, 56, added: ‘No-one has said they are offended by them – that is what really hurt us. The customers bring them in for us as presents – why has this person not come to see us?
‘But at the end of the day, if they are offended by them – they know where the door is.
‘Why go and waste council time? They have a lot of other more pressing issues to be getting on with.
‘There are a lot of problems round here with drugs and anti social behaviour. There have also been a lot of stabbings in the area.
‘I will stand my ground. We will stand our ground. I had a golliwog when I was a child and I wish I had kept it.
‘For me the golliwogs are nothing to do with racism and we will dig our heels in and will not be taking them down.’
After the complaint was made the couple put up a printed explanation behind the bar of what they feel are the origins of golliwogs.
Essex Police said they could find no record of a complaint being made against the pub.