Pub landlady defies police and puts five golliwogs back on display

EXCLUSIVE Pub landlady defies police orders and puts five golliwogs back on display to applause from lunchtime drinkers just days after six officers seized 20 dolls in ‘hate crime’ probe

  • Benice Ryley, 61, and her husband Chris, 65, had five officers enter their pub
  • They seized the dolls as well as an assortment of golliwog badges and magnets 

A pub landlady today defied authorities and put more of her golliwog collection back on display just days after 20 of them were seized by police as part of an investigation that she and her husband had committed a hate crime.

Benice Ryley, 62, proudly placed five of the controversial dolls behind the bar of The White Hart pub in Grays, Essex, which she has run for the past 17 years with her husband Chris, 64, as lunchtime drinkers applauded.

The couple had six officers enter the pub last Tuesday and take away 20 dolls displayed on a shelf behind the bar after an anonymous complaint was made against them. 

They also seized an assortment of golliwog badges and magnets that adorned the bar.

Today Ms Rylely revealed that in total she owns a collection of 30 golliwogs.

Chris Ryley (left) runs the White Hart in Grays, Essex, along with his wife, Benice (right)

Ms Ryley also posted a notice at the entrance to the pub warning customers that golliwogs are on display inside and that they should not enter if this will offend them. The sign declares: ‘We have golly dolls displayed inside on our shelves. If you feel offended. Please do not enter’

Benice Ryley, 61, was quizzed by officers after police received an anonymous complaint about the golliwog display at The White Hart Inn in Grays, Essex

As she placed some of them on a shelf, she told MailOnline: ‘The whole thing is ridiculous. It’s political correctness gone out of control. I’m not going to let the authorities intimidate me and I’m proudly putting my other gollis back on display in the pub.

‘I’m still shocked that six officers came to my pub last week, surrounded me and took away my collection of golliwogs. 

‘I’ve not committed any crime and haven’t set out to offend anyone. These gollis are a part of the pub, the customers love them, and they are reminder of our childhood.’

Ms Ryley also posted a notice at the entrance to the pub warning customers that golliwogs are on display inside and that they should not enter if this will offend them.

The sign declares: ‘We have golly dolls displayed inside on our shelves. If you feel offended. Please do not enter.’

She added: ‘The police took 20 of my golli dolls but I’ve got plenty more of them upstairs. If people don’t like them and feel offended by seeing them then they don’t have to come into my pub. It’s as simple as that.

‘I’m not going to give into this crazy political correctness. We have customers at this pub from all different races and none of them have ever complained about seeing my gollis on display. Why did the police get involved in this?’

The White Hart pub is located on the edge of a council estate in Grays notorious for crime and drug dealing.

Ms Ryley and other regulars fumed that police rarely attend when called out for ‘real’ crimes and slammed the presence of six police officers who removed the golliwogs from the pub.

Two others waited outside while their colleagues placed the dolls in plastic bags to take them away.

Her husband was away in Turkey at the time with police informing her that they wish to question him for a ‘hate crime’ when he returns as he is the licensee.

One officer puts the golliwog dolls into a clear evidence bag 

CCTV shows five officers walking into the pub before seizing the dolls 

Home Secretary Suella Braverman is said to have been furious about the approach, and has told Essex Police that bosses should be focusing on catching real criminals rather than seizing toys.

History of the golliwog doll: How the outdated children’s toy became a symbol of bitter controversy 

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.

Ms Ryley said: ‘Surely the police have better things to do. If they arrest my Chris when he gets back, I promise you, the world will know about it.

‘I totally agree with the Home Secretary. The police need to focus on real crime and not worry about what dolls people are displaying.’

Pub regular Sue Payne, 57 said: ‘It’s absolutely stupid and a complete waste of police time and money. You can get stabbed or mugged around here and the police won’t come or if they do, it’ll be after ages. But somebody complains about some dolls and six officers turn up. You couldn’t make it up.’

Gary Symes, 61 another pub regular said: ‘The way the police came down so heavy handed is childish and pathetic. The gollis have been up there for years, why did it need six old bill to deal with this matter when we have so much crime around here?

‘Black people also drink in this pub and have never had a problem with the golliwogs. It’s disgraceful that the police are wasting their time on nonsense like this.’

Ms Ryley revealed that she started putting the dolls on display soon after she and her husband took it over 17 years ago.

She said: ‘I’ve had golliwogs since I was a child and so have many of my customers. One day we started talking about how much we missed them so I thought it would be nice to put them on display.

‘Some of them dolls were gifted to me by customers, and they always bring a smile to our faces. They’re part of our heritage.’

The landlady claimed that the complaint was made by a customer who entered the pub three weeks ago and asked her to remove the golliwogs as he found them offensive.

She said: ‘None of the regulars had ever seen him before, he’s not from around here and doesn’t even drink in this pub. He walked in, took some pictures, complained and then left.’

Ms Ryley said that she was waiting to hear from police on when the dolls that had been seized will be returned to her.

She said: ‘I just want them back because they are very precious to me and some of them are worth a lot of money. But the police have told me that they are part of an investigation into a hate crime, which is absolutely ridiculous because I haven’t set out to offend anyone.’

A Home Office source said: ‘The Home Secretary’s views have now been made very plain to Essex Police so they’re under no illusions.

‘Police forces should not be getting involved in this kind of nonsense. It’s about tackling anti-social behaviour, stopping violence against women and girls, attending burglaries and catching criminals – not seizing dolls.’

The now controversial golliwog figure was created by American-British cartoonist and author Florence Kate Upton and began appearing in children’s books in the 19th century.

The physical dolls became popular in Britain in the 1970s but came to be considered a racist caricature of black people.

The first known example of the dolls being seized by British police was in 2007, when Greater Manchester Police confiscated two from a furniture shop near Wigan, Greater Manchester. 

CCTV footage of last week’s incident shows the officers marching into the pub and stuffing the dolls into an evidence bag. 

Essex Police said: ‘We are investigating an allegation of hate crime reported to us on 24 February. On Tuesday, 4 April, officers seized several items in connection with that investigation.

‘The investigation is ongoing so we will not be commenting further at this stage.

‘The force is proud of the work we do to prevent crime, tackle offenders and build trust and confidence in all communities.’

She and husband Chris, 65, who is currently abroad, had displayed their collection of 15 dolls after receiving them as gifts from customers over the years

The couple have run the White Hart Inn for the past 17 years after taking over when the boozer had become run down

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