The Saudi developer and the burning pub: What happened at Hardy’s Well?
As the demolition crew went to work on a historic building, its 35-year-old owner posed outside grinning. His development company are ‘not really bothered by the rumours’
Dear Millers — the unexplained fire and subsequent demolition of the historic Hardy’s Well pub on Wilmslow Road a fortnight ago was met with sadness by many of our readers. “Oh no! Terrible news!” one person said on Twitter when we shared a photo of the demolished pub, now a pile of rubble. “A beautiful building and iconic. This is so sad.” The pub, which had been unused and was increasingly derelict, dates back to the 1830s and was best known for the massive Lemn Sissay poem that was printed on one of its outside walls, a familiar sight for anyone coming up the Curry Mile.
What caused the building’s ultimate demise? A fire ignited at the pub late at night and by morning the council had ordered its demolition on safety grounds. Residents nearby, including many who used to be regulars at Hardy’s Well, began sharing theories about who might have started the blaze. Police are investigating that question, judging that it was probably deliberate. When we visited a day later, the remains of Hardy’s Well was a crime scene and we found a group of police officers and fire service staff on site. “I used to drink here,” one man told us as he peered at the rubble sadly.
Someone else who visited Hardy’s Well on the day of its demolition was Dr Abdullah Bin Saleh Alnaeem, an exceptionally well-connected Saudi property developer. Dr Alnaeem’s Instagram account, which has 63,000 followers, shows him hanging out with Saudi government ministers and meeting major figures in the world of football like Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola and the club’s Emirati chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak. He’s well-connected in Manchester’s politics too. When senior councillor Yasmine Dar was appointed as Manchester’s new Lord Mayor last month, Alnaeem was invited to the ceremony and can be seen posing in photos with Dar in her full mayoral regalia. Another photo shows him with Labour MP and shadow minister Afzal Khan. (A council spokesperson told us: “The Lord Mayor has confirmed that she knows Dr Alnaeem outside of her professional life with the Council and has only recently met him at community events.”)
Two weeks ago, Alnaeem was standing on Wilmslow Road, with Hardy’s Well disappearing behind him. A photo posted on his Instagram shows him smiling and flanked by two other men, who are also grinning. Most of the pub has already crumbled into rubble and the long mechanical arm of a high-reach demolition machine is visible in the background, methodically going about its work. Under the photo, Alnaeem posted a short caption: “Don't let today come to you while you're in yesterday's tired memories — because a new day deserves everything new from you”. Under the photo, Yasmine Dar’s brother Majid Dar, until recently a Labour councillor for Ancoats and Beswick, posted a love heart emoji and a fire emoji.
Alnaeem’s company Eamar Developments owns the Hardy’s Well site but strenuously denies having anything to do with the fire and says it is “not really bothered by the rumours”. The Mill has turned up no evidence that suggests who started the fire and Majid Dar says his fire emoji had nothing to do with the massive blaze that had just ripped through Hardy’s Well. The council says it can’t comment on the fire’s causes, having left it in the hands of the police. In today’s members-only story, we ask: What happened at Hardy’s Well?
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The Saudi developer and the burning pub: What happened at Hardy’s Well?
By Mollie Simpson
Two weeks ago, at around 11.45pm on a Thursday night, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service received a call: Hardy’s Well, an historic but derelict pub on Wilmslow Road, was on fire. By midnight, the air at the bottom of the Curry Mile was filled with black smoke and dozens of people had run out of nearby homes and restaurants as the fire raged in front of them.
According to a statement issued by Greater Manchester Police, the fire was probably started deliberately. But after it was extinguished in the early hours of the morning, the building was judged to be so unsafe that no one could enter to collect forensic evidence. Manchester City Council ordered an emergency demolition, saying the building was now a threat to human life, and demolition vans arrived the following day.
The next day, there was police tape wrapped around the fence — what was once a local pub was now a crime scene. Residents stood and watched Hardy’s Well being torn down. Gone with it was the Lemn Sissay poem on one of the outside walls. “It was derelict, but it’s sad,” said a man we met on the road, peering at the pile of rubble and one propped up Victorian stained-glass window, which had somehow survived more or less intact.