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The White Swan Public House Shefford

White Swan about 1900
White Swan about 1900 [Z1306/101]

White Swan Public House: North Bridge Street, Shefford

Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service has very little on the history of this public house; the reason is revealed by its entries in licensing registers - it was owned for much of its history by our-county brewers such W.& S.Lucas of Hitchin, Whitechapel brewers Mann, Crossman and Paulin who became Watney Mann and Mann's Northampton Brewery. It was owned for a while by Luton brewers J.W.Green Limited, which was later part of Whitbread Limited however, when the Whitbread archive was disaggregated no material specifically about on the White Swan reached Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service.

As far as can be seen the public house was in existence at least as early as 1809 when a stray deed [WJ379-380] records the conveyance of the Old White Swan by John Phipps, Shefford  brewer, to William and Joseph Lucas of Hitchin, brewers. There is a reasonable chance that this is the same public house as today since it is described in the deed as "near the bridge". It may have an even longer history, another stray deed survives from 1670 which seems to mention the inn. This is a deed to levy a fine in order to cut an entail - in other words, a way of transferring the property to someone else whilst retaining control of it oneself in order to break the terms by which one holds it - typically imposed by a will of a now deceased (sometimes long deceased) relative. This was being done by Richard Reade, Vicar of Henlow and his wife Penelope and one of the properties involved is: "a capital messuage, tenement or inn commonly called the White Swan in Shefford now in the occupation of Edmond Harris or of his assigns".

However, one must be cautious in ascribing this White Swan to the current one. The current inn does not look that old (though, of course, it may have been demolished and rebuilt). The inn is described as a "capital messuage" which usually means something large and rather grand - it is usually used on manor houses, for example - and its use in the context of an inn would probably mean something the size of The George at Silsoe, or The Inn at Woburn or the Swan in Bedford, for example. Finally. other than being "in Shefford" no description of location is given. The name might suggest it was near a river, but that is true of most of Shefford.

Henry Clark was landlord for many years in the mid 19th century, the Bedfordshire Times of 15th September 1888 carried the following account of his funeral: " Funeral of Mr H Clark – On Thursday afternoon the remains of the late respected landlord of the White Swan were interred in the Baptist Chapel burial ground. The deceased, who had attained the advanced age of 79 years, was the oldest tradesman in town, and had for upwards of 59 years been landlord of the house in which he died. Among those who followed the remains to their last resting place were Dr. Winckworth, Mr & Mrs Spufford, Messrs S. King, R. Johnson, C. Johnson, Stapleton, Harwood (High Street), W. Harwood and A. Harwood. The coffin was covered with wreaths, sent by the Misses Osborn, Mr H Haddow, Mr W. Stapleton, Miss Lightfoot, Mr & Mrs S. King, and others".

In 1927 most of the properties in this area were rated under the Rating Valuation Act 1925; every piece of land and property was assessed to determine the rates to be paid on it. The White Swan, being north of the river, was assessed as part of Southill as, until 1933, that is how the boundary ran. the valuer visiting the public house noted [C124/128] that J.W.Green & Company Limited were the owners and the building was constructed of brick and slate, comprising a bar, tap room ["good"], living room, kitchen, three bedrooms, two barns and cart sheds and had 0.497 acres adjoining. Trade was good, running to a 36 gallon barrel and an 18 gallon barrel as well as a gallon spirits per week, as to takings: "No idea - doesn't keep books!"

By January 2012 the White Swan was no longer a public house. The establishment had followed a wider trend and become a Thai Restaurant. Its name was the Bankok Lounge.

White Swan January 2008
White Swan January 2008

 Sources:

  • Z876/2/1: deed to levy a fine in order to cut an entail - Richard Reade to Matthew Hobbes including White Swan: 1670?;
  • WJ379-380: Old White Swan conveyed by John Phipps to William and Joseph Lucas: 1809;
  • CLP13: register of alehouse licences: 1822-1828;
  • HF143/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1872-1873;
  • HF143/2: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1874-1877;
  • HF143/3: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1878-1881;
  • HF143/4: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1882-1890;
  • Bedfordshire Mercury: funeral of landlord: 1888;
  • HF143/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1872-1873;
  • HF143/2: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1874-1877;
  • HF143/3: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1878-1881;
  • HF143/4: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1882-1890;
  • WB/Green5/5/1: register of successive tenants: 1887-1926;
  • HF143/5: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1891-1900;
  • HF143/6: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1900-1914;
  • PSBW8/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1903-1915;
  • DV1/C124/128: rating valuation: 1927;
  • WB/Green6/4/1: trade analysis ledger: 1936-1947;
  • PSBW8/2: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1956-1972;
  • PSBW8/3: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade and North Bedfordshire Petty Sessional Divisions: 1976-1980

List of Licensees:

Note that this is not a complete list; entries in italics refer to licensees where either beginning or end, or both, dates are not known:
1670: Edmond Harris?
before 1809: Richard Richardson;
1809: William Clarke;
1829-1888: Henry Clark (and poulterer);
1888-1905: William Clark (poulterer and agent for Thorley's Food for Cattle);
1905-1927: J.E.Ludford;
1931-1961: Daisy Eveline Rockall;
1961-1983: Ralph Lancelot Rockall;
1983: John Henry McHugh;
1983-1984: Barry McCabe;
1984-1986: David William Wykes;
1986-1987: James Robert Taylor;
1987-1989: Margaret Ann Brittain;
1989-1990: Roger Graham Lemon and Margaret Joan Hansford;
1990: Dorothy Cartwright and Thomas Keith Gardner;
1990-1992: Graham William Burgess and Pamela Ellen Burgess;
1992-1993: Shirley Walsh;
1993-1994: Brian Cyril Hunt and Thomas Birkenshaw Rainey;
1994-1995: Jackie Markham and Thomas Birkenshaw Rainey