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The Swan Public House Elstow

The Swan Public House: High Street, Elstow [formerly The Star and The White Swan]

The Swan and High Street in the early 20th century [Z48/103]
The Swan and High Street in the early 20th century [Z48/103]

This old public house was Grade II Listed by the former Ministry of Works in 1952, whose architect considered it to be a 16th century structure. This view is certainly supported by the surviving records, the first record held in Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service being a feoffment of a cottage from Sir Edward Radcliffe to Richard Thompson in 1611. This cottage is described as "between a messuage or tenement of the King's Majesty in tenure of William Cranfield south and the common green there north" [GK121/1]. The set of deeds is not complete and so the ownership of the property seems to jump without explanation in the early years. For example, in 1625 it formed part of a marriage settlement between William Paley and Katherine Edward but by now it had become an inn, though at this date it was called the Star [GK121/2].

In 1675 the Star figured in a case bought before the assizes. Dinah Reeves was accused of stealing a coverlet and a blanket. She was seen selling them to the wife of John Munns, the landlord, for seven shillings [HSA1675/S/51]. She later confessed to Muns that she had stolen them from a house in Bedford, belonging to Edward Veale, a tailor [HSA1675/S/52], via a maid servant.

In 1683 John Boulton conveyed the Star to trustees in order to bar dower and ensure his title [R6/5/7/5]. The inn was conveyed by John Boulton to Richard Andrews in 1686 [GK121/4] and by 1730 the Star had become the Swan when Charles Bowmer (Richard Andrews' son-in-law) mortgaged it to Mary Rust [GK121/4].

In 1755 half the property was conveyed by John Jackson of Dunton, labourer, Richard Andrews' grandson, to Charles Purser of Elstow, horse dealer, who had married a granddaughter of Richard Andrews [GK121/5]. In his will of 1772 Purser devised the Swan to his wife, remainder to their nephew Charles [GK121/6]. He died in 1776 and his widow, in her will of that year, confirmed that the inn would pass to Charles Purser on her death, which occurred in 1780 [GK121/8].

Charles Purser the nephew sold the Swan in 1792 to Thomas Eyels of Elstow, butcher and he immediately mortgaged it to Catherine Eyels [GK121/9-10]. Eyels became bankrupt in 1807 and the inn and his adjacent butcher's shop were conveyed to his trustees in bankruptcy [GK121/11] who promptly sold the Swan to Bedford brewer Peregrine Nash [GK121/11], who had set up in 1783. In 1810 he took his son George Peregrine Nash into partnership as Nash & Company, with G. P. Nash becoming sole owner in 1819, at which stage he had 19 public houses. His eldest son George Peregrine Nash II was then taken on as a partner but he died in 1844 and was replaced by Nash's second son William Joseph, who was sole owner by 1849 and by 1870 he owned 42 public houses. W. J. Nash died in 1884 leaving only a widow, Susan who took William Pritzler Newland into partnership in 1890 as Newland & Nash. This firm was bought out by Biggleswade brewers Wells & Winch in 1924 with Wells & Winch being taken over by Suffolk brewers Greene King in 1961.

X373-596 Swan c1900
Swan about 1920 [X373/597]

The countywide licensing registers of 1903 states that the Swan was: "Good, clean, apparently sanitary". It had two front and two back doors and a side gate.

In 1927 Elstow, along with the rest of Bedfordshire, was valued under the Rating Valuation Act 1925; every piece of land and building had to be valued and the valuer found at the Swan that its present rent (tied) was £15 per annum, a sum which had been fixed 11 years before. It was constructed of rough cast, was half timbered, brick and tiled. It contained a bar, smokeroom ["good"], small parlour, cellar, two lounges (one large, one small), kitchen, scullery, larder, 6 bedrooms and a bathroom and W. C. Outside were a boarded and thatched four stall stable, loose box, cart shed and nag stable and a brick and tiled stable, chaff house, cart shed, cycle shed and urinal. Trade consisted of three barrels and four dozen or so bottles of beer per week. He further noted: "New windows in bar & parlour recently put in". 

At the time of writing [2012] The Swan has closed. This leaves The Red Lion as the last pub in the village.

The Swan February 2012
The Swan February 2012


  • GK121/1: feoffment from Sir Edward Radcliffe to Richard Thompson of Wilshamstead: 1611;
  • GK121/2: marriage settlement of William Paley and Katherine Edward including a messuage sometimes called "the Starr: 1625;
  • R6/5/7/5: deed to lead to the uses of a fine: 1683;
  • GK121/4: recited conveyance of Star from John Boulton to Richard Andrews: 1686;
  • GK121/4: mortgage of inn formerly called Star and now Swan by Charles Bowmer to Mary Rust: 1730;
  • GK121/6: fire insurance certificate of Sun Fire Office to Charles Boomer for White Swan Inn - total insured £400: 1731;
  • GK121/5: conveyance of half Swan by John Jackson to CharlesPurser of Elstow: 1755;
  • GK121/6: copy will of Charles Purser devising Swan to his wife, remainder to nephew Charles: 1772, proved 1776;
  • GK121/8: will of Elizabeth Purser leaving residue to nephew Charles Purser: 1776, proved 1780;
  • GK121/9: Swan conveyed by Charles Purser of Bedford, surgeon to Thomas Eyels of Elstow, butcher for £360: 1792;
  • GK121/10 Swan mortgaged by Thomas Eyels to Catherine Eyels: 1792;
  • GK121/11: abstracted bankruptcy of Thomas Eyels: 1807;
  • GK121/11: abstracted conveyance of Swan and adjacent butcher's shop built on site of malting by Eyels' creditors to trustees for his bankruptcy: 1807;
  • GK121/12: conveyance of Swan by trustees for Eyels' bankruptcy to Peregrine Nash of Bedford, common brewer for £525: 1807;
  • GK156/1/1 and X380/35: conveyance of properties of Peregrine Nash of Bedford, brewer to his son George Peregrine Nash: 1820;
  • CLP13: Register of Alehouse Recognizances: 1822-1828;
  • GK162/2: mortgage of Newland and Nash properties including "formerly White Swan, now the Swan": 1892;
  • Z373/596: exterior photograph: 1900;
  • PSB9/1: register of licenses: 1903-1935;
  • Z373/597: exterior photograph: 1920;
  • DV1/C/33: rating valuation: 1927;
  • RDBP2/929: Plans for alterations: 1936;
  • PSB9/2: register of licenses: c.1955-1995;
  • PSBW8/3: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade and North Bedfordshire Petty Sessional Divisions: 1976-1980

Licensees: note that this is not a complete list. Italics indicate licensees whose beginning and/or end dates are not known: 

1675-1683: John Mun(n)s (wife Anne)
1730-1755: Charles Bowmer;
1755-1776: Charles Purser;
James Howard;
1792: Thomas Eyels;
1822: John Cole;
1829: Charles Dines aka Vines;
1830-1832 William Webb;
1833-1843 Sarah Webb;
1843 –1848 Benjamin Tillett;
1848 –1853:  John Cox;
1853- 1854:  Michael Dillon, also horse breaker and post office;
1854 - 1855: [James?] Sanders;
1855: David Farr;
1858 - 1861: Thomas Brittain;
1864-1877: John Slater (and bricklayer);
1885 George Grace;
1890: Edward Morris;
1894: Joseph Daniel Powell ("good stabling and accommodation for cyclists; horses & traps for hire);
1898: Thomas Smith;
1903-1916: Charles Draper;
1916-1931: Edward George Crouch;
1936-1945: Frank Farmer;
1987: Geoffrey Frank Farmer;
1987-1993: Colin John Bell;
1993-1995: Graham Mead.