Skip Navigation

Welcome to Bedford Borough Council

Home > Community Histories > Girtford > The White Swan Beerhouse Girtford

The White Swan Beerhouse Girtford

The White Swan Beerhouse: 25 London Road, Girtford

The White Swan should not be confused with the Swan Beerhouse further north along the Great North Road. The Greene King archive [GK] has the deeds to the White Swan and they begin in 1788 when a cottage in Girtford, which was copyhold of the Manor of Girtford, with an acre of pasture was surrendered by William and Thomas Ball as they were taking out a mortgage on it for £200 [GK287/1]. A marginal note states: “The House and buildings were built on part of this close 28 June 1817” – this presumably refers to the beerhouse.

This mortgage was repaid in 1821 and another taken out, followed by another in 1831 [GH287/1]. Thomas Ball made his will in 1832 [GK287/1] leaving his property to his wife Mary for her life, then to their son Thomas [GK287/1]. He died in 1834.

The first reference to the White Swan is in a sale notice of 1852 [GK287/2a-]. The notice reads as follows: “All that substantial, convenient and most advantageously situate retail BEER HOUSE called “The White Swan”, doing a good trade; with Yard, Barns, Stabling, Sheds and Piggeries; together with a large and valuable Garden attached. The House commands a good Frontage to the Great North Road in the centre of the Village, and contains large Tap Room, good Parlour, 3 Bed-rooms, and excellent Cellarage; in the occupation of the Proprietor, Mr. THOS BALL. A directory of 1847 notes a Thomas Bell as both beer seller and gardener in Girtford and it seems a reasonable guess that this is a misprint for Thomas Ball.

The property was bought for £240 by Biggleswade brewers William Hogge and Robert Lindsell who ran the firm of Wells and Company [GK287/3]. The covenant to surrender the property tells us that Thomas Ball the elder, father of then occupier Thomas Ball, had erected the property (presumably in 1817 as noted above) and that it had begun life as two dwellings. He had bought the site from Charles Powers. The beerhouse was duly surrendered that same year but Hogge and Lindsell did not choose to seek admission until 1854 [GK287/6a].

Oddly enough, given that the White Swan was purchased by a firm of brewers, it did not long remain in business. In 1867 Frederick Archdale was admitted to a half share of the property, in succession to Lindsell, at which point it was described as formerly the White Swan, now used as a dwelling house [GK287/7]. The reason was that it stood next door to the fully licensed King’s Arms which had been in business for at least half a century and was also owned by Wells and Company.

Archdale put his half of the property up for sale in 1903 [GK287/10] at which time it was called a tenement (i. e. part of a larger premises) with a small homestead and garden adjoining, recently in the occupation of Lot Hendry, who was the Captain of Sandy Volunteer Fire Brigade. The purchaser was George Emery. His son, Alfred George Emery sold it to Louisa Ann Harling of the next door King’s Arms in 1917, when the property was enfranchised, that is, it was made freehold. Things came full circle when she then sold the property to Wells and Winch (Wells and Company had been bought by Kent businessman George Winch for his son Edward Bluett Winch in 1898 and the name of the company changed to Wells and Winch) in 1946 [GK287/18]


  • GK287/1: mortgages: 1788-1831;
  • GK287/1: will of Thomas Ball: 1832, proved 1837;
  • GK287/2a: sale notice: 1852;
  • GK287/3: deed of covenant to surrender: 1852;
  • GK287/4: surrender: 1852;
  • GK287/5: admission: 1854;
  • GK287/7: admission to the former White Swan: 1867;
  • GK287/10: covenant to surrender: 1903;
  • GK287/15: enfranchisement: 1917;
  • GK187/16: conveyance: 1917;
  • GK287/18: conveyance: 1946.  

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

1847-1852: Thomas Ball;
1864: Frederick Ball
Beerhouse closed by 1867.