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The Swan Inn Hockliffe

1st edition Ordnance Survey map showing the Swan
1st edition Ordnance Survey map showing the Swan

The Swan Inn, or the White Swan was a sixteenth century inn of which no trace now remains. The first known mention of the Swan comes in 1561 when Thomas Sheperde left "my house in Hocklif wherin I dwell sometime called the Swanne" to his son William [P103/28/1]. In 1583 the inn was held from the lord of the manor by William Sheppard [Victoria County History, Volume III, 383]. In 1708 the Hockliffe parish register records the baptism of "Mary a child born at the Swan March ye 13 baptized March ye 20th". As there was no true Manor House in Hockliffe and the Swan was part of the manor estate the inn served as the venue for manorial courts throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In 1851 the census shows the occupants of the White Swan to be Richard Woods, farmer and innkeeper, his wife Mary, three teenage sons, a thirteen year old house servant, and a visitor. In 1911 the White Swan was occupied by Joseph North, a 65 year old farmer and licensed victualler originally from Windlebury [Oxfordshire] and his wife Elizabeth who assisted him in the business.

The inn closed in 1918 and was sold in 1919 as Lot 1 of an auction of properties relating to Field Farm, Eggington. At this time it was described as a double-fronted brick-built and tiled dwelling house formerly known as "The Swan Inn". The premises were "pleasantly situated, facing south-west, and contain: Entrance Passage, 4 good Sitting rooms; Scullery; 2 Lobbies; large Kitchen fitted with copper and sink; large Double Cellar with entrance from yard, suitable for use as a Dairy; Pump of drinking water. On the First Floor are 6 good Bedrooms and a Box Room; 2 Staircases. Outside: a large Yard with double-gate entrance from the road; 2 Tiled Open Cart Sheds; Stabling with standings for 2 horses; large Thatched Building comprising stable with standings for 3; and Coal and Wood Stores; 2 E.C.s [earth closets]." The property included another homestead with a separate double-gate entrance consisting of two fowl houses, a pigsty, a barn with a loft over, a loose box, and an open cart shed, all timber and brick built with corrugated iron roofs. To the rear was a kitchen garden well stocked with fruit trees and an enclosure of old pasture covering an area of 2 acres, 3 roods and 26 perches, this last being partly in the parish of Battlesden and partly in Hockliffe. The tenant was Joseph North who paid an annual rent of £27. The premises had recently been re-decorated and were in excellent order both inside and out. [HN7/1/HOC/2]

Under the terms of the Rating and Valuation Act 1925 every piece of land and building in the country was assessed to determine the rates to be paid on them. When Hockliffe was assessed in 1926 the old Swan Inn, now known as Watling House and divided into two brick and tile semi-detached properties, was owned by C. Abraham The house to the right (as seen from the road) was leased for a weekly rent of 6/6 by J. Inwards. It included a parlour, living room and kitchen downstairs with two bedrooms and a small attic above, and a garden on the road side [DV1/C201/81]. The other house was occupied by the owner and was slightly larger, with a parlour, living room, kitchen and scullery, three bedrooms and an attic, with a garden at the back. The valuer described this property as "quite good" [DV1/C201/84]. Abraham also owned the farm buildings associated with the Swan which now consisted of a weather board and corrugated iron barn, a pigsty and open hovel, a brick and tile cowhouse for two, an open shed used for meal etc., a brick and tile open trap house used for wood and a cart, a brick and thatch coal barn, and a weather board and corrugated iron garage. These were occupied jointly by Abraham and Inwards, as were the 1.096 acres of grass land adjacent to the property, part of which was in Battlesden.[DV1/C201/82-83]

Soon after this the former Swan Inn was demolished during the widening of Watling Street.  A rating valuation book of c.1934 records that the site was still owned by C. Abraham but that the Watling House property had been pulled down or was in use as agricultural buildings and was no longer assessed for rates [DV1/X146/50].


  • P103/28/1: Will of Thomas Sheperde of Hockliffe, 1561
  • HN7/1/HOC/2: Sale particulars (Lot 1) 1919
  • DV1/C201/81-84: Valuation book (Hockliffe), 1926
  • DV1/X146/50: Valuation book (Luton Rural District Council), c.1934
  • Heritage Environment Record No.11606

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:

1822: William Millard