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The Swan Inn Humbershoe

The Swan Inn January 2010
The Swan Inn January 2010

The Swan Public House: 36 High Street, Markyate

The Swan lay in the parish of Studham until 1866 when the new Bedfordshire civil parish of Humbershoe was formed for those properties north of Buckwood Road and west of Markyate High Street from the junction with Buckwood Road north. It should not be confused with the other Swan in Studham, which stood in Common Road and was in the Hertfordshire portion of that parish until 1897!

The first reference to the Swan held by Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service is in 1769 when George Wilkins of Markyate Street [Hertfordshire] mortgaged it, along with the Sun Inn and other buildings and land to Frederick van der Meulen of Hitchin [Hertfordshire]. Wilkins had purchased them from John Bigg, victualler. The inn may have had quite a long history as at that date five previous tenants are listed.

George Wilkins made his will in 1767 [RY193] in which he left all his real estate to his son Francis; he died in 1775. In 1781 the mortgage was transferred to John Crabb of Hitchin [Hertfordshire], brewer [RY195]. A deed of 1791 recites that Wilkins had sold all his real estate except the Sun [RY196-197]. Unfortunately the buyer is not stated.

The Bedfordshire Times notes the following case at Luton Petty Sessions on 10th November 1856: "William Goodson, of Market-street, was charged with permitting drunkenness in his house "The Swan", at Markyate-street, on the 2nd instant. Mr. Day appeared for the prosecution. The case being clearly proved the bench fined the defendant £2 including costs. Paid".

The Swan is next mentioned in recitals to the conveyance of Adey & White's Hitchin brewery and its licensed premises to Luton brewery J. W. Green Limited in 1910. One of the properties conveyed is the Swan and it is stated that Thomas Kinder, late of Saint Albans, brewer, held the inn at his death in 1869 [WB/AW4/1/VP1], he certainly had it when Humbershoe was subject to Tithe Apportionment in 1853.

In 1897 the civil parish of Humbershoe was abolished, and combined with parts of the Bedfordshire parish of Houghton Regis, the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire portions of Caddington and the Hertfordshire parish of Flamstead, to form the new Hertfordshire civil parish of Markyate. The Swan public house is still open at the time of writing [2010] the only one of Humbershoe's licensed premises to remain in business.


  • RY192: mortgage: 1769;
  • RY193: will of George Wilkins: 1767, proved 1775;
  • RY195: assignment of mortgage: 1781;
  • RY196-197: recital of the sale of the Swan: 1791;
  • BO1004-1005: sale of household goods of deceased innkeeper: 1814;
  • CLP13: Register of alehouse licences: 1822 - 1828;
  • PSL6/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Luton Petty Sessional Division: 1872-1901;
  • WB/AW4/1/VP1: conveyance by trustees of Thomas Kinder to Harold Stephen Adey: 1910;
  • WB/Green4/2/19: loose schedules of deeds to J. W. Green Limited properties: c. 1954;
  • WB/Flow4/5/Mar/S1-2: photographs of the Swan: 1960s.

List of Licensees: note that this is not a complete list. Italics indicate licensees whose beginning and/or end dates are not known. The list goes up to 1897 at which date Humbershoe became part of the new Hertfordshire civil parish of Markyate: 

Before 1769: Thomas Pryer;
Before 1769: John Linnell;
Before 1769: Samuel Maletratt;
Before 1769: Thomas Skach;
Before 1769: Thomas Millar;
1769: Richard Tipper;
1814: Richard Procter;
1822-1828: William Gristwood;
1847: George Donaldson;
1853-1854: Samuel Lightfoot;
1856: William Goodson:
1860: Thomas Church;
1861-1876: John Carter;
1877-1878: Ann Carter;
1878-1879: Frederick Grigg;
1879-1887: George Fatt;
1887-1889: Reginald Coulton;
1889-1890: Jeffrey Aldons;
1890-1893: Francis LindenGladstone;
1893-1897: George Shaw.