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The Swan Public House Milton Ernest

The Swan Public House: 27 Radwell Road, Milton Ernest

The Swan in 1965 [X351-9]
The Swan in 1965 [X351/9]

The early history of the Swan is a little puzzling. There is a countywide licensing register which runs from 1822 to 1828 but the Swan has no entry before 1825, leading one to assume that it was first licensed in this year. However, there are references to a Swan public house in Milton Ernest which pre-date this.

In 1781 an almshouse account refers to a cottage near the Swan in which Elizabeth Peck was tenant, paying rent of £10 per annum which went towards the upkeep of the almshouses [P80/25/5]. An abstract of title of 1859 [GK140/1] refers back a conveyance of 1820 [also X668/17-18] in which Susannah Sutton, James Lowe and Ann, his wife, Thomas Harrison the elder and Sarah, his wife, Samuel Harrison and Thomas Harrison the younger, all legatees of Abraham Little, who died in 1785, all conveyed to Thomas Peck of Milton Ernest, the other legatee, their shares in a cottage 'then and for several years past known by the name of the Swan' formerly in the occupation of William Church afterwards Abraham Little, then Thomas Peck, then Thomas Harrison the younger and estimated at 2 acres, 7 poles. So clearly the Swan was in existence by 1820. There was a disturbance in Milton Ernest in 1821 involving two drunks having a fight and a gang of men wresting one of them away from the village constable [QSR1821/348-349]. The men had been drinking both at the Queen’s Head and at the Swan.

One can only presume that, for some reason, the Swan closed in 1821 or early 1822 (perhaps it was connected with the riotous behaviour noted above), reopening in 1825 because the later Swan definitely seems to be the same property because the abstract goes on to note that in 1829 Peck mortgaged it to North Crawley [Buckinghamshire] maltster William Nash [GK140/1 and X668/20-21]. This mortgage was transferred in 1835 to Oakley farmer Thomas Ball [GK140/1 and X668/24-25].

Thomas Peck died in 1841 having devised his property to his nephew Thomas Slaney [GK140/1 and X668/26]. In 1842 Slaney’s son, Simeon Sutton Slaney conveyed the Swan, with other property to the mortgagee, Thomas Ball [GK140/1 and X668/36]. In 1859 the Swan, with some other property, was put up for sale by auction. The particulars [GK140/4] state that the Swan, with 3 roods and 32 poles of land, had a 105 foot frontage and a large yard, garden and paddock. The house consisted of a taproom, a sitting

room and a large club room as public areas with a kitchen, a dairy, three bedrooms, a cellar, a laundry, a butcher's shop, a wood barn with a loft over, a chaff barn, stabling and loose boxes for seven horses, a piggery, a hen house and a large barn. The rent (“greatly underlet for many years”) was £18/9/- per annum. The purchaser as Bedford brewer William Joseph Nash [GK140/5] who paid £710 for it [GK140/6].

Nash died in 1884 leaving only a widow, Susan who took William Pritzler Newland into partnership in 1890 as Newland & Nash. The brewery was in Lurke Street, Bedford. On Susan Nash's death her four daughters became partners and the company was floated in 1897 with 75 public houses [GK3/3]. Newland died three years later. The countywide licensing register of 1903 states that the building was in fairy good condition, though dirty. It was 250 yards from the nearest licensed premises (the Queen’s Head) and had two side doors.

By 1922 Newland and Nash was failing, despite buying Potton Brewery Company in that year and it was purchased by Biggleswade brewery Wells & Winch, the Lurke brewery closing in 1924. The Rating and Valuation Act 1925 specified that every building and piece of land in the country was to be assessed to determine its rateable value. Milton Ernest, like most of the country, was assessed in 1927 [DV1/C1/76].

The valuer recorded that the tenant, Frederick W. Farrer, paid £24 per annum rent, fixed 1921; it had previously been £20. He described the building as: “Very old fashioned”. It had a small bar (“two pulls”), a tap room, a parlour, a living room, a large club room (“altered to sitting room”), a kitchen and a cellar. There were three bedrooms on the first floor. Outside were a brick and tiled four-bay open shed, a coachhouse, three pigsties, a two-bay open shed, a stable for four horses and an old store. Trade was the same as the Queen’s Head, 1½ barrels per week. In addition half a gallon spirits were sold per week along with three dozen bottles of beer. On being asked about takings the reply, as with most pub landlords assessed, was: “Does not know”. About half an acre of land adjoining house was included in rent. The place was not very old fashioned for long. Layer that year, as the photograph below shows,

Mrs. Farrer became the first woman in Britain to cook on an electric cooker [Z224/25/2]
Mrs. Farrer became the first woman in Britain to cook on an electric cooker [Z224/25/2]

To further improve the premises plans were submitted for planning permission involving rebuilding the entire place in 1934 [RDBP2/471] and a garage was built in 1938 [RDBP3/45]. The public house survived into the 1990s but closed in 1999, leaving the Queen’s Head as the only public house in the village. Today [2014] new housing stands on the site.

The site of The Swan Public House in Radwell Road February 2011
The site of The Swan Public House in Radwell Road February 2011


  • P80/25/5: referred to in an account of nearby land: 1781;
  • GK140/1: will of Abraham Little: 1785;
  • GK140/1: conveyance: 1820;
  • X668/17-18: reference in deed: 1820;
  • QSR1821/348-349: disturbance near the Swan: 1821;
  • CLP13: Register of Alehouse Recognizances: 1822-1828;
  • GK140/1 and X668/20-21: mortgage: 1829;
  • X668/20/21: mortgage: 1829;
  • X668/24-25: mortgage: 1835;
  • X668/26: will of Thomas Peck: 1836 (proved 1841);
  • QSR1840/1/5/6/b: landlord embezzled: 1839;
  • X668/36: conveyance: 1842;
  • QSR1854/4/5/22: theft by a lodger: 1854;
  • GK140/4: sale particular: 1859;
  • GK140/6: conveyance: 1859;
  • Z951/5/7: auction sale held at the Swan: 1894;
  • GK3/1: conveyance: 1897;
  • GK3/1b: trust deed: 1897;
  • PSS3/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Sharnbrook Petty Sessional Division: c.1901;
  • PSS3/2: Register of Alehouse Licences - Sharnbrook Petty Sessional Division: c.1903;
  • PSS3/3: Register of Alehouse Licences - Sharnbrook Petty Sessional Division: 1904-1930;
  • Z224/25/2: postcard of Mrs. Farrer: 1927;
  • RDBP1/1517: planning application for a bungalow adjoining the Swan: 1930;
  • RDBP2/471: plans for rebuilding: 1934;
  • RDBP3/45: planning application to build a garage: 1938;
  • GK297/2: conveyance: 1938;
  • PCMiltonErnest30/2: application for transfer of license: 1942;
  • X351/9: photograph: 1965;
  • 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. Italics indicate licensees whose beginning and/or end dates are not known:

1820: Thomas Harrison;
1825-1835: Robert Mole;
1839-1842: William Gibbons/Gibbins;
1847: Henry Barratt, butcher;
1853-1869: John Thomas Russell, butcher and licensed to let horse & trap;
1876-1898: Mrs Mary Ann Russell, butcher;
1903-1906: Charles William Russell, farmer;
1910-1916: Henry Robinson;
1916-1921: Alfred Charles Smart;
1921-1933: Frederick Walter Farrer;
1933-1936: John Joseph Turney;
1936-1942: John Joseph Quinney;
1942: Thomas Henry Larkins;
1963-1980: Lilian Asunta Lovejoy;
1980-1992: Roger Harrison;
1992-1993: Gerald Anthony McGarry;
1993: Richard James Sparrow and Paul Shergold;
1993-1994: David Lewis Mumford;
1994-1995: David Michael Hollowell.