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The White Swan Public House Potton

The White Swan Public House [also The Swan and The Old Swan]: 27 Market Square, Potton

26 to 28 Market Square about 1900 [Z1306/91]
26 to 28 Market Square about 1900 [Z1306/91]

The countywide licensing register of 1876 states that the White Swan had first been licensed over a hundred years before. The public house seems to have been called, variously, the White Swan, the Old Swan and the Swan during the course of its life. The property was copyhold, that is to say, it was part of the Manor of Potton Rectory. People held copyhold properties from the manor and instead of conveying them to someone else had to surrender them to the Lord of the Manor at a manor court and the new owners then had to seek admission from that manor court or a subsequent one. This allowed the manor to claim a fee (or fine) for the privilege.

The earliest reference we have to the property is in 1757 when Ann, wife of Arthur Wright of Gumley [Leicestershire] was admitted to a third share of it [HF40/2/14/1]. It was then called the White Swan and had a malthouse, a dovehouse, shops and outhouses. Elizabeth Ward had owned the property and on her death it was divided between her three nieces. In 1760 Ann and her husband surrendered their share to William Hankin of Potton, plumber and glazier who immediately surrendered it to the uses of his will [HF40/2/14/2].

In 1769 William Hankin acquired another third of the White Swan when Arthur Barron of Potton surrendered it to him [HF40/2/14/3]. The building had now been divided into a number of tenements in the various occupations of Judith Apperley, James Hall, Thomas Hill, Elizabeth Eaves, widow. Two years later Hankin was surrendered a half share in an adjoining cottage by John Carr of Souldrop and Ann, his wife, one of Elizabeth ward’s nieces [HF40/2/14/5].

William Hankin made his will in 1782 and devised his two thirds of the White Swan and half the adjoining cottage to his nephew Thomas, who died himself in 1785 [HF40/2/14/7] and was succeeded by his son Thomas Pate Hankin. In 1787 he surrendered the property to Biggleswade brewer Samuel Wells [HF40/2/14/10].

Meanwhile the other one third share of the White Swan and half share of the adjoining cottage had been devised to Elizabeth Ward’s other niece Elizabeth, wife of William Cooper of Poultry [London], silkman. On Elizabeth Cooper’s death the one third share passed to her sister Ann Carr [HF40/2/14/11] and in 1783 the Carrs surrendered this third to John Kitchen of Potton, baker [HF40/2/14/13]. In 1787 Kitchen sold his shares to Samuel Wells who thus now owned all the White Swan and all the adjoining cottage [HF40/2/14/14].

The bar of the White Swan must have been a lively place on 14th July 1794. On 28th July farmer Richard Hankey of Sutton went to the deputy registrar of the Archdeacon of Bedford to bring a charge for defamation, presenting: “Edmund Bowyer of Sutton, farmer for uttering certain defamatory Words at the Swan Inn in Potton on Monday the 14th day of July 1794 in the presence and hearing of Ralph Munn, John Wilson and diverse other Witnesses, viz; “You Richard Hankey and your house keeper get drunk, and go to Bed together”. Whereupon he desir’d that a Citation might issue out of the Archdeacon’s Court of Bedford to cite the said Edmund Bowyer to appear at the next Court day to be holden in the parish Church of Saint Paul in the Town of Bedford to answer to the said presentment which he intendeth then to object to him” [ABCP380]. The citation was forthcoming [ABCP381] but, sadly, we do not know the result.

The White Swan and its adjoining cottage remained in the ownership of Samuel Wells’ brewery, called Wells and Company until 1898 when the firm was put up for sale by auction. The sale particulars [GK1/36] described the White Swan as follows: “containing Tap Room, Bar Parlour, Cellar, Shop, Scullery, small enclosed Bar and Sitting Room, four Bed Rooms and Box Room; Yard with side entrance from Sun Street, Shed, Pig Styes, W. C. &c. Large Barn, Stables and Lofts; also enclosed Garden. In the occupation of Mr. A. W. Garnett, at £10 10s. per annum. A Shop and dwelling House (of similar construction), containing Shop and Parlour, Kitchen, cellar, four Bed Rooms, Yard, Stable and Loft &c. Let to Mr. H. Carter, at £12 per annum. On either side of Public-house is a Shop, with Back Room, two Bed Rooms and Cellar. Also Two Cottages adjoining. Let to George Bartle, at £21 per annum. Copyhold of the Manor of Potton Rectoria”. The brewery was bought by Kent businessman George Winch for his son Edward Bluett Winch and, consequently, was renamed Wells and Winch.

The countywide licensing register of 1903 states that the White Swan was then under repair. It was 13 yards from the nearest licensed premises and had two front and two back doors. The old pub closed its doors for the last time on 21st December 1907 becoming a different sort of business.

27 and 28 Market Square February 2013
27 and 28 Market Square February 2013


  • HF40/2/14/1: admission: 1757;
  • HF40/2/14/2: surrender: 1760;
  • HF40/2/14/3: surrender: 1769;
  • HF40/2/14/11: admission: 1783;
  • HF40/2/14/7: admission: 1785;
  • HF40/2/14/12: surrender: 1783;
  • HF40/2/14/8: surrender: 1785;
  • HF40/2/14/13: purchase agreement: 1786;
  • HF40/2/14/10: admission: 1787;
  • HF40/2/14/15: admission: 1787;
  • HF40/2/14/16: surrender: 1787;
  • ABCP380-381: accusation of adultery with a housekeeper made at the Swan: 1794;
  • X744/45: licensee requests a meeting with the Inclosure Commissioners: 1815;
  • X744/71: auction sale at the inn: 1815;
  • HF40/2/14/17: recited will of Samuel Wells: 1816;
  • P64/1/17: affidavit of residence sworn by ostler: 1822;
  • HF16/7/1: auction sale at the inn: 1832;
  • HF40/2/14/17: recited conveyance: 1836;
  • HF40/2/14/17: admission: 1836;
  • P64/5/2/275: bill for wine: 1838-1839;
  • P64/5/3/343: bill for wine: 1839-1840;
  • P64/5/3/376: bill for wine: 1841;
  • P64/5/3/401: bill for wine: 1841-1842;
  • P64/5/3/424: bill for wine: 1842-1843;
  • P64/5/3/440: bill for wine: 1843-1844;
  • P64/5/3/471: bill for wine: 1845;
  • P64/5/4/490: bill for wine: 1845-1846;
  • P64/5/4/526: bill for wine: 1846-1847;
  • P64/5/4/548: bill for wine: 1847-1848;
  • QSR1848/2/5/16: ostler at the Swan involved in selling stolen wheat: 1848;
  • P64/5/4/575: bill for wine: 1848-1849;
  • P64/5/4/597: bill for wine: 1849-1850;
  • HF143/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1872-1873;
  • HF143/2: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1874-1877;
  • HF147/7/1391 A, B & C: drunkenness at the inn: 1877;
  • HF143/3: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1878-1881;
  • HF143/4: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1882-1890;
  • HF143/5: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1891-1900;
  • HF40/2/14/18 and GK50/1: admission of C.S.Lindsell: 1898;
  • X758/1/8/6, 7 and 59: photograph: c.1898;
  • GK1/36: sale catalogue of Wells & Company of Biggleswade 1898;
  • GK50/2: enfranchisement: 1899;
  • Z1039/34/2a: conveyance: 1899;
  • HF143/6: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1900-1914;
  • PSBW8/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1903-1915;
  • X758/1/8 (6-7): colour postcard of Potton Shambles showing public house: c.1906

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

1757-1785: Judith Apperly;
1815: William Chapman;
1822: Benjamin Endersby;
1823-1826: Joseph Taylor;
1827-1828: Sarah Taylor;
1830-1850: John Tyler;
1853-1861: John Edwards (also sadler and harness maker);
1862: Mrs. C. Croot;
1864-1869: George Croot (also corn and flour dealer and market gardener);
1872-1874: John Giles;
1874-1897: Ann Giles;
1897-1903: Arthur William Garnett;
1903-1904: Louisa Garnett;
1904-1905: John Kemys Bateman;
1905-1907: Frank Wildman
Public house closed 21st December 1907