Wanted: History of "The Swan"

Tony Ward came along to our memory desk in Wickford Library today. He came bearing gifts (see article “History Found at Boot Sale”). He is the proprietor of ‘The Swan’. He has recently been refurbishing the exterior of the pub and has found some interesting features that have sparked his interest in the history of the pub. When painting the brickwork at the front he discovered two bricks with initials and the date 1925.  Originally they had been almost invisible as they were just red brick like all the others. He has now had them painted white and the writing is very clear (see below).   He has discovered they are the initials of one of the previous owners Richard Weston Patmore and his wife Mary. In 1925 the pub was refurbished or rebuilt. It certainly became a bigger building, extending over the garden on the corner of Swan Lane. Tony has found a photograph in “Wickford Memories”, by Maurice Wakeham, which shows the original building with stables to the left and garden to the right. (Maurice has given me permission to add them to the site.) When clearing the area behind the pub Tony discovered a row of rings set into the wall and when he looked in the outhouse, which shares the continuation of the same wall, more of these rings were fixed to the wall inside. One of his customers had told him he thought it was where they tied up cattle waiting to visit the abattoir next door. Has anyone any information about this?

Looking at the now clean and tidy frontage you can see he has revealed the original name plaque high above the corner entrance.

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  • My grandad owned the pub through the 1990s, and into the 2000s too. His name was Geoffrey Shepherd. Having lived with my grandparents, I grew up in that pub. My heart pangs every time I see it, I loved that place, wish I could look round one last time! That place saw my aunts married, the death of our beloved grandmother, and all of his grandchildren born. The puzzle hanging in the bar of the swans was done by my dad, if it’s still there. The place is also notoriously haunted by the ghost of the highway man, as seen on many occasions by family and punters alike!

    By Sophie Shepherd (22/09/2019)
  • As I have written elsewhere on this site, in the late 1940s my mother was a barmaid in the Swan, paying for my sister to go to college. I used to stay with a younger member of the Patmore family when he visited his Aunt Josie Patmore. In the back yard at that time there was a large building which nearly covered the back yard. The ground floor was covered with straw, possibly for horses; there was a staircase to a first floor, which had hay laying about. I picked up a large chess piece and passed it on to the owners. We used to play about upstairs and spy through the loose floorboards at the local pigeon club who were standing below, showing off their pigeons. It was obviously a halt where riders would stable their horses below and sleep upstairs. My sister had her wedding reception upstairs in the pub, and I have attended many a meeting there in the past. The upstairs room was the length of the pub, as I remember. I believe the rear entrance to the yard was off Swan Lane, not as it is now.

    I remember way back in the late 1940s/50s my grandfather was a union convener and had an old Austin Seven. One day we had the call for help. He had gone into the Swan, and when he came out there the car stood on four beer crates, NO WHEELS! Crime in those days, that was in the back yard.

    By bobcroot (12/01/2017)
  • You may like to know that Louisa the wife of Edward Cox gave evidence at the inquest held at the Castle Inn into the death of Charles Crow, who worked for the GER, on 3rd September 1890.

    According to the inquest, he left home at 3.30 to go to work, on perfectly good terms with his wife, and went to the goods yard at Wickford where he was seen by a colleague and was well and sober. He then had a pint of ale and a steak at the Swann Inn before leaving at 12 o’clock.

    The driver of the 12.48 train from Shenfield saw him sitting on the rail with his arms folded and his head on his breast, as though he was asleep. Despite opening the steam whistle and applying the brake, the driver was unable to stop the train before it reached him and he was killed. Arthur William Christopher, a signal fitter who was my great grandfather, was also one of the witnesses called at the inquest to attest to his state of mind at the time. The jury, probably more out of consideration for his wife than anything else, returned a verdict of accidental death.

    By Mike Russell (07/04/2015)
  • The row of rings outside the Swan could have been for the tethering of animals, as next to the Swan, directly behind it was the slaughter house. My Great Great Grandfather had the Swan in the 1800s, Edward Cox, and after he passed was laid to rest in Nevendon Churchyard, but so many headstones have disappeared I have no idea where the actual grave is.

    By Trevor A. Williams. (30/09/2014)

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