The Swan was an inn in the 13th century. It is recorded in the reign of Edward II (1217-1307) although possibly not in the same building. In 1579 an outbreak of disease caused the premature death of scores of Tewkesbury residents. The first and last recorded outbreak of the pestilence was at the Swan.
From ‘Tewkesbury Pubs’ by BR Linnell (Second edition 1996)
A three storey brick front c.1730 with a horizontally grooved stucco ground floor (now much altered) of c.1920. The three left hand windows and a different roof line mark the Old White Herte. The windows have gone but the roof line remains. The two were merged 1785/93 but retained some separate identity witness a sales notice of 1814 – “Two hotels, manageable as one or two houses.”
Central to the Swan part was a large archway which has been filled in to form part of a shop. Before this conversion the archway was capable of being closed off with massive fielded panel wood doors. Above them is a small balcony from which many an election winner made his speech of thanks in the days when the town returned its own M.P.
The back boundary was at Tolzey Lane round to Back of Avon which made this hotel the largest one in town. Over the years it developed piecemeal, the stables becoming a garage, a large upper hall into a ballroom, the bars here, there and everywhere. Little planning seemed to be involved, with the kitchens across the carriageway from the dining room. These kitchens were later made into a bar, part into a Japanese eating house, then a second-hand clothes shop – everything went over the years as the hotel struggled to survive against a flood of regulations which eventually ruined it. Access was generally from side doors off the main drive in but over the years doorways were made and filled in in three places on the front – extreme left, to the right of the double doors and to the left of them.
A sales description in 1878 stated: “Coach houses, corn and hay lofts, stall stabling for forty horses, new billiard room with bar adjoining, clubroom 50 ft. by 42. feet., three arched cellars, court, yard, commercial room, front sitting room, market room, bar, bar parlour, tap, four sitting rooms and twenty bedrooms.”
The ‘Swan’ was known by name in the reign of Edward II (1272-1307). Plague broke out here in 1579. After killing scores of townsfolk it returned here for one final victim. At the high-water level of coaching days in 1805 this was a top class inn. Two years later it was still called “The Swan and White Herte”. Outstanding amongst the stages calling at that time was the London-Liverpool “L’Hirondelle”. The disastrous effect of which the opening of the railway had upon other inns of the town was mitigated by the ‘Swan’ being the posting house for other routes. The ‘Mail’ continued to run to Cheltenham twice daily at 10.30 am and 9.30 pm and the same times were kept by the ‘Berkeley Hunt’ to Malvern. The latter ceased in 1864 and the other one soon afterwards. The very last coach stopped running in 1922 when the hotel was sold to more modern owners. This was the Swan Coach, an old four-wheeler which plied between the hotel and the railway station. As the station was “alf-way to Ashchurch” it was sorely missed. The fire brigade missed it too, as the horses doubled as engine pullers.
The hotel closed for a time in 1909. Known sales of the house were in 1807; 1872 (3,200); 1876;1885;1906 (£1,600); 1922; 1969 (twice) and 1977 (Cotswold Catering / Wadsworth).
Despite great efforts the writing was on the wall by the 1970’s. Mandatory alterations to confirm with modern safety regulations were too costly so the upper floor was closed off. This reduce income but expenditure continued to rise. Things seemed to improve under the management of Jim Mattocks but this illusion was shattered in 1986 when he and his wife fled leaving a pile of debts. A new man struggled for a while but in vain. Closure ensued, followed by years of lying derelict. after much argument the front was altered to make shops.
The “Swan” porter was a noteable man from the late sixties. There were two of them in this time, smartly turned out in gold braided maroon uniforms. Their ages on retirement were about 88 years and 93 years. One look and the guest took care of his or her own luggage.
The Swan Hotel was once the biggest coaching house in Tewkesbury and was also used as a relay house for the Royal Mail until the railway was opened in 1864. The stagecoaches drove under an elegant window into the courtyard.
The Swan was put up for sale in 1872 with an asking price of £3,200. When it was put on the market in Edwardian times (1906) the value of the Swan was just £1,600. There is no explanation for this apparent discrepancy.
The Swan Hotel closed in the late 1980’s. The building is now in use as Marks and Spencers ‘Simply Food’ and Superdrug. The two shops have different roof profiles. These indicate the two separate properties that were amalgamated into the Swan some time between 1783 and 1785. (see the White Herte).
Map Reference: SO 893328
Owner in 1891: Harriett James (free from brewery tie)
Rateable value in 1891: £96.0s.0d.
Type of licence in 1891: Alehouse
Owner in 1903: Exors of James M. James (free from brewery tie)
Rateable value in 1903: £160.0s.0d.
Type of licence in 1903: Alehouse
Closing time in 1903: 11pm
Landlords at the Swan Hotel include:
1774-1781 William Martin
1781-1783 Mary Martin (widow)
1783-1786 Benjamin Jacobs (deceased 1785)
1786-1795 Mary Jacobs (widow)
1795-1814 John Ridler
1814-1816 John Griffiths
1816,1830 Robert Holland
1838 Josiah Castree
1854-1865 William Trotman
1865,1868 Elizabeth Ann Trotman (widow)
1876 Mrs Mary A. Wallis
1879 Eliza Briscoe
1891 Eliza Cicely Pike
1903,1906 Penstone Aaron Pike
1910 Eliza Cicely Pike
1910 George Albery Hawkins
1919 William Robert Hopkins
1925-1935 Henry Kane O’Kelly (1927 Trust Houses Ltd.)
1935-1940 John Fleming
1940 George Burn
1940-1969 Local managers for Trust House Forte, London, with Mrs Gillum in 1944 as manageress.
1968 D.M. Sweeton
1969 R.E. Williams
1969-1977 W.L. Williams
1977 John Maycock
1981,1986 J. Mattocks
1986 M. Thornton