Earliest information: c.1470
Original estate: Chantry of Holy Trinity
Common Rights? Yes (Frontage 76ft; 4 horses or 8 cows)
Date of current building: 18th century
Note: The Listed Buildings Records enters it as "No. 116, The Three Swans Hotel"
The Three Swans is one of the most important properties in the town, a coaching inn proudly overlooking the market place. Its history has been extensively researched. The Three Swans is not, as is sometimes assumed, a continuation of the old manor house called The Swan, The latter is on the site of the present day 121 High Street. Neverthless the Three Swans has an important and centuries old history, pre-eminent among the inns of the town and manor of Hungerford. Equally, it should not be confused with another inn in Charnham Street known (rather cheekily) as the Three Swans for a short period in the 18th century.
The earliest definitive reference to the Three Swans occurs in an inquisition held in 1661 concerning lands given for the maintenance of a school in Hungerford. Thomas Smith the elder, gent, by an indenture dated 15 March 1645 gave 40 shillings per annum by way of a rent charge to enable 2 poor boys to attend a school in Hungerford "then lately erected." The rent charge was from "an inn on the east side of the High Street called the Three Swans, then and now in the occupation of Mr. Thomas Strangeways, vintner." In a Hearth Tax of 1663/4 Thomas Strangeways paid for 8 hearths, a very large number, indicating the premises in this case were in use as an inn.
Although the use of the premises as inn before 1645 is as yet unverified, there is a long history of a substantial building on this site going back to at least c1470, which is not detailed here.
A further reference in 1649 occurs in the parish register which records the burial on 20th October of "Oliver, an ostler at the Three Swanns."
By 1674, the inn was in the occupation and tenure of William Bell, who had moved here from The Bear. When he was at The Bear, he had issued token coinage. To read more about token coins, click here.
William Bell died in 1702, and Sarah Bell ran the business until her death in 1714. She died intestate, and a very detailed inventory was made of the Three Swans.
On the death of Sarah Bell her daughter Mary and Mary's husband Robert Elliott seem to have taken over the running of the inn, and almost immediately Robert took out an insurance with the Sun Fire Insurance Company in 1716. Fire insurance in areas outside London did not begin until early in the 18th century, the Sun commencing its business in the provinces in 1712.
Another member of the Elliott family, William Elliott was innholder in 1743, when there is a further record of a Sun Fire Insurance policy. The building is then described as timber built and tiled.
Between 1767-71 The Three Swans was in the hands of Joseph Lawrence. In 1774 the premises were bought by John Pearce.
Edward Bear was landlord from 1777, and after his death in 1788 it was run by his widow Deborah Bear; 1805 William Newbury and in 1832 John Brown.
It was at this time (1830) that King, Gosling and Tanner Bank was held at the Three Swans between 11-3pm every Wednesday.
In 1836 the owner was John Brown, then in 1841 William Keen. John Platt, the important Hungerford brewer bought the premises c1847, and it then run by a number of landlords - John Clarke Free (1850 - 1871); Mrs Jane Bell Free, "family and commercial hotel and posting house, billiards, loose boxes" (1881-91); Francis Waldron Church (1895-1911).
In 1896 John Platt sold it to the South Berks Brewery Co., Francis James Goodall being landlord until after 1920.
Between c1928 and 1931 it was run by Maitland Dods, but in c1932 Major Fairfax Harvey bought it. Landlords included:
1932-47 J. Fairfax Harvey
1947-52 Thomas Francis Evans
1952-56 Mrs. Grace Margaret Evans
1956-57 Edwin Holden
1957-66 Kenyon Crossley
1966-73 Major Louis Frederick Alderson
1973-74 Richard Elsden
1976-87 Ernie Peacock
1987-89 Millfield Co. Planned to redevelop, but went bankrupt in 1989
1989-92 Resort Hotels (including The Bear and Elcot Park). 1991 £1m upgrade
1992-98 Fine Inns (division of Resort Hotels)
1998-2005 Fownes Hotel Group
2005 Steve and John Hodges
2011 Casanova, bar, restaurant & Pizza re-opened at The Three Swans Hotel (having closed in 16 Charnham Street in Jan 2011)
Sep 2016: Bought by The Coaching Inn Group.
May-Aug 2017: Major refurbishment of restaurant, bar and accommodation. The new Three Swans Hotel has the group’s popular Eatery & Coffee House concept, as well as a brand new outside area, with a traditional stone baked pizza oven.
Description of property:
From Listed Building records: (Note: The Listed Buildings Records enters it as "No. 116, The Three Swans Hotel" Hotel.) 18th century, altered 20th century. Slate roof, one gabled dormer to left, two ridge chimneys, roughcast painted. Two storeys and attic. Five glazing bar sashes, ground floor has three 20th century bow windows alternating with wide recessed entrance door to left and carriage arch to right, plaque painted by door states "To Oxford 26, Sarum 27". Interior has re-set early 17th century staircase and some panelling.
- Three Swans Hotel, Mar 2007
- Three Swans Hotel, c1876
- Front Elevation of the Three Swans Hotel c1966. Drawn by John Brooks in Oct 1984
- Ground floor plan the Three Swans Hotel c1966. Drawn by John Brooks in Oct 1984
- Flyer for The Three Swans Hotel c1976. Note the erroneous reference to John O'Gaunt entrusting Hungerford to the townspeople "after the Civil War"!
- Resort Hotels upgrade - 30th Jan 1991
- The Three Swans, 27 Feb 2021.
Robert de Hungerford (?=Beaumont)
1325 Chantry of Holy Trinity
<1470 (NH) Thomas Coterell, q.r. 9½d.
c.1470 (NH) Culver Close: This is the close that was attached to the house that was known (1573) as Culver House. The first reference to the name Culver is in the 1470 rental where John Tukhyll is said to hold one vacant burgage and one part of an acre called Culfer acre, once belonging to Thomas Coterell, quit rent 9½d p.a. From the positioning of this entry in the rental it is not clear where the location of the property may be, but it is certainly not where later references place the Culver House.
1548 (NH) A draft lease prepared for the possessions of the disbanded Holy Trinity chantry (E301/51), describes a tenement, "late Thomas Jennings, demised to Ralph Serle" at an annual rent of 18s. This is a scribal error, as shown by another reference in the town survey of 1552 which refers to "one tenement and nine dovecotes late Ralph Serle, now Thomas Jennings", quit rent 10d, part of the late chantry of the Holy Trinity. Since Ralph Serle was alive in 1470 [ref.?] and Thomas Jennings in [ref.?], the latter reference would seem the correct one.
- The reference to the dovecotes identifies the house, the word 'culver' meaning a dove. Oddly, the survey contains an entry that one Stephen Yonge has one acre of land called 'le Colver acre' quit rent – ½d, and as in 1470 the positioning of the entry seems to indicate a tenement on the west side of the High Street. The position of the Holy Trinity tenement, however, is clearly at a point on the east side where it corresponds with all subsequent references to Culver House and Culver Acre. One can only suggest that tenancy of the house and the Close had been separate until 1573, and/ or that there was an additional one acre which, unlike the Close, was not adjacent to the tenement, but lay in the common fields.
- The early reference to dovecotes indicates that before belonging to Holy Trinity the property was originally the lord's, since only the lord of the manor was entitled to a dovecote. Presumably, therefore, the property was one of those bequeathed by Robert de Hungerford to the chantry of the Holy Trinity.
1566 (NH) Probably destroyed by fire during the Great Fire of Hungerford.
Notes regarding the Great Fire of Hungerford, c.1566:
(From notes by Norman Hidden)
There were in Hungerford a number of properties called Chantry properties and these had been leased by the Crown to one Henry Edes. A court case in 1569 revealed that he had covenanted in his lease " to build, make up, and re-edify certain burnt and decayed houses and tenements" among the chantry properties. "Decayed" as always means in need of rebuilding or repair, from whatever cause ~ in this case by burning. After much search I was able to find the original draft lease, dated 8th July 1566; and to it had been added, in a different hand, — the Court Official's rather than the scribe's — the following postscript: "Memo: there is six of the tenements belonging to these chantries burnt". And the lease made Henry Edes responsible for the rebuilding or repair, at his own cost, of the houses which were "of late burnt."
The effect of this is to alter our chart somewhat, for although I do not know which six of the chantry's twenty odd stock of houses were those which were burnt, I do know their respective positions or situations. Clearly those affected by fire were most likely to be in the northern half of the town, that is, above present day Church Street and Park Street. In fact on the west side of the High Street there were only three such properties, and two of them were right in the path of the fire. The next chantry property on the west side is - or was - about 9 or 10 doors up, roughly the site of present day no. 13/14 High Street.
On the east side of High Street there were no chantry properties at all until you come to the site of present day nos. l18 (Lloyds Bank), 117 (The Three Swans), 115 (Emma Jane Boutique). Of these, we suspected already from the court case to which I referred earlier that the property on the site of the present Three Swans had been a fire victim. That being so, it is likely that the chantry houses on either side of it also were consumed. We now have, therefore, our six probable burnt chantry houses, which Henry Edes ought to have rebuilt, or repaired (but probably didn't).
1573 (NH) In the 1573 town survey we are told that there was one tenement, garden and backside, with a close of pasture called Culver House Close adjoining to the tenement, held by William Butler, from Henry Edes who was farmer of the former chantry rents, at a quit rent of 8d.
1591 (NH) The 1591 survey reveals George Hedache (a local fish merchant) as tenant and adds the information that the close of pasture called Culver House Close contains three acres, quit rent 8d. The area of the Close (always somewhat approximate in these surveys) makes it clear that the Close can hardly be "Culver Acre".
1609 (NH) In 1609 the tenant is Francis Mason (tenement and Close together) and the quit rent 10d. The Close is still called Culver House Close, and the separate Culver Acre, now quite detached from the property, is held by John Burch, quit rent 2d.
- It should be noted that the tenement itself is not called Culver House, though the Close is known as Culver House Close. In 1552 the tenement is leased "and nine dovecotes", after which one hears no more of its function. It is probable (as an early Minister's Account (SC6/749/21) for the manor of Hungerford Inglefield may suggest) that the dovecotes had fallen into disrepair.
1612 (NH) After the enfeoffment of the manor in 1612 the system of quit rent rolls results in a different approach to the properties. There is little detail and the names of lands and houses change. The name Culver House / Close disappears, but that of Culver Acre continues.
1613 (NH) A law suit in 1613 (PRO: C2/ James I/ M20/9) gives some interesting information concerning this property. The premises had been leased for twenty one years to George Hedige (or Hedache) in a 'repairing' lease at a yearly rental of 17s. Hedige (who appears as the occupier in the 1591 town survey) assigned the remainder of his lease to Francis Mason, a feltmaker. The building was dilapidated (like many 'chantry' properties). Indeed, according to Mason it was "ruinous, rotten, in great decay and uninhabitable". Mason, however, agreed with Nicholas Curteys, farmer of the Holy Trinity Chantry rents, that he would rebuild and repair the premises if Curteys would provide the timber. This Curteys did, some 20 tons "at least".
- At this point the stories differ. Mason claims that he spent £160 on the building, to make it "fit and convenient for their habitations and useful and profitable for their trades," so that the building was now "in good repair and stronglie builte and withal very comely for habitation". But now that the 21-year lease was either expiring or had expired Curteys would only renew the lease on payment of a large sum and at an increased rent. (The rent of 17/- in or about 1591 compares with 18/- in 1548, so Curteys' action may be understandable). However, Curteys claims that although he supplied the timber Mason had asked for, the rebuilding had been left incomplete for the last eight or nine years. He claims that Mason had begun the reparations by constructing a frame of fabric of the timber; at the same time he pulled down the greater part of the building including, it would seem, the tile roof together with one double chimney stack. And there, half begun and more than half unfinished, the house stood, the frame "without doors and uncovered and so subject to the rain and weather for these many years". What Mason had made snug and watertight was "a little room for his trade and kept it thatched to the hazard and danger of all other the inhabitants and neighbours, their habitations being once heretofore (as this defendant hath crediblie heard) set on fire and in great danger of consuming by means thereof." It seems clear, reading between the lines, that the house was a large one and that Mason was content to leave some rooms unrepaired perhaps at the rear while he concentrated on improving others such as the business premises, no doubt at the front. All Curteys could do was to wait until the lease expired and then drive Mason out. Mason claimed he had nowhere to go, that he had used all his savings in repair of the building, and that, if evicted, it would be to "the utter undoing of his wife and children, exposing them and theirs to be relieved by the parish". Curteys claimed that he and his wife, being now elderly, wished to live in the dwelling "it being the chief house among other their tenements in Hungerford".
- Although this looks like a ploy to secure possession from their tenants, the claim makes clear that Culver House was or had been a property of some size and distinction, perhaps ranking alongside, or next to, its near neighbour, the manor house known as The Swan (=121 HS, "Manor House").
- Curteys was a well-to-do man and he held the farm of both the chantries, some 22 houses, of which this was "the chief". The story is fascinating both for the light it throws on the nature of the building itself and on the relationship of landlord and tenant: nearly 400 years old, it could doubtless find many a modern parallel without too much difficulty! In fact 16 tons of timber were obtained for the repair of this building from the Duchy of Lancaster (DL42/98/folios 329,330) -"one tenement containing 16 field of housing, and a cote, which will occupie 16 tons of timber". The certificate is dated 40 Elizabeth but the timber may not have been cut until 1602 (Berks CRO H/M10).
- The early reference to dovecotes indicates that before belonging to Holy Trinity the property was originally the lord's, since only the lord of the manor was entitled to a dovecote. Presumably, therefore, the property was one of those bequeathed by Robert de Hungerford to the chantry of the Holy Trinity.
- Culver Acre in the occupation of John Burch in 1609 was part of a block of property (two tenements quit rent 8d, one close in Stocken Street quit rent 2d, and Culver Acre quit rent 2d) purchased or acquired by Sir Edward Hungerford Kt, possibly from one Pottenger (probably William of that name (Wilts CRO 442/1). These had been held in 1573 by Thomas Alden, as a tenement and close of pasture and two acres arable, one in the Everlong and one in the Breach, His predecessor had been John Harrold (1552) who held a tenement and one acre, quit rent 8d.
1645 (NH) One small piece of evidence of the early use of its name occurs in the parish register which records the burial on 20 October of "Oliver, an ostler at the Three Swanns."
Thomas Strangeways, 1645-c1668:
1645-1661 (NH) It may also be noted that although the commission of inquiry refers to Thomas Strangeways as the landlord in occupation "then" (1645) and "now" (1661). Strangeways had been admitted to the local Hocktide Court as vintner in 1632. We also know that he was presented by the church wardens in 1635 "for keeping ill order in his house on a Sunday in June last in time of divine service; and also Nicholas Burch for being then there with other company". This sort of charge was one typically made by Puritans at this time and implies that the inn was open to tipplers who preferred its pleasures to that of attending church on the Sabbath, (Wilts R.O: Ch/Wdns Presentments D5/28 bundle 35 f.23). The name of the "house" is not given; but Nicholas Burch was a beer brewer and son in law of Thomas Smith whose benefaction had led to the commission of inquiry (PCC will of Thos. Smith 1645). It seems possible therefore that Burch may have held the main lease of the premises and had subleased them to Strangeways to use as an inn. Although admitted to the Hocktide Court as a tradesdman in 1632, Strangeways never appears in the list of freeholders, so he most probably held the premises on rental. Strangeways (or Stranguage, his name had many variant spellings) married a local girl Edith Allen in 1642 and died in 1669. (Par. Reg,), Nicholas Burch paid his relief or entry fee to the Hocktide Court in respect of "lands late Thomas Smith's" in 1649, but whether these lands included the Three Swans is not stated.
1661 (NH) An early definite reference to the real Three Swans occurs in an inquisition or commission of inquiry held in 1661 (C93/25/14 and C93/35/8) concerning lands given for the maintenance of a school in Hungerford. The report of this commission states that Thomas Smith the elder, gent, by an indenture dated 15 March 1645 gave 40 shillings per annum by way of a rent charge to enable 2 poor boys to attend a school in Hungerford "then lately erected." The rent charge was from "an inn on the east side of the High Street called the Three Swans, then and now in the occupation of Mr. Thomas Strangeways, vintner."
1663/64 (NH) Hearth Tax returns 1663/4 Thomas Strangeways has 8 hearths, a very large number, indicating the premises in this case were in use as an inn. Only a gentleman's mansion might be expected otherwise to have as many.
John Bradford, c1668-c1674:
1670 (NH) That the Three Swans was held on a long lease rather than as a freehold is indicated by a deed Hussey - Elwes (Wilts R.O. Burdett papers) dated 11 May 1670 in which the Three Swans is named as a former 'chantry' property "now" [i.e. since the death of Thomas Strangeways] "in the occupation of John Bradford". The phrase "former Chantry property" means that, prior to the dissolution of chantries in the reign of Henry VIII, the property belonged either to the Chantry of the Holy Trinity or to the Chantry of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
William Bell, c1674-1702:
1674 (NH) By 1674, however, the inn was described as in the occupation and tenure of William Bell from Thomas Jennings. (See Feet of Fine: Thomas Jennings (26 Charles II Easter) and also Bell (C93/35/6 dated 1674)). William Bell had been tenant innkeeper at The Black Bear Inn since at least 1668. In that year he had been a substantial enough tradesman to issue his own token coins and a half-penny token bearing his name was struck at the Bear. It is William Bell who appears in the town quit rent roll for that year (Berks R.O.) and in the Hocktide Court lists of freesuitors between 1680 and 1700. It seems likely that Bell purchased the leasehold since in 1674 a Foot of Fine records his purchase from Thomas Jennings et al of 1 messuage, 1 curtilage, 1 garden and 1 orchard in Hungerford and Sandon Fee (Feet of Fine, Berks, CP25/2/626/26 Chas II. Trin, ). This purchase is reflected in the town Quit Rent Roll of 1676 when Bell's name first appears as a commoner or freeholder for his house and close at a quit rent of l0d. Both the close attached to the house and the size of the quit rent suggests that the purchase correpsonds to the Three Swans property.
1674 (NH) An inquisition (C93/35/8) gives William Bell as now occupier and tenant of The Three Swans. (It seems that he ran both The Three Swans and The Bear until 1691 when he gave up the tenancy of The Bear).
1676 (NH) In the 1676 quit rent roll one may identify the property as that held by William Bell who paid quit rent for his house and close 10d. At the same time the former Culver House and its adjoining Close had by 1676 passed to William Bell.
1676 (NH) Culver Acre is leased, as a separate entry, by Jonathan Read, quit rent 2d, along with a separate tenement called the Brewhouse (now 129 HS), quit rent 8d.
1677 (NH) In April 1677 depositions in a Chancery suit Wither v Elwes (C22/840/1) were taken "at the dwelling house of Mr. Bell commonly known by the name or sign of the Three Swans." This use for the holding of a judicial commission testifies to the good standing and comfort of the premises, and a clear indication that it was a leading inn in the town. The inn must also have been a staging point for the mail coaches that passed through the town; thus in 1699 the DCV Admons of Isaac Ball (presumably sent from Salisbury?) contains the the following inscription on its cover: "memo: to send the wills by John of the West to be left with William Bell at the Three Swans in Hungerford." Another aspect of its importance and its popularity may be seen from the references to it in the Constable's accounts. "Paid expenses at the Three Swans when the deed of feoffment was signed: £1." (1690, John Seagar, Constable). "Paid for expenses at the Three Swans about quartering of soldiers: 2 shillings" (1693, Edward Lucas, Constable). [Contemporaneous with these were similar payments to the Swan, the White Hart, and the Bear. As only a few pages have been searched in the Constable's Accounts it is possible there may be further entries.]
1684/5 (NH) The Churchwarden's Accounts also reveal similar payments for expenses, e.g. 1684/5 "Spent with the quarriers at ye Three Swans: 4d." Presumably the stone quarriers who may have been providing stones for church repairs.
Sarah Bell, 1702-1716:
1702 (NH) William Bell died in 1702, leaving his widow Sarah to carry on the business. In 1710 Sarah Bell widow deposes in a court case (E134/9Anne/Trin3). In his will (D & C Windsor) William leaves property to his brother Francis and to his mother Sarah. We know that Sarah carried on the business at the Three Swans, and at least two more law court commissions were held there in 1710 and 1711 during the period of her management (E134 Berks/Anne 9/Trin 3). In his will William Bell also mentioned his sister Mary, and this sister married Robert Ellett (or Elliot).
When Sarah died intestate in 1714, Robert Elliott (described as an innholder) and his wife Mary, were sworn to administer her mother Sarah's estate. An inventory taken at the time gives an excellent idea of the rooms, facilities, and stores held in the inn at that date.
The Three Swans had six bedrooms named Bell, Dragon, Swan, Crown, Gatehouse and New Room – plus a bedroom over the kitchen, three beds in ‘the Passage and Shuffleboard Chamber’ and an unquantified number of beds in ‘the Gallery and Garrets’. In some of these rooms it would have been normal for travellers to share with complete strangers. The public rooms included one called Rose, a Parlour/Buttery, and a New Chamber.
The contents of a brew-house included two ‘furnaces’, which probably meant coppers, in which the beer mash was boiled. The beer-cellar contained eight hogsheads (54 gallons each) and three barrels (36 gallons each), which suggests a vibrant throughput of ale. The wine cellar contained 146 gallons of white wine, claret and ‘canary’ – the generic term for a fortified wine or sherry – plus 10 gallons of brandy. There was stabling for travellers’ horses, and in the adjoining outhouses were 20 tons of hay, a cow and eight pigs.
Robert and Mary Elliott, 1714-1726:
1716 (NH) On the death of Sarah Bell her daughter Mary and Mary's husband Robert Elliott seem to have taken over the running of the inn, and almost immediately Robert took out an insurance with the Sun Fire Insurance Company in 1716. Fire insurance in areas outside London did not begin until early in the 18th century, the Sun commencing its business in the provinces in 1712. In 1719 on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th of February depositions were taken "at the house of Robert Elliott commonly known as the Three Swans." Another Commission to take declarations of witnesses in a Chancery case was held in the Three Swans during Elliot's landlordship in 1724 (C17/1345/5).
1725 (NH) In 1725, the year preceding his death, Robert Elliot senior arranged a mortgage on the premises with Edward Hanson and Robert Mandrel1 as mortgagees. He sold a 500 year lease to Hanson and Maundrell of "all that messuage or common inn called the Three Swans with brewhouse, barn, stables, buildings, yards and gardens and that close of meadow there containing 2 acres lying between the gardens belonging to the inn on the west and the common field called the Everlong on the east." (Berks R,O. D/ELm/T3, abstract of title 1834). The property thereby remained with his family, as described in his will. Mortgages of the kind then in use were intended to continue indefinitely, i.e. with payment of the interest but without repayment of the capital. In this way provided the interest was paid the mortgage acted as a loan to the mortgagor and as an investment for the mortgagee. If the mortgagor failed over a period to pay his interest or the mortgagee for any other reason wished to get his money back, the mortgagee could seek to assign the mortgage to someone else. Thus Hanson and Mandrell assigned their rights as mortgagee to Alexander Thistlethwayte in 1728 (see below) with the property still in the name of Robert Elliot's widow Mary. In 1734 (see below) Thistlethwayte having died, his executors made an assignment of the mortgage to Joseph Shipton.
1725/6 (NH) In his DCW will dated 11 January 1725/6 Robert Elliott innholder leaves to his wife Mary during her life (and then to her son Robert) the "freehold messuage or common inn called the Three Swans wherein I now dwell with its brewhouse, barn, stables, outhouses, and with meadow ground adjoining," to be charged with £200 payable to his son William within one year of Mary's death. [He also had another inn or alehouse in Charnham Street which was called the Black Swan, in the possession of Thomas Nobes, which he left to his wife Mary and after her death to his son William. Probate was granted 6 June 1726].
1725 (NH) An indenture of 1725 exists in Berkshire R.O. (D/Elm/T3) and this reference to Robert Ellis, the innholder of the 3 Swans is an early use of the name "The Three Swans" in connection with this site. The deed is incorporated in an abstract of the title of John Pearce to the house and to the close [Jn. Pearce is given as owner of the property in the quit rent rolls of 1774 and 1775. His will is dated 1803]. By 1753 the messuage was being occupied by William Elliot.
Further records regarding Three Swans Close, (land bounded by Cow Lane (to the south), modern Station Road (to the east), and the "gardens" of Robinson's, Dolton's and the Three Swans to the west):
1725 (NH BRO - D/ELM T3). A newly erected messuage in Cow Lane – see abstract of John Pearce's title to the land and premises 10 Jan 1725 which refers to a cottage or tenement or garden lately erected in the close of meadow, then or lately occupied as 2 tenements, being on the north side of Cow Lane, being part of the south east corner of the close of meadow, the 2 tenements occupied by Richard Dear or his undertenants and then by Mills.
- Abstract of Mr John Pearce to a new erected cottage on north side of Cow Lane. For Thomas Mills, the purchaser (Ryley, Hungerford). Jn Pearce, of Horningsham, Wilts, Esq., son and devisee in last Will and Testament of John pearce late of Standen Hussey, to a piece of land whereon hath lately been erected a messuage, now 2 tenements, formerly part of a close adjoining and belonging to the 3 Swans Inn.
- [This property is shown on the 1819 Enclosure Award map lying opposite the junction of modern Fairview Road with Park Street]
10 Jan 1725 (NH) Indenture of release (mortgage) between: (1) Robert Elliot of Hungerford, innholder; (2) Edward Hanson of Chisbury, Wilts, gent, and Robert Mandrell of Compton Basset. Robert Elliot sold to Hanson and Mandrell for £100 "all that messuage or common inn called 3 Swanns with brewhouse, barn, Stable, buildings yards and gardens and that close of meadow there contining 2 acres lying between the gardens belonging to said inn on west and common field, Everlong on east. To hold for 500 years. Rent 1 peppercorn.
11 Jan 1725 (NH) R. Elliot by will gave premises to wife, Mary for term of her natural life and after her death to son, Robert, sum of £200 being payable to son William (says this is a PCC will, but we have will of a Robert Elliot for DCWindsor) 6 Jan 1726.
Mary Elliott let the Three Swans to tenants, 1726-1733:
After Robert Elliott's death in 1726, his widow appears to have let the Three Swans to various tenant innkeepers.
(NH) What had happened was that in the year (1725) preceding his death Robert Elliott senior had arranged a mortgage on the premises with Edward Hanson and Robert Mandrell as mortgagees (Berks R.O. D/ELm T3). The property thereby remained with his family, as described in his will. Mortgages of the kind then in use were intended to continue indefinitely, i.e. with payment of the interest but without repayment of the capital. In this way provided the interest was paid the mortgage acted as a loan to the mortgagor and as an investment for the mortgagee. If the mortgagor failed over a period to pay his interest or the mortgagee for any other reason wished to get his money back, the mortgagee could seek to assign the mortgage to someone else. Thus Hanson and Mandrell assigned their rights as mortgagee to Alexander Thistlethwayte in 1728 with the property still in the name of Robert Elliot's widow Mary, In 1734 Thistlethwayte having died, his executors made an assignment of the mortgage to Joseph Shipton.Thistlethwayte was a Hungerford attorney who died January 1732/3. He was Steward of the Manor of Hungerford 1698-1712. (There is no entry for the years 1713- 1715). His will refers to his kinsman Richard Bird of Cricklake, Wilts â€" hence the latter's appearance in the deed concerning the Three Swans in 1734, as part of the Thistlethwayte family interest,
1 Aug 1726 (NH) Indenture between (1) Edward Hanson and Robert Mandrell, (2) Mary Elliott, widow; (3) Edward Hanson, son of above Edward Hanson. Saying that because of 1725 indenture, £102 now due to Hanson and Mandrell. And Edward Hansen the son paid this for Mary Elliott.
1727 (NH) In November 1727 the will of Benjamin Dennis of Hungerford who died at Ham in Wiltshire was sent "per Oxford carrier to be left at the Three Swans," once again showing that the inn had an important place in the stage coach routes of its day. (Archd. Wilts).
3 Mar 1728 (NH) Indenture between (1) Edward Hanson, son; (2) Mary Elliot; (3) Alexander Thistlethwayte, gent. There was then due to Edward Hanson, son, £105+. Paid by Alex Thistlethwayte for Mary Elliot.
The property thereby remained with his family, as described in his will. Thistlethwayte was a Hungerford attorney who died January 1732/3. He was Steward of the Manor of Hungerford 1698-1712. (There is no entry for the years 1713- 1715). His will refers to his kinsman Richard Bird of Cricklade, Wilts — hence the latter's appearance in the deed concerning the Three Swans in 1734, as part of the Thistlethwayte family interest.
1729 (NH) But in 1729 depositions were taken "at the house of Edward Glasse, innholder, called the Three Swans" who was aged 50 or upwards.
1731 (NH) Similarly in 1731 hearings took place "at the house of Thomas Lyddiatt at the sign of the Three Swans". [Thomas Liddiard was Constable in 1732, died 1748.]
William Elliott, owner and innkeeper 1733-1748:
When Mary Elliott died in 1733, her son William Elliott, then aged 21 years, took charge as owner and innkeeper.
27/28 June 1734: Indentures of lease and release between (1) Richard Byrt, Sarah Thistlethwayte and Alex Thistlethwayte (executors of above Alexander Thistlethwayte, deceased); (2) Robert Elliot of Hungerford, yeoman, eldest son and heir of Richard Elliot, deceased. (3) John Robinson of Bartlett's Buildings, London, gent.; (4) William Elliot of Bishopstone, Wilts, yeoman, son of Robert Elliot, deceased. Robert Elliot, deceased in 1718 became bound to John Pearce, late of North Standen, yeoman, deceased, for £100. By deed poll in 1728 there was then due to Stephen Pearce, executor of Daniel Pocock who was executor of said John Pocock, for principal and interest, sum £49+ and Stephen Pearce transferred the Bond to Alexander Thistlethwayte. So then was due to executors of Alex Thistlethwayte £133-19-3d + the Bond £62, + costs of a suit upon an Ejectment brought by these executors, making whole sum £200. And they for payments by John Robinson and William Elliot and Robert Elliot sold premises to John Robinson [then a lot of jiggery pokery about recoveries]: Trin term 7 & 8 King Geo. II: Exemplification of Common Recovery (with livery and seizure) between William Elliot demandent, John Robinson, tenant, and Robert Elliot, vouchee of the premises.
22 Jan 1736 Indenture of Assignment between (1) Richard Byrt, Sarah Enstone of Windsor (late Thistlethwayte) and Alex Thistlethwayte; (2) William Elliot; (3) Joseph Shipton, gent. £250 owing to 1st parties. Paid to them by Joseph Shipton. Joseph Shipton to be chief lord and the fee. [Joseph Shipton died 1752. James Shipton owned the brewhouse at 129 HS]. Joseph Shipton died 1752.
The most striking feature of the assignment of mortgage in 1736 is that the deed includes the right of Joseph Shipton the mortgagee to be chief lord of the fee. [=Sandon Fee?]. Whence does this arise? Subsequent assignments continue to include this right, viz to Thomas Kimber of Soley gent (1740); from Kimber to Stephen Pearce of N. Standen (1757). In 1774 an absolute purchase of the premises was made by John Pearce, thus wiping out the long standing mortgage, and at the same time removing the last residual rights of the Elliot family.
The document D/ELm T3 now needs to be checked to see whether the 'lordship' right is specifically continued.
24/25 Mar 1740: Indenture of Lease and Release between (1) Joseph Shipton; (2) William Elliot; (3) Thomas Kimber of Soley, gent. Thomas Kimber now becomes "chief Lord".
1743 (NH) In 1743, however, we still find the Elliot name associated with the Three Swans. In that year William Elliott "innholder of the Three Swans" takes out or renews insurance with the Sun Fire Insurance Co. (vol.66). The building is then described as timber built and tiled. Innholder normally implies ownership; as distinct from innkeeper which implies management.
Henrietta Elliott, 1748-1751:
On William Elliott's premature death in 1748, aged 37, his widow Henrietta either carried on alone or let the inn to a tenant innkeeper.
1753-61 (QR) William Elliott for his house and Close, q.r. 10d. (This needs checking - HLP).
Henry and Henrietta Ellis, 1751-c1767:
In 1751 Henrietta married Henry Ellis, a brewer from Arundel in Sussex.
(In 1753 James Shipton has the Brewhouse (8d), an Upper house (ie. higher up on the south side) and Malthouse (6d), and Culver Acre (2d). In 1774 James Shipton (probably the son) has the Brewhouse; Widow Westall the Upper house and malthouse, also Culver Acre. From Widow Westall these had passed before 1795 to Thomas Watson; before 1805 Culver Acre had been taken over by the Canal Company, who remained the proprietors of it at the time of the 1836 quit rent roll.)
In 1756 he announced in the local press that he had 'neatly fitted up the Three Swans Inn for the reception of all noblemen, gentlemen and ladies'.
Henry and Henrietta Ellis perhaps hoped to attract some of the growing coaching trade of the period, but the records show little sign of any such activity at The Three Swans. Even a weekly coach between Oxford and Salisbry, advertised in the press in 1766, made its overnight stop in Hungerford at the rival Black Bear Inn. which also benefited from most of the coaching trade on the London-to-Bath road.
26/27 Jun 1757: Indenture of Lease and Release between (1) Thomas Kimber; (2) Henry Burton Ellis of Hungerford, innholder and Henrietta Maria, his wife, widow of William Elliot; (3) Stephen Pearce of North Standen, yeoman. Stephen Pearce pays £290 and becomes holder.
Joseph Lawrence, innkeeper c1767-1774:
It isn't clear what happened to Henry Ellis, but from at least 1767 the inn was run by a tenant innkeeper, Joseph Lawrence.
1767 (NH) During these various changes of ownership the inn continued its successful career. It still remained a centre for legal inquisitions. Thus in 1767 (?) on 14 November depositions were taken (E112/ Berks/ Geo III/ Mich 5 —CHECK reference & year date) "at the house of Joseph Lawrence known as the Three Swans".
1771 (NH) In 1771 24 May (E112/Berks/Geo III/'Trin 10 - Bundle 1369, case no.43) Joseph Lawrence is still the innkeeper.
John Pearce, owner 1774-1805:
Henrietta Ellis died in 1773, and the ownership of the Three Swans descended to her two unmarried daughters from her first marriage, Harriett Elliott and Mary Elliott.
In September 1773 they put the freehold of The Three Swans up for sale by auction.
1773 (Reading Mercury 13 Sep 1773) "To be sold on 17 Sep all the household goods and furniture, plate, linen and china belonging to the Three Swans Inn in Hungerford" [and] "To be sold on 6 Oct all that commodious and well-accustomed house, the said Three Swans Inn in the Market Place, Hungerford… The premises are all freehold and capable of great improvement". Mention is made of "three parlours on the ground floor, a large dining room and six bedrooms on the first floor, two garretts, a complete bre-house, a vault and cellars, a six-stall stable and other stabling for forty horses.". The whole was described as "capable of improvement". Also up for sale were the contents of the inn including all the furniture, hogshead casks, barrels, and brewing vessels including a copper. The advert also lists other properties to be sold: Lot 2: Two freehold messuages at south end of High Street with common Rights, late the estate of Mr James Paty deceased; Lot 3: A freehold messuage in Eddington, late in occupation of Widow Pound, also estate of Mr James Paty deceased; Lot 4: A leasehold messuage (with Common Rights) in Hungerford, now in possession of Mr Thomas Viner, Junior, and also two leashold tenements adjoining in Great Church Lane, one in possession of John Webb, the other untenanted."
The purchaser, who paid £400, was 24-year-old John Pearce, a local gentleman, and the owner by marriage of the manor of Standen Hussey. 30 Jun/1 Jul 1774: Indenture between (1) Stephen Pearse; (2) Harriet Elliot of Hungerford, milliner and Mary Elliot mantua maker, daughters and co-heirs of William Elliot and Henrietta Maria deceased; (3) John Pearce of Standen Hussey, gent. Absolute purchace of mortgaged premises for £400 by John Pearce out of which the £285+ must be paid by Harriet etc to Stephen Pearce.
1774-90 (QR) John Pearce for the Three Swans and Close, q.r. 10d.
It seems likely that it was during the ownership of John Pearce thet The Three Swans, previously described as 'timber-built', was given a makeover in the Georgian style of architecture to produce today's façade of rendered-brick and sash windows. The painted mile-stone attached to the wall may was probably added at this time, although not in the position we see today.
Edward Bear, tenant 1776-1788:
1776 (Reading Mercury 18 Mar 1776) "Creditors of Thomas Woodroffe are requested to send [their demands] to Mr Duke, surgeon in Hungerford, Mr Bear at the Three Swans in the same place, or Mr Dyer at Denford".
As tenant innkeeper from 1776, it seems Edward Bear benefited slightly from the growing coaching trade. In 1780 a long-established firm in Newbury - Newbury Machines - started a service to London, setting off from The Three Swans. It ran three days a week, lreaving the inn at 6.30am, and leaving London each following day at 8am. Inside passengers paid 19 shillings while outside passengers and children on laps paid half. It was apparently a short-lived eneterprise.
1777-81 (CL) Edward Bear
1781 (CL) Edward Bear
1783 Royal Exchange Assurance No. 85450 13 Jan 1783. Edward Bear insures his household furniture in his dwelling house brick and tiled known by the sign of ..?.. (Is this the Three Swans?).
Deborah Bear, tenant 1788-1796:
1788 Edward Bear died, after which his widow, Deborah, ran the Three Swans until at least 1796.
1792 (BD) D. Bear - Innkeeper - Three Swans
1792 (Universal British Directory) "The principal and indeed the only inn in the town is The Three Swans, which is supposed to be the oldest in England." At this time, of course, The Bear and all the coaching inns in Charnham Street were in Wiltshire; it was not until 1894 that the county boundary was moved from the river Dun in Bridge Street so that Charnham Street became part of Berkshire.
1795 (QRR) John Pearce
1796 (UD) Deborah Bear, innkeeper
1795-1804 (QR) John Pearce for the Three Swans and Close, q.r. 10d.
8 May 1803 John Pearce, after devising various freehold estates to son Stephen, and other premises to Trustees in trust for Thomas Major, surgeon and Sarah, wife (one of John's daughter), gave and bequeathed to John Goodman of Oare, Wilts, and William Smith of Parsonage Farm in Hungerford, £2,300 to layout and invest the same. To daughter, Elizxabeth Pearce, £5,000 at 21 years [also other bequests..., e.g. daughter Ann, w/o Lieut Lauderdale of 15th Light Dragoon: all annuities until son John should be 21. Residue of freehold, copyhold etc to John, his son. Proved PCC 10 Feb 1806.
John Pearce junior, owner 1805-1813:
John Pearce senior died in 1805 aged 55. The local press reported that he was "a gentleman universally esteemed" but added that "a nervous affection had brought on a despondency" and "though he was possessed of £40,000 he thought that he should become a parish pauper". The part of his estate that included The Three Swans passed to his younger son, John pearce junior.
1805-17 (QR) John Pearce (amended to William Newbury) for the Three Swans Inn and Close, q.r. 10d.
13/14 ?? 1812: (1) Trustees of J Pearce; (2) Ann Pearce, widow; (3) Thomas Major and Sarah, John Lidderdale and Ann, Henry Smith and wife Elizabeth (another daughter); (4) Some of above; (5) Stephen Pearce of Sherfield Court in Sherville cum Loden, hants (eldest son and heir of J.P.); (6) Jn Pearce of Hungerford; (7) George Ryley. Various people above have died. Now rest bargain and sell to George Ryley the 3 Swans etc to the use of John Pearce.
Mich Term 53 Geo III (=1813): Fine between George Ryley, plaintiff and John Goodman, John Butcher, Francis Lovelock, John Pearce and Stephen Pearce, deforciants of tenement, messuage, 10 lofts, 10 cottages, 3 water mills, 10 barns, 10 stables, 15 gardens, 15 orchards, 100 acres land, 20 acres meadow, 20 acres pasture, free fishing and common etc in Hungerford and Letcomb Regis. *NB The ground on which the messuages and premises hath been erected and also the garden adjoining as fenced off from remaining part of premises was taken from south east corner of said Close of Meadow belonging to 3 Swanns Inn.
1815 (Bath Chronicle 27 Jul 1815) Berkshire freehold land and houses in and near Hungerford [not including the Three Swans] - Sale by auction by direction of the assignees of Mr John Pearce, a bankrupt.
William Newbury, owner 1813-c1823:
1818-23 (QR) William Newbury for Three Swans Inn and Close, q.r.10d.
1819 (EA) "Swans" marked on map, north side of Bell.
John Brown, owner c1823-c1836:
A newpaper advertisement (Salisbury and Winchester Journal, 6 Mar 1826) sought a new innkeeper. The owner at the time was another wealthy local businessman, John Brown, from Froxfield.
John Brown capitalised on a great opportunity in the beer trade that was gifted to entrepreneurs by the government. The Beerhouse Act 1830 aimed to steer the population away from ruinous gin drinking by allowing any ratepayer to buy a licence to brew and sell beer. Ordinary householders opened their front rooms as beer-houses, while entrepreneurs rushed to build new breweries to supply the expanding trade.
John Brown bouught a large plot of land in Hungerford, the remnant of the old manor of Hungerford-Ingleford, which lay to the north of The Three Swans. He replaced a brew-house behind the old manor house with a completely new commercial-scale brewery, servced by two existing maltings located close-by. The new Manor Brewery was operational by early 1832.
1830 (PD) King, Gosling and Tanner, Bank. 11-3pm every Wednesday at the Three Swans, HS
During 1830 the whole of southern England witnessed farm-workers' revolts against depressed wages and the introduction of labour-saving machinery - the so-called Swing Riots. Much damage was done in Hungerford in and around November 1830.
Exactly a year later, while riots continued in some areas, John Brown wrote to a local newspaper to express his opposition to new technologies in agriculture becoming detrimental to the working class.
It provoked an anonymous response published in the Reading Mercury 20 Feb 1832, describing Brown as "a patriotic brewer for the good of the public" but condemning him for "the immense building lately erected in Hungerford .. [in which] every kind of machinery is erected that can be beneficial to superseding manual labour ... in a parish where upwards of a hundred able-bodied men are destitute of employment."
1832 (QR) John Brown for Three Swans Inn and Close, q.r. 10d.
1834 (NH) (Berks CRO D/ELm/T6) an abstract of title of Mr Thomas Mills was drafted and this refers to a mortgage in 1725 between Robert Elliott yeoman (father of William Elliott) who mortgaged for £200 to Edward Hanson gent and Robert Maundrell "all that messuage or common inn called the Three Swans and close of meadow there containing 2 acres belonging to the same messuage and lying between the garden or gardens belonging to the same inn on the west, and the common field called the Everlong on the east". There is further reference to a cottage and garden erected in the close of meadow, then or lately occupied as two tenements being on the north side of Cow Lane, being part of the south east corner of the close of meadow. All this may be clearly seen on the 1819 Enclosure Award map. Mills' abstract of title was prepared to enable a freehold messuage or tenement, yard, garden and premises in Cow Lane to be sold to John Willes esq.
1836 (QR) John Brown for Three Swans Inn and Close, q.r. 10d.
John Brown clearly intended the Manor Brewery to be a long-term commitment. From about 1834 he substantially rebuilt the back of the old manor house, and made it into his new home. He expanded the business through the rapid acquisition of more inns and public houses, but then in March 1837 he put his home and the entire enterprise up for sale, including the brewery, Manor House, three inns in Hungerford (The Three Swans, The Duke of Lancaster's Arms and The Crown) and 16 other inns and public houses within a 10-mile radius of the town.
Toms and Matthews & Co, owners 1837-1846:
The auction of the Manor Brewery, Manor House state was held at The Three Swans, and the puchaser was a newly formed partnership of three local businessmen: John Milligan, a grocer and draper; William Toms, a tanner; and John Matthews, a solicitor. They traded as Milligan and Co until 1839 when Milligann was dropped and the partnership was renamed Toms and Matthews. John Matthews moved into Manor House.
1837 (Salisbury and Winchester Journal 13 Feb 1837) Auction sale at the Three Swans Inn, Hungerford, of extensive brewery, malt-houses, 19 inns and public houses, dwelling houses and lands. Selected details – a brewery erected within the last five years under the superintendence of the present proprietor … adjoining dwelling house with large walled gardens, malt-house and six acres of meadow; a dwelling house near the bridge, with walled-in garden and stables, and a malthouse. The above property in Hungerford immediately adjoining the Kennet and Avon Canal. Also 19 inns and public houses including the Three Swans, Hungerford. Seller not named, but evidence points to John Brown.
1838 (Reading Mercury 8 Dec 1838) Three Swans commercial inn, Hungerford, to be let and entered on immediately – apply to Messrs Milligan & Co, Brewers.
1839 (Reading Mercury 30 Mar 1839) The partnership between John Milligan, William Toms and John Mathews in the business of brewers, maltsters, hop and spirit merchants, at Hungerford, under the firm of “Milligan & Co” is this day (3 March 1839) dissolved so far as regards John Milligan, by mutual consent; and the business will be carried on by William Toms and John Matthews alone until the firm went bankrupt in 1846.
William Keen, tenant innkeeper 1839-1846:
In 1839 The Three Swans was newly let to innkeeper William Keen, aged 34, from Upton in Berkshire. He moved in with his wife Matilda and their two young children. Keen announced their arrival in the press with the news that he had made "extensive alterations and improvements" to the inn. The Globe 11 Apr 1839 announced: "Three Swans Commercial Inn, Hungerford – William Keen, having taken the above inn, and made very extensive alteration and improvements, begs respectfully to solicit…". [Suggests that William Keen started his tenure shortly after the opportunity was advertised in December].
In 1835, Isambard Kingdom Brunel's Great Western Railway Act had been passed, and such was the speed of railway construction that the main line from London to Bristol was fully open by June 1841. However, this was the line through Didcot and Swindon - many miles north of Hungerford. There followed a period of "railway mania" with many lines being developed. The old coaching trade was having to adapt and harmonise with railway routes and timetables.
In 1840 William Keen benefited from this when the Newbury coach-firm of Batten and Marshall advertised that their Newbury-to-London service was now extended to Hungerford. It left The Three Swans every morning except Sundays at 8.30am, passing through Newbury and arriving at Reading in time for passengers to transfer to the new railway service into the capital.
1841 (CS) William Keen (35) Innkeeper.
1843 (CL) William Keen
1844 (PD) William Keen
Change in public transport continued apace. Four years later, a trade directory recorded that the only coach service operating from The Three Swans was the ‘Penny’s Sociable’, which ran to Newbury three mornings a week.
Subsequent press reports indicate that William Keen quickly earned a good reputation for the quality of the dinners he provided for several important local organisations that met at The Three Swans. He also got involved in other aspects of community life. He started putting on a dinner at the end of the race days at the annual Hungerford horse races, which were held on the Common. Later he became responsible for receiving race entries at The Three Swans, and also for receiving entries on the course during the meetings.
Adapting to the railways:
When the new Berks and Hants Railway reached Hungerford in December 1847 it was expected to bring a boost to trade and prosperity to the town. The Three Swans in particular might have expected to profit expscially because the new railway station was located only 200 yards behind the inn.
The Railway Tavern was erected at the station entrance, but William Keen was still able to take full advantage. In January 1848 he placed a notice in the press under the heading ‘Three Swans Inn and Railway Hotel’. The term ‘hotel’ had come into use to indicate a superior sort of inn, and from now onwards would be applied increasingly to The Three Swans.
The notice advised readers that Keen had opened ‘a communication from his premises direct to the station’, which meant a rear entrance and pathway through a paddock behind the hotel. He also announced a new service of ‘flys [carriages] and other conveyances in attendance of the arrival of every train’ and that parties collected could be ‘taken up at their residences in any part of the town and neighbourhood’.
Finally he advertised that he had been ‘appointed by the Great Western Company to receive parcels for transmission by the trains’.
Despite these innovations, it transpired that William Keen had other plans. By March the same year he had quit The Three Swans and moved to take over a hotel in Bristol!
John Platt, owner 1846:
In 1846 the firm of Toms and Matthews went bankrupt. The whole estate, including the Manor Brewery, Manor House and The Three Swans was again up for sale. The Berkshire Chronicle 16 May 1846 advertised: "Hungerford brewery, maltings, inns, public houses and other premises – to be sold by auction at the direction of the mortgagee, at the Mart, London, in one lot comprising the Hungerford Brewery, an establishment of many years’ standing and at present conducted under the firm of Messrs Toms and Matthew[s]… also the ancient manor house, a spacious residence adapted for a managing partner… and the following [seven] inns and public houses [including]… the Three Swans, High Street, Hungerford."
The entire lot was purchased by John Platt, aged 35, previously a farmer from Kingsclere in Hampshire. He and his young family moved into Manor House, where he would remain for the rest of his life.
1847 (CL) John Platt (own); William Keen (occ).
After William Keen left to take over a hotel in Bristol in March 1848, John Platt advertised for a tenant innkeeper: (Berkshire Chronicle 25 Mar 1848) To be let – the Three Swans Commercial Inn and Railway Tavern, Hungerford – apply to Mr Church, solicitor, Hungerford.
1848 (Reading Mercury 29 Jul and 5 Aug) Three Swans Inn, Hungerford – to be let with immediate possession – the old-established commercial inn and railway hotel adjoining the terminus of the Berks and Hants Railway… the house is in full trade. Apply to Mr John Platt, Hungerford.
John Clarke Free, landlord 1848-c1874:
The new tenant was John Clarke Free, a 21-year-old who came from Therfield in Hertfordshire. Later the same year he married Jane Bell Dugard, and between them they would run the hotel for the next 44 years.
During this time, the ownership of The Three Swans remained within the Manor Brewery business of Hungerford’s Platt family, so it was a golden era of stability for the hotel during a period of strong economic growth for the nation as a whole.
John Clarke Free, who was always recorded in the local press by his full name, maintained and developed the sporting theme nurtured by his predecessor. He hunted with the Craven and Old Berkshire hounds, won prizes at pigeon shoots on the town common, continued the hotel’s associations with Hungerford Races, and he was a much-admired host of various formal dinners held by the sporting and hunting fraternity.
The Three Swans became a favourite haunt of gentlemen from London who travelled to Hungerford by train and then hired horses and carriages to take them to the great hare-coursing meetings on the Earl of Craven’s estate at Ashdown Park, near Lambourn. This twice yearly event lasted for three or four days and was widely regarded as one of the best of its kind in the country.
1849 (Reading Mercury 10 Feb 1849) Anniversary of the re-establishment of Hungerford Pitched Market – ‘the company began to assemble at the Town Hall, where an excellent dinner was provided by Mr J C Free, of the Three Swans Inn.’ [Earliest mention of J C Free in connection with the Three Swans]
1850 (SD) John Clarke Free, commercial inn.
1851 (CS) John Clerk Free (24), innkeeper. [From Hertfordshire, and Jane Free (26) Hertfordshire, also brother-in-law and wife and daughter; House servants: Louise Buck (14) North Wellingborough; Lucy Wilkins (29) Welford, Berks; Marie White (24); John Pocock ostler (37), Hungerford and his wife, Swindon, and 4 children aged 7 to 14; lodgers: draper traveller (39) and commercial traveller (52).]
1854 (BD) John Clarke Free, innkeeper.
1861 (CL) John Platt (own); J.C. Free (occ)
1861 (CD) John Clarke Free (33) - Victualler. John Platt owner.
1863 (DA) John Clarke Free, Market Place, commercial and family hotel and posting house.
1864 (BD) John Clarke Free; commercial hotel and licensed to let horses.
1869 (Kelly) John Clerk Free; commercial inn.
1871 (CS) John Clerk Free (44) – Innkeeper. Thomas Hancock, ostler.
1874 (Reading Mercury 17 Oct 1874) The death of ‘Mr J C Free of the Three Swans Hotel who … succumbed to a painful disease from which he had been suffering for some time past … Mr Free had kept this commercial hotel for nearly a quarter of a century, and was a very popular landlord.’
1874 (Bell’s Life in London and Sporting Chronicle) Mr J C Free… was passionately fond of all field sports, and for several years past added much to the convenience and comfort of coursers en-route for the great Ashdown Meeting.’ He was 48 years of age.
Mrs Jane Bell Free (landlady), 1874-1892:
1877 (KD) Mrs Jane Bell Free, family and commercial hotel and posting house, billiards, loose boxes.
1881 (CS) Jane Free, innkeeper (56); 9 servants.
1891 (KD) Mrs. Jane Bell Free. The Swans Family & Commercial Hotel and Posting House. Conveyances to meet every train. Billiards, loose boxes.
1892 (Reading Mercury 30 Apr 1892) ‘the Jury were invited by the Constable to meet him at the Three Swans Hotel for luncheon … Mrs Free catered in her usual satisfactory manner.’
1892 (Reading Mercury 7 May 1892) Hock Tide at Hungerford – ‘the High Constable’s banquet was held in the Town Hall… the dinner was served by Mrs Free in good style; Mrs Free having catered at the Constable’s dinner for about 40 years.’ [Apparently it was her last before retiring that year. She died in 1911]
John Platt junior, owner 1890:
John Platt, owner of the Manor Brewery and of The Three Swans, died at his Manor House home in 1890, aged 80. A newspaper obituary commented that he was ‘one of the town’s oldest and most prominent inhabitants’. It was said that he had made the Manor Brewery ‘one of the largest concerns in the county’, that he had held all the offices of the town and manor, including constable from 1857 to 1860, and that he had been instrumental in securing the erection of a new town hall and the corn exchange. Seven years before his death he had handed over the reins of the brewery to his son, John Platt junior, of Willow Lodge, Bridge Street. The son had served as the town constable from 1881 to 1888.
From 1890 the Manor House was occupied by John Platt junior’s son, George Edmund Platt, then aged, 22 and married with a baby daughter. He had recently become the brewer at the family firm.
Francis Waldron Church, landlord 1892-c1911:
Jane Bell Free retired from running The Three Swans in 1892, at the age of 67.
Her replacement was Francis Waldron Church, aged 44, a cousin of the hotel and Manor Brewery owner, John Platt junior, and previously a salesman for the brewery.
1892 (Reading Mercury 17 Dec 1892) Hungerford Volunteer Fire Brigade Annual Dinner – ‘was held at the Three Swans Hotel, Hungerford … Mr F Church placing upon the table a most recherce repast.
1895 (KD) Francis Waldron Church "Family and Commercial Hotel and Posting House"
It was a period of change and consolidation in the brewing industry. In 1897 in nearby Newbury, the two brewing firms of Thomas Edward Hawkins and Edmund Parfitt merged to form Hawkins and Parfitt South Berks Brewery Company Ltd. The following year, the new company bought the Manor Brewery in Hungerford, retaining George Edmund Platt as its Hungerford district manager.
1896 (CL) South Berks Brewery Co (owners).Francis Waldron Church (occ).
1896 (https://aim25.com/cats/118/14417.htm) South Berks Brewery Co (owners) [then Hawkins and Parfitt South Berkshire Brewery. Francis Waldron Church (occ).
1900 (Cosburn's Dir) F W Church
1902 (T&M Register) [Hawkins and Parfitt] South Berks Brewery Co Ltd (owners)
1903 (KD) Francis Waldron Church, family and commercial hotel and posting house.
1903 (T&M Register) Francis Waldron Church (occupier until 1912)
1911 (KD) Francis Waldron Church, family and commercial hotel and posting house.
Frank Goodall, innkeeper 1913-1921:
When Francis Waldron Church retired in 1913, the new keeper of The Three Swans was 61-year-old Frank Goodall – a farmer from Binfield, near Bracknell in Berkshire, who famously had been the last Royal Huntsman for Queen Victoria’s Royal Buckhounds. Follow this link for more on Frank Goodall.
He came from an esteemed family of huntsmen. His uncle, also called Frank Goodall, had been the Royal Huntsman from 1872 to 1888. The younger Frank spent most of his career employed by hunts in Ireland, and he retired there in 1899, aged 47, to focus on farming and auctioneering. However, such was his reputation that in 1900, when the master of the Royal Buckhounds in Berkshire needed a new huntsman, Frank Goodall was persuaded out of retirement to follow his famous uncle into the most prestigious job in the hunting world.
Early in January 1901, only three months into his first season, there was a tragedy for him and his wife Amy when their eldest daughter, Constance, died of typhoid, in Ireland, aged 19. Before Frank could return to work, the hunt season was brought to an abrupt end with the death on 22 Jan 1901 of Queen Victoria. The new king, Edward VII, favoured fox hunting over stag hunting, and so in August 1901, before the next season could begin, the Royal Buckhounds were disbanded. Shortly afterwards Frank Goodall found himself featured in the press nationwide when it was revealed that the king had personally handed him a cheque for an astonishing £1,000 as compensation for his loss of office. (Thanks to Will Swales for this research).
1913 (T&M Register) Francis James Goodall (occupier until ?1921). Follow this link for more on "Frank Goodall, Last Huntsman of the Royal Buckhounds"
1913 [ https://aim25.com/cats/118/14417.htm ] Hawkins and Parfitt South Berkshire Brewery changes name to South Berkshire Brewery
1914 (CL) South Berks Brewery (owns); Francis James Goodall (occ).
1915 (Kelly Dir) Frank Goodall, family and commercial hotel and posting house.
In June 1917 Frank and Amy's elder son Stephen Goodall was ‘instantly killed in action in France on June 14, aged 24’. They had now lost two of their children as young adults.
1920 (KD) Frank Goodall, hotel.
1920 South Berkshire Brewery Limited acquired by H and G Simonds, of Reading, brewers.
Frank and Amy Goodall died in 1921 within three months of each other. Frank died in late February 1921, aged 68, and Amy died at the end of May, aged 69.
1921 (Kildare Observer and Eastern Counties Advertiser 4 Jun 1921) ‘…the death of Mrs Goodall, widow of Frank Goodall, who was for so many years huntsman to the Kildare and Meath Hounds, and afterwards to Her Majesty Queen Victoria. The sad event took place ... at her residence, the Three Swans Hotel, Hungerford, aged 69 years, after a long illness, following on a stroke three and a half years ago.’
See also a separate article on "Hunting in Hungerford".
H & G Simmond Ltd, owners 1920-1932:
In 1920 the hotel owner, the South Berks Brewing Company, had been taken over by H & G Simond Ltd, of Reading.
Harry and Emma Wigglesworth, innkeepers 1921-1924:
The new hotelkeepers in 1921 were Harry and Emma Wigglesworth, who were previously the master and matron of Hungerford Workhouse. They stayed for only three years; their departure marking the beginning of a long period of regular change at the hotel.
1922 (T&M Register) Harry Lloyd Wigglesworth (occupier until ?1924)
Charles Maitland Dods, innkeeper 1923-c1931:
1925 (T&M Register) Charles Maitland Dods (occupier until ?1931). (Robert James says that the Dods were great-great-grandparents of Mark Dods at 5 High Street)
1928 (KD) Maitland Dods.
1931 (KD) Maitland Dods
Major Fairfax Harvey, owner 1932-1947:
In 1932 H & G Simmonds Ltd sold The Three Swans to a local dignitary, Major Humphrey le Fleming Fairfax Harvey. He sold it in 1947.
1932 (QR #20) Three Swans Hotel (Harvey) (H.G. Simmonds Ltd added), for "Inn and Close formerly Newberrys afterwards Browns then J. Platt ", q.r. 10d.
Undated (T&M Register) H & G Simmonds Ltd (owners)
1932 (T&M Register) Humphrey le Fleming Fairfax Harvey (occupier until 1939)
1935 (KD) J. Fairfax Harvey
1939 (Blacket's) Three Swans Hotel (Major H. le F. Harvey)
1939 (KD) Major H. Fairfax Harvey, proprietor.
The Three Swans, c1940: Charles Jones kindly contacted the Virtual Museum (Oct 2013) mostly about 33 High Street and Denford Mill. However, he also mentioned memories of his first visit to Hungerford just after D-Day 1940 - when the American Troops were on the Common (Aug 1940). He recalled that "I remember too how one could enter the Three Swans Hotel through a large green painted wooden arch at the bottom of Station Road, via a gravel path through what was then the Kitchen Garden."
1940 (T&M Register) Eleanor Love Slingsby Harvey (occupier until ?1943)
1944 (Thanet Advertiser 25 Apr 1944) "… all persons having any claim against the estate of Mrs Ethel Louise Davey of the Three Swans Hotel, Hungerford who died on 11 December 1943 are hereby required …"
1944 (T&M Register) Humphrey le Fleming Fairfax Harvey (occupier until ?1967)
1947 (CL) Thomas Francis Evans.
1952 (CL) Mrs. Grace Margaret Evans.
1956 (CL) Edwin Holden. (Robert James recalls Mr & Mrs Holden were owners for only a short time).
1960 H and G Simonds merged to become Courage, Barclay and Simonds.
1963 (CL) Kenyon Crossley. (Robert James says that Ken and his wife Marjory and his sister Mrs Myers ran the pub for 2-3 years before it was finally sold to Louis Alderson for £7500.)
c1966 Major Alderson. His wife Emma ran Emma Boutique next door at 115 High Street.
<1968 (T&M Register) Three Swans Hotel (Hungerford) Ltd (owners until 1973)
1968 (T&M Register) Louis Frederick Alderson (occupier until 1973)
1970 (CL) Louis Frederick Alderson "The Three Swans"
?1972-?1974 Richard Elsden
1974 (T&M Register) Accrew Inns Ltd (owners)
1974 (T&M Register) Richard John Elsden (occupier)
1975 Ray Brindley (or did he work for Richard Elsden or Ernie Peacock?)
1976 (T&M Register) Raymond Bernard Brindley (occupier)
1976-1987 Ernie Peacock
1976 (CL) Raymond Bernard Brindley (deleted) Peacock "Three Swans"
1976 (CL) Ernest Charles Peacock.
1977 (T&M Register) Ernest Charles Peacock (occupier)
1983 (CL) Ernest Charles Peacock "The Three Swans
1985 (CL) Ernest Charles Peacock
See: Three Swans flyer - the one corrected from the earlier edition shown on the Photo Gallery!
Millfield Co., owners 1987-1989:
1987 Bought by Millfield Co. Planned to redevelop, but went bankrupt in 1989.
Resort Hotels, owners 1989-1992:
1989 Bought by Resort Hotels (also own locally The Bear and Elcot Park). Margaret Keen, manageress.
1989-1992 Resort Hotels (including The Bear and Elcot Park).
1991 £1m upgrade.
Fine Inns, owners 1992-1998:
1992-1998 Fine Inns (division of Resort Hotels). (John Baptist Garvey & Veronica Till)
Fownes Hotel Group, owners 1998-2005:
1998-2005 Fownes Hotel Group
Undated (T&M Register) Fownes Inns (owners)
2000 (CL) Peter Cole
Steve and John Hodges, owners 2005-2016:
2005 Steve and John Hodges (owners), John Slee (chef).
2005 (CL) John Slee
Jan 2008 John & Carol Slee left.
2009 Taken over by Legacy Hotels - re-branded Legacy Three Swans Hotel.
Feb 2011 Casanova, bar, restaurant & Pizza re-opened at The Three Swans Hotel (having closed in 16 Charnham Street in Jan 2011)
2011 (CL) Steven Richard Hodges
2016 (CL) Steven Richard Hodges
Coaching Inn Group, owners 2016-present:
Oct 2016: Hotel sold to the Coaching Inn Group (Kevin Charity), with promise to invest £1 million in upgrading. See "Three Swans to get £1m revamp" - NWN 6 Oct 2016.
An excellent 28-page booklet on the history of The Three Swans hotel was produced by Will Swales in Jan 2019, and is available on the hotel website - https://www.threeswanshotel.co.uk/the-hotel/history/ or from this link. Also HHA Archives [J112].
- The Bear
- Press cuttings relating to the Three Swans timeline 1773-1944 (HHA archives - kindly provided by Will Swales, May 2018)