According to English Heritage, The Swan in the High Street of Thornbury has mid 17th Century origins and was remodelled and extended in the late 18th Century.  Click here to read more about the building

We haven’t seen the deeds of the property and so it would normally be very difficult to trace the early history of The Swan.  We are fortunate however that in the time up to 1834 the Swan was owned by the Lord of the Manor and therefore its history is recorded in the Manor Court Rolls.  Our earliest information about The Swan comes from a Court Roll dated 1633 found at Stafford Records Office.  From that time The Swan was regularly mentioned by name in the early records of Thornbury properties.  In some sources it was the only inn specifically mentioned.  This means that it has been an important landmark in Thornbury since the early 1600’s and is probably the longest continuously running inn in the town.  Its pre-eminence may possibly be explained by the fact that it was owned by the Lord of the Manor and was located close to the Market Place.  However these cannot be the only factors in the Swan’s success.  The Lord of the Manor also owned the White Hart on The Plain and this is hardly mentioned in any of the earlier records.  There were also other pubs equally close to the Market Place.  Its success may also stem from the generous provision of stabling and other public rooms which allowed it to be used for a wide variety of functions.

In the absence of detailed records we cannot say what it was like and what functions were provided there.  However the nineteenth century saw the The Swan in its heyday providing the Town with a wide variety of functions.  We have records showing that during this period it was coaching inn, posting house and excise office.  It was the meeting place for the Corporation, for organisers of charitable trusts, for the County and Manorial Courts and for the meetings of the Court Leet.  It offered accommodation for those wishing to stay overnight, and meals and other refreshments.  It was also the centre of social life in Thornbury, catering mainly for the more respectable people of the town with regular dances, concerts and property auctions held there.

Up to 1834 the Swan was owned by the Lord of the Manor and therefore its history is recorded in the Manor Court Rolls.  We have been able to compile a reasonable list of the tenants of property, but unfortunately in the absence of any census records or newspapers covering this period we have ended up with a rather boring list of the early tenants!

John Thorne – our earliest information about The Swan comes from a Court Roll dated 1633 found at Stafford Records Office.  An entry relating to The Swan is listed under the heading ‘Rents Received in the Manor of Thornbury in Gloucestershire at the Feast of the Annunciation of our Blessed Lady 1633’.  The extract below is the relevant piece of text saying ‘John Thorne for the Swan in Thornbury lately built new £6‘.

1633 Court Roll the Swan

There is another entry on the same page: ‘ John Thorne for a barn with a little plot of ground adjoining unto it in a backstreet in Thornbury near unto the backside of the Swan which is usually sett for 16s. by year’.  In the left margin opposite the entry for John Thorne it is written ”

[ note that Thorne had this barn to his son for a stable until his stable was built which, as I saw it, was in the spring of 1633, since which time a rent is due for the barn]”.

Another document listed in the Gloucester Archives Catalogue also refers to John Thorne as a Thornbury innholder.  This document is a bond to assure that the base child of Margaret Davies and David Jenkins, both late servants of John’s, did not become a burden to the Town.

Another Court Roll dated 1637 has details of rents of lands and tenements held at the will of the Lord.  It includes ‘John Thorne for a messuage or burgage in Thornbury being an Inn called the Swan and certain courts, gardens and buildings belonging unto the same. – £12.  A barn with a little plot of ground adjoining unto it in a Back Street in Thornbury near unto the backside of the Swan. Worth per annum – 20s‘.

The Town Trust records contain details of a memorandum of 30th May 1634 which shows John Thorne was one of the contributors towards the cost of buying a new clock or the Town Hall.

James Robyns – the Rent Roll 1637 lists James Robyns for The Swan.

William Crondale – the account books of the Overseers of the Poor show William was paying the poor rate for The Swan in 1661.  We can’t be sure but we suspect that this person could be ‘William Crandell’ or even ‘William Crendall’ who was baptised on 5th September 1613 at Thornbury.  He married Jane Cambourne at St Peter’s Church, Dyrham on 17th August 1637.  William was the son of William Crandell who married, first Catherine Ady in 1575, and secondly Catherine Flide on 27th May 1589.  William senior was buried at Thornbury on 29th December 1591 aged 44.

Samuel Stevenson (alias Cowles) – Samuel Stevenson is shown in the account books of the Overseers of the Poor as being there in 1662 and 1663.  We have a copy of an indenture dated 5th December 1664 showing the Swan was being let by the Right Honourable William Lord Viscount of Stafford and the Lady Mary Viscountess his wife to Samuel Stevenson (alias Cowles) of Thornbury.  The property was described as ‘All that messuage tenement or inn commonly called or known by the name of the Swan Inn situate being and being in the Town of Thornbury aforesaid in the said the County of Gloucester together with all and all manner of outhouses buildings stables gardens and backsides with the appurtenances thereunto belonging or in any wise appertaining‘.  It also included ‘two closes or paddocks of pasture ground containing by estimation three acres be it more or less which messuage or tenement and premises are now in the tenure use or occupation of the said Samuel Stevenson als Cowles and also one other parcel of  ground formerly known by the name of the Fishpoole now commonly called the Combe now in the possession of one John Williams of Thornbury butcher‘.  The lease was for a period of seven years at a yearly rent of £19.

The Overseers Accounts show Samuel continued there until 1671.

John Cooke – the Overseers Accounts from 1672 to 1680 show John Cooke was renting The Swan.  The 1671 Hearth Tax record shows that John was having to pay for nine hearths in his property.  This was the (equal) highest number of hearths in a property in the Borough of Thornbury indicating that even at this early time The Swan must have been a large building.  We note that by 1690 John Cooke was running another pub on the site of what is now known as 38 and 40 High Street.

William Lewis – the Overseers Accounts in 1681 and 1682 show William Lewis was renting The Swan.

Stephen Vernon – he was renting the Tavern from 1678 to 1682.  We know that in 1683 Stephen moved to become licensee at The Swan.  He remained there until 1686.

Andrew Whitfield – Andrew was listed as paying the poor rate for the Swan from 1687 to 1690.  Unfortunately there is a gap in the records held by Gloucester Records Office between 1690 and 1706.  The next record we have shows Andrew was still at The Swan in 1706 and that he continued there until 1726.  The 1727 record shows that Anne Whitfield had taken over the payment of the rent and she continued to pay this in 1728 and 1729.  Andrew had died in 1727 and was buried on 10th September 1727 which explains why Anne took over.

We admit to being confused by the number of Andrew Whitfields in Thornbury around this time, all of whom have associations with the licensed trade.  Records show Andrew Whitfield at the Widows Mantle in 1683, at the Tavern in 1698 and at the Mermaid between 1706 to 1710.

Anne Parker – the Overseers Accounts show Anne was paying the poor rate for The Swan in 1730.  We suspect that Ann had been married to Thomas Parker, a yeoman who died in 1729 when Ann became the administrator of his estate.  We note that a widow Ann Parker was buried on 9th May 1739.

William Pountney – the Overseers Accounts show William was the landlord of The Swan from 1731 to 1752.  In 1755 list of licensed victuallers in Thornbury shows William was then landlord at The George.  Click here to read more

Thomas Collings (or Collins) – the Overseers Accounts show that in 1753 Thomas Collings was landlord of The Swan.  The listing of Thornbury licensed victuallers in 1755 found in Gloucester Records Office notes that Thomas Collins was the licensee at The Swan.  

Thomas Gifford – the Overseers Accounts show that in 1760 Thomas Gifford was the landlord of The Swan.  We don’t know anything about Thomas.

Matthew Meredith – the Overseers Accounts show Matthew Meredith as landlord of The Swan in 1762.  He was also listed as being there in the poor assessment records of 1769 and 1770.

We don’t know much as Matthew’s earlier life.  Based on his age at death, he was born about 1700.  At some time he married Lucy Maria.  Her memorial inscription says that she was the daughter of Christian (or possibly Catherine) Cook and based upon her age at death would have been born about 1724.  Matthew and Lucy had at least four children.  The first two were baptised at Chipping Sodbury: Lucy Maria on 19th July 1751 and Sarah on 26th November 1752.  Then there were two sons baptised in Thornbury; William on 15th January 1755 and George baptised on 24th May 1758.

We copies of various property transactions showing Matthew owned two adjoining properties at 9 High Street and 11 High Street backing on to St Mary Street and including the malthouse there.  One was bought in 1744 and the other in 1750.  He also owned several pieces of land around Thornbury including Bakers Close, Gillmans and Cornercroft.  The indentures show that Matthew was a grocer and that he was occupying 11 High Street.  He was still being described as a grocer in 1759 when he arranged a mortgage on the two High Street properties, but by 1765 he was described as an innholder and maltster.  In 1769 Matthew sold 9 and 11 High Street properties to George Rolph.  Matthew was then living at The Swan.

Matthew was Mayor of Thornbury in 1765/66.  He died on 7th February 1780 aged 80.  Lucy died 5th November 1793 aged 69.  Of Matthew and Lucy’s children, Lucy Maria married Thomas Sparkes a widow, on 21st June 1771 and Sarah died on 20th August 1778 aged 25.

Thomas Parker – the records of the Overseers of The Poor show Thomas Parker was at The Swan in 1773.  The Gloucestershire Pubs website says Thomas was landlord there in 1774.

William Taylor – the land tax record from 1775 to 1781 show William Taylor was occupying The Swan as tenant of The Lord of the Manor.  The tenancy agreement dated 10th February 1775 shows William also renting a close of meadow (3 acres) called Worgans Well and two closes of land called the Combe and Lower Blakes (5 acres).  William was still living at The Swan when he died aged 68 and was buried on 17th February 1782.  Ann Taylor was shown as the tenant in 1782 land tax record.  ‘Hannah’ continued living there until her death in 1783 aged 57.  She was buried on 12th January 1783.

We suspect that William Taylor was the husband of Ann or Anna Pountney, the daughter of William Pountney the licensee of The George in 1755.  William married Anna on 18th January 1759.  He was a widower at the time, his first wife was Elizabeth Salcom whom he married on 21st August 1754 and she had died in August 1758 aged 39.

William Taylor is mentioned in an abstract of title for The George showing that he had been an innkeeper there at some time.

James Bevan – the 1783 and 1784 land tax records shows James Bevan was the tenant at The Swan.  The accounts books of the Lord of the Manor show that James was given notice to quit on 18th June 1790.  We know that James later moved to Castle Street.  Click here to read more

The Gloucestershire Pubs website says that ‘John Bevan’ was the landlord at The Swan in 1791.  We are not sure whether this was a mistake or whether it shows another member of the Bevan household was landlord at The Swan.

Samuel King – the Universal British Directory of 1791 shows that the tenant of The Swan was called Samuel King.  We have no further information about Samuel King at this time,

James Vaughan – the land tax records of 1796 and 1797 show James Vaughan as the tenant of The Swan.  We know from a document held at Gloucester Records Office that James also acted as excise officer for Thornbury.

There were at least three James Vaughans associated with Thornbury at this time.  One was the Steward at Thornbury Castle and he died in 1801 aged 89.  In his will he left his metal watch, chain seal and appurtenances to his nephew, James Vaughan, the son of his late brother, Edward Vaughan.  James also left £10 to another James Vaughan, the son of William Vaughan.

J. King – the 1800 land tax record shows ‘J. King’ was the tenant.  We haven’t seen the Overseers Accounts for this period so don’t know any more about this person.

James Morgan – the land tax records from 1809 to 1814 show James Morgan as tenant of The Swan.

William Morgan – the land tax records from 1819 to 1832 show William Morgan was the tenant of The Swan.  However other records (see below) show that John Ford was the licensee for at least part of that time.

John Ford – the Gloucestershire Pubs website show the licensee from 1823 to 1830 being John Ford.  This is supported by a newspaper article in 1825 in which John Ford the landlord at The Swan gave evidence in the case of ‘Alway versus Niblett’.  We also have documents in the accounts books of the Lord of the Manor showing John became tenant of the Swan in 1820 and his tenancy continued until at least 1826.

Click here to read about the owners and tenants 1839 – 1899