December 7 2013 Latest news:
Swaffham History Group is preparing to launch a series of eight booklets outlining the first-ever detailed historical account of Swaffham's old inns and public houses. With the booklets are (L) Peter Bruce, Peter Coombes and Marion Hancock. Picture: Ian Burt
Monday, October 28, 2013
From the grandiose to the gruesome, the fascinating history of Swaffham’s pubs has been outlined in a new series of booklets.
The eight publications compiled by members of the Swaffham History Group are the results of painstaking research from licensing documents, museum archives and parish records dating back to the 1600s.
They feature drinking haunts around the Market Place including The George, The White Hart, The Red Lion, The Greyhound, The Horse and Groom, The King’s Arms – all of which are still in operation.
However two of the booklets feature the now-defunct inns of The Crown, an opulent 18th century inn likened to “The Dorchester of Swaffham” and The Temperance Hotel, a large establishment which is now the Pedlar’s cafe.
Other past inns incorporated within the booklets include The Angel, which stood on the site of today’s Iceland store, and The Grapes, the smallest of the pubs, which is now a William Hill bookmakers.
Within the pages are tales of generations of landlords, murders and destructive fires which have shaped the development of the town.
Marion Hancock, chairman of the Swaffham History Group, said: “When the history group was working on The Book of Swaffham, published last year by Halsgrove on behalf of Swaffham Museum, we realised that there was a lot more to be researched and written about the old inns and pubs of the town.
“Thus we decided to make the subject our next project and several members have been researching different establishments since then.
“The Crown was a massive place, but it has disappeared without a trace. The last landlord was in 1881 and after that we have got no idea what happened. It was the place to be seen and all the gentry went there. It was virtually the Dorchester of Swaffham.
“The Horse and Groom had a very gruesome past, as one of the landlords was found guilty of murder. The Pitcher family were the landlords for more than 100 years. One of these Pitchers was a lady called Elizabeth who ran the pub from 1830 to 1841. But then she retired and one of her sons, John Pitcher was found guilty of her murder in 1853 and ‘transported’ for the rest of his life.”
Each of the pubs has its own claim to fame.
The King’s Arms is believed to be one of the oldest buildings still standing in Swaffham, with records of a coaching inn dating back to at least 1608.
The George Hotel is hailed by paranormal enthusiasts as the town’s most haunted, with its most famous ghostly guest being the Green Lady.
The White Hart was built after the Great Fire of Swaffham in 1775, which destroyed many buildings in the town including the Blue Boar, which the new pub replaced.
And The Greyhound, originally known as The Blue Bell, was mentioned in parish records in 1679 under the name “Ye Bell”. It was re-named The Greyhound in honour of the Earl of Orford creating the first coursing club open to the public in the 1700s.
It took on another name in 2006, albeit fictionally, when it became The Startled Duck for the TV series Kingdom, starring Stephen Fry.
The eight illustrated booklets will be available at Swaffham Museum, Ceres bookshop and participating pubs from November 14 – with more planned in future.
For more details, or to reserve copies contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01760 724470.