The Three Swans Hotel is one of the most important properties in the town of Hungerford. A coaching inn proudly overlooking the market place, its history has been extensively researched, and is detailed in the Hungerford Historical Association archives. Below is a short summary is from their information.
“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 buisness until her death in 1714. She died intestate, and a very detailed inventory was made of the Three Swans. Click here to see the transcribed inventory.
The Three Swans, c1876: John Clarke Free had been innkeeper of the Three Swans since c1850 – maybe he is one of those standing in the courtyard archway. The next building to the left is the draper’s shop of Charles Robinson, this being several years before the Capital and Counties Bank redeveloped the site in 1882 (now Lloyds TSB). The adjacent building on the left had been a bank since c.1844, when it had opened as a branch of the Wiltshire banking firm of Tanner and Pinckney, later taken over by the London and County Bank c.1864 (now NatWest Bank).
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 D. 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:
1935 J. Fairfax Harvey
1947-52 Thomas Francis Evans
1952-56 Mrs. Grace Margaret Evans
1956-57 Edwin Holden
1956-67 Kenyon Crossley
1968-72 Major Louis Frederick Alderson
1972-75 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)
The Three Swans was acquired by the Lincolnshire based Coaching Inn Group in September 2016, joining the family run group as the 12th property within the portfolio.