Simon Staal was over from Sweden and as he was staying in Lancaster Gate, I thought that it was a good opportunity to have a pint with him down the Bayswater Road. Situated on the edge of the Manor and opposite Kensington Gardens, ‘The Swan’ dates back as a coaching Inn to at least 1721, and as a tavern or similar, to possibly the early 1600’s ? It is also thought that it was once called ‘The Saracen’s Head’?
There is an interesting plaque outside which reads: ‘The Swan is the last relic of Flora Tea Gardens and Skittle Alley and stood on this site for over 300 years. The first documented evidence of a licensed Inn keeper is on a licensed victualler list for 1721. As a coaching Inn it is reputed to have been the final drinking place for victims of the gibbet of Tyburn Gallows which we now know as Marble Arch. Claude Duval the famous highwayman who was very active on the London to Edinburgh Road is alleged to have had his final drink here before being hanged at Tyburn in 1670.’
It has been suggested that a couple of well known sayings originated from those times, namely: ‘He’s on the wagon’ and: ‘One for the road’. The jailor would pull up the prisoner’s cage outside and he would then come in and say: “Give him one for the road” and once the jailor left and pulled the cage away, the men in the bar would remark: “He’s on the wagon”, meaning of course, that he will never drink again.
The Tyburn Gallows were last used on 3rd November 1783 when the highwayman John Austin was hanged. The site of the gallows is marked by three brass triangles mounted on the pavement on an island in the middle of the Edgware Road at the junction with Bayswater Road.
I ordered a pint of London Pride which is not unusual, but I then sampled the Seafarers Ale for the first time. This ale was developed as a tribute to George Gales’ close association with those that sail the sea and for every barrel sold a donation is made to Seafarers UK, the leading maritime charity which helps support seafarers and their families. Fuller’s bought the Hampshire based brewery in 2005 and production then switched to their Griffin Brewery in Chiswick. In 2009/10 they donated over £22,000 to the charity.
The pub underwent a massive refurbishment in 2006 following a flood. The balcony caters for 40 more diners and there is also a heated patio sectioned off in front of the pub.
Every Sunday on the opposite side of the Bayswater Road, artists display their wares on the railings of Kensington Gardens as they have done for many years. There is live music on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings. The pub is a very popular tourist haunt, but it does have a rich history and the beer is excellent.
(The top pic is by the artist Charles Ginner and the middle one depicts the highwayman, Claude Duval. Should a copyright problem arise then please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org)