Old Swan Inn
Since the brewery was re-launched in 2001, the beers have been branded as Pardoe's. The Old Swan Inn is also better known as Ma Pardoe's as the pub was run for many years by Doris Pardoe. I guess this seems a little unfair on the Hartshorne family who owned the property for 92 years. However, it was Doris Pardoe, the matriarch tee-totalling landlady, who stamped her authority within the boozer on Netherton's High Street, and it is her name that has endured.
The Old Swan can be seen here when the pub was run by Doris Pardoe. Today, the pub has been extended into the shop next door - here it can be seen as Bennett's Wool Shop. There was a branch of George Mason's on the other side of the pub. Though uniform in character, the Mason empire of shops are sadly missed these days. The grocery stores also sold meat and provisions. George Mason opened his first shop on Lozells Road in Birmingham and gradually built up an empire of almost 500 outlets - all were fitted out like the one featured here. There was a Mason's in every Black Country town, sometimes more than one.
The Old Swan is thought to date from 1835 but I have not seen a reference to the pub in trade directories, though it is claimed that Joseph Turner, a carter by trade, was mine host. He does appear in the census of 1841 living with his family at Halesowen Road but there is no mention of him being a beer retailer. He is not listed as such in Robson's 1839 or Pigot's 1842 directories.
The first reference I have seen to the Old Swan is a newspaper article published in January 1848 in which Thomas James hosted a dinner for the London Order of Oddfellows at the pub. This was a newly-formed branch and thirty new men were initiated into the order during the evening. Mr. W. C. Johnson was chosen surgeon to the lodge. On the following day, a branch of Odd Women of this order was also opened, when upwards of forty women sat down to what was described as "an excellent dinner" and that "the evening was passed in great harmony by the sisterhood."
This newspaper article reveals that Thomas James was the publican of the Old Swan. There is a listing for Thomas James as a retailer of beer in Pigot's 1835 trade directory. Whether he was at this address is not clear. The Old Swan is listed by name in the 1850 Post Office Directory, suggesting it was fully licensed rather than a simple beer house.
The elderly Thomas James was still living on the premises in 1851 but the licence of the Old Swan had passed to John Roper who, in the previous year, had married his daughter Keturah. Other family members also lived at the Old Swan and the house was also the home of a servant called Ellen Raybould.
John Roper was a popular publican at the Old Swan. In February 1852 he provided a supper for a large assembly of local customers. It was reported that the meal was "provided by the worthy host in his usual good style, and was given by him as a token of respect, and return for their kind patronage during the past year." Mr. William Abbott filled the chair during the evening, and "several excellent songs were sung by the gentlemen present. Under the punch bowl's cheering influence, the evening passed away very pleasantly." Unfortunately, John Roper got into financial difficulties and was insolvent by June 1856. He later moved to Queen's Cross in Dudley where he earned a living as an iron dealer.
John Northall was the licensee of the Old Swan during the late 1850's. He was another to host large dinner events at the pub. In January 1861 he provided a dinner for 100 employees of the Atlas Patent Wrought-Iron Gas Tube Works of Primrose Hill. The Wolverhampton-born publican had spent some time himself at the factory where he was engaged as an engineer. He kept the Old Swan Inn with his wife Rebecca who hailed from Halesowen. The couple would later run the Newport Arms in Walsall.
John Young acquired the Old Swan Inn on April 22nd 1863 in a sale that detailed the property and included 'a brewhouse, stables, outbuildings and gardens ... which have been used for many years past as a public house, known by the sign of the Old Swan Inn.' It is claimed that John Young was responsible for the rebuilding of the pub and the construction of the tower brewery following his purchase of the property in 1863. The pub seems to have changed name for a period in the 1860's and was trading as the White Swan or Old White Swan. Benjamin Woodhouse was running the pub during this period.
It was around 1860 that the pub's association with the Hartshorne family began. Thomas Hartshorne was originally from the village of Whitecroft in the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire. He may have worked as a miner in the forest community but he moved north at a relatively early age. He married Esther "Etty" Priest at Sedgley in 1840 when they were both 20 years-of-age. In 1851 they were living in Garratt's Lane at Old Hill where Thomas was working as a miner whilst Etty toiled away making nails. By this time the couple had four young children. The family worked hard and saved enough money to go into business, opening a Marine Store in Northfield Road to the rear of the Old Swan Inn.
Thomas Hartshorne was probably a customer at the Old Swan. Certainly, living so close to the building he would have become familiar with the business. By 1871 he and Esther had moved into the Old Swan Inn but he continued to trade as a Marine Store Dealer. He appointed his son-in-law George Baker as publican and he kept the pub with his wife Sophia, daughter of Thomas and Esther Hartshorne. Within a few years, however, their roles seem to have been exchanged with George being recorded as a Marine Store Dealer and Thomas being listed as licensee of the Old Swan Inn. What is more clear is the fact that Thomas Hartshorne acquired the pub from John Young on October 1st 1872.
By 1880 Thomas Evans had been appointed manager of the Old Swan Inn. Thomas Hartshorne eventually retired and moved to Kinver to enjoy some fresh air and the countryside. Ownership of the Old Swan passed to his son Thomas Lord Hartshorne, though he seemingly preferred to continue as a Marine Store Dealer.
Frustratingly, information on the brewery and who exactly was operating this side of the business is not well documented. Trade directories record John Andrew Harris at the Swan Inn during 1892. Eight years later the name of Albert Harvey appears in listings. The Edwardian era saw William Chiltern behind the counter. Were these people simply managers of the pub? Or were they also engaged with producing ales in the tower brewery?
Dudley-born licensed victualler Zachariah Marsh was a manager and brewer on his arrival in the late Edwardian period. He married Catherine Anne Northcut in March 1888. The couple had previously kept the Two Bull's Heads in Dudley's Stone Street. Zachariah Marsh did, at least, provide some tangible evidence of the brewery's activity by advertising in the Dudley newspapers in 1910 [see brewery feature to the right].
Zachariah and Catherine Marsh were succeeded in 1912 by Albert and Anna Lyndon who had formerly managed the Town Arms at Brierley Hill. The couple had earlier kept the Gunmakers' Arms in Gerrard Street, Aston. Albert was himself a Brummie, though Anna hailed from Shrewsbury. The couple brought a little stability to the Old Swan for they remained until the mid-1920's.
Other managers came and went in the 1920's. Tommy Hartshorne even kept the place going for a short period. He later bought the Old Star Inn at Halesowen before his death in 1938.
It is not clear when Ben Cole first worked as a brewer at the Old Swan. He had however been producing the ales for a number of years when Frederick and Doris Pardoe took over the pub in 1932. His services were retained by the Pardoe family who were keen to retain consistency of brews. The Pardoe story is quite a meander through the licensed trade of the Midlands.
Doris Clare Pardoe was born at Bridgtown in Cannock on August 28th 1899, the daughter of Edward Elcock Jones and Erena Mary Orton. Her early years were spent at the bakery and grocery shop run by her parents, a business that also included an off licence. The family entered the licensed trade proper when they took over at the Britannia at Leabrook in Wednesbury, a pub operated by the local firm of Millward's. After a short period Edward and Erena moved to the George and Dragon in Wednesbury's Market Place. In July 1915 they were on the move again, this time to the Angel Inn on Castle Street in Dudley. During their three year term the pub was operated by the Alma Brewery in nearby Hall Street. However when the Angel Inn was sold to Frederick Smith's Aston Model Brewery, the family moved to the Holly Bush at Dixon's Green, a pub operated by John Rolinson and Son Ltd. They were slowing edging towards Netherton!
By the end of the First World War Doris Jones had much experience of pub life. On October 25th 1918 she married Frederick Pardoe at St. Thomas's Church in Dudley. The couple lived at the Holly Bush with Doris's parents. When they decided to move to old Station Hotel down the hill on Birmingham Road, they left Doris and Frederick to manage the Holly Bush. Doris's mother, Erena, died in 1927 and her father came out of the licensed trade. He moved to Walsall where he acquired a newsagent's shop on Birmingham Road.
Frederick and Doris Pardoe stayed at the Holly Bush for over a decade before opting to move down the hill to Sweet Turf in Netherton. They took over at the British Oak in Union Street on the day that the homebrew pub was taken over by Julia Hanson & Sons Ltd. The Dudley-based brewery bought the house from Mrs. Louisa Prince on January 6th, 1931.
It is said that Doris wasn't particularly happy in Netherton so a move to pastures new was on the cards when Tommy Hartshorne approached her and Frederick. He offered the couple the tenancy of the Old Swan Inn and they decided to try their luck in the town centre. With no experience in brewing they made the sensible decision to keep Ben Cole as brewer. In fact, and perhaps somewhat surprisingly, Frederick Pardoe never learned to brew the ales sold in the pub. When Ben Cole retired the Pardoe's appointed Solomon Cooksey as brewer. When he himself hung up his apron, the brewing duties became the responsibility of his son George who remained at the Old Swan until September 1988.
Doris's father sold his shop in Walsall and joined the family at the Old Swan to help run the pub. Whatever the Pardoe's lacked in brewing knowledge, they more than compensated with business acumen. With large breweries having secured most of the licensed properties in the area, the couple shopped around to find more outlets for the beers produced behind the Old Swan. Following the Second World War, they acquired the Gladstone Arms at Audnam. They also bought the White Swan located in Holland Street, Dudley. Another outlet was secured in Dudley when they acquired an off-licence at Priory Court, New Street.
Frederick Pardoe died on August 17th 1952 and was buried up the hill at St. Andrew's Church. Doris continued to run the business and eventually bought the Old Swan Inn from descendants of Thomas Hartshorne. She closed the deal in 1964. She remained at the helm for almost 20 years, handing over to son-in-law Sid Allport in 1983. He and daughter Brenda had been helping to run the Old Swan for a number of years.
By this time the Old Swan had become something of a national treasure. When the Campaign for the Revitalisation of Ale [CAMRA] was founded in 1971, the Swan Inn was one of only four homebrew pubs left in operation in the UK. Through the campaigning group's articles in the media, the name of the Old Swan spread far and wide and the pub became something of a pilgrimage for real ale fans.
Doris Pardoe died on April 1st, 1984. There are some written accounts of "Ma Pardoe" being rather matriarchal, or even domineering but the people that I have spoken to with regard to her personality described her as a kind, warm-hearted woman who would always help those in need.
The years following the Pardoe regime are widely acknowledged as being something of a calamity. Within a year of their ownership Sid and Brenda Allport [Doris's daughter] decided to sell the business. Local bodies such as the Black Country Society and CAMRA, along with regular customers and residents, were concerned that the Old Swan would be acquired by a large brewery and its independent status and homebrew ales would be lost. Indeed, Wolverhampton and Dudley Breweries Ltd. had approached Doris Pardoe on more than one occasion with offers for the Old Swan. A defence plan was put together by Mercia Venture Capital Limited, of Colmore Row in Birmingham and CAMRA. Together, they formed Netherton Ales Plc. and acquired the Old Swan on April 25th, 1985.
In a refit costing around £220,000 the Old Swan was extended into the former shop next door and the rear of the building was enlarged. The doors were opened to the public again on October 31st, 1986. The pub suddenly had two front doors which was a bit confusing for non-regulars, particularly as the two rooms were not connected. However, this has retained the integrity of the old bar of the Old Swan.
In retrospect, it is perhaps all too easy to be critical of the pub's management during this period. The so-called 'bunch of amateurs' did have laudable aims but the business faltered and was soon in difficulty. The pub was acquired in November 1987 by Hoskins PLC. The Leicester-based brewery retained George Cooksey, the old brewer for Doris Pardoe, but he was dismissed over quality issues and Nigel Burdett found himself making beers for the Black Country. Despite cash injections from CAMRA, the enterprise was ill-fated. In fact, Hoskins PLC were also in difficulty and David Shaw MP, a non-executive director called for the Department of Trade to investigate the business. The Old Swan was sold to Premier Midland Ales, a Stourbridge company that soon merged with the Pitfield Brewery, originally based in London but was relocated by owners Rob Jones and Andy Skene. The new enterprise was called Pitfield Premier Ales. If this is starting to sound confusing then think for a moment how the pub was coping with the constant change of ownership.
The lifespan of Pitfield Premier Ales was all too brief. Andy Skene did remain in Stourbridge as a brewer for the Chainmaker Brewery but Premier Ales was merged with the Wiltshire Brewery based at Tisbury. After such a long spell of continuity with the Pardoe family, the pub was now changing hands on a regular basis, never a good thing for custom, particularly when the new owners decided to close the brewery and ship in beers from elsewhere.
During the 1990's I do have some memories of some good nights in the Old Swan so things cannot have been too bad. However, I remember nipping in during the latter part of the decade and the pub was often near-empty. The fortunes of the place continued to decline until it finally closed in February 2000.
And so, the name of Tim Newey comes back into the story of the
Old Swan. He had worked for Doris Pardoe behind the bar in 1977. He was also
licensee of the pub in the mid-1980's before running the Elephant and Castle at
Newtown when it was part of the
Holt, Plant & Deakin group of pubs operated by Allied Breweries. He teamed
up with the brewer Dave Rawstorne to re-open the brewery behind the Old Swan
which underwent a refurbishment by Punch Taverns who had acquired the property
and placed it within their Inn Business portfolio. This allowed Tim Newey, as
tenant, a good degree of autonomy to run the Old Swan as he saw appropriate.
There was no more fitting custodian than the verger of St. Andrew's Church who
had a deep affection for the old place. The publican has a keen sense of history
and dresses like he is from a former age. If one looks up Old School in a
dictionary there is probably a picture of Tim Newey behind the counter of the
Old Swan! Doris Pardoe may have the pub named in her honour but the Old Swan's
salvation and continued success can be contributed to Tim Newey.
The Old Swan, known as Ma Pardoe's, is having work carried out to its 140-year-old stacks as they have started to lean. It is good news for drinkers at the pub, in Halesowen Road, Netherton, as the open fires which add character to the interior will continue to glow.
Landlord Tim Newey said pub owner Punch Taverns had agreed to carry out the work. He said: "The pub has been here since the 1860s and of course after time the building will start to get worse for wear. The chimneys are starting to lean at the minute so work needs to be carried out to put that right. We have open fires in the pub and it is important that we keep those going because it adds to the comfortable atmosphere in the pub. The work will probably be later this year but it won't mean any disruption to the pub, we will still be open for business."
Pub regular Chris Smith said: "It is great that the fires will not be closed off because of the damage to the chimneys. Ma Pardoe's is a great place to go for a drink and something to eat while enjoying the warmth of the open fires."
Punch Taverns spokesman Peter Medlicott said: "There is some building work
required at the Old Swan to repair and make good one chimney that has fallen
into disrepair over time, along with ongoing maintenance on six other chimney
stacks. We have submitted a listed building consent and await the committee's decision
with interest. If consent is given we intend to complete the repairs in a manner befitting the
character of the
Funnyman Alan Smith, who is better known as Aynuk, said The Old Swan Inn still served the "best pint in the country" despite being left out of the 2007 edition of the Good Beer Guide for the first time in 16 years.
The pub, which is known locally as Ma Pardoe's, was left out the guide after judges from the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) decided its ale was not as good as the other 23 pubs in the area which did make it into the book. The news comes just two years after the popular watering hole, which is famous for its range of home-brewed beers, was named as the West Midland Pub of the Year by CAMRA in 2004.
Mr. Smith said he regularly enjoyed a pint in the Halesowen Road pub with his stage partner John Plant, who is better known as Ayli. "This news has knocked me for six because I think it serves the best pint in the country," he said. "Because of my job, I move around the country a lot and I can honestly say that on my travels I haven't been in a better pub than. Ma Pardoe's. It's a bostin' boozer. I've been going in there for a long as I've been able to go into pubs and I went in last Friday and you couldn't move because it was so busy. "What I'd like to know is who are these so-called experts?"
Stan Stephens, chairman of the Dudley and South Staffordshire branch of CAMRA,
said Ma Pardoe's had not been included in this year's edition of the book
because only 23 pubs in the area could be featured. Mr. Stephens said the booze
at the other pubs in the area had beer better on a more consistent basis over a
Details of brewing activity behind the Old Swan during the Victorian era are sketchy at best. Some detail was provided through the Edwardian advertisements of Zachariah Marsh. His front page item informed the public that "The Olde Swan Still Swims. The Best and Purist Ales are now being sold at the Old Establishment known as the Olde Swan Inn, Halesowen Road, Netherton. Manager and Brewer Mr. Z. Marsh, late of Dudley. His Bitter is of an extraordinary quality, brewed on the premises from Hops and Malt only of the finest quality, guaranteed absolutely pure. Families supplied with small Casks at 1/- per gallon, cash on delivery. We brew QUALITY not quantity. Weight and measure is just for all men."
The advertisement reveals that beers brewed behind the Old Swan were being delivered and sold to the local neighbourhood. The statement that weight and measure "is just" was used at a time when corrupt practices were commonplace in the retail sector. Shopkeepers and warehouse operators were frequently hauled before the magistrates for short measure of goods. A footnote of the advertisement included the name of Lord Hartshorne, the proprietor of the Old Swan. This was the rather portentous moniker bestowed upon Thomas Hartshorne Jr. by his father. However, as a Marine Store Dealer trading from behind the brewery and fronting Northfield Road, Tommy Hartshorne was colloquially known as the "rag an boon mon."
Zachariah Marsh was succeeded in 1912 by experienced publican Albert Lyndon who also brewed up on the premises until the mid-1920's. When he retired the Pardoe's appointed Solomon Cooksey who handed over to his son George, remaining at the Old Swan until September 1988. In the years following the sale of the Old Swan, the brewery went through a turbulent time [see main text to the left] and was eventually closed.
The brewery was re-launched in 2000 by the partnership of Tim Newey, publican of the Old Swan, and Dave Rawstorne, former brewer at Holt, Plant & Deakin. The recipe for the much revered Holt's Entire was used to create Olde Swan Entire. I went to see Dave at work in 2002 and the following photographs were taken on that day. Although not in a stand-alone brick structure, it is still known as a tower brewery because the brewing process flows from the top floor to the ground floor without the aid of pumps.
The grain has to be hauled to the top floor where there is a store and a grist case for crushed malt. At the time of my visit, Dave was using Maris Otter pale, crystal and chocolate. At least the malt didn't have to lifted into the hot liquor tank because, as you see here, it was like a hole in the floor. The water in the tank was heated by gas. However, back in the day coal was used as the fuel to heat things up.
It is thought that there was a working well on the site in Victorian times but Dave used the public supply of water. Once he had worked his magic with the hot liquor tank, the mix was transferred into the mash tun below. At the time of my visit Dave was producing eight barrels of beer at a time with brewing taking place two times a week, though sometimes three depending on how trade was going.
The wooden mash tun at the brewery is thought to date from the 1930's. Dave told
me that it used to be a little higher, perhaps by six inches or so. However, a
fire resulted in the mash tun losing part of the top. After the mash, the
wort was boiled in a copper where Dave used Fuggles and East Kent Goldings hops.
The ground floor has a hop back to receive the hopped wort, and a small heat exchange unit is used to cool the liquid. At the time of my visit there were two fermenting vessels, though Dave would not reveal the source of his yeast when production started again at the Old Swan. He has since moved on - I think he was involved at the Titanic Brewery after working in Netherton.
A light mild that few breweries seem to produce these days. Pardoe's Original is a straw-coloured easy-going session ale that is both sweet and lightly hopped. A 3.5% beer that one can drink in volume and still feel great the next day!
A tasty dark sweet mild with roasted barley to provide a nutty flavour aftertaste.
The beer that launched a thousand headaches - but only me being foolish by drinking too many. This was pure class at Holt's and replicated well in the brewery's early days under brewer Dave Rawstorne.
A stronger version of Entire in many respects, though sweeter and featuring some astringency in the aftertaste. The best bet is to start at the top and work your way down to this beer to round off your session!