History of the White Swan Inn at Drakes Cross, Wythall in the county of Worcestershire


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This pub at Drakes Cross in Wythall was originally a beer house known simply as the Swan Inn. In the 21st century the business is a large eatery called the White Swan. Mind you, it had changed its name to the White Swan by the end of the Victorian era. The pub is another to lose its original role on the busy road connecting Birmingham with Alcester, though this has been compensated by residential development in close proximity to the building.

Like the nearby Pack Horse Inn at Hollywood, early publicans of the Swan Inn were also engaged in agricultural work. The beer house was a locus for farm labourers in the evenings. In the pub's early days there was also some labourers toiling in nearby clay pits. There was also a brickyard a few hundred yards to the south at Shawbrook. However, the Swan Inn also enjoyed a fair deal of passing trade as the hostelry was one of many taverns fronting the old turnpike road connecting Birmingham with Alcester.

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By the time Zephaniah Smith was the licensee in the 1870's the pub was trading as the White Swan. He kept the pub with his wife Mary Ann, the couple having been married in 1868. They had three young children, Gertrude, George and Wallace, who spent their formative years at the pub. The son of a shoemaker, Zephaniah Smith was a retail brewer so the locals would have got to sample his homebrewed ales. He grew up in the locality and may have learned the craft from the maltster and neighbour Thomas Jones.

The White Swan at Drakes Cross in Wythall [2015]

Zephaniah Smith died in 1880. A later publican, George Henry Gittins, was a jeweller's engraver, a trade he later pursued in the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham. Walter Pearce had apparently made a success of the White Swan Inn but he died in 1890. This lead to a sale of the pub in November 1890. An auction was held for the White Swan Inn, together with two cottages adjoining which had been converted into stabling. There was also a cowhouse, piggeries and other outbuildings, a large garden, a couple of acres of land. The auctioneers advised potential bidders that the "house was doing a capital trade, having much improved under the management of the late Walter Pearce."

By the end of the Edwardian period Harry and Alice Willis were running the White Swan Inn. Born in Walsall in 1871, Harry Willis fell in love with a Brummie lass Alice Chapman. The couple had married at Christ Church in Sparkbrook in November 1891. Not long afterwards they were running the Hope and Anchor on Vauxhall Road in Ashted. At the turn of the 20th century they were running a pub in Highgate Road in Birmingham.

Licensees of this pub

1841 - Isaac Allcock
1851 - Joseph Moore
1876 - Zephaniah Smith
1888 - George Henry Gittins
1890 - Walter Pearce
1911 - Harry Frank Willis
Note : this is not a complete list of licensees for this pub.


Map Extract Showing the Swan Inn at Drakes Cross in Wythall [1883]

This extract from a plan drawn up in 1883 shows the pub when it was a beer house known simply as the Swan Inn.

Genealogy Connections

If you have a genealogy story or query regarding the White Swan Inn you can contact me and I will post it here in addition to including your message within the website pages for Worcestershire Genealogy.

Related Websites

Wythall Parish Council
Wythall Transport Museum
Worcester CAMRA
Worcestershire County Council

Have Your Say

If you would like to share any further information on this pub - perhaps you drank here in the past? Or maybe knew a previous publican? Whatever the reason it would be great to hear of your stories or gossip. Simply send a message and I'll post it here.

Newspaper Articles

"A serious motor accident has occurred on the Alcester Road, Wythall. A car driven by Mr. Benjamin Jones, of Lichfield Road, Walsall, who was accompanied by his wife, two daughters, and Miss Saunderson, was returning in the direction of Birmingham when, on reaching the White Swan, a cyclist swerved across its path. To avoid a collision Mr. Jones swerved to the right, and found himself in imminent peril of crashing into the premises of the White Swan licensed house. He applied the brakes, which swung the car round and caused it turn over, throwing all the occupants out except Mrs. Jones, who was pinned under the car. Mr. Willis, landlord of the White Swan, with several bystanders, succeeded in lifting the car and releasing Mrs. Jones. She was found to severely bruised. Mr. Jones was also bruised, and the other occupants of the car shaken, Considerable damage was done to the car."
"Accident to Walsall Party at Wythall"
Birmingham Daily Post : May 11th 1915 Page 2.

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Rufus Wainwright

"I've developed into quite a swan. I'm one of those people that will probably look better and better as I get older until I drop dead of beauty."
Rufus Wainwright