White Swan Inn, 34 High Street
No living person will have drunk a pint in the White Swan Inn in Stockton High Street as a series of events in the late 1860s and 1870s resulted in the landlord’s family selling the inn. The White Swan was one of the earlier public house closures in the history of the High Street.
The inn was located at 34 High Street, but it did not front the main street, instead it was accessed via an alley between shops. The alley lead into a yard which could also be accessed from Silver Street. The inn appears in all the early trade directories, with James Hunter listed as landlord. The main occupiers during the long reign of Queen Victoria were the Moody family.
Robert Moody took over the White Swan in 1834. In the 1841 census, he is listed along with his wife, Mary, and their five children, all of whom were born in Stockton. Early in 1841, one of the waiters tried to steal money from Mr Moody, a story detailed in the York Herald, 6 February 1841. The waiter had been sent out with a £5.00 to get change, however he ran away with the money. Mr Moody, acting ‘…with all the promptitude and decision of a consummate general …’, called the police and mounting his staff on the inn’s horses, set off in pursuit. The culprit was found between Stockton and Stokesley and according to the newspaper, ‘… is expected daily to undergo an examination before the magistrates’.
Robert Moody died in 1848 at the age of 47, and his wife Mary took over the licence. In 1851 she is listed as inn-keeper, with Martha Kipling from Whitby as a servant. On 17 May 1855, Christopher Moody, Robert and Mary’s son, married Martha Kipling and the following year he took over the licence of the White Swan. By the time of the 1861 census, Christopher and Martha had two children, Robert, who was blind, and Mary. During the next decade they had a further five children, John, Jane Ann, Anne, Christopher and William. All the family, except Jane Ann, are shown on the 1871 census.
Jane Ann was born on 8 June 1864 at the White Swan Inn, but shortly after her fourth birthday, she was the victim of a tragic accident. The White Swan was located to the rear of Weldon and Carter’s shop. Jane Ann was playing with friends in front of the shop, where a delivery of bales of flannel had been received. The bales were stacked however as the children were playing, a number of the bales fell and crushed Jane Ann. She was carried home and was attended by Dr Dale but sadly the next morning she died of compression of the brain. The inquest report appeared in the York Herald, 11 July 1868.
Christopher Moody died only a few years after his little daughter, on 31 December 1871, and was buried in St Thomas’s churchyard. Martha was left a widow with six young children and within months, the White Swan was put up for sale. The advertisment in the Daily Gazette for Middlesbrough, 31 July 1872, describes the property as an ‘… old-established and well-frequented public-house … the Premises contain on the ground floor, bar parlour, snug, tap-room, kitchens, sculleries, and other conveniences; and on the first floor, a large club-room, and several good bedrooms, etc … The premises are at present occupied by Mrs Moody (who is retiring from business) …’. Although the advertisment mentioned sale by public auction, the White Swan was purchased privately by Carter & Co, who owned the draper’s shop in front of the inn. It is not known exactly when the White Swan disappeared, but in a trade directory of 1876, Weldon and Carters had expanded into the whole property and the inn was no more. Weldon and Carters shop became Blacketts and is now the enterprise arcade.
Martha Moody did not retire for long, if at all, as in 1876 she is listed in Slater’s Trade Directory as the landlady of the Sun Inn, Workhouse Street (now Knowles Street). She was still an inn-keeper in 1881, but by the 1891 census she had retired and was living in Rutland Street. Martha died in 1906.
There is no obvious trace of the White Swan Inn today, however if you walk down Silver Street there is still an alleyway, leading to a yard behind the present Enterprise Arcade. From a map of 1857, this yard may still be identified as an area known in the 1800s as White Swan Yard.
Sources: Census returns – Find my Past; British Library Newspaper Collection – Find my Past; Maps – Stockton Reference Library; Occupational History of Stockton High Street – Stockton Reference Library
Stories from the High Street participant: Diane Moody.
The ‘Stories…’ project is part of the Council’s wider “Grants for Heritage Buildings’ programme, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Council, to help promote awareness and understanding of the town’s heritage.
Visit www.stockton.gov.uk/grantsforheritagebuildings for further information on the project.