After Henry III’s victory at the Battle of Evesham (1265) the De Montforts’ castle at Beaudesert was destroyed because of the leading part they played in the revolt against the King. The village of Henley-in-Arden rose from the ruins. The castle site is marked today only by a large mound which lies near to the Church of St Nicholas, across the road from The White Swan Hotel.
An Inn has existed on this site since 1352 and The White Swan was first documented in 1358. The current White Swan was erected between 1550 and 1565.
In August 1608 the tenant was a Mr Tomas Kirby and it was described as “An Inn called the Swan with barns and stables, orchards and courtyards”.
The poet William Shenstone (1714–1763) was inspired by The White Swan to write his famous lines: “Whoever has travelled life’s dull round, Wherever his stages may have been, May sigh to think he still has found, The warmest welcome at an inn.”
Some time after Shenstone wrote ‘The warmest welcome at an Inn’, the current fireplace was installed and you can still see the inscription of the year 1735 on it today.
During the time of stagecoaches, the White Swan was a well known 30 mile Staging Post on the route from Lichfield to London.
The White Swan was in the limelight again in 1776 when it was frequented by Samuel Johnson (born in Lichfield in 1709). He is said to have spent time here working on one of the most influential versions of the English dictionary.
The White Swan ghosts
The local Court was held at the Inn from 1845 to 1903. Then, the Courtyard of The White Swan was used for public hangings and a lady ghost was said to linger for some years following her execution for murder.
Another of the Inn’s famous ghosts is that of an 18 year old lady of the night named Virginia Black. She was said to have died after falling down the stairs during a quarrel with a gentleman in 1845. Virginia used to haunt the corridor outside bedroom 17 but guests need not fear as she has not been seen in recent years! However, do let us know if you encounter anything unusual during your stay!!
In 1855 the lawn to the rear of the hotel was a Bowling Green and in 1908 the adjacent walk through to the railway was created.
During Georgian times it was en vogue to cover timbering, but during renovation works in 1935, the plaster was removed to reveal the original middle 16th century beams.
The White Swan on Television
More recently the Actor Michael Elphick became landlord of The White Swan. He is best remembered for his role as Ken Boon in the hit series “Boon” (1986). He died tragically at the early age of 55.
During the filming of “I bought a Vampire Motorcycle” in 1990, in which Neil Morrisey played a despatch rider, The White Swan was used for catering and also provided accommodation for the actors and actresses.