Locals and return visitors don’t have to know much about Lake District history, to know that Ben and Sharon Henderson, who run The Swinside Inn, have been here before. Back in the Noughties, they were both part of the team when Ben’s family ran the pub; and everyone’s thrilled that, after a lot of hard work, The Swinside Inn is once again, taking its place, as a destination in The Newlands Valley.
That is only a slender part of the story of The Swinside inn
Since the first time Ben arrived to work and eventually run this iconic Lakeland Inn, he has wondered about the history and the fabulous stories these old stone walls could tell. The common perception around is that the pub is a 17th century Inn, but when Ben began his research by looking at the Ale House Act 1830, he could not find the Swinside Inn!
More about that later. Here’s what Ben’s found out so far.
The house itself was first recorded in 1578 as Farm Building and later became known as ‘Swinside Estate’. It was tenanted by John Bowe, the younger at No.63, along with various pastures and a wood. And also by John Bowe, the elder at No.64, along with meadows and an orchard.
It is believed that No 64 was what is now The Swinside Inn, as the carpark used to be an orchard, with No 63 being what is now Swinside Farmhouse.
The original 16th Century building would have been built from stone and slate. Parts of the original building still stand. As you walk in through the front entrance through the narrow passage you will notice the 3 foot wide old walls which would have been part of the tenanted farm stead in 1576.
The two rooms on the right as you walk in from the current main entrance (on the plan here, the current main entrance at the ‘top’ on the left) would have been the barn where animals were kept.
This is the where the floor slopes down to the rear (our main) entrance leading out to the orchard. Most of the original building is still there including the stone floor. John Bowe probably kept cows, sheep, pigs and maybe goats.
The room immediately in front of the door, as you walk in, was the living quarter for the family. (The window was ‘rediscovered’ when the old 1980s bar was removed in 2017).
We’ve found in Lake District history, that it was common for families to sleep above the animals in the loft/2nd floor as this would have been warm.
Below is the likely design of the house (apologies for the bizarre angle!). You will notice many similarities (again, our current main entrance is ‘top’ left, actually out of sight).
In the 16th Century the Valley became busy with new arable lands being made from the draining of the marsh lands between Braithwaite and portinscale.
The German miners also arrived in the C16th to start the large scale mining of the fells.
Newlands Church was built around the same time as it is included in this map as ‘newlands chap’.
16th Century German Miners
The German miners arrived from the 1564 onwards at the invitation of Queen Elizabeth I (due to their superior skills and expertise) and worked at Goldscope in The Newlands Valley. Led by Bavarian Daniel Hochstetter, they had the right to prospect and survey for mineral veins anywhere in the country, whether locals and landowners liked it or not. The names of, Hindmarch, Stanger, Pepper, Hawkrigg, and many more are still common in the area.
17th Century Cottages
The ‘Great Rebuilding’ in the 17th century extended Swinside into a row of cottages, that can be clearly identified, within the building, to this day.
Pubs In The Valley
When Ben started looking into Lake District history, his research started Ale House Act 1830. He expected to find historic reference to The Swinside Inn, but could only find a Miners Arms in Newlands Valley that was run by the Lowden family.
He began to wonder if this was The Swinside Inn. Had it changed its name?
More research through the records of the 1800s, found mention of two more inns, Dog & Gun & The Sportsman, which turned out to be one building with different names over the years, on the plot later occupied by what many people know this as the Purple House.
A 19th Century Beer House
We do know that our building was operating as a beer house in the 1830s. This is because Ben finally found the story of a local man, who after a few beers at The Swinside, mounted his horse to ride home, managed to slip underneath the animal with his foot caught in the stirrup. He was rescued in Portinscale, after being dragged there by the horse. It’s noted in records because, unfortunately, he died a week later.
At this time the Swinside Beer House was run by Joseph Graham, who’s daugher Ann Graham would eventually take over. The Inn never had a licence, it was just down as a beer house until the end of the 19 century.
20th Century ‘Improvements’
In the 1960s, a large square extension was added to the carpark side of the building. We’d like to point out that the extension has been there a long time, and was not added as part of the 2017 refurb. It’s not what you’d call ‘in keeping’ with Lake District history, but it is what it is.
21st Century Refurbishment
In March 2017, Ben and Sharon, along with Heineken, the building owners, were able to redesign the ground floor in a sympathetic style, whilst keeping the historical features intact.
The dark and gloomy bar area, which had been a decorative, rather than a historical one, was moved to the previously mentioned 1960s extension. Whilst looking a bit boxy from the outside, the large windows provide a sunny welcoming bar, with room for customers to (wait for it) SIT, and socialise, and enjoy the fantastic views. There’s even a hatch servery so that customers don’t have to come in on a nice summer day.
The old bar area has been restored to the old cottage, and when the fake panelling was removed, a window complete with net curtain, was rediscovered!
The older looking rooms to the right as you go in (where the animals used to be kept!) has been largely untouched, but with fresh carpeting and upholstery. Bar users are welcome to use this area, but it does get very full of diners.
Finally, at the opposite end of the pub, a 2nd fake bar has been removed, and original fireplace restored, returning the cottagey feel to the place. Tables may also be booked in this area for dining.