Ancestral pub number 1

Across all the various branches of family I research, in addition to the ubiquitous ag labs, I have found a number of individuals who ran pubs.

So here goes for Ancestral Pub Number 1 – The Horse and Groom, Swaffham, Norfolk.

Horse and Groom Swaffham
Horse and Groom, Swaffham

I first came across the Horse and Groom in the 1851 census on discovering that my ancestor John George’s sister Ann had married William Pitcher and had found herself assisting to run the pub.  Ann and William had married in June 1841, and it seems that Ann was already working in Swaffham at that time.

In the next census, Ann is still described as an ‘innkeeper’s wife’ and William is also working as a painter as well as running the pub.  It was not unusual to have another occupation alongside.   Ann and William were to be at least 50 years at this address, and must have become very established members of the Swaffham community.  They brought up five sons there, and had various lodgers and servants living with them.  The 1881 and 1891 give William the slightly more upmaket-sounding title of ‘licensed victualler’, the family being joined by their granddaughter Matilda, working as a bar maid.

By the time of the 1901 census, however, there has been some reversal of roles:  83 year old William is no longer head of the household but describes himself as a ‘retired painter’.  Their son Albert is now the licensee, together with his wife Emily.

On looking more closely into this establishment I discovered, via the Norfolk Pubs site that William was not the first Pitcher to hold the licence at the Horse and Groom:  before him there was Christmas Pitcher and then Elizabeth Pitcher from 1830 to 1841.  Elizabeth appears on the 1841 census aged 70 as an ‘inn keeper’ in Lynn Road, and living with her is 20 year old William, a painter. Christmas appears in an 1822 Norfolk directory at the Horse and Groom, Swaffham.  I’ve been unable to find a baptism for William, but a fellow Ancestry researcher has William as a grandson of Christmas and Elizabeth, thus giving three different generations of Pitchers running this pub.  I’ve not been able to find a baptism for Christmas either – do you think he was born towards the end of December?!

So many of our old pubs are no more – derelict, turned into private dwellings or morphed into the latest Tesco Express.  So I was thrilled, when preparing for our Norfolk Expedition this summer, to discover that the Horse and Groom is still there in Lynn Street, Swaffham, and still operating as a pub, under that same name.  It had to be included on the grand ancestral tour.

Horse and Groom Swaffham
Horse and Groom

The pub is a few hundred yards along the road from the main market square, where a number of other pubs are still operating.  On market days they must all have been buzzing with activity.  The name ‘Horse and Groom’ is probably indicative of the fact that this was obviously a coaching inn and Swaffham is likely to have been an intersection of routes between King’s Lynn, Thetford, East Dereham and Norwich.

We enjoyed a very pleasant meal at this establishment, which is obviously still well-patronised and which offers B&B accommodation, as it possibly always has.

Swaffham Church



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