The Swan

The Swan is the heraldic symbol of Buckinghamshire, so is a common name for pubs around the county. Examples are the Swan at Old Amersham, Beaconsfield, West Wycombe and at Swan Bottom in the parish of The Lee. One of the oldest and best loved of them all is the Swan at Ley Hill. The timber-framed building was originally three cottages. The oldest two go back to about 1520, when it may have been a hunting lodge, and the third to about 1680. It preserves oak-beamed ceilings, a kitchen range and an inglenook fireplace. Since 1984 it has been a Grade II listed building, and has featured in many local guidebooks.

Salter’s Brewery

From about 1820 the pub was owned by Salter’s Brewery in Rickmansworth. Over the door was a board which had the landlord’s name and the words “Licensed to sell by Retail spirits, beer, ales, porter, cider and perry to be consumed on or off the Premises. ” In 1923 Salters sold out to Cannon Brewery, which in 1930 was bought by Taylor, Walker and Company. In 1959 this became part of Allied Breweries, who continued to own the pub under the Benskins brand. The pub has had many live-in landlords, some didn’t stay long and others stayed decades.

Darvell Family

In 1872 Robert Darvell took over the pub. He came from Boxmoor with his wife Elizabeth and their son James aged 4. They left the pub in 1882 but stayed locally. Their son James took over Shepherds Farm in Botley Road, and retired to Broomstick Lane, Botley and died in 1960 aged 91.

Sweat Pea Cottage

Next to the pub used to be a cottage called Sweet Pea Cottage. It had large wooden garage type doors, and housed a horse-drawn carriage. This was used as the local taxi to Boxmoor Station, and for taking older local children to Latimer school. Latterly it housed the toilets. The cottage was demolished in 1985.

Ley Hill F.C.

For a few decades from about 1889 to 1927 the Swan was used as headquarters of Ley Hill Football Club. In June 1904 Ley Hill FC won the Chesham Lowndes’ Challenge Cup and a grand supper was held at the Swan to celebrate.

The Clark Family

In 1907 the Swan was licensed to James Henry Clark, who had previously run the Five Bells in (now 282) Waterside, Chesham since 1898. He lived with his wife Mary and their children Ellen and Mary. James Clark died in 1935 aged 68 and his widow Mary Clark, became the new licensee until she died in 1936. In 1985 their daughter Mary, then Mrs Turner, returned aged 80, to open the new restaurant extension to the pub.


In 1936 the pub was run by Mrs Lilian Annie Foster who lived with her daughter Joyce. During the war, the pub was popular with the American forces from nearby Bovingdon Airfield who came by Jeep or bicycle. Amongst the visitors were actors James Stewart and Clark Gable who are said to have drank there.

After the War

From 1950 the pub was run by Cyril Arthur and Kit Brunt. In 1956 Cyril Brunt featured on a BBC television programme called “Away From It All”. In this show Christopher Chataway sought to find out what life was like in British quiet backwaters.
After Cyril Brunt died in 1965 aged 57, Kit carried on the pub until she retired in 1975. It was then run by Clifford and Joan Christie, who kept the pub beautiful with hanging baskets of fuchsias.

Pub Grub

In 1981 the Swan was taken by Paul and Majorie Howard. In 1983 Brian and Eileen Williams took over the pub. Eileen had been in catering and further developed the lunch and evening food business. In 1985 a single-storey side extension was added to provide space for the growing demand for pub meals.
Through the 1980s the Swan was amongst a small number of Buckinghamshire pubs to feature in the Egon Ronay Pub Guide. On July 15, 1985 the pub appeared on television again when local weatherman Francis Wilson, who grew up in Chesham, featured the area on the BBC programme “Favourite Walks”.

The Snug

The pub has a small room called the snug. This has a circular table and has been used for many village meetings. When the new memorial hall was opened by Lord Chesham in December 1999, it was there that he was taken afterwards.


The Swan pub has been a very popular pub. Being near the golf course and cricket pitch, it welcomed many golfers and cricketers, their families and supporters. It used to be on the regular itinerary for the Aldbury morris dancers, and it has been a popular destination for walkers, cyclists and horse-riders.

Many village celebrations have occurred outside the pub. In the late 1980s and early 1990s the pub had a regular jazz night, and an annual jazz festival, when many people remember Acker Bilk coming to play. In 1945 V.E. Day was celebrated with dancing by Americans and English outside the Swan and the Crown. Similar festivities happened outside the Swan in 1995 for the 50th anniversary of V.E. Day. Since 2006 there has been an annual Music and Beer festival co-hosted with the Crown each August Bank Holiday.

Planning Applications

In 2019 planning permission was sought turn the pub into a nursery, which was turned down. In 2020 planning permission was sought to turn it into two properties, which was withdrawn. Now there is another application to have it turned into a single dwelling. Whilst it would make a nice house, there has been local opposition because of a continued strong demand to use the pub. A campaign has started called Save Our Swan (SOS) with the idea that it could be bought by local people as a viable community venture, see


For memories of the Swan please contact Neil on