The building at 5-6 East Street occupied by the National Westminster Bank was completed in 1900 for the London and County Banking Company and was designed in a late period of Gothic with oriel windows. Earlier it was the site of the Swan Inn recorded to go back to 1513 making it one of the oldest inns in Chichester.
In the seventeenth century it vied with The Dolphin as the ‘top’ inn having in 1638 named bedchambers such as Fox, Lion, Rose, Bell, Angel, Green and Spread Eagle, likely to be decorated with appropriate motifs. – such titling indicative of superiority.
In April 1628 It is likely that Lionel Cranfield, The Earl of Middlesex and ex-Lord Treasurer of England and owner of the Wiston Estate stayed overnight where Edward Salloway or his father Thomas might have been his host. Supper was meat, fowl and fish with apple tart for dessert – charged for eating in a private room (6p for a fire and a bill of £8 2s for the stay).
Innkeepers were not averse to cheating. Mr. Salloway, innkeeper and merchant of the Swan, was not selling his hay ‘by the bottle’ in 1627 and the Swan was fined in 1659 for selling overpriced beer and ‘not bottleing their haye’. This latter is thought to refer to storing hay in standard bundles or in bottles to prevent cheating.
One innkeeping John Askewe ‘feloniously’ hanged himself in the ‘faggottre chamber’ of the Inn in 1577, possibly due to indebtedness despite his goods and chattels being worth £22 0s 6d (over £6,000 today).
The Swan, also known as the Royal Swan, was the hub of life in eighteenth and nineteenth century Chichester. Dr Samuel Johnson stayed here and the fiery Radical, William Cobbett gave lectures here. It was rebuilt in 1819 after a disastrous fire. In 1832, the inn boasted hot and cold baths, good stabling, lock-up coach houses, post horses, chaises and every convenience for the traveller.
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert stayed here overnight when journeying to Portsmouth for the crossing to their house at Osborne on the Isle of Wight. The royal couple came out onto the balcony to acknowledge the cheers of the crowds. The Swan was also used for meetings of the Mayor and Corporation when it was too cold to meet in the Guildhall in Priory Park. The Inn closed sometime after 1845.
(1) The painting of the Swan dated 1715 is reproduced with permission of the Pallant House Gallery. Description of the Swan Inn sign: A large and elaborate wrought iron sign bracket reaches a third of the way across the street. From it hangs a large sign, dominating the scene; it supports a picture of a white swan, standing against a sunset with wings outstretched and neck curved. Suspended from the arched end of the bracket is a carved wooden representation of Bacchus, the god of wine, astride a wine barrel with four bunches of grapes swinging below, the whole gilded; it indicated that good wine and a high standard of service was available within.