The White Swan, Battersea, S.W. I I
ONE discovery we have made during our wanderings is that where
there is a church, there is, close at hand, an inn, a tavern or a pub.
It is certainly the case with The White Swan.
The hound of this house is Bruce, a good-looking and sprightly
young chap. His principal diet is the humble potato; he seems to
love this fare, and he certainly thrives on it. Meat he doesn’t care
for, but he’ll eat any amount of potatoes out of your hand, and
thank you politely.
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Bruce – The Alsation
You would think that all this starchy food would play ducks
and drakes with the lithe ﬁgure of an Alsatian. On the contrary,
Bruce is slim and ﬁghting ﬁt. Certainly, I wouldn’t try any tricks
when he was around.
Like so many of this so-called ﬁerce breed, Bruce has a tender
heart. He is very fond of children and kittens”he’s never happier
than when he’s playing with them. His playground is outside The
White Swan, close to St. Mary’s Church.
The house has a very close connection with St. Mary’s, but
ﬁrst let us have a glance at this history of Battersea itself. It was
towards the end of the seventh century that Battersea slowly
emerged from the dim distances of the history of Saxon England.
Not that it was always called Battersea”far from it.
In its history it has had no fewer than seventy names, all more or less variations
of Batrices ege, the ﬁrst recorded name in 693. In 1066 a date
which seems to ring a bell”it was Batriceseia. Twenty years later
it becomes Patricesy, followed by more variations, the initial “P”
giving way to “B” again until we have the less attractive Baders-
This was followed by twenty more variations, during which
the battle of the initial “B” and “P” was again fought. In 1362
it was Batricheye. By 1471 it begins to appear in the near-modern
form of Batersey, but it was not until 1597 that it emerged in all
the glory of Battersea .
The White Swan was originally The Swan and Falcon, and the
earliest references to it were in 1774, when an Act was passed in
the Spring of that year to rebuild the Parish Church, which is, of
course, St. Mary’s. ‘
The meetings of the trustees appointed to supervise the business
all took place at what were then Battersea’s most noted hostelries,
of which our tavern (before it was rebuilt and renamed) was one.
It was then described as “at the ancient landing place near the
church”, once a boating house round which lingered Dibden (of
Poor Tom Bowling fame). Dibden wrote an operetta called The
Waterman in which the scene was laid at The Swan.
The White Swan
The Church, of course, plays an important part in our story.
For the day ﬁnally ﬁxed for laying the ﬁrst stone of St. Mary’s
Church, Earl Spencer was invited to perform the ceremony. The
Earl however could not attend, and the Vicar stepped into the
breach. It seems but appropriate to record the fact that the cere-
mony being completed, the Trustees marked the occasion by dining
(and doubtless wining) at our tavern. According to the same source
of information, many other happy meetings followed throughout
the course of the building operations until it was ﬁnally ﬁnished
in 1777. A dinner at The Swan marked the occasion.
From The White Swan a ﬁne view of the Thames and of Chelsea
can be had from the bar window. But in that case you have to
close the left eye, otherwise you are forced to look at Lots Road
To some, of course, the massive chimney stack of the power
station is a thing of beauty. It used to come under the once fashion-
able heading of “ﬁtness for purpose”. I remain unconvinced.
Beauty is, no doubt, a relative thing. To Bruce, for example, the
sight of a nicely-cooked potato is a joy for ever.
There’s no accounting for tastes, canine or human.