Sunday, 13 January 2013

The Three Swans, Market Harborough, part 2

Sunday 13th January

Firstly, I must apologise for our tardiness in posting this part of our blog. It's now over a month since our visit but, what with Christmas and my wifes operation, I've been a bit busy ( I also came down with bloody norovirus the day before New Years Eve, had to cancel my party, gutted). We promise to be a bit more up to date in future.

Well, we think the "ghost" is Mr Fothergill. According to people we've spoken to all the strange happenings that have occurred started after his death and involve his portrait. This picture hangs close to the bar (sorry about the reflected light) and shows him (I think) looking quite stern.

 Mr Fothergill was landlord and owner between 1934 and 1953 and was considered an eccentric. He could,apparently, also be very rude, sometimes refusing to serve customers just because he took a dislike to them.

He wrote three books about his experiences in the licensing trade, An Innkeepers Diary in 1931 telling his reminiscences of being landlord of an inn in Thame, Oxfordshire (he was the first person to be published by the newly formed Penguin Books), Confessions of an Innkeeper in 1938 and My Three Inns in 1949.

When Mr Fothergill and his wife first arrived at the Three Swans she described it as "the foulest little pub possible, with dirty sheets" and he wrote "Inside the inn, however much dirt, not always apparent, the awful furniture, the beds, the rat holes, the wall papers coming away from the walls, the tiny unventilated lavatory on the first floor, used by the whole house, the bars and people of the town, and the strange stillness throughout, for no one seems to come in, you could see at once the building had a lovable character.

Well, that's enough copy/paste for now dad...(Didn't. It wouldn't work. Had to type the whole bloody lot out. Twice! And still wouldn't work. So I shortened it.) SO! The ghost stories are rife in the Three Swans. Room 33 is apparently haunted, not sure why, but the bar staff told us of a time when a guest bought a dog, and the dog refused to go into the room. Some cleaning staff refuse to go in, claiming that they feel like they're being watched (some folks will do owt to get out of work!). While we were there, one of the young barmen told one of the other patrons of an "eerie" corridor  where one would walk down it feeling perfectly fine, and then a person would feel a disturbing chill at a certain point along the corridor. She promptly made her way upstairs, then 2 minutes later, appeared back at the bar, stating "I could feel it! I could feel it!", so I thought, "I'm havin' some o' that!" then made my way upstairs to said corridor... load of bol... (Rubbish)... couldn't feel anything.

The ghost stories are numerous, to the point where a ghost hunting team have turned up with all their ecto1's and proton packs and spent the night. Apparently, they didn't find anything...
The best "story" (some would argue "coincidence") is the Ghost of John Fothergills painting. The painting was displayed in the pub shortly after his death and, as the tale goes, the next landlord's wife didn't like it up in the bar (it is a bit grim) (a bit?) and took it down and hung it up in the cellar, out of sight. The next day, a torrential rainstorm struck and flooded the basement, and the water level rose up and stopped..... at the bottom of John Fothergills portrait! (The water was probably too scared to go any further. Have you seen him? He could get a part time job as a child frightener!) Spooky eh? Another story tells of a woman who took down the picture while cleaning, and the day after she suffered an unfortunate incident with a horse and cart (made up the horse and cart bit, but she did die). Stories of Mr Fothergill tell of a mean and spiteful landlord while he was alive, and it seems that he hasn't chilled out any in death...

Personally, I love these old ghost stories, although I have never witnessed anything spooky, and don't really have any reason to believe in any form of afterlife, but these tales keep strangers talking in a pub on a cold Monday night in December, which is no bad thing.

We were also told that one of patrons in room 33 saw her bath water "parting" (like the Red Sea??), that one landlord moved the picture and promptly went bankrupt (what, overnight?) and that the last time the portrait was moved all the computers in the hotel went down. Spooky? (or bonkers) (note no question mark. Statement).

Anyway, back to reality, Mr Fothergill was considered such an interesting character that in 1981 he was the subject of a BBC play starring Robert Hardy. I haven't seen it so can't pass comment but if Robert Hardy was in it you'd expect it to be a decent piece of work.

The Three Swans is reputed to have a most famous patron some 350 years ago. On June 13th 1645 the Royalist army of Charles 1st were at Market Harborough when there was an attack by parliamentarians which led to the battle of Naseby a couple of days later. Before the battle took place the King himself is reported to have taken refreshment at the inn.

As with most Olde Inns, there is a rich and varied history, but the Three Swans has a published author, a ghost and a popular local figure all in one. Mr Fothergill has really given this cosy pub even more character than it had already, with even the young local barmen having a tale or two.
Enough history for now, next time we'll wrap up with some drunken tales and our thoughts on the evening.