The Swan Inn at Pangbourne

There are two 'Swans' above two succesive locks:
This Swan Inn at Pangbourne (on the left South bank immediately above Whitchurch weir - and so above Whitchurch Lock); and the Swan at Streatley (above Goring Lock).

Left bank immediately above weir
The Swan at Pangbourne -

This beautiful 18th Century inn is the perfect retreat for business, as well as pleasure; special occasions and gastronomic delights.
When you enter you will be met by a traditional setting with oak beams and three open fires to keep you warm on a frosty night. You are invited to join us in this trouble free, peaceful atmosphere where you can feel free to sit by the fire and read a paper with a drink or even a coffee and pastry. Meals, snacks can be enjoyed all day. In the warmer weather you can soak up the sun in our beer garden and enjoy the tranquility of this gorgeous river setting.

1859: The Thames, Mr & Mrs Hall


As a residence for a time, Pangbourne has many attractions; the scenery in the neighbourhood is very beautiful; the hills are high and healthful, and command extensive views; the place is sufficiently retired, — for although the Great Western Railway runs "right through it", visitors are few, except those who take the shortest cut to the river-side, and make the most of a morning "pitch" beside the water-plants, which here grow in rich luxuriance, and where the perch abound.
Pangbourne was held, according to Domesday-book, by Miles Crispin of "William the Conqueror". Its manor and church were afterwards granted to the Abbey of Heading, as appears from the confirmations of the charters of Henry II., its founder, by Hubert, Archbishop of Canterbury, and Robert, Bishop of Sarum. Pangbourne afterwards formed a part of the possessions of Edward, Duke of Somerset, who was executed in the year 1553, in the last year of Edward I. It was then granted to Sir Francis Englefield by Queen Mary; and he, becoming a fugitive, it reverted to the crown, "as appears from an explification of the Inquisition for the finding of him". The reversion of the mansion and manor of Pangbourne was granted by Queen Elizabeth to Thomas Weldon, cofferer of her majesty's household. The house is mentioned by Leland as a fair manor-place, that had belonged to the abbot of Reading. The village, however, has preserved few or none of its antiquities; the visitor will seek in vain for traces of its early renown, although he may pleasantly muse and dream of its former greatness, while lulled to repose hy the murmur of the "fall" that now gently, and now angrily, gives voice to the waters as they make their way through the weir.

1873: Advertisement for the Elephant & Castle -

1873 Advert
1873 Advertisement

1886: Taken In Tow, Pangbourne, Streatley & Goring, J Ashby-Sterry Listen to 'Taken In Tow'

How blithely the beauties break into a canter
And over the sward how their feet pit-a-pat !
The limber young lass in a white Tam o'Shanter,
The pouting young puss in a sailor-boy hat !
O, PANGBOURNE is pleasant in sweet Summertime,
And Streatley and Goring are worthy of rhyme:
The sunshine is hot and the breezes are still,
The river runs swift under Basildon Hill !
To lounge in a skiff is delightful to me,
I'm feeling as lazy as lazy can be;
I don't care to sail and I don't care to row
Since I'm lucky enough to be taken in tow !
Though battered am I, like the old Téméraire,
My tow-ers are young and my tow-ers are fair:
The one is Eleven, the other Nineteen,
The merriest maidens that ever were seen.
They pull with a will and they keep the line tight,
Dimpled Dolly in blue and sweet Hetty in white;
And though you may think it is not comme il faut,
'Tis awfully nice to be taken in tow.
I loll on the cushions, I smoke and I dream,
And list to the musical song of the stream;
The boat gurgles on by the rushes and weeds,
And, crushing the lilies, scroops over the reeds.
The sky is so blue and the water so clear,
I'm almost too idle to think or to steer !
Let scullers delight in hot toiling, but O !
Let me have the chance to be taken in tow !
The dragon-fly hums and the skiff glides along,
The leaves whisper low and the stream runneth strong,
But still the two maidens tramp girlfully on,
I'll reward them for this when we get to the Swan” ;
For then shall be rest for my excellent team,
A strawberry banquet, with plenty of cream !
Believe me, good people, for I ought to know,
'Tis capital fun to be taken in tow !

Not sure which 'Swan' he means so I quote it here because the Swan at Streatley has two good poems of its own already!

1887:  Weir and Swan Hotel Pangbourne, Henry Taunt, the weir is hardly running at all -

Weir and Swan Hotel Pangbourne, Henry Taunt, 1887
Weir and Swan Hotel Pangbourne, Henry Taunt, 1887
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; HT5138

1889: Jerome K Jerome's three men (not to mention the dog) started their river trip from Kingston, and arriving here Jerome commented:

The neighbourhood of Pangbourne, where the quaint little Swan Inn stands, must be as familiar to the HABITUES of the Art Exhibitions as it is to its own inhabitants.

They went on up to Oxford and then returned here to the Swan at Pangbourne, and, after two days of rain, ended their trip here -

Twenty minutes later, three figures, followed by a shamed-looking dog, might have been seen creeping stealthily from the boat-house at the "Swan" towards the railway station.
"Well," said Harris, reaching his hand out for his glass, "we have had a pleasant trip, and my hearty thanks for it to old Father Thames - but I think we did well to chuck it when we did.
Here's to Three Men well out of a Boat!"

1906: Pangbourne from the Swan Hotel, Mortimer Menpes -

Pangbourne from the Swan Hotel, Mortimer Menpes 1906
Pangbourne from the Swan Hotel, Mortimer Menpes 1906

Adventure Dolphin Centre
Pangbourne Canoe Club
Whitchurch on the Right bank and Pangbourne on the Left bank.

1792: Picturesque Views on the Thames by Samuel Ireland -

This place is much frequented by the angler, who, in his favourite pursuit, may occasionally find equal cause for an exertion of his patience as his skill in the art. Among the various sorts of fish produced in this part of the river, the pike in particular is found of a remarkable large size.
THE village of Whitchurch, on the opposite side, presents no unpleasing object in landscape. The road from Pangbourn towards Reading runs, for a confiderable distance, nearly parallel with the river, and affords in many places a rich and variegated scenery.

1873: Taunt's Map and Guide to the Thames, quotes Greville Fennell -

"Pangbourne is another of those pearls of English landscape which our river threads.
No sweeter spot is within many miles. The Thames here seems especially fond of disporting itself here; and loth indeed to leave, it loiters in the great depth of the pools, creeps slily under the banks, frolics as a kitten after its tail in the eddies, and then dashes hurriedly off beneath the far-stretching pretty wooden bridge, as if to make up for time truantly lost."

1881: George Leslie, "Our River" -

On the Oxfordshire side is the village of Whitchurch, which straggles up the steep hill;  the church, with its little wooden spire, and the mill, with finely grown trees around it, lying snug by the water's edge;  the lock is in the middle of the river, the weir is on the Pangbourne side, with a deep pool below it, and the usual shallow spread below the pool.  Into this shallow part the small river or brook 'Pang' empties itself by the side of a large timber yard.  The little Pang gives much charm to the village, and in some places above is quite worthy of Bewick's pencil.
In the corner of the weir pool is a very old three-storied cottage, formerly the abode of Champ the fisherman.  The old barn Mr. Boyce painted from it is just half-way up the Whitchurch hill.  The village of Pangbourne lies back behind the railway;  it has two inns, the 'George' and the 'Elephant', both well known to boating men.  The 'Swan' by the river is very pretty and unaltered, but beds can hardly ever be obtained there.

1890:  The Swan Hotel Pangbourne, Francis Frith -

1890:  The Swan Hotel Pangbourne, Francis Frith
1890:  The Swan Hotel Pangbourne, Francis Frith

1881: George Leslie, "Our River" -

Mrs. Ashley of the "Swan" owns several barges, one or two barges of which may generally be seen at the coal wharf, helping the old-fashioned look of the place very much;  the signboard was painted by Mrs. Seymour Trower
Pangbourne is on the old road from Alton and Portsmouth to Oxford, and is mentioned in White's 'Selborne'; it is pleasant to picture the dear old man jogging along on 'Mouse' his mare, by the side of the river, on one of his visits to Oxford, probably much interested in watching the swallows and martins skimming over the surface of the water.
The road itself is very pretty from here to Streatley, past Basildon;  the railway is not offensive, as it is generally hidden in cuttings.  There is also a path from Whitchurch to Goring, well worth trying, if time permits;  it passes along the summit of Hart's Wood, and the views are most varied and delightful.

1889: Jerome K Jerome -

The neighbourhood of Pangbourne, where the quaint little Swan Inn stands, must be as familiar to the HABITUES of the Art Exhibitions as it is to its own inhabitants.

1881: George Leslie, "Our River" -

About this time I passed two very pleasant months at Whitchurch, opposite to Pangbourne, and became acquainted with the beauties of Streatley, Maple Durham, Hardwick House, and Hart's Woods.  At Pangbourne I met my friend G. P. R. Boyce, the water-colour artist, who was lodging at Champ's picturesque little cottage, on the edge of the weir pool;  the rooms were very old and small, and it pleased Mr. Boyce's taste to hang among the humble cottage pictures one or two precious little works by D. Rosetti.  He had brought with him also some of his favourite old blue tea-cups and plates.  He painted two very fine works whilst I was at Whitchurch;  one of Champ's cottage itself and the weir pool with a twilight effect, and the other of a large old barn half-way up the hill at Whitchurch;  there were a lot of black Berkshire pigs snoozling in the straw in the foreground.
Edwin Field, the distinguished solicitor, was then living at Streatley, and I recollect rowing up with Boyce to have supper with him.  Field was an ardent lover of the river.  One or more of his numerous artist friends were  generally  enjoying  his  hospitality  at Cleve, he himself sketching from nature with the eager enthusiasm with which he pursued every occupation of his life. His memory should be cherished by all artists for the pains he took in mastering all the intricacies of the laws of artistic copyright, and if he had lived I have little doubt but the injustice and absurdities of the present law would have been righted long ago.  His sad loss will long be felt by all who knew him.  His death was as noble as his life, for when his sailing boat upset in the reach above Cleve Mill, a friend of his was with him who could not swim, and it was in the endeavour to save his friend that Edwin Field perished.

[ How the Victorians did love a fatality! - I have left out most of those reported by George Leslie, but this one scrapes in to honour his friend "an ardent lover of the river" ]

1956: Robert Gibbings, Till I End My Song -

Pangbourne, where the wind plays in the willows, I thought to myself that here must roam the spirits of Mr Toad, Mr Mole, and Mr Rat, for though these children of Kenneth Grahame's mind grew into existence at Cookham Dene, they would surely have moved upstream with their author when he came to live in the cottage by the church at Pangbourne.

Pangbourne College Boat Club

Left bank

The seven deadly sins

The seven deadly sins are Pangbourne villas on the LEFT bank above Whitchurch Lock -
This photo by Eric de Mare in Oxfordshire County Archives is said to show one of the 'Seven Deadly Sins' - however I can't make it fit. I think there is a road between the Pangbourne Villas and the river. I have been told this is a house on the river above Reading.

Seven Deadly Sins, Eric de Mare
[Probably not ] One of the Seven Deadly Sins, Eric de Mare
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; AA98/05810

1929: A Thames Survey -

The row of villas near Pangbourne are an example of the pretentious and expensive sort of building which has not been mitigated by gardening. These houses have been locally christened the Seven Deadly Sins, which is sufficiently indicative of the opinion of the public upon such architectural disfigurement.

[ These particular deadly sins seem to me to have become less fatal with age! Perhaps time and gardening have now mitigated what obviously looked brash when first built. I suspect that the particular deadly sin with which they can now be associated is Jealousy. How many people who love the river would not want to live there? ]