8 The Croft (former Spotted Pig/Swan Inn)
The older part at the rear of 8 The Croft dates back to 1630, but the main part of the present house was built in 1706. The building was described thus by the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England, published in 1939:
(268) The Croft, No. 8, house 80 yards S. of the church, is of two storeys with attics; the walls are of rubble and the roofs are slate-covered. It was built perhaps early in the 18th century. Condition—Good.
From 1756 to 1837 it was owned by the Bostall family. For many years it was a beerhouse, and until 1864 was known as the Spotted Pig. It then changed its name to the Swan, and is listed in directories with that name until 1918. Since the early 1920s it has been a private house.
The house was part of the Manor of Heddington (based at Headington House), and the early manor rolls list it as “a messuage or tenement with garden, outhouses and buildings”. There was a separate holding associated with it, described as “one barn and two acres of land lying and being in the Common fields of Headington”.
In 1756 ownership of this house and land passed from Richard Godfrey to the mason William Bostall. Iit passed through the hands of John Bostall to William Bostall II, who in 1784 left it to his only child Elizabeth.
Miss Elizabeth Bostall sold half an acre of land to William Jackson in 1787 to be incorporated in the grounds of Headington House, and then in 1836 she sold the end of her garden, which already housed a temporary Baptist meeting house and which is now the site of Croft Hall.
Miss Bostall died in 1837 and devised all her “copyhold estate situate in the Croft” (then in the occupation of Thomas Holly) to Richard Chillingworth Godfrey, an Oxford baker who was Mayor of Oxford in 1847. He thus acquired the title to 8 The Croft, then described as “a messuage or tenement with a yard behind and garden in front in the occupation of William Gurden”. Four years later the 1841 census shows William Gurden, an agricultural labourer aged 35, living in the house with his wife, his four daughters, and his father.
The Headington Rate-Book of December 1850 shows that the house was still owned by Richard Chillingworth Godfrey, who rented it out to Alfred Gurden, and that it was now a beerhouse known as the “Pig”.
A year later the 1851 census shows Priscilla Gurden (aged 27, married, but described as head of the family) living in this house with her three children, three lodgers and a maid: her occupation is listed as “beerhouse”.
The family later emigrated to Michigan, USA, and it seems likely that Alfred Gurden had gone on ahead. The Headington Parish Magazine for February 1874 reported: “DIED.— December 29. PRISCILLA GURDEN, the wife of Alfred Gurden, Fentenville, Michigen, N. America, aged 49 years”.
The Court Rolls of the Manor of Headington (Special Court Baron of 2 January 1852) records that Richard Chillingworth Godfrey died in 1851 and left the “messuage or tenement with a yard behind a garden in front in the occupation of William Gurden situate at Heddington and now known by the sign of the Spotted Pig” to the Revd Thomas Taylor of Colwall (his son-in-law) and George Bridges, a grocer of St Giles Street.
George Bridges sold his share to James Crispin Gregg, a gentleman of Ledbury. By the time he put it up for sale in 1863 its name had evidently been changed to the Swan, as on 24 October 1863 Jackson's Oxford Journal advertised the sale of nine freehold cottages, including:
the Swan Public House at Headington, Copyhold, with a large Garden, £12 per annum, leased to R. Wootten, Esq., lease terminating June 24, 1864”.
Gregg sold the beerhouse to Richard Wootten (the current lessee) and William Douglas Cole of St Clement’s Brewery, Oxford.
It was about this time that Charles Taylor took the pub over from Priscilla Gurden. On 27 June 1868 he is named in Jackson's Oxford Journal as the landlord when his 79-year-old mother, who lived near the church, dropped dead in the Swan.
In 1891 the Swan passed to Mrs Elizabeth Johnson, Cole’s sister, and she immediately sold it to Mrs Mary Weaving. When the latter died in 1894, the copyhold passed to her son-in-law, James Weaving Kimber. Then on 13 January 1898 it was sold to Alexander Nelson Hall of the Swan Brewery in Oxford, who enfranchised it for £5. Although the ownership of the pub kept changing, the tenancy remained in the hands of the same family for many years. The 1861 census shows Charles Taylor (aged 28 and a carpenter as well as a beer retailer) living at the Swan, and he was still landlord at the time of the 1901 census, when he was aged 65.
By the time of the 1911 census Taylor’s son, Charles Taylor junior (51) was the publican here, and he also worked as a journeyman carpenter. He lived with his wife Lydia (49) and their children Dorothy (21), who was a milliner; Sidney (16), who was a porter; and Edith (13), who was at school.
Mrs Masters provides this recollection of the Swan in Within Living Memory:
I can remember the girl there, Edie Taylor. It was a very old public house, with dark panelling and high-backed settles. It was just a beer house, no spirits, and the men of the village used to go there and smoke their clay pipes.
Mrs Masters said that the publican, Charles Taylor junior, was “a stout man known as Puggler”, and that soon after his death in the early 1920s the licence was transferred and the Swan became a private house.
The picture of the front of the house at the top of this page is reproduced by permission of Mrs Connie Coppock of New Zealand, the grand-daughter of Charles Taylor senior’s brother Alfred. The only part of the house that can be viewed from the Croft is the eastern side (as shown in the second picture)