Coopers Cottage, Cross Keys and the White Swan

Continuing with my potted history of the local pubs, three more are described below, only one of which survives to this day. Please note that there was/is a difference between alehouse, beerhouse, tavern, inn, hotel, etc. although the definitions of many are now more clouded. Below I will typically refer to pub to encompass everything.

The White Swan

Within Thatcham there were at least two, if not three, pubs called the Swan. The first is situated near B&Q on the London Road, until the 20th century right up to the White House (Narrow Boat) was within the Thatcham boundary.

This Swan was rebuilt c.1934 but earlier maps clearly show the pub, some with the name “White Swan”. Going back further to 1756 we find the death of the landlord, Thomas Waterman, noted to be at “Ye Swan”. It would seem the name chopped and changed between Swan and White Swan. The pub stayed in the hands of the same family for some time and we have in 1789 Edward Waterman noting in the newspaper that he is not responsible for his son, Edward, accounts. What had his son done? Something I am yet to find out.

To confuse things further, there is a painting from 1848 by William Shayer of a pub called “The Half Way House”. The painting is, by several local historians, claimed to be of the Swan. Indeed Leigh’s New Pocket Road book of England & Wales from 1839 notes the pub too and appears to be this pub, or one close to it.

Whatever the name was, official or otherwise, not all was well at the pub. In 1857 the pub was in the hands of the Parker family. The pub had been noted a number of times, and fined, for being opened out of hours, especially while church services were taking place. One day during May 1857 it is alleged that Mr Parker had loaded a pair of pistols and told a servent that one day he intended to shoot himself. The servent told Mrs Parker who didn’t believe her. Later in the day a gunshot was heard, Mrs Parker flew upstairs to find the body of her husband.

Cross Keys

Little is known of this pub, and if not for one or two snippets, nothing at all would be known. On the corner of Northfield Road and the A4 stood “Bath Cottage”, number 55 Bath Road. That is until demolition in the 20th century. An advert in the Reading Mercury from 1787 noted that the cottage was for sale and that it had formerly been a public house known as the Cross Keys.

Coopers Cottage

Next we come to an Inn, one of the three major stage coach Inns in Thatcham. A large property once stood where Beverley Close and Coopers Crescent now stand. The building had been extended a number of times and had large grounds with outbuildings, meadow and gardens. In 1827 Thomas Cooper, who had been landlord of the “Castle Hotel” at Marlborough moved to Thatcham and established Cooper’s Old Company. He controlled his stagecoaches all the way from the Bear in Basinghall Street, London to 6 High Street, Bristol and undercut others with no additional fees and no tips to drivers. This was made up for with higher wages. Everyone of his coaches stopped at Thatcham whether they were staying overnight or not. His drivers were instructed that each half of the trip was to take 6 hours and that they were not to allow other coaches to pass.

Within a few years the business had run up debt to the sum of £20,000 and Cooper became bankrupt. His friend, Mr Chaplin, purchased the business and Cooper continued to operate on his behalf. By 1840 though the property was up for sale, Cooper moved to Richmond and was employed as the local railway station master.

To give you an idea of the scale of Coopers Cottage (Beverley House), a sale catalogue from 1924 describes various features 3 reception rooms, 9 bedrooms, 2 dressing rooms, bathroom, office, 2 enclosures of rich pasture, electric, gas, phone (34), stabling, garage, mains drainage, 2 wells with pumps, all for £2,350.

By 1901 Coulson family moved in, having previously lived in Beverley, Yorkshire and by 1929 it was renamed it “Beverley House.”