History of Villers Hotel in Buckinghamshire
Villiers Hotel started life some 400 years ago as the Swanne upon the Hoppe, changing to The Swan and The White Swan in a short period of time.
I was referred to in the will of Sir Ralph Seyre in 1577, when he left the property to his daughter Elizabeth in these words:
Item I give to Elizabeth Seyre, my daughter, my house in the Castle Street called Swanne uppon the Hoppe with a certain ground that I bought off the late Mr. Fowler with a portal of Wainscott with all settles and a back of Wyanscott and two great planks in the kitchen, a hovel with six posts and my brewing vessels. That is to say two furnaces of Brass with all the pans four fats with a kever and a top kever with four and twenty tubs to be delivered into her hands at Michaelmas come twelve months.
Local legend maintains that Oliver Cromwell billeted his troops in the cockloft of this Inn at the time of his visit to the town in 1643. A record exists of troops quartered at the Swan in 1712.
The constables of Addington and Tingewick were respectively paid £1.16 and £2.12 for extra allowance over the shilling a mile allowed by Act 7. Anne for the Carriage of the soldier’s baggage. The wagons were required for the carriage of the baggage of the regiment under the command of the Earl of Rivers from the Swan at Buckingham to Aylesbury, and were to be supplied with five able horses and two sufficient drivers each.
An advertisement appeared in the Northampton Mercury for 30 October 1738 offering the White Swan for sale:
To be sold the White Swan in Buckingham. An ancient well accustomed house. Stables 100 horses etc. Also house late the White Lion now the back gate to the above Inn. Particulars from Walter Read, Apothecary in Buckingham or John Lane, Attorney.
Michael Whitaker appears to have bought this “ancient well accustomed house”, for two years later in 1740, he insured it with the Sun Fire Office. The policy describes it as stone-built and tiled, with three stable stone and tiled, and a little stable and “austry” timber and tiled. From this it can be seen that the outbuildings were extensive and were as advertised in 1738, commodious enough to stable 100 horses. The term “austry” is intriguing and is perhaps a colloquialism for ostlery.
In 1801 the White Swan was once more advertised for sale.
For Sale the White Swan, Buckingham in full trade at an old rent. Enquire of J. Sayer, Grocer.
George Nelson, the Landlord from 1792, retained his tenancy after the sale, until in fact John Treacher took over in 1803. It was during Treacher’s tenancy the name or sign of the Inn changed from the White Swan to the Swan and Castle in about 1813.
Around the middle of the 19th Century, Thomas Golby, a local carrier used this Inn as his headquarters, and three times a week his great wagons trundled noisily out of the yard to begin their journey to Wolverton Station: his wagons were also employed in the carriage of goods to and from Banbury, Stony Stratford and Newport Pagnell. James Blackwell, who succeeded Treacher at the Swan and Castle, was formerly landlord at The Fleece in Butchers Row; he advertised the Swan and Castle in 1859 as a Commercial and Posting Inn and had the usual sideline of being able to supply a Hearse and Mourning Coaches for those with bereavement.
During the early 19th Century the Swan and Castle was acquired by the Duke of Buckingham and an interesting clause appears in a lease made by the 3rd Duke in 1878, to William Betts, when he leases-
The Hotel called ”The Swan and Castle” situated in Castle Street, Buckingham, with the yard, stables, coach-houses, billiard room, buildings and appurts: occupied by James Connor, at a yearly rent of £100.
The clause ensures that the tenant:
Shall and will upon every occasion when the same shall by required by the said Duke or other officer commanding the Royal Bucks Yeomanry, provide four fit and suitable Post horses for the use of any guns which may at any time during the tenancy be attached to the same regiment.
In 1894 the executors of the 3rd Duke of Buckingham sold the property to the Aylesbury Brewery Company for £2080. It subsequently passed to the Abingdon Brewery, who was later merged with Charles Wells Ltd of Bedford.
In days gone by when strolling companies paid longer visits to country towns than at the present time, a little gem of a theatre was constructed over the Coach-Houses of the “Swan and Castle” Hotel, and performances were frequently given there. During the tenancy of Mr. James Connor, however, it was all swept away (having become “merely a home for spiders”) and the Assembly room was made and fitted with two billiard tables, serving bar, etc. In the course of time however, it was found to be rather a drag to go upstairs to the same, so a new billiard room was constructed adjoining the of the hotel on the ground floor, in the place of the former kitchen. Later on, theatrical companies visiting Buckingham used the Town Hall.
The Hotel was later renamed Villiers Hotel after George Villiers – 1st Duke of Buckingham who used it as his local hostelry. George was born in 1592 in Brooksby, Leicestershire, and soon had estates at Bletchley and Winaddon.
About the year 1613, he was introduced to Court. King James became infatuated with him, bestowing titles, offices and honours upon him:
- Gentleman of the Kings Bed Chamber
- Master of King’s Horses
- Lord High Admiral of England
- Viscount Villiers
- Baron of Bletchley
- Earl of Buckingham in 1616
- Marquis of Buckingham 1617
- Duke of Buckingham on 18th May 1623
He was young, handsome and ambitious and generally accomplished everything he set out to achieve, but bungle negotiations for a marriage between Charles I and the Infanta of Spain, which led England into a foolish war with France.
Finally he went off to Portsmouth on another campaign, to take charge of an expedition, but after breakfast on the morning of the 23rd August 1628, he stepped into the hall to speak with Sir Thomas Fryer. At that moment a man advanced towards him and plunger a dagger into his chest calling out “God have mercy on thy soul”. The Duke drew the knife out of his wound crying “Villain!” attempted to follow after the assassin, but tottered only a step or two and fell against a table and sank dead on the floor. His murderer was John Felton, a lieutenant in Sir John Ramsey’s regiment.