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About the Swan & Cemetery

The Swan & Cemetery, an inviting public house situated a few feet of the busy A56 at Redvales, has a multitude of regular happy customers who may consider it to be just a good pub and leave it at that. Others however may observe the low ceilings and dark oak beams obviously revealing that the building is much more ancient that the name implies.

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True, the road to the cemetery is just across the way, but the old pub was there a hundred or more years before it. Like many similar old building there are very few records to decide the age if earlier than 1800, but the Swan and Cemetery can give us several indications of the past.

The position of the building is not a true alignment with the present road and suggests that the old road from bury to Blackford Bridge passed close by. The old stable standing apart from the pub, may date slightly later and is definitely of the good old days when travellers needed baiting for horses. It had five stalls and a loft for provender which could be hoisted from the ground.

The interior of the pub has, of course been altered to conform with modern requirements, some of the old walls have been re faced whilst others have been replaced with a centre archway. The lounge has retained the old flagged floor, the cellar which is a typical of eighteenth century basements where the arched walls give a sense of strength.

The exact age the of Swan and Cemetery is doubtful. It could possibly have been a farm in later years of the eighteenth century but we certainly know it was selling beer in 1838. At that time it was called The Old Swan and the innkeeper was John Knowles. He stayed there for many years and the census of 1851 says he was 73 years of age and had a family of 3 daughters and a son, all unmarried and working. He was obviously a man of substance, with twelve acres behind the pub and he could stable three horses and two of his own. Travellers up to six could obtain rest and refreshment. The proprietor apparently considered his domain slightly superior and changed the name to the Swan Inn.

Perhaps it would be interesting to recall the places and people around the neighbourhood but of course we can only guess what is was like, the road would be much narrower than it is today and wayfarers would meander leisurely down to the river Roch. Only a few yards from the Swan was the Redvales Workhouse built in 1775 it carried on its grim attempt to alleviate the everlasting problem of poverty until 1856 when the workhouse at Jericho was built in later years it became a tannery.

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While the poverty stricken unfortunates worked amid the grisly surroundings of the institution, they were daily faced with wealth and prosperity. On the other side of the road stood Heaton Grove an imposing mansion wherein resided on the of most influential families of the day the head was Richard Hacking Justice of the peace, chairman of the Bury improvement Commissioners and partner in the firm of Walker and Hacking one of Bury’s leading industrial concerns.

He was also an originator of the town’s first railway. In 1844 an Act was passed for the Manchester, Bury and Rossendale Railway, and he became one of the directors. The present Redvales Road was a narrow winding road which gave access to Redvales House and was known as the coach road between there and the Swan stood the Mile House one of the few private houses on the roadside which probably got its name because it situated about a mile from the town interesting to note, in later years around 1870, the housed was divided into two, and in the front potion lived “Owd Jim Knowles” who was the son of the original John Knowles of the Swan, Jim apparently never married and worked during his life as a block printer. The Commissioners, steadily improving the town’s amenities had been considering the laying of a Cemetery.

Eventually a suitable site was decided and about 35 acres of land were acquired between Redvales and the approach to Gigg. A large portion was allotted as graves and the remainder to shrubs saplings and flower beds and by 1869 the public cemetery was consecrated and opened. The main gate was some hundred yards from the road and access was made immediately apposite the Swan Inn. The connection was quickly observed and the name of the old pub was changed once again to the Swan and Cemetery.

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