by Hannah Anstee
“This is a community pub, people come in and have a laugh or a cry. I want people to come in and be able to take their shoes off if they’re damp, sit and be comfortable, and put their shoes by the fire to dry.” – Liz Wood, Landlord of The White Swan.
In all honesty I can’t remember the first time I ever went in The White Swan in Hebden Bridge. I just think of it always being here – which it has – it opened in the 1700’s as a coach house with stables at the back.
I fondly remember countless evenings over the last twenty years – Christmas day night was always a cracker (sorry). After dinner I’d head down, with my many siblings, to meet up with our mates and their families to share terrible jokes and get nicely drunk.
Christmas in The White Swan 2007 (Left to right – Kala Wild, Maddy Duke, Me and Sarah Royle)
Anyway, today I’m sat in here on a rainy Monday morning chatting to Liz about life. Hebden is buzzing at the moment, there’s no doubt about it. The floods initially brought devastation, but they also brought change. Some people cut their losses and departed and this left space for others to move in. Lots of interesting new shops, bars and cafes have popped up and there’s great vibes in the air; it’s a brilliant place to be.
The White Swan however, is struggling. A combination of more competition, less folk actually in town during the week, and endless resources lost in the flood are having a big impact. Once a big employer in the town, Liz is currently having to work the bar herself in the evenings, just to save a wage.
During the week I’ve never experienced anything like I have now, you might not have anybody in or you might have two in all night. We offer home cooked food and before the floods we used to do lunchtime and dinner. At the moment I’m just doing lunchtimes as we don’t have the footfall – a lot of places have opened up that are doing food.
When we came here this was a working town, people came here after work and had a pint on their way home. Friday teatime we’d have the bank staff, Calrec staff and the road sweepers, everyone came. All those have now gone. We have become a dormitory town, people work away, come back into town, go home and don’t come out and use us.
Liz originally comes from North Yorkshire but came from Rastrick, Brighouse to Hebden Bridge, over 36 years ago, to run the pub with her husband.
I’d always come to Hebden Bridge, as a little girl we came to the Crags, and with my husband we came walking. We’d never had a pub. I had no plans and no idea – truth. My husband, all his life, had a desire to run a pub. We both had good jobs and I was quite happy with my nice bungalow. Be he wanted it.
He wanted to create a community pub, where old ladies can come for their lunch and feel comfortable and happy. He always did look after the older people. The food was at the right price so you could bring your children and it not cost an arm and a leg to be a family.
He could see the potential of The White Swan – obviously it wasn’t like it is now. He gave his three months notice at work, I thought ‘he’ll never leave’, but he did. So I kept working for a while, because you don’t know how it’s going to go, but then he told my boss: ‘That’s it now, she’s married to me.’ So we both came in here and from then it’s history. He died eighteen years ago on the 21 June, he asked me to carry on and that’s what I’ve done.
Liz isn’t on social media so she isn’t able to promote her business in the way that others can. If she has an event on she puts a poster in the window. Liz feels that everyone is glued to their phone nowadays:
I watch people walk down in the morning to go for the bus or the train and they’ve got earplugs in. They don’t hear the trees rattling or the ducks quacking, or anything. We should be looking around, take time to stand and stare, we all have time. We’re missing out.
So why should you go the The White Swan?
Well, it’s a fantastic, traditional pub atmosphere, that you don’t get many places anymore. On tap they offer four cask ales, five draft ciders, seven lagers and a smooth Guinness. A pint of Black Sheep is £3.35 the others are £3.40. A small glass of wine is £2.65. They have a juke box and a beautiful beer garden at the back which includes a heated smoking area and they have regular live music. Home cooked food is served at very reasonable prices. There’s nothing specifically vegan on the menu but Liz says she’ll make anything for anyone – and she will.
If a glass of wine at £2.65 isn’t enough to tempt you, here’s perhaps aother reason you should consider The White Swan for a drink if you’re in town:
Liz is a kind and caring woman and very community minded. She supports Hebden Bridge Cricket Club, the Hebden Bridge Saints football team, the Light Opera Society and many others. She holds charity events for local causes and local people.
The White Swan is also a great venue for hosting your own event. They’re open to anything – weddings, birthday parties, barbecues, music day events, record sales, disco’s with everyone dancing. Dogs are welcome. Children are welcome.
As Liz says:
Anybody that approaches me – I’ll do anything they want. It’s basically a community pub for everybody. All I try to do is give love, we both did, we care, and share. It’s not about making a lot of money, it’s just about surviving, which is very difficult. People are my main concern. I think it’s a very hard life at the moment, very lonely. I try to help people that are in trouble. People can come and talk to me, knowing that it’s not going to be talked about and laughed at – it’s all about the people.
If you’re in Hebden Bridge why not pop in for a drink or some lunch – Liz makes great homemade pies 🙂