The Swan Inn
There has most likely been some form of tavern or inn on the site since the ford, and later a wooden bridge became a nodal point for through-traffic travelling from all points of the compass. From the earliest records, it is clear that the Haycock has always enjoyed an enviable reputation as just such a welcoming respite.
The Haycock was known as The Swan Inn, in 1571, when devastating storms washed away three arches of the wooden bridge which was followed by such flooding that “at The Swan Inn, three storeys high, the water flowed into the bedrooms”.
It is claimed Mary Queen of Scots was lodged at The Haycock on her way to her imprisonment and later execution at nearby Fotheringhay Castle. In 1790, the same year that the picture of the Haycock on the cover was painted.
Princess Alexandrina Victoria, later to be crowned Queen Victoria, stayed at the Haycock on 2nd September 1832 on her way to visit the Archbishop of York. During the nineteenth century, the Haycock was a much-favoured hostelry for European royalty indulging their passion for the chase. Empress Elizabeth of Austria, the Prince of Liechtenstein and numerous other princes, princesses all stayed at the Haycock in season to ride to hounds.
The First Innkeeper
The first recorded innkeeper was one William Hodgson, who died in 1706. Early in the following century, 1804, the inn was in the hands of Jeremiah Mallatratt who just four years later, in 1808, lost ownership of the inn at a game of cards with Anthony Percival of Greetham. The Haycock subsequently remained in the Percival family’s hands for virtually the rest of the century, until 1898, with the death of Elizabeth Percival.
The Haycock during the first decade of the 20th century. It was still an unmetalled, dirt road – with not a car to be seen! This particular (coloured) postcard is inscribed: ‘Dear Mother. Arrived safe (from Leicester) after a very cold ride. Lots of good cigars and whisky! So long. Bert.’
The Cock Fighting Loft
The Cock Fighting Loft has long since been incorporated into the main hotel. The ancient stone steps that led to the Cock Fighting Loft – during the First World War it became an independent munitions factory – are still to be seen in the courtyard on either side of the Cooling Arch. Within the steps can be seen kennels within each of which once a fox was tethered. The running fox weathervane has been replaced numerous times in the past, due to local yeomen returning from a day’s shooting and emptying their charged guns at the weathervane before entering the inn. This bucolic practice continued until around the start of the Second World War.
In recent history, the Haycock Hotel has hosted many celebrities and stars. With the England football squad, Freddie Mercury, Penelope Cruz, Princess Diana, Tom Cruise, Pierce Brosnan, Roger Moore & many more.
Credit and special thanks for information David Stuart-Mogg, Wansford