It is a dignified old house, with a magnificent sign swinging before it's mellow brick front from an elaborate and very beautiful wrought iron support and the oldest inhabitants of Harleston will tell you they can recall little change in the Swan in their memory goes back to the early days when coaches ran regularly to Norwich and Bury, Before the railway came to disturb the peace of the Waveney valley.
But the Swan memories go back a deal further than the coaching days, King Henry VIII was not long dead where the oldest part of the building was erected by one Robert Cook would have had some tales to tell in his new Inn, for he was lucky to be alive to build it, since but a couple of years before he had been a rebel mixed up in Kett's rebellion and had only just obtained a pardon for his "treasons and misprisions of treasons" as the legal phrases put it.
For the remains of Robert Cooks inn, you must look to the two wings that enclose the picturesque courtyard at the back, the front that he built to face the main street vanished two hundred years or more to make room for the existing main block. This must have been erected very early in the 18th century, probably in Queen Anne's time, and a very noble building it is too, typical of the finest old english inn, a place in which life of a market town centred for generations.
Three storeys high, this block contains the best and the formal rooms. A graceful broad staircase leads to the top floor, and the staircase banisters are very attractive. On the first floor a series of lofty well proportioned rooms faces the street, the corridor behind being lighted by an attractive window, above the entrance archway, which gives a picturesque view of the inn yard. It is suggested that through this window, luggage from the top of the coach would be unloaded direct to the first floor.
On this floor is the Assembly Room, so Characteristic of the 18 century inn. Here were held banquets, balls and formal functions of the neighbourhood in former days. This room divided by a movable partition into two is panelled throughout in the heavy style of the earliest Georgian period. One window gives access to the balcony over the entrance archway, a balcony whose railings are a fine example of the 18th Century smiths craft. Flanking the Assembly Room on either side are chambers simply panelled above the fireplaces. Now they are bedrooms, but they would have served as rooms where the assemblies were being held.
On the floor above are lofty bedrooms, one still retaining the old fire grate adorned with the Prince of Wales feathers. Indeed so many things in this part of the swan testify to it's spacious and luxurious past.
The old wings of the inn, the 16th century part, tell the same story. in that on your right as you enter the yard is the old bar, a snug room, the rest of this wing is entirely occupied by the kitchen quarters, with a big airy game cellar adjoining. The Swan was well served with cellars. In one under the main block, approached through quaint little gates down a broad stairway are many patches of Tudor brickwork to tell of Robert Cooks days.
The Swan must have done a big wine trade in it's time indeed a mid nineteenth century landlord still remembered, one Godfrey Neal Youngman's was one of the biggest wine merchants in the neighbourhood. Among the other Swans activities then was that of providing headquarters for a thriving Savings Bank of 600 depositors owning £15,000.
But the old inns attractions are not all in its building. Go out through its picturesque yard, where you may still see a mounting block by the stables. For such is the charm of the Swan that you feel that nothing has happened to break the continuity of it's peaceful history. A fine new inn, it began in 1551 and a fine old inn it remains nearly four centuries later.