The Old Swan, Netherton, Dudley.


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On our way back from Pridewood Farm and Charles Faram’s Hop Walk I suggested to Ian that we again make a small detour off the northbound M5, to another of my favourite pubs in the Black Country. This time, to the Old Swan, Netherton. Again I told him it would be well worth it and for sure he wasn’t disappointed.

The Old Swan is a classic traditional West Midlands drinking house with an impressive interior, situated along the A459 Dudley – Halesowen Road, in Netherton, a small industrial village about a mile out of Dudley town centre.

The Old Swan has to be one of the Black Country’s most favourite, popular and probably most photographed drinking establishments and until the real ale revival began in the United Kingdom, the Old Swan was one of only four pubs that brewed its own beer.

It is a local landmark; the current building dating from the 1860s but there has been a pub on the site since at least 1835. It has been known as Ma Pardoe’s since the interwar years, as its long-term landlady and matriarch was Dorothy Pardoe who owned it until her death in 1984, when aged 85 and who was landlady for more than half a century.

Such was its fame among the lovers of real ale, that when the pub came up for sale in 1985, a company was set up by CAMRA to purchase and run the pub. Although this company was short-lived, the pub and brewery survived and it is now one of only a handful of pubs in the West Midlands that still brews beer on its own premises.  

As well as for its beer, the pub is also known for its decor including a ceiling decorated with vitreous enamel tiles. Due to its heritage and fittings the pub has been designated a Grade II listed building. Today it is run by Tim Newey, who can often be seen in full morning dress, and who restored it to its former glory ten years ago.

The Old Swan is one of the classic pubs of Britain; nothing flashy here, it’s just a basic, down to earth drinker’s paradise which has welcomed workers for decades and no doubt will continue to do so for many years to come. It is just a real Black Country gem.  

Whilst it’s lovingly restored Victorian frontage is the view on many postcards, the chances are you will easily miss the pub if you visit by car; as it is located close to a busy road junction. There is a small car park at the rear but close by; leading off the road opposite is a free surface car park.

From the rear car park an ivy-covered brick archway leads into a small beer garden, decorated with hanging baskets, and a small foyer containing an upright piano takes you to the lounge.

On show in a corridor to the rear are more certificates than a doctor’s waiting room; in 2005 the pub was listed as one of Britain’s top 16 pubs by the Campaign for Real Ale.  In the lounge to the rear is a large antique mirror complimenting with many pieces of period artwork on display and a large organ.

Two flights of stairs take you the Granary Loft restaurant, but a short walk that takes you back into the world of genteel Victorian society. At one end is a cast iron fireplace whilst a dark wood dado rail separates the brown textured finish of the lower walls from the soft pink floral wallpaper above. Sepia pictures of local scenes adorn the walls and it is hard not to wonder if this is how the well-heeled members of 19th Century society, the foundry owners and the chain shop magnates, would have spent their evenings.

If you do pay a visit and I thoroughly recommend you do, just make sure you check out all the different rooms, each having their own unique character. If the upstairs restaurant typifies the gentler side of Victorian life, the more modest rooms at the back are probably something like the sort of place where managers, foremen and their ilk might have hung out.

Most spectacular of all, though, is the front bar, which has its own separate door leading out onto Halesowen Road: it is like a licensed museum, with a glittering array of bottles lining the wrought iron shelves, painted in a vivid signal red, cast iron tables, an antique weighing machine in the corner and with an old cast iron stove with flue in the middle of the bar. But most striking of all, though, is the huge enamel mural of a swan on the ceiling.

We got there after 5p.m. and to put us on for the remainder of our trip back north each had a cob sandwich from the bar, a ham cob and a cheese cob, at £1.00 each!!!  We also each had two half’s of the award winning Old Swan Entire, ABV 4.4%; and excellent stuff it was too; one half in the front room, giving us time to soak in the atmosphere of this wonderful bar and then a second half in a room to the rear.

With a superb atmosphere and the friendly regulars as well as Old Swan pilgrims, this pub is to many, and include me in their number, pub heaven, but it is really the sort of place where you have to make a night of it just to soak in the atmosphere, tradition and the food and drink on offer.

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One Response to “The Old Swan, Netherton, Dudley.”

  1. David Ackrill Says:

    I may have had a pint or two in the pub when Ma Pardoe was still the landlady. I would have been in my early 20s in 1980 to 1982 when a few of my friends would have shared the driving duty and visited various pubs in the area (driver did not buy a round but was only allowed soft drinks even back then as we none of us wanted to risk drink/drive even back then) so I may have had a couple of beers on one visit but soft drinks on another over the period.

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