East Ilsley lays a claim to be the site of the battle of Ashdown in AD871 when Alfred defeated the Danes. Chronicled by Bishop Asser "On the hill stood a solitary ash tree, revered for centuries by the druids before the Christians came," and as late as the Domesday Survey, Ilsley Hundred was known as"nachededorne" (Solitary Ash). Shortly after the battle a community must have originated bearing the name of "hildes laeg, or battlefield, this was then corrupted into" Hildesley" and then later Ilsley. In addition there is a byway on the edge of the village known as Dennisford road. This is thought to be "Danesford" where the fleeing Danes were seen to be crossing the River Pang in disarray.

Geoffrey de Mandeville was granted lands in East Ilsley by The Conqueror: by the 13th century the manor had passed to the De Bohuns, Earls of Hereford and Essex. In 1573 it passed to the House of Lancaster by the marriage of Mary de Bohun to Henry Bolingbroke, later Henry IV. The swan badge was the crest of the de Mandevilles inherited by the de Bohuns and thus it was used by Henry V as derived from his mother. It is a possibility, therefore that the hostelry may have been named for this connection to the sovereign and could even have been Crown property.

An ancient origin is not unlikely for The Swan, but traces of any medieval structure have long since disappeared. The present Swan is largely 17th century though it may incorporate earlier structures. It was certainly standing in 1620 when documents show it as part of manor lands. In 1644 it was used to billet troops of King Charles Army when he himself dined at Compton.

By 1240 there was a substantial corn-market in the village, held every Wednesday and this was at its peak in the mid 1700's. The village had became known as Chipping or Market Ilsley and this was endorsed in 1620 by the granting of a charter to hold fortnightly Sheep Fairs. The Ilsley fairs grew in importance and notoriety. In 1724  Daniel Defoe said that East Ilsley was the greatest for sheep in the kingdom. The market was second only to Smithfield when it was recorded that up to 80,000 sheep exchanged hands in one day and in 1842 an average of 400,000 head of stock were sold in a year.

In the 18th Century new notoriety came to East Ilsley in the form of racehorses. The Duke of Cumberland brought the new industry to the area and all racehorses are descendants of Eclipse, bred by the Duke in 1764. Training grew rapidly and a number of the innkeepers of The Swan were turning their hand to the new sport as well as managing a hostelry which was catering for an increasing amount of road transport as "a posting house with stabling for 50 horses"

In 1772 possession of the Swan came to the brewers Morland of West Ilsley when the pub was purchased from James Martin, thereby starting what became Morlands chain of public houses, which later became Morlands of Abingdon. In 1999 Morlands was purchased by Greene King who are the current owners, who still use the original yeast strain developed in West Ilsley to produce Morlands Original Bitter and Old Speckled Hen.


A History of East Ilsley and The Swan

Situated in the charming Village of East Ilsley in the heart of the rolling Berkshire Downs is one of West Berkshires oldest and historic inns. It offers five well-appointed letting rooms including an enchanting bridal suite.

An Historic Inn

We take great pride in our wide choice of Greene King, seasonal and guest ales. A carefully chosen wine list from the old and new world has something to suit every palate.

Great Beer

The extensive menu offers a large range of traditional English favourites and our ingredients are carefully chosen and where possible locally sourced.

Traditional Food

Choice of prime cuts and freshly prepared vegetables. Booking is advised, We look forward to receiving your call.

Carvery, every Sunday 12 - 2pm


George Baker


William Sneller


Ernest Herring


George Drewe


Henry Rosher


Irene Herring


Joseph Lowe


Lily May Attewelle


Michael Connolly


George Birch


Lily May Hurst


Andrew Venning


Thomas Stimpson


Frank Holmes


Richard Vellender/Kim Ward


Edmund Jeffrey



The Landlords 01635 281238

The Swan, High Street, East Ilsley, Newbury, Berkshire RG20 7LF     Tel: 01635 281238

Pub open 11:00 am - 11.00pm every day
Food served 12 - 3pm  and 6.00pm-9pm  Mon-Sat
Sunday Carvery 12 - 2pm (booking required)

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