The Swan and Royal dates from 1786, but arguably its most interesting story comes from a century later, during the cotton strikes and subsequent riots of 1878. One weekend, a large group of cotton workers from Manchester were coming to the town for a meeting with local workers and, as great trouble was fully expected, the council contacted the War Department with a request for troops.
A group of soldiers from the 24th Regiment of Foot duly arrived and were billeted in the Swan and Royal, which was the only pub allowed to remain open. The others were closed in an attempt to prevent too much alcohol exacerbating the situation. Nevertheless there was a riot, a terrible one which left many properties in the town damaged and cost several cotton workers their lives.
There was no more trouble after that one dreadful night, but the soldiers stayed in the town to make sure. They remained for the whole of the next month, during which time two of them fell in love with local girls. A double wedding was organised at St Mary’s Church. Sadly, the two soldiers were posted to Zululand before the wedding could take place; their prospective brides were heartbroken. Worse, both of the soldiers died, four months later.
Back in Clitheroe, one of the poor girls, a lass of just seventeen named Anne Druce, discovered that she was with child. Disgraced and bereft, she went to the Swan and Royal, shut herself in the room which she and the soldier had shared and took her own life.
Many residents of the hotel have reported seeing Anne’s ghost and many report more tangible events. One notable news report concerned a gentleman guest who found both sink-taps running one day – he then stood open-mouthed as a bar of soap lifted itself from the dish, turned around and replaced itself.
One particular room was well-known for the sound of a crying baby. It may be just a coincidence that, late in the 1950s, workmen discovered a package in the attic, wrapped in newspaper. The date on the paper was 1879. Inside lay a baby’s skeleton.