I recently found myself in Fittleworth in the company of artists, connoisseurs and residents delivering a lecture in celebration of art and artists in Sussex. Preparing the talk I returned to the Swan Inn which has welcomed famous artists, composers and authors over the centuries.
The visitor’s book includes such illustrious names such as J.M.W. Turner and John Constable who both painted the mill at Fittleworth. Leading composers are recorded too. Amongst them is Edward Elgar who wrote many of his most remarkable works whilst living at Brinkwells near Fittleworth, including his Cello Concerto in E minor. Rudyard Kipling also visited the Swan Inn.
Today the inn still provides hospitality and welcome under the generous custodianship of Deborah and Anthony Wyman and their son, Charlie. They bring a life time of experience to the task. As we sit in the bar, surrounded by work by Rex Vicat Cole and others, I am reminded that many Victorian and early twentieth century artists were welcomed at the Swan Inn, donating work for their board and lodging. The paintings were originally hung in the dining room, framed by the wood panelled walls. I can remember the warm and gathering scene vividly. They were taken down for a time by previous owners of the inn. But Deborah and Anthony have lovingly re-hung them to the joy of Fittleworth residents and art lovers alike. I remark how lovely it is to see these paintings afresh in their new setting. Anthony is clearly delighted and speaks enthusiastically about the Swan Inn’s place at the heart of the community. He clearly loves this place and continues to invest in the inn and the local community. Anthony tells me excitedly about the new bedrooms and events room which are just being finished.
From Norman times, and before, Fittleworth has provided hospitality and welcome. Since the 14th century the Swan Inn has been the heart of this welcoming Sussex village – a tradition it continues to this day.
Christmas party bookings are still being taken and the Swan Inn, with its excellent cellar and food, is a great place to dine at any time of year. For art lovers there is the added pleasure of paintings by many leading Victorian and early twentieth century artists. You can be sure of a warm welcome. Our thanks should go to Deborah and Anthony Wyman and their son, Charlie for preserving such an important part of our Sussex social history, and for celebrating Sussex as a centre for artists over the centuries. To make a booking, or to find out more about the Swan Inn, Lower Street, Fittleworth, West Sussex, RH20 1EN, telephone 01798 865429 or visit www.swaninnhotel.com.
By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 2nd December 2015 in the West Sussex Gazette.