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Hebden Bridge's Longest-Serving Licensee Celebrates Prestigious Award and Pub's Reopening
News , Awards
It’s a double celebration at one Hebden Bridge pub. Not only is The White Swan on Bridge Gate preparing to open up on 12th April for the first time in five months, but Yorkshire born-and-bred licensee Elizabeth Wood has received a long-service award to mark her 40th anniversary at the pub.
One of the last traditional locals in Hebden Bridge, The White Swan is a hub of the community hosting events to bring people together and fund-raising for local good causes. The award by the pub’s owner, Star Pubs & Bars, recognises the contribution Elizabeth has made to the town during her four decades at the helm.
Over the last five years, Elizabeth has dealt with two major floods from the River Heb and disruption from Covid restrictions. Despite the challenges she is not ‘calling time’ and is determined to be one of the first wet-led pubs to reopen in the region. Says Elizabeth: “ ’Fight the good fight’ is my motto, so I’m remaining positive and planning a big party to celebrate the end of Covid when things get back to normal. It was heart-breaking to be closed at Christmas for the first time in 40 years and to have an empty pub for so many months. It has been extremely hard for the regulars who live on their own. People are desperate for the pub to reopen and to meet up. I can’t wait to welcome them back.”
Elizabeth – who is Hebden Bridge’s longest-serving licensee – took over The White Swan with her husband Henry at the start of the Eighties and has run it singlehanded since his death in 1999. Says Elizabeth: “It was Henry’s dream to have a pub. I wasn’t keen so we agreed to do it for two years. But, when I moved in, I felt this was where I was meant to be and I’ve never looked back.”
Whilst Elizabeth has introduced great pub food, created a beautiful garden and ensures her drinks range is always up to date, little else has changed at The White Swan since the 1980s. The pub still has an old-fashioned décor with spindle-back chairs, open fires and a display of beer jugs and is known for its warm welcome and excellent cask ale. Says Elizabeth: “It’s like stepping back in time. The most common reaction from new customers when they walk in is ‘oh, a proper pub’.”
The White Swan’s traditional formula has retained its popularity. Many of Elizabeth’s regulars have been coming to the pub for more than 40 years and she is now serving her third generation of some Hebden Bridge families. “Mums and dads who were customers in their youth know that their 18 year olds will be safe here, so we’ve got a real mix of ages,” explains Elizabeth.
Adds Anthony Briggs, Star Pubs & Bars’ area manager for Halifax & Huddersfield: “You couldn’t find a friendlier pub, people feel comfortable coming in on their own as someone will always talk to them. Thanks to Elizabeth, The White Swan has stood the test of a time and is a Hebden Bridge institution with a loyal following of all ages.
"It’s an incredible achievement that Elizabeth has run a thriving community pub for so long and I've every confidence that with her determination and resilience the pub will bounce back quickly after the challenges of flooding and Covid."