Harry Rutherford's
Festival of Britain Mural

Thursday, 30 June 2011

The Swanns Of Godley.

The Swan family are mentioned in Thomas Middleton's book on Old Godley, which I will quote from at the end.

Two brothers William (b.1828) and Samuel (b.1831), William was a world class wrestler and Samuel was the strongest man in Cheshire. William often wrestled in a field behind their home while Samuel controlled the crowd, he was by all accounts a very large man who could lift a horse.


Samuel Swann & daughter Emma


Hannah (Shaw) Samuels wife


Emma Swann married Joseph Robinson (sr)     


Emma & Joseph with their children – Robert, from Green Farm on Green Lane, Hyde. Nellie,Ruth, Joseph (jr) & Maggie. 


This is a watercolour of Green Farm painted in 1884


This is General Gordon from Green Farm he sired many a foal in the district, holding him is Joseph Robinson (jr).


Hardy Robinson stood at the back of the donkey with Joseph Robinson (jr) owner of the donkey.

Taken on Mottram Old Road


This is taken on Queen Street rec around 1934/5 where the Carnival used to begin and end The mounted policemen are Basil Townsend and Eric Robinson (no relation to the Robinsons of Green Lane) The boy in the middle who won the fancy dress contest at the carnival is Ivor Robinson great grandson of Samuel Swann who is now himself a great granddad. 
Ivor lived and worked on Green Farm and we have him to thank for all the photos and information.

From the book of Old Godley Thomas Middleton writes the following:

A notable family connected with the township of Godley  is the Swann Family, of Green Side. The best known members of the family were the two brothers, William Swann (born about 1828) and Samuel Swann (born in 1831).
These were the son’s of Joseph Swann, farmer, of Greenside, and they had an elder brother named Robert. Their mother’s maiden name was Smith, and she came from Britomley Mill.
William Swann became one of the most noted wrestlers of his time: indeed, it is said that at one period of his career he was the most successful wrestler in the world. The farmhouse at Greenside was formerly used both as a publichouse and a farmstead by the father of William and Samuel.
Wrestling matches took place in a field behind the house, and were often attended by great crowds of sightseers. People travelled miles to witness the contest, and old inhabitants speak with pride of the great excitement which the meetings caused. The aforementioned old inhabitants also tell in glowing terms the story of William Swann’s victories, and of how his brother Samuel paced round the ring during the combat, and by the strength of his own right arm kept back the mob, in order that fair play might be secured for wrestlers.
Samuel Swann, or “Sam Swann,” as he was commonly called, was the strongest man of his day in Cheshire. He was literally a giant, and was of enormous chest measurements. Sam Swann was one of those men who did know the full measure of his own strength. He could grasp a pint pot in one hand, and crush it to fragments by the force of his grip. He could take up a potato or an apple and squeeze it into pulp until the fruit ran like butter between his fingers. He treated the strongest of horses as mere playthings, and it was “woe betide” a refractory colt if Sam Swann held the reins. Stories of his feats of strength are numerous. Men tell how he could lift a horse shoulder high. He has been known to take his horse from shafts, place his head under the beast, and stand upright with the animal on his shoulders. When out carting, if the wheels stuck in a rut, or the horses failed to pull the vehicle over some obstacle, Swann would put his shoulder to the back of the cart, and lift it clear of the obstruction. It is said that on one occasion, when he had loaded a cart brim-full of some heavy material, one wheel suddenly came off. Without hesitation Swann lifted the loaded cart, held it firm with one hand, and fitted on the wheel with the other.
Another tale is that he was once accosted by a constable, who threatened him with arrest for some imaginary piece of misconduct. Swann happened to be riding in his cart at the moment, and without more ado he leaned over the side, took the constable by the collar, hoisted him into the vehicle, and drove off with him to the farm, where he regaled the terrified officer with some good home-brewed and cheese. There is another story to the effect that Swann on one occasion met a troublesome fellow in the room of an inn.  The two got at cross purposes, and to settle the matter Swann, without more ado, took hold of his opponent, and lifted him up with such force as to send the unfortunate man’s head clean through the ceiling.
As was to be expected, Samuel Swann was a great acquisition at public meetings, in case of disturbance. In my time there have been some noisy election meetings in Hyde, and it has been found necessary to put the “chucking out” process in operation. I can remember that the mention of Sam Swann’s name invariably had a very quietening effect upon a rowdy audience.
Mr Swann was a Tory, who believed in maintaining the constitution. And he maintained it by physical force if necessary. The Tory party looked on him as a safeguard against disturbances at their meetings. He could make “rings” round a gang of roughs, and there was no need to call the assistance of the police.
Samuel Swann married Hannah Shaw, of Godley, by whom he had a family of fifteen children. After his marriage, he kept the “New Inn,” John Street, Hyde, for a time, and afterwards went to the Chapman Arms, Hattersley, of which his father had become the landlord. From here he removed to the Pinfold Farm, Hattersley, then he took a farm at Godley Green, and finally purchased “Abbotsford,” to which place he retired some years before his death. Mr Swann was overseer for Godley for upwards of 33 years; he was widely respected, and on his retirement from office was presented with a portrait of himself, a handsome timepiece, a pair of bronzes, and an illuminated address, all of which were subscribed for by the ratepayers of Godley. Samuel Swann died in 1897, in his 67th year. It should be mentioned that during his term of office (around 1866-7) as overseer, Mr Samuel Swann investigated the Mottram Charities, particularly with respect to the claims of Godley, and by his action on this matter the township greatly benefited. Mr Swann continued to divide the charity money every Christmas among the widows and deserving poor of Godley township up to the time of his death.

I would like to thank Ivor for sharing part of his family history with us and hope that this post as done it justice. My thanks also go to Ceecee who helped Ivor in getting the information and pictures to us.                                                                 

1 comment:

Tom said...

I was very pleased when Ceecee sent this in on behalf on Ivor...
I have another story to tell about Sam Swann.. I was told the story many time by my mother of how a friend of her granddads could squat down under a horse and straighten up with the horses hooves leaving the ground. My mothers Granddad was also a carter and the story was often told. I only have my mothers word it was true as she was told the story by her granddad. The story was one of my childhood favourites as stayed with me all my life.
In fact it stayed in my mind so much that I named my youngest son Samuel, with the strength of the man very much in mind. Just by coincidence my son's middle name is Joseph, the name of Sam Swann's father.