Someone’s calling for the White Swan on Piccadilly to be demolished and here at One&Other we’re not sure that that’s a good thing.
The White Swan’s history stretches back to the early 1700s, when it was a coaching inn. At that time York was suffering something of a slump. York had been a thriving city in the Medieval period, but after the War of the Roses the city’s fortunes began to go downhill. For centuries, citizens re-purposed the medieval buildings because they were unable to afford new ones. In the 1800s; as the Industrial Revolution picked up pace, many Northern cities had their medieval buildings torn down and replaced by factories and mills. Even York is peppered with these huge brick buildings (including The Bonding Warehouse). The railway was built to increase to help transport goods too and from these factories. With trade came travel, and with travel, tourism. The result of York’s slump became the cause of York’s new boom. Inn’s like the White Swan catered for these tourists, and when it was demolished to make way for Piccadilly and rebuilt in 1912 it’s faux-Tudor facing reflected the attitudes of the time.
The White Swan symbolises the Edwardian fascination with medievalism that saved York’s skyline. It’s as much a part of York’s history as the Minster or the Merchant Adventurer’s Hall. It’s history stretches back to the 1700s and is ultimately entwined with the city’s. If it’s torn down and replaced, I have to wonder what with. Another faux-medieval building to remain ‘in keeping’?
Yes, it’s stood empty for a long time, and a lot of work would need to be done to make it safe inside again. However, compared with the disruption to the city centre that would be caused by demolishing it, and the risk of finding ourselves with yet another empty plot that no one can afford to redevelop during the recession, surely this should be the preferred option.
YorkStories.com point out, “last time its bars were open the punters would have been enjoying the sounds of Adam Ant”. Last week the Duchess’ punters were enjoying the sounds of Adam Ant live. If York’s citizens are willing to embrace history as recent as the 80s, I think we can persuade them to embrace the White Swan too.