In the post about Market Cross Cottage and the ghost, I mentioned that I had come to the conclusion that the cottage, together with the restaurant which is part of the same building, was the inn for visiting monks and other pilgrims, to the West Malling Abbey. I forgot to complete my thoughts for you on why I believe that to be true.
The walls of the cottage, when we moved in, were covered in match-boarding which was removed by the builders. In the far left corner, on the long wall of the ground floor, was a tall, shallow, built-in cupboard which we used to store tinned goods during the time before the builders started their work. When the builders removed the shelves and boarding walls they discovered quite a large recess which was about two or three feet deep. Inside this recess they found an old board which was in pretty poor condition but which had the remnants of a painting of a white swan with a crown around its neck with a chain on the crown.
We realised that the board was very old and were keen to find out why it was left in the niche behind the wall. I went to the local library and spent many hours looking for pictures of swans in various encyclopaedias and finally found quite a good likeness and the information that this swan had been a symbol of one of the royal families of England. (See the page on The Bohun Swan in Wikipedia) The encyclopaedia I used gave me to understand that the swan was the symbol of a king who was crowned sometime around 1452 which gave me a tentative year for the date that the cottage was built.
I don’t remember exactly which king it said or which book I found it in. Sadly, I no longer know where the swan board is, either. When Patty sold the cottage to the restaurant owner, she gave him the swan board. About twenty years later the restaurant owner had died and the restaurant was run by his son. I asked him about the board and he told me that his dad had given the board to Jim, the owner of the Swan pub which was around the corner. Jim and the pub had long-since disappeared as, I fear, has the old tatty bit of history, which I think is a damn shame!
I believe that in the days when most people didn’t read and write, that old sign was hung over the door of our building which would have been known as The Swan Inn, otherwise why would that board have been hidden in our house? I think that our ‘monk’ was somehow attached to the Abbey and the inn. There are plenty of ghost stories in West Malling, though a lot of them have been lost and others forgotten. I guess this is one which will be known for a short time by those of you who read this and, of course, the remaining members of our family.