When a survey of Market Deeping was made in 1563, it mentioned the “Sign of ye Bull” and another inn called “The Swans” in the Market Place, backing on to the river. At that time it was owned by the Nicholson family, together with other properties in Deeping, land at Maxey and Northborough and the lease of West Deeping parsonage. When Jane Nicholson died in 1557, a few days after her husband, she bequeathed “my house or tenement where I now dwell, called The Swann” to one of her sons.
The inn traded over many years, and a description of the building was given in 1734, when it was advertised to let by its current owner, Enoch Thoroton:
“A good new-built house standing in the Market Place and abutting on the backside of the river Welland, having been an old accustomed Inn known by the name of the Swan, containing 14 good rooms, a large yard and stable room for 60 horses and room to lay 60 loads of wood for sale on their own ground.” Mr Thoroton described himself as a great dealer in wood and other things.
His advertisement continued “There is at present another Inn near the same, known by the name of Captain Perry’s and formerly by the name of the Bell Inn, that is now let for a private house, so whoever hires the said house will have the business that they both were wont to have.”
Captain John Perry, born in 1669, had been commander of a Royal Navy ship called The Cygnet. He was a skilful engineer and after an eventful naval career during which he lost his right arm, was court-martialled and then pardoned, in 1698 he was employed by Peter the Great to build canals in Russia. When the Tsar failed to pay him, Captain Perry returned to England and enhanced his reputation by repairing a serious breach in the Thames’ bank at Dagenham. He then carried out drainage work in the fens around Spalding, and in 1730 was appointed engineer to the Deeping Fen Adventurers. No doubt around that time, the Bell Inn was re-named in his honour. He was responsible for building sluices on the Welland near Cowbit and also at Pode Hole and Deeping Bank.
Unfortunately, he died in February 1733 before his schemes were completed, and is buried inside St Mary & St Nicholas parish church, Spalding. There is a large memorial stone recording his life story with a family crest showing three pears for the surname Perry.
By 1738 Captain Perry’s inn had reverted to its original name of The Bell. Enoch Thoroton had died and his widow advertised it to let as “a very good built new house with very good yards and stables, stands well in the town and is situate on the river, very convenient for public business”.
It appears that The Swan had ceased trading, unlike its Tudor contemporary The Bull, which still thrives in the Market Place.