The name “Cock & Bottle” was once quite a common name for public houses and is believed to refer to the availability of liquor in draught or bottled form; the “cock” being the name for the tap in the front of a barrel.
The actual date of building of The Cock & Bottle in Skipton is, as yet, unknown to us, although there has been a building on the site from the late 17th Century and it would certainly have been in existence at the time of the building of the Leeds – Liverpool Canal through Skipton.
It is rumoured that a certain type of lady would entertain the navvies in the small rooms up in the gables seen at the front of the building. It has been observed that the rooms are not very high but, then again, if they were put to a certain use, would not have needed to be.
A Richard Sugden was the owner of a building on the site at some time between 1689 until his death in 1703, whereupon it passed into the ownership of his son, Thomas.
Richard’s widow, Mary Sugden purchased the building from her son and left, in her will, to her daughter, Katherine - “The message wherein I now live in Swadforth, some time since purchased by my late dear husband, Richard Sugden of Skipton and by me since the death of my said husband, bought of my son, Thomas, who was heir to his late father.” The exterior wall in the rear yard bears a plaque denoting “K.S. 1729”
The ‘Manor Call Books’ suggest that a John Manks became the tenant of the Cock & Bottle in 1731 and the entry in the parish registry for his wedding in that year to Mary Hartley describes him as a ‘victualler’. There also appears to have been a weaver’s shop on the site, believed to have been on the site of the present Swadford Centre, next door to the pub.
When Katherine Sugden died in 1758, she left to a Samuel Swire, of Cononley, her “dwelling house with brewhouse”. Even at that time, it was already known as “The Cock & Bottle” for a deed of 1755 refers to a cottage in the “Cock & Bottle Yard in Swadforth”
John Manks had a daughter, Mary, who married John Smith, a glazier in 1766 and, on the death of John Manks in 1767, the inn passed to them. The ‘Window Tax Return’ of 1771 lists John Smith as having eleven windows at the property. Mary Smith died in 1776 and two years later, John Smith married Margaret Townson.
The Smith family owned the inn for many years. Court records of 1795 refer to houses occupied by Ambrose Smith and Joseph Smith in Swadford Street and the Call Books show Ambrose was here in 1800. Indeed, in 1803, the Court Leet (a special manorial court) jury complained that “the horsing step in front of Ambrose Smith’s house in Swadford Street is a nuisance”. Ambrose Smith died in 1806, to be succeeded by his widow, Ann (Nancy) Smith and then by William Smith.
“Baine’s Business Directory” of 1822 and “White’s Directory” of 1830 list William as ‘landlord of the Cock & Bottle’ and, in 1831, the Court Leet refers to “William and Joseph Smith, occupiers of the Cock & Bottle Public House in Swadforth”.
By 1837, the publican was a Thomas Preston and, in 1841 and 1851, Taman Cowburn. From 1860 to 1870, the Land Tax Assessments list Richard Slack as the licensee followed on his death in 1877 until 1881 by his widow, Ann. From 1882 until 1902, the licensee was one Thomas Wignall, followed by Fred Laycock who was licensee for many years after that.
In 1906, a local historian of Skipton, W.H. Dawson, wrote, “The Cock & Bottle Inn, a wayside inn of long ago in Swadford Street, is the only building in that street to have retained anything of its old originality”. He goes on to relate that... ”About fifty years ago, The Cock & Bottle belonged to a Mr. Smith. This gentleman made his will on a pewter pot, why and wherefore one can only conjecture. The pot was afterwards stolen, not, it is believed, by anyone who noticed the peculiar use made of it, but for the value of the pewter. This pot was traced as far as Leeds but no further clue could be found and, on Mr. Smith’s death, his possessions passed to his heir-in-law.”
“The inn had, originally, two flights of stairs – the back stairs of the corkscrew type, the steps set around a central pillar and the front staircase, of beautiful oak. When the internal arrangements of the inn were remodelled, many years ago now, the back stairs were completely done away with and the valuable oak staircase replaced by common deal, the oak being used to make a comfortable settle.”
Until the 1980’s, the Cock & Bottle’s internal plan consisted of two small rooms with a horseshoe-shaped bar linking them.
To the rear of the smaller room, which only extended as far as the present bar counter was part of the tenants accommodation, together with the ladies toilets, the gents toilets being to the side of the pub at the front.