Swan Hotel traces its history to 1400s


LAVENHAM, England -- The Boot Record in the Swan Hotel's cozy but elegant bar here has nothing to do with computers.

Instead, it's a chronicle of how fast U.S. servicemen who were based in the area during World War II could down three and a half pints.

The East Anglia region afforded such a short bombing route to Nazi Germany that in Suffolk -- the eastern part of that area -- there were 19 U.S. air bases.

You can see evidence of this history in the Swan's bar, where military insignias and servicemen's signatures plaster the walls.

Today, the Swan is popular with U.S. veterans who visit on commemorative trips. There are numerous military museums honoring the U.S.-British alliance throughout the region.

The Swan was a meeting place for U.S. soldiers during World War II. The Swan has an appeal that transcends the interests of World War II buffs, of course, and in the hotel's annals, that conflict is but a recent event.

The property is comprised of three medieval houses, dating to 1425, that were brought under one roof.

The most famous of the three edifices is the Wool Hall, which was the focal point of life and commerce in Lavenham until 1911, when it was sold.

Parts of the Swan might have served as a coaching inn as early as the late 15th century; the hotel's entryway used to accommodate carriages that backed in to unload luggage.

The hotel was renovated and reopened in March of 2000. Each of its 51 rooms is distinct and full of history.

Four-poster beds, brick fireplaces and 15th century art patterns in the walls are all part of the hotel's allure.

Take Room 48, for example. It has a mammoth fireplace, a canopy bed and oyster shells scattered between the wood and brick in the walls.

As you navigate the Swan's halls, you occasionally have to duck your head to get around the irregular brown beams overhead, and the floor emits a charming creek as you make your way to your room.

Some of the rooms overlook the quiet streets of Lavenham, 78 miles northeast of London, with its small antique shops and lime-washed wooden homes. Other rooms look out on a traditional herb garden.

The town is a convenient base for sightseeing trips to Newmarket (horse-racing); Bury St. Edmunds (Abbey of St. Edmund); Sudbury (birthplace of artist Thomas Gainsborough), and Castle Hedingham.

Heritage Hotels, which recently was bought by Scotland-based Macdonald Hotels, owns 48 properties and has been targeting the U.S. market.

The company gets an assist in filling the Swan from Continental Airlines, which in April inaugurated service from New York (Newark) to London's Stansted Airport, just 35 miles from Lavenham.

The Heritage Explorer rate at the Swan starts at $240 per night, with a minimum stay of three nights.

For more information or to book, call (888) 892-0038.

Room key
Address: High Street, Lavenham, Sudbury, Suffolk CO10 9QA, England
Telephone: (011) 44-870-400-8116
Reservations: (800) 543-4300
Location: On main drag High Street in the medieval village of Lavenham. Some six miles from Sudbury, 35 miles from Stansted Airport and 78 miles northeast of London.
Number of rooms: 51
Commission: 10%
Owner: Heritage Hotels/Macdonald Hotel Group
General manager: Frances Gildea
Facilities and amenities: 24-hour room service, restaurant, two bars, five lounges, free parking.
Raves: The decor, restaurant, ties to World War II and proximity to horse racing center.

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