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Maggie Anderton MBII 

Maggie Anderton MBII runs the black swan inn in York’s city centre. It’s a popular old inn with a great variety of regulars, visitors and tourists – and even a few ghosts. The bii’s Teodora Pancheva MBII reports

York Minster, the worldfamous Gothic Cathedral, is considered to be the most haunted place in the city, but it has some serious competition. Just a stone’s throw away from the Cathedral’s steps is the Black Swan Inn, a half-timbered building dating back to the 15th century which is, according to licensee Maggie Anderton MBII, home to a handful of ghostly regulars. A traditional pub with three bar areas, the Black Swan Inn serves classic home-made steak and ale pies, fish and chips and, of course, giant Yorkshire puddings. But alongside the delicious homemade dishes and warm welcome, people choose to visit and stay overnight to try and experience some activity of a supernatural kind – more about this later!

Before becoming Landlady, Maggie had long been a regular of the Black Swan. She used to join her uncle and friends there for a beer and a chat, until one night, having left her job as a chef, Maggie ended up securing herself a job in the kitchen. That was more than 15 years ago. Good spirits were at work, because love blossomed between Maggie and the Landlord, Andy, and they got married and ran the old inn together until he sadly passed away in 2017. Since then, Maggie has been managing the pub alone, with the trusty support of her brilliant team.

Being in the heart of York, the pub attracts a variety of characters through the doors. “We get tourists during the summer season, but we’re also home to various clubs and groups who meet up here, so we see a lot of the same faces week-in and weekout,” says Maggie. “It’s a weird mix, but we have a lot of dedicated regulars, so it’s a win-win.” The group that has been meeting at the pub for possibly the longest is the Black Swan Folk Club, which has been a regular for more than 40 years. Maggie and her team collaborate with the group in the summer to host a Folk Music Festival. “We’ll have an outside stage, plus things like workshops going on in all of our different rooms – it’s always a highlight of the year,” she says.

The function room is always in high demand too, with birthdays, Christenings, anniversaries and more. “If people want space for something, we’ll do it,” says Maggie, adding that this extends to paranormal occasions. Over the years, Maggie has heard stories about the ghosts who frequent the pub, and while she hasn’t seen them all, she has witnessed strange goings on. “There’s a man who wanders around the kitchen, dressed in boots and a coat like he’s going riding. The kitchen is actually built over the old stable yard, back when the pub was a coaching inn way back when,” she says. Another ghostly visitor is a black cat, which bears a strong resemblance to the pub’s resident cat, Salem, creating lots of confusion among the team and guests. “There is also a little boy people see a lot. We call him Matthew and he’s supposed to be a pickpocket – and stuff does move. It turns back up, but always in a ridiculous place!” While some customers have no interest in ghosts or the stories, others will book themselves a room and a meal in the hope of spotting something spooky. “There are a surprising number of companies that do paranormal investigations. They will book our three bedrooms and stay up all night with their ghost hunting gadgets to see what they can find. We must have about 15 to 20 of those a year. People are really into it, especially around Halloween time.”

With the building being more than 600 years old, there have been a lot of changes over the centuries, so Maggie likes to keep the pub’s oldfashioned pub charm alive. There are no TVs and customer service remains face-to-face, without any apps. “The people who come here know what they want and I’m focused on building the trade we’ve got, rather than trying to push gimmick after gimmick,” she says, adding that she is working with her younger team members to help increase the pub’s social media presence. “I use social media in my spare time, but that’s different to creating and posting for a business, so the girls are more than happy to take control of that, as they know what they’re doing,” says Maggie.

The Black Swan’s cat, Salem, even gets in on the act with his own Facebook page. Maggie is passionate about looking after her team of 18 and likes to make sure that they are doing well, both in and outside of work. “I’ve worked in places before where I’ve dreaded going in – hating the very thought of it. I was miserable. I would never want someone working for me to feel that way.” She adds: “I am lucky that I have a really good team. I couldn’t do it without them, because without them none of this would be happening.”

Trying to keep footfall high in a big city like York can be a hard task, but the Black Swan has built a loyal community around it. “We make all our own food, and people keep coming back in for that. It’s hugely popular. On the weekends, people want a good meal and they know that if they come here, they won’t be served microwaveable meals but homemade food,” says Maggie. The Black Swan has become a staple place for the community and others. “If you didn’t know us, you’d walk in and think it was an old man’s boozer – but it isn’t. I think that’s part of what makes us so special. We have different faith groups, music groups, hobbyists… everyone. It really is somewhere for anyone – everyone’s welcome,” says Maggie. Regular, tourist, visitor or ghost, the Black Swan has stood strong for over 600 years, providing a warm welcome to all. And when it comes to an overall customer experience – it has got oodles of charm with an added measure of good spirits.


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