December 2017 Update

Twice sorry

I need to make two apologies. One for not keeping this web thingy up to date and one for the delay in getting the Swan open. You must have been wondering what the hell’s been happening. First we were opening in September, then November and then January and now no news at all. To avoid further embarrassment I’ve decided it’s wiser not to speculate about an opening until I’ve got a proper and achievable date. What I can say is that it’s still some way off so I just hope it happens before I die.

Why so slow?

Why has it taken so long? Mainly because I’m out of practice. I’ve been retired from the business for 10 years now, many of my old contacts have gone and regulations and technology have moved on a pace. I’ve had to find new suppliers and learn lots of new things. With a very small, albeit growing, team I’ve had to start from scratch and it’s taken me longer than I thought. Having said that I can report that I’m really enjoying being back in business, I missed it more than I thought. There’s something very pleasing about having a whole series of problems and obstacles that need to be solved.


But perhaps the best news is I’m really pleased with the pub and hope, and believe, that you will like it too. It seems that everyone and a few more, are waiting for it to open. Don’t expect massive style changes from my old Brunning and Price pubs, I’m settled in my ways and I like the natural materials and colours that I have always used. I still like using reclaimed materials, old furniture and old rugs for a “worn in” feel. I still want my pubs to be like going into someone’s house. I think the difference with this one will be that it’s much more personal as I have the time, the inclination and the experience to pay attention to details. That attention to detail will continue for many years to come. This is the difference between a corporate owner and a personal owner, a personal owner carries on improving and altering just as any home owner does.

Darren the bossman

We will be bringing back another facet that is difficult for any big multiple (and indeed for B and P) to handle, giving the person running the pub complete authority and treating them as the MD of the business. We lot in the farm office will provide the boring administrative services like accounting, IT and HR and, perhaps most importantly, act as the sounding board and wise counsel. Darren will employ his own staff, buy his own beers, wines and spirits, decide and plan his menus, decide his house policies and systems. He is already well and truly in charge and I know from when he ran the Dysart Arms for me, that he will take to it like a swan to water.

Only the few

Before we can open we will need to test all the IT, especially as it is all new and all high tech, and all the mechanical equipment and the staff procedures. We usually do this by having two trial runs. We trade just as we would normally but our customers do not pay. I want people to know in advance that we can only have 150 people at each test run so there are going to be disappointed people. The first one, which we normally call the builders party, will be mainly people who have worked on the project so very few potential customers. During this one we make a snagging list and then do all the repairs and changes before the second one. This will hopefully be all locals but, as I say, only 150. As I always think we need around 2,500 devotees to make a pub work this means we will only be able to invite 6% of the people who we’d like to be there which is far from ideal. We have not started compiling the guest list in earnest but will do so in February and March. It’s an arbitrary process, there’s no meritocracy or democracy or hierarchy. It’s basically the first ones we think of.


The press have been nicking things from this web site and other places without asking so this message is for them.

All this material is my copyright and may not be reproduced without my express permission. Any unauthorised usage will be invoiced at my minimum unauthorised usage fee of £10,000. Authorisation can only be in writing from me. This includes the lovely Paul Charity who has said goods things about B and P in the past and the Morning Advertiser even though I subscribe to their excellent information service.

PS I am not starting another pub company I’m running a few pubs, probably three for economies of scale, to keep me busy in my “children have left home and I’ve got bugger all to do” years.

Still so slow

Finally finally I’d like to say that these ramblings will not be frequent. I’m a very slow writer and this one has taken me the best part of a Sunday at home. It’s only because Beth, my wife, has got flue that we have not been out and I have been left undisturbed.
When the pub opens we will have a simple web site with all the information you may need together with a dashed clever table booking app type thing.

Some of you might have discovered that I do not use social media such as Facebook and LinkedIn and I’m hoping we don’t have to use it for the pub either. I find the whole movement very unhealthy and until the platforms accept responsibility for content and anonymity is forbidden it will, for me, have more negatives than positives. More discussion on this subject will require beer and hanging around the bar.


Why this website?

I thought the good people of Marbury (and perhaps the bad ones as well) might be wondering what’s happening to the Swan so I’ve set up this little website to keep you informed. I’ll try and update it frequently as we proceed but no promises.

Who’s bought the Swan?

Let me start by introducing myself.


My name is Jerry Brunning and I’m a publican. Or perhaps more accurately I was a publican, then I retired and now I’m about to become a publican again.

In 1981 I started a pub company called Brunning and Price and ran it until 2007 when I sold it. You might know some of my old pubs: The Combermere Arms in Burleydam is the closest but there are quite a few scattered around.

After the company was sold Graham Price, my old partner, carried on running it (and built more pubs locally) and I went home and watched telly. After nearly 10 years I think I’ve seen all the Midsomer Murders so when the Swan came on the market I couldn’t resist it.

After some haggling my offer was accepted (on my 60th birthday) and we completed on June 30th. I took possession on 26th September when Colin and Faye, the current tenants, left.

Back in 1981 I only had one pub, the Bell at Outwood in Surrey and I ran it myself for three years. During the course of the second year I took a brewery tenancy, The Fox Revived in Norwood Hill. A year later I sold the Bell making a much-needed capital gain (I’d borrowed the whole purchase price) and bought two more brewery tenancies. I then decided to come back home to Cheshire and, through my mate Martin Taylor, applied for permission to turn the basement of his shop into a pub. So Old Harkers was born. Then came the Grosvenor Arms, then the Pant yr Ochain etc, etc until, by 2007 we (Graham Price joined me in 1989) had 16 pubs.

I think it’s true to say that I have done every job in the pub business from cleaning the loos after someone’s been ill to raising the finance. Whether those long ago acquired skills are still relevant today I don’t know – we’re about to find out.

What’s going to happen?

In a nutshell, we are going to close the pub down for a year. During this time we’ll completely refit the place so that we end up with a decent village pub, food orientated but still with a good regular pub side, in good nick, with nice people running it.

I probably won’t be there very often myself but that won’t matter (in fact it might help – I’m a grumpy old bugger) because my supremo, Darren Snell will be in charge. I’ll tell you about him in the next posting and I’ll tell you more about the plans for the pub as they become clearer.

Who else is involved?

There’s some real dyed in the wool talent hanging around trying to get this pub working.

Darren Snell
Darren Snell

The most important person in the team is Darren Snell who will be actually running the Swan. He trained as a chef in the 70’s at Southport College and has worked in many famous kitchens and for many well-known chefs including Anton Mosimann at the Dorchester, one my favourites.

In his chef days he worked extensively in London and the South but also for long periods in Switzerland, California and New Zealand. Graham and I poached him from his last post as the head chef of a restaurant in NZ to come and run the Dysart Arms for us. He had never run a pub and we had never employed a manager who had never run a pub. Darren took to the business like a hand into a glove and has had a passion for pubs ever since. I suspect he has enjoyed the pub years more than winning all those awards in his chef days.

For the last 20 years he’s been mostly in this part of Cheshire. After the Dysart he ran his own pub the Black Lion in Nantwich and now joins me again for this new venture.


Also with me is my younger brother Francis who used to be the property manager for Brunning and Price and has built over 50 pubs. In the early days he also ran many of the B and P pubs in between building them and is hugely experienced in all aspects of the business. Like me he has done every job in the business.

Sadly none of us is in the first flush of youth. Darren’s the youngest at 55, and between us the years we’ve notched up in the pub world would earn us a standing ovation at Lords, if pubs were cricket. So here we are, striding out to take the crease once again…