If you’re driving up the M40 to Bicester Village with discounted designer shopping in mind, it’s worth stopping off in the tiny village of Tetsworth. There isn’t much more there than the sleepy remains of what was a far more important stopping-off spot in the 15 t0 1800s. A village green, a pub and a wonderful old Inn, The Swan, dating back to the Middle Ages when the monks of Thame (Oxfordshire) brewed beer there. Queen Elizabeth 1 is rumoured to have stayed the night in 1580s and Queen Victoria visited in 1832.
This venerable pub has now become a cafe / restaurant and an antiques store. Entering through the side door takes you straight into the cafe, a huge roaring fire, almost large enough to walk into, welcomes customers to comfortable sofas, coffee tables and miss-matched tables and chairs. A sustaining cup of coffee and a slice from the cake selection, will see you through your searches for that special item you can’t resist.
The building is still very much as it would have been as an Inn. Very open plan downstairs and a warren of rooms and corridors on the upper floors. Crossing the cafe you come to the first room, filled with French rustic style items, thoughtfully mixed with large white bowls and jugs housed in expansive armoires with wide glazed doors. Towels and tea towels carefully folded and tied with herringbone tape on french inspired chests of drawers.
Following the narrow corridor with wide window ledges, each one holding a scattering of items from a bronze cherub to a child’s shoe last, takes you to the side rooms each owned by a different dealer. Nineteenth century china in one, mahogany furniture in another. Art deco jewellery glints it’s stylish promise from lit cabinets and collectable children’s books beckon from the shelves. Gardening tools and vintage seed packets are tucked into a tiny room, certificates of ancient dreams of coming First in the local dahlia contest, decorate the walls.
The leaded light windows of the large room to the side, filter this summer’s grey light, creating a dull shine on the silverware. Plated and silver cutlery, tied in bundles with string, is arranged in old canteens across the ledges and shelves in the room.
The sloping oak stairs punctuate the shop in different places on each landing, adding to the warren like feeling and the sense that you might have missed something. In the minute attic rooms vintage kitchen ware, rolling pins and jelly moulds, Cornish-ware and butter paddles, are arranged on battered Victorian tables and 50s kitchen shelves. You’ll struggle to decide what to leave behind.
After your tour of delights why not stop for lunch? A creamy tagliatelle carbonara, The Swan’s deli board – a selection of smoked salmon, cheeses, olives, chutney and sundried tomatoes. Or homemade fishcakes with caper mayonnaise. A relaxing meal to help you choose which antique / vintage gem you can’t live without.
The Swan At Tetsworth. 5 Upper High Street. Tetsworth. Oxfordshire