The Black Swan stands in Peasholme Green, so called because the area used to be a water meadow used for growing peas.
The pub, like many in York, is as interesting below ground as it is above. It dates back to the 15th century, when it was a private house, with alterations and additions been made in the following two centuries. Prior to the present building, a medieval inn had stood on the site and remains may well still be beneath the pub.
It was built for William Bowes, a merchant and Sheriff of York in 1417, who also became Lord Mayor in 1428.
For many years it was believed that a passageway ran under the road, linking the pub to St Cuthberts Church, dating back to when the house was first built.
The church has a stained glass window in it with the arms of General Wolfe in it; the Wolfe family lived here before they moved to the American colonies. Former staff had heard about the passage, but no proof had been found by them of its existence, except for a curious feature in a cupboard: there were several steps downwards, which ended in a blank wall. It wasnt until 2003 that anybody got to see what was under the floor, as part of it was taken up during renovation work. Allegedly when electricians shone a light down, and they could see an old style red brick floor, which receded off into the distance in the direction of the church.
It has possible been divided in to two buildings for a time as early photographs show two front doors side by side, one now has been covered up and is in the current laundry room.
Later occupants include William Briggs, who was landlord in the late 19th century, and Fred Wright, in the 1910s, who was there when the Layerthorpe Cycling Club used the pub as its headquarters. It was used as a Horse Refuge during World War II, an ideal place for it as the pub still had sizeable stables at the back. Landlord Edgar Henry was in the pub by 1959, and was quoted as claiming that a York brickmaker sold his wife here, over a glass of ale, for 1s 6d in 1884 wife auctions being quite common in the 19th century.