Friday 24th March 2023 was the grand re-opening of The Jolly Fenman after a refurb, but it was on 6 March 1957 that the pub originally opened. Like most pubs at that time, it was divided into smaller bars: the Kingfisher Lounge, the Saloon Bar and the Public Bar. Paintings of geese and ducks adorned the walls, along with a specially commissioned painting, ‘The Kingfisher’. A competition was held to choose the name of the new pub, and the winner was Mr Tidy of 14 Curran Avenue. He won a cheque for £25 and had the honour of drawing the first pint of beer, attended by the directors of Watney’s (the brewers) and the pub manager, Humphrey Seaman, an ex-Irish Guardsman.
Robert Joseph Henry Tidy had been born in Ireland in 1899 and served in the Royal Marines during the First World War. He moved to Blackfen with his wife Annie in 1932 and worked as a postman. He died in 1960.
I don’t know what the inspiration was for Mr Tidy’s name ‘The Jolly Fenman’, but I like to think he was celebrating the cheery nature of us Fen dwellers and that we like to enjoy a pint with friends.
On 6 March 1957 a new pub opened in Blackfen: The Jolly Fenman. It had three bars: the Kingfisher Lounge, the Saloon Bar and the Public Bar. On the walls were paintings of geese and ducks as well as a specially commissioned painting ‘The Kingfisher’ by Edward Ward, RA. (I wonder what happened to that painting?). There had been a competition to name the new pub, and the winner was Mr Robert Tidy of Curran Avenue who got a £25 prize and the honour of drawing the first pint of beer.
A few days after the anniversary of the opening of the pub, thanks to a great find at the Animal Protection charity shop in Blackfen, I became the proud owner of a framed 1977 price list from the Jolly Fenman. A pint of bitter would set you back 32 pence, and a bottle of Babycham 23 pence. That day, 10 March, would have been my dad’s birthday, so I was thinking of him stood looking at this price list which was hanging in the pub! I would love to know where it has been residing for the last few years and why it has suddenly surfaced.