by Ron Dale

One of the area’s most popular inns, the Jolly Fisherman, cannot be separated from its riverside venue, where every summer river boats are moored and cyclists park their bikes for a refreshment halt.  Affectionately known as the Jolly, here are tables and benches on the grass next to an unusual cluster of stone sculptures on what has come to be known as Riverside Green. Here is provided a welcome chance to relax in the sun or in the shade with a glass of wine or a jug of ale, only yards from the pub or from the river.  The Jolly Fisherman is a grade II listed building and was first built on the site in 1736 when a row of cottages was demolished. These had occupied the site since 1636, according to McMullens Brewery, Hertford. From the start it was known as the George & Dragon and in 1756 it advertised to have stabling for eight horses.  When trains arrived in the village in 1843, the building was given a new façade and renamed The Railway Inn and later still, The Railway Tavern.   In 1948 it was renamed The Fisherman’s Friend and eventually it adopted its present name.

     The valuable space between the pub and the river has never been wasted. In the 19th century malt roasting houses occupied the site.  A perusal of the company history of Bryan Corcoran & Co. of Mark Lane, London, suppliers of malting equipment and mill-stones in the 19th century led me to find a date for the building of this roasting factory on our riverside. In the mid-1840s the company records show that they: ‘built kiln vents for Southminster Maltings and about the same period at Stanstead Abbotts Maltings (now demolished, near the railway station and next to the Jolly Fisherman pub).’  Technically the pub and its riverside are in the parish of St. Margarets as the river divides the two parishes, but locals do not differentiate as it also joins them with a bridge. Corcorans supplied six roasting drums for making crystal malt and four small drums for making black and chocolate malt. The brown malt was used to make porter, once a very popular drink. The roasting factory, always prone to fires, appears from map evidence, to have been rebuilt in the period 1893 to1915 but was finally destroyed by fire in 1962.

Roasting factory once on the site of Riverside Green

Picture courtesy of Stuart Moye, taken in 1960.

Old malt roasting-houses to left of picture (date unknown).

The sloping grass bank is now concreted for mooring boats.

     The illustration below shows the Jolly in about 1930 from the roadside with a yard entrance separating it from the house once occupied by William Heesom, the manager of French & Jupp Maltings, next to the double-door entrance of the roasting houses.

The Railway Tavern, St. Margarets c. 1930 (Jolly Fisherman) showing the front of the malt roasting house extreme left. Copyright Directory of public houses in the U.K. etc. (Hertfordshire)

The fire which destroyed the roasting factory in 1962 saw the end of malting on this site and production was moved to the Roydon Road malting, where it continues to this day.

Meridian Centenary Stones inside giant stone compass.

  Riverside Green at the bridge, a relaxing spot where both shade and sun are provided.

(picture: Brian Johnson)

Blake quotation stone......’in Eternity’s sun-rise.’

(Courtesy Stuart Moye)

A close-up view of the Meridian Stones: in sunlight and shadow (Courtesy Stuart Moye)

THANK YOU: It has taken some time to find any information about the Meridian Stones. I, therefore, decided that there should be a permanent  explanation, together with the name of the sculptor/aerist.and I am obliged to thank my colleague Ray ‘Dick’ Dixon for discovering the name of the sculptor, together with information from robinsspace.com. I am also indebted to Stuart Moye for providing  photographs and information about the malting fires. And, as always, I am grateful to Brian Johnson for providing further photographs. Thanks are also due to Alec Peever, the sculptor, trading as ‘Fiona and Alec Peever, Lettering & Sculpture,’ for explaining some of the mystique. He told me that he is thrilled to hear that his work still engenders interest.    (Ron Dale)