Bar Man, by Jeff Hoyle, November 24, 2017
According to the Lynn News it was ten years ago this November that the Fairstead pub was demolished.
Described in the article as a ‘long standing symbol of neglect at the heart of Lynn’s Fairstead Estate’ I guess that few people mourned its passing. By Lynn standards, neither the estate nor the pub date back very far. Enemy bomb damage and substandard housing in London needed to be tackled at the end of the Second World War, and a scheme was developed to move around a million people out of the capital to new and expanded towns. Lynn was one of the places chosen, and the Fairstead estate was constructed for this purpose.
Whenever new housing development is planned in Lynn, the letters start to appear in the paper with the predictability of the first cuckoo of spring, bemoaning the lack of infrastructure. When the Fairstead was built, at least some of the necessary services were provided, including a pub. To accommodate this, the licence of the Duke of Fife, on Saturday Market Place was transferred to the newly built Fairstead in October 1965. According to the excellent Norfolkpubs.co.uk website, the Fairstead staged the first ever drag act in a local pub when ‘Gloria Glamour’ the alter ego of a former bus driver, entertained a crowd of over 200 on 4th May 1970, and later that year, the pub presented the first ever topless female singer to appear in an East Anglian pub.
An unnamed person is quoted as saying that “it was the best Friday night ever…it went down very well…in this day and age people accept it. We hope to put on more of these shows.”
There were no such shows on the occasions of my infrequent visits, to play darts and dominoes there in the early 80’s and soon after this, it was renamed Winston’s before becoming a private members club called Raffles at some time in the 90’s.
It is not the only local post war pub to have disappeared. The North Star has a similar story, with its licence being granted in 1960 when it was transferred from the Diamond Jubilee in Gaywood.
It seems that the specifications could have been a bit higher when it was built as the regulars were quoted in the Lynn News on 12th October 1971: “The brewers are always putting the prices up and it was about time they considered the customers,” said a spokesman. “We also ask for a few little things to brighten the place up. They wanted carpets on the floor, a place to hang coats, a separate off-sales area and a toilet for women in the bar.”
I am not sure if their requests were met, but by 2006 it was closed later to be demolished and housing built on the site. Nearby, the Discovery was opened in 1955, with the transfer of the licence from the Stonemason’s Arms in South Everard Street, and it too has long since disappeared.
This is not a phenomenon unique to Lynn.
The history of the post war years is neglected and many of the buildings, especially the pubs are disappearing. Go to any town or city and many of the modern estate pubs have been converted to shops, community centres or houses. The ones that are left may be boarded up or semi derelict.
In many cases they were not the finest examples of architecture, but pubs are about the community, and Fairstead now has a population of around 6,500 according to the 2011 census with no pub, a sad state of affairs.