64-year-old Mary Snell took over the New Inn, Roydon with her former husband in the early 1990s with the intention of staying for six months.
However, her love for the pub remained and she is now celebrating more than three decades behind the bar.
She was presented with the award from the pub’s owners Star Pubs & Bars, with the accolade recognising her contribution to the pub and its community.
Over the years, Snell has converted the site from a little-used rundown local into a focal point of village life and a destination pub for those from further afield.
Parts of the pub, which is Grade II-listed, date back to the 16th century and holds its traditional feel with old beams and an open fire having pride of place.
Still loving it
Horse brasses and pictures of the pub through the years adorn the walls while the food and drink offer also reflects traditional pub grub.
The steak pie is cooked to Smell’s secret recipe and the New Inn has a reputation for serving the perfect pint, winning it Cask Marque accreditation and a place in The Good Beer Guide for its cask ales.
Snell has no plans to give up running the pub any time soon. She said: “I’m still loving it, every day is different, you never know what’s going to happen. It keeps me young. Roydon is such a friendly village [and] I feel very fortunate to have a pub here.
“Back in the 1990s, Roydon had four pubs but now there are only two. A village without a pub is very sad.
“A good local is more important than ever when times are tough, as they are now. People can meet up and share their problems or enjoy a much-needed chat and laugh.
“Either way, they leave feeling better. I’m determined to keep the New Inn going for future generations to enjoy. I’m lucky to have a wonderful team and my partner Paul Watson backing me.”
The pub remains at the heart of its community with local groups and good causes hosting meetings in its back room, which also provides a space for villagers’ celebrations and family gatherings.
There are also a host of activities to bring residents together such as a weekly £7 two-course lunch hand social of senior citizens alongside annual leavers’ parties for the local primary school.
This is in addition to the regular quizzes, music and beer festivals as well as charity fundraisers.
Star Pubs & Bars area manager Andrew Smurthwaite added: “Mary is a fantastic licensee. Thanks to her, the New Inn is the archetypal great British pub and an integral part of Roydon life.
“It has a wonderful atmosphere and there’s always a warm welcome and excellent food and drink.
“Mary works tirelessly to keep the new Inn thriving [and] it’s a great honour to present her with the is well-deserved award.
“The New Inn is believed to have once been a coaching inn and to have had one of the first petrol stations outside it.”