Maldon, Essex, a place for day-trippers and popular with families. The town began during the Saxon era, although evidence of Neolithic and Roman habitation have been discovered. Initially known as Mael-dun, meaning the meeting place Hill. Maldon’s main claim to historic fame was the battle of Maldon against the Saxons and the Vikings in 991 AD (https://fortheloveofhistory.home.blog/2020/03/18/come-quickly-to-us-as-men-to-the-fight-the-battle-of-maldon/
Along with Colchester, Maldon was one of the chief towns in the County and under royal ownership. Records indicate Maldon was in receipt of a royal charter in 1155 by King Henry II and was the first-ever granted to a town in Essex.
There are several sites in Maldon one can visit to catch glimpses of its past along with a number of museums. On the Visit Maldon website, there are three heritage walks that have been the basis for this post.
Our first stop is the Blue boar Inn. Dating back to the 14th century, the Blue Boar inn began life as an occasional residence for the noble family of the De Veres (whose main residence was Castle Hedingham, Essex). Around 1530 it was bought by John Church, a burgess of Maldon and transformed into a coaching inn that still functions as a pub restaurant. The name originates from the De Veres coat of Arms, verres being Latin for boar. During the 1750s it became a stopping point for the Maldon stage from Southminster and London. Today architecture can be seen from 14th, 16th and early 19th century developments to the building. It has three storeys with a cellar and a beautiful Georgian frontage and is grade II listed.
Another property with links to medieval nobility is that of the earliest brick buildings in Essex – Moot Hall, this time once the family home of the D’Arcy family. Only the tower exists of what was once the mansion to their family home which is believed to have been built around 1420. Grade I listed, the three storeys today share the story of its past from mansion, courthouse and police station, through to its current role as the centre for the social history of Maldon.
The council chamber, which is located on the second floor, was the centre of municipal life in Maldon for 400 years. The ground floor was the home of Maldon’s Police station complete with cells until a purpose-built building was completed. In 1810 the courtroom was constructed and has played a role in Maldons past as a magistrates court and a Court of Quarter sessions until 1950.
The only scheduled ancient monument in Maldon and a unique survival in Essex is the Leper Hospital of St Giles. Its purpose changed to a general hospital around the late 13th century. It was conveyed to Beeleigh Abbey in 1481 and in 1538 after the dissolution was granted to Thomas Dyer for domestic use. In 1910 it was taken into the care of Maldon district council where it was in a dilapidated state; they care for the site today. The visible remains are built of limestone/flint rubble and reused Roman brick. The structure takes the common form of a cruciform with the walls reaching 7m at their highest.
One building that is still in use today is St Peter’s Hospital. The site originated as Maldons Union workhouse, the second one to be constructed in the town, opened in the 1870s and converted into a hospital in 1948. At the time of opening, it could house up to 450 inmates who were usually destitute. While at the workhouse the inmates would do jobs such as laundry and cooking for the women with the men doing stone breaking and teasing out rope fibres for reuse to earn their keep.
The first was situated along Market Hill. Maldons first workhouse was created in 1719 under the request of Thomas Plume (Archdeacon of Rochester) and now converted into houses. It started as a two-storey block with additions being made across the next century.
Thomas Plume was born and grew up in Maldon. Even after entering life as an adult and moving away, Maldon always held a special place in his heart. When he died in 1704 he left his extensive library to the town which was to be open to all scholars.
The library was to be “for the use of the minister and clergy of the neighbouring parishes who generally make this town their place of residence on account of the unwholesomeness of the air in the vicinity of their churches”.
A total of 8,100 books and pamphlets and his ‘large mapp of the world’ were given to the town to be housed in St Peters Church (of which the tower remains). A library keepers wage and lodgings were provided for in the will also. Initially, people were allowed to take some of the books away on lone but with so many going missing it has since been changed, and like an archive centre items within the catalogue can be viewed on request
There are three ancient churches in Maldon – St Peters (mentioned above), St Marys and All Saints – the oldest. Its purpose was not just for Christian worship, the church is a meeting place for all sorts of different purposes, a place of sanctuary and early warning of invasions, a marketplace and community hall as well as a place of worship.
All Saints began as a Saxon church however today’s surviving building has remnants dating back to 1250. What one notices when visiting the church is its triangular tower which is the oldest part still in existence. Pretty unique for church architecture. The South arcade and script date back to 1330 with the South Chapel (previously known as the D’Arcy Chapel being constructed around 1443. The chapel houses a much later item of interest – the Washington WIndow which has links to the American President George Washington ancestry (https://fortheloveofhistory.home.blog/2020/06/09/presidential-purleigh-george-washington-and-his-links-with-essex-england/).
The rest of the church was built, altered and adjusted at various times over the centuries when in the 19th century a major restoration programme came into place in an area which needed it.
One final note – the De Veres:
The de Veres came over, like a large number of the old nobility, with William the COnqueror in 1066, the head at this time being Aubrey de Vere. Their name originates from a village in France Ver. The family would hold the office of Lord great Chamberlain for many generations, 1133 – 1779 (when the direct male line became extinct) along with the earldom of Oxford from 1142-1703 along with holding land in Essex, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Middlesex. The family would be the last private owners of Downing street.
Members of note include John 13th earl, a Lancastrain leader in the Wars of the Roses and had the crowned Henry VII. Robert de Vere who became an outlaw and has been put forward by some as inspiring the legend of Robin Hood. Edward, 17th Earl, was very artistic and a poet. His name has been linked to William Shakespeare. Diana de Vere who inherited the family’s fortune in 1703 due to there being no close male relatives, who married Charles Beauclerk, 1st duke of St Albans and illegitimate son of King Charles II and mistress Nell Gwyn (https://fortheloveofhistory.home.blog/2019/04/09/the-mistresses-of-king-charles-ii/)
For more on the places above and of Maldon’s history, head to https://www.itsaboutmaldon.co.uk/.
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