Wayne’s quick guide to the local History of Maldon pre 19th Century so you can see and learn why I love the local area not just for all the modern up today fixtures and fittings but the past history.
Just glance at a map and the strategic advantages to settling at the head of the River Blackwater, where it meets the River Chelmer, makes Maldon an obvious choice for early man. Archaeological findings of flint tools, remains of a hill top fort and evidence of a primitive fishing industry revealed that there has been a settlement at Maldon for a very long time. During the Roman invasion, it appears that they too settled here, farming the land and engaging in salt production.
After the Romans left it seems the East Saxons built a settlement they then called ‘Maeldune’, ‘the hill marked by a cross’. In 916 King Edward the Elder, the son of Alfred the Great, visited Maldon with his army and built a ‘burh’, a fortified structure on top of the hill, reusing the old fort. This might not be strange to our modern concept of England and English kings but at that time the location of Maldon meant it was part of Danelaw and therefore subject to Danish laws. The burh was strong enough to withstand a raiding army of Danes and Vikings in 917, but it eventually succumbed to Danish forces in 991at the Battle of Maldon. This battle was made famous in an old English poem, which recounted the victory of these marauding Danes and the demise of a local Saxon warrior, Bryhtnoth. A statue of the defiant Saxon stands in Maldon today.
The town continued to grow and in 925 Maldon had its very own mint which continued running until the Norman Conquest. The Doomsday Book in 1086 records both Maldon and Colchester as the only two Boroughs in Essex. How times have changed! The town had by now become a regional trading centre and had its own court. Henry II granted the town a Royal Charter in 1171 detailing the boundaries of the town and its continued duty to provide a ship to the king on demand! I wonder if Her Majesty has ever been tempted?
The town’s prosperity over the years has been closely linked to the rivers and the sea. It became an important port and tolls were placed on goods entering the Blackwater River. In the 17th and 18th centuries cargo was transported up the Blackwater River and all around the coast of South East England on Thames sailing barges. Although no longer used commercially, many Thames barges are moored at Hythe Quay, Maldon to this day. In 1797 the Chelmer and Blackwater canal was built running from Chelmsford to Heybridge, very close to Maldon. The burghers of Maldon fiercely opposed the proposed canal and consequently it was constructed outside the boundaries of the borough.
The success of the canal followed by the arrival of the railway in 1847, marked the decline in the prosperity of the port. However, an 1866 copy of the Essex Almanac describes Maldon as “ a neat little borough town, with a look of antiquity about it.” Maldon is still very proud of its historic past and attracts many visitors. All Saints Church, Beeleigh Abbey and the Moot Hall to name but a few hint to the days of Maldon past, offering glimpses of the town’s long and varied history.
Why not make a date and visit Maldon this year, it’s well worth a day trip out.
Until the next time we connect or chat about Maldon.
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