A Topographical Dictionary of England (1831) by Samuel Lewis

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"MALDON, a borough, port, and market-town, having separate jurisdiction, though locally in the hundred of Dengie, county of ESSEX, 10 miles (E.) from Chelmsford, and 38 (E.N.E.) from London, containing 1398 inhabitants.

This place is, by Camden, in which opinion he is supported by Horsley, supposed to have been the Camalodunum of the Romans, one of the earliest colonies established by that people in Britain, and which other antiquaries have fixed at Colchester. Its name is said to have been derived from an altar dedicated to Mars, under the name of Camulus, by which also that divinity is designated in some coins, still extant, of Cunobeline, King of the Trinobantes, who, prior to the conquest of the Romans, had his royal residence in the town. During its occupation by the Romans, in the reign of Nero, it was destroyed by an insurrection of the Britons, who defeated, with great slaughter, the ninth Roman Legion, which had been sent to its assistance. From the Roman name Camalodunum, it was called by the Saxons Meal dune, or Male dune, from which its present appellation is evidently derived. During the time of the Saxons, it does not appear to have been distinguished by any events of importance previously to its destruction by the Danes, from which it was restored by Edward the Elder, son of Alfred, who, to guard it against future attacks, fortified it with a castle, of which there are at present no visible remains.

The town is pleasantly situated on an eminence, near the confluence of the rivers Blackwater and Chelmer, and consists principally of one spacious street, extending for more than a mile from west to east, intersected by a smaller street; the houses, which were in general ancient, have been much improved in their appearance, and within the last half-century, many ranges of handsome modern houses have been erected: the town is partially paved, and amply supplied with water from several wells lately made.

A library was founded by Dr. Thomas Plume, who bequeathed all his books and pictures to this town, with £2 per annum for the purchase of additional volumes, and £40 per annum as a salary to a librarian in holy orders, who should reside in the town; and there are some book societies, which together constitute the chief sources of recreation.

The haven, formed by the bay of the Blackwater river, affords safe anchorage to vessels not drawing more than eight feet of water; ships of heavier burden anchor in the offing, and discharge their cargoes by lighters on the quay: the trade of the port is principally in coal of which, not less than ninety thousand chaldrons are, on the average, imported annually; also in corn, deals and iron.

There is an excellent fishery, extending for more than twenty miles along the coast, and oysters of very superior quality, called the Wall-fleet oysters, are found here in abundance. The custom-house is a neat brick building. A canal from Haybridge to Chelmsford passes within a mile of the town.

The market, principally for corn, is on Saturday; the fairs are on May 1st, for horses, cattle, and sheep, and on the 13th and 14th of September.

The town was made a free borough by William de Mandeville, Earl of Essex, in the reign of Henry III., and exempted from all foreign service, except finding one ship for the use of the king, for forty days; it received its first charter of incorporation from Henry II., and another from Queen Mary, in 1553; which being forfeited in the 4th of George III. the town remained for forty-six years without a charter, till in 1810, when the present charter was granted, by which the government is vested in a mayor, recorder, six aldermen, and eighteen capital burgesses, assisted by a town clerk, chamberlain, water bailiff, and other officers. The mayor is chosen annually by the aldermen and capital burgesses, the aldermen by the mayor and capital burgesses, and the capital burgesses by the mayor and aldermen; the mayor, the recorder, and the two senior aldermen, are justices of the peace within the borough; the freedom is inherited by birth, and obtained by marriage with a freeman's daughter, by servitude, by purchase, or by gift. The corporation hold quarterly courts of session, on the days before those for the county, for offences not capital; and have power to hold a court of record, for the recovery of debts to any amount; but this privilege has not been exercised under the new charter: a court leet, with view of frank-pledge, is also held, at which a headborough and constables are appointed.

The borough, besides its jurisdiction on land, extends twentyfive miles to sea, to the eastward of the Knowle sands. The petty sessions for the hundred of Dengie are held here every Saturday. The town hall is an ancient edifice of brick, built in the reign of Henry VI., called D'Arcy's tower; it contains a neat court for the business of the sessions, a council-room for the meetings of the corporation, and a banquet-room.

The custom of borough English prevails here. The borough first exercised the elective franchise in the 2nd of Edward III., since which time it has continued to return two members to parliament: the right of election is vested in the freemen not receiving alms, of whom, resident and non-resident, the number is about three thousand-five hundred: the mayor is the returning officer.

The borough comprises the parishes of All Saints, St. Peter, and St. Mary; the two former in the archdeaconry of Essex, and diocese of London, and the last a royal peculiar, in the jurisdiction of the Dean and Chapter of Westminster.

The living of All Saints is a vicarage, with which that of St. Peter is united, rated in the king's books at £10, and in the patronage of the Rev. C. Matthew. The church is an ancient and spacious structure, in the early Norman and early English styles of architecture, with a triangular tower surmounted by an hexagonal spire; in the south aisle are three chapels, or chantries, founded by Robert D'Arcy, in the reign of Henry VI.; there are various ancient monuments, and a tablet of white marble to the memory of John Vernon, a Turkey merchant, who died in 1653, with a Latin inscription attributing to him the discovery, in the ancient city of Smyrna, of some manuscripts and relics which he brought over to his native country. Edward Bright, a shopkeeper in the town, who died in 1750, aged twenty-nine, was with much difficulty interred in this church: he had attained the unusual weight of forty-four stone; the body was drawn to the church in a carriage upon rollers, and lowered into the vault by means of a triangle and pulleys.

The living of St. Peter is a vicarage not in charge, united to that of All Saints. The church has been demolished, the tower only remaining, adjoining to which is the library, erected by Dr. Thomas Plume.

The living of St. Mary's is a perpetual curacy, in the patronage of the Dean and Chapter of Westminster. The church, a spacious and very ancient structure, is said to have been founded prior to the Norman Conquest, by Ingelric, a Saxon nobleman j part of the tower and church was rebuilt in the reign of Charles I.

There are places of worship for the Society of Friends, Independents, and Wesleyan Methodists.

Ralph Breder, in 1608, bequeathed £300 for the endowment of a free grammar school; to which a rent-charge of £3 was added by Mrs. Anastatia Wentworth; and the farm of Htney, in the parish of Munden, by Dr. Plume, for the clothing and instruction of six boys of either parish. A National school, in which three hundred children are instructed, is supported by subscription.

Dr. Plume bequeathed £2000 for charitable uses, and £100 as a marriage portion for five poor maidens of this parish, and five of the parish of Greenwich, in Kent, who had lived for seven years in one service, and were above twenty-four years of age; there are also other charitable bequests for distribution among the poor.

Within less than a mile of the town are the remains of the abbey of Beleigh, founded in 1180, by Robert Mantell, for Premonstratensian canons, and dedicated to St. Nicholas, the revenue of which, at the dissolution, was £196. 6. 5.: the chapel, which is the most perfect portion of the ruins, is a small edifice, chiefly in the early style of English architecture, with later insertions: the roof is groined, and supported on slender-shafted columns, and gracefully-pointed arches; Henry Bourchier, Earl of Essex, and his Countess, were interred in this chapel; and in digging for gravel in the ground adjoining, some leaden coffins and skeletons were discovered.

A priory for Carmelite friars was founded here, in 1292, by Richard Gravesend, Bishop of London, the revenue of which, at the dissolution, was £26. 0. 8.; but there are no vestiges of it at present, except the garden walls.

An hospital for lepers was also founded here by one of the English monarchs, prior to the 16th of Edward II., which, by Edward IV., was annexed to the abbey of Beleigh: the remains, now converted into a barn, exhibit in their structure a mixture of stone and of bricks and tiles, which appear to have been of Roman origin.

A gold coin of Nero and Agrippina, and a coin of Vespasian, have been found at this place.

To the west of the town are the remains of a camp, through which is the road to Chelmsford: it is of quadrilateral form, including twenty-two acres; three sides of the ramparts are visible, and the fourth is occupied by buildings; on the north is a fine spring, called Cromwell's spring.

Dr. Thomas Plume, Archdeacon of Rochester, whose public benefactions to this town have been already recorded, and who founded the Plumean Professorship of Astronomy and Experimental Philosophy at Cambridge, was born at Maldon in 1680, and died in 1704. Maldon gives the inferior title of viscount to the Earl of Essex."

From Samuel Lewis A Topographical Dictionary of England (1831) - copyright Mel Lockie 2016