The history books trace much of Maldon’s past, but there is a big hole in the timeline. Stephen Nunn investigates.
OVER the years, a number of local historians have researched very specific periods in Maldon’s history.
What’s really great about it is that when you bring them all together you end up with an ongoing story of how the city has evolved, from the earliest writings to the present day – well almost … but not all. did.
Let me explain what I mean by that. Going back in time and glossing over 1946 to 2021 and the 1920s and 1930s (two eras that still need research), I tried to cover the war years with my two publications, Maldon, the Dengie and Battles in the Skies: 1939-1945 (MAHG 2006) and Maldon, Heybridge and the Great War: 1914-1918 (MAHG 2009).
Thanks to my friend David Hughes’ fascinating book The Maldonians (Folk Corp 1996), we can learn more about life here between 1872 and the outbreak of war in 1914.
We have a gap of about 72 years then, but John Smith picks up the timeline with his The Borough of Maldon 1688-1800: a Golden Age (Brewin 2013).
My late and late friend Bill Petchey takes us back to the next step with his Prospect of Maldon 1500-1689 (ERO 1992).
We then move on to Maeldune: Light on Maldon’s Distant Past (MAHG 1992) which includes evidence from prehistoric times and the earliest settlers, through to the earliest writings of the 10th century and down to Norman Maldon, ending around 1150.
So, one of the obvious ruptures (which really requires research) concerns the years 1150 to 1500 and incorporates this fascinating period of the 14th and 15th centuries of British history which encompasses, on a larger canvas, among others, the revolt. of the peasants (1381), the Canterbury Tales (1387-1400) and the Battle of Agincourt (1415).
Trying to unravel what was going on here in Maldon at the time, however, is quite problematic. This is in part due to the peasant revolt itself, as rioters destroyed numerous court records, reportedly including some relating to Maldon.
When Richard II became king (in 1377) Maldon received a confirmatory charter.
Sealed on January 10 of the year of reign 1378/79, it reinforces the freedoms of the city, but only in exchange for the construction (no later than March 1) of a small seagoing vessel, called “balinger”.
His successor, Henry IV (r.1399-1413) also issued us a charter and, on this occasion, demanded some 60 shillings in return.
The official city registers (or “books”) begin in January 1384 (the first having been lost) and include court registrations and the annual appointment of city officials.
At that time, we did not have a mayor as such, but the function of judicial officer was very similar.
John Welles held this post in 1384 and may have succeeded John Pere.
Other posts included two town officers to maintain public order, fair and market wardens, the curious pavement warden’s office, and bread weighers, beer tasters (what a job!) , affeerers (who set the amount of fines for misdemeanors) and guards (court guards).
In 1403, the seigneury of Maldon was granted to Robert D’Arcy, John Welles and 20 other bourgeois named previously.
However, another confirmation charter was granted by King Henri V d’Azincourt (r.1413-1422). Issued on November 5, 1416, it cost the city “six marks” (£ 4) on this occasion and was thought to be well worth the money to strengthen the ancient rights of the district.
The chamberlain’s accounts detail the rental income for places which include “the presbytery” (probably the presbytery of Toussaint) at 20d in 1458, the Guilde Sainte-Catherine (based at Toussaint) in 1494 at 1d for a strip of land vague, and for a garden at the forgotten place “Brede-hill”, 4d in 1495.
We also learn that in 1494, the unfortunate “John Brian, a heretic, committed suicide in prison” and that the town seized all his property, valued at the fierce 28s 3d.
At this point, Bill Petchey takes over, but there is clearly a rich legacy just begging to be unveiled by studying documentary sources from the 1370s to its starting point in 1500.
In addition to these written documents, the survival of built heritage can really bring things to life.
At the forefront of the local architecture of this era is the south aisle of All Saints Church.
Built around 1330, it was extended eastwards to form the D’Arcy Chapel in 1443, where (Sir) Robert was buried in 1448.
Inside the south aisle is a beautifully carved sedilia (a row of stone seats) with ornate arches decorated with small heads.
These are, in reality, the relatively standard depictions of stonecutters of saints and kings, but I like to imagine that among them are the faces of Maldonians from the past – people who belong to a particular era that are still waiting to be seen. to be rediscovered.