Maldon: A vague overview

To start, Maldon is a moderately sized town in the South East of England, in the county of Essex. Now, being in Essex is not normally something to shout about, but Maldon happens to be the place where I have lived over half of my life and I feel somewhat obligated to at least give it a mention here.

Maldon has a modicum of historical interest and is purportedly one of the oldest towns in Essex. There is evidence of a settlement from the Bronze Age, and salt production, for which Maldon is 'famous', was already well established by 500 BC. The Battle of Maldon, which occurred in 991 AD, showed Byrhtnoth, Earl of Essex, dying valiantly against a horde of Viking invaders. This event has been immortalised by an unfortunately anonymous Anglo-Saxon writer in a poem, titled 'The Battle of Maldon'.

Another of Maldon's prized achievements is its Mud race. Every year a couple of dozen lunatics run a race through the mud in the estuary. This entertaining event is generally held during the winter months to provide greater amusement for the onlookers. Needless to say the money raised goes to charity.

The town itself is relatively ordinary with the usual supply of charity high street shops, travel agents, banks and for some reason a shop that only supplies interior decoration to doll's houses. Never quite figured out how that one was paying the rent.

A nice touch is the presence of Thames sailing barges along the quay, some of which are still active, although only in a tourist-serving way. There is the usual smattering of pubs, each claiming 'real ale' and 'good pub food', although I haven't had the courage to try the ones claiming to produce 'real pub grub'. I get the feeling that I should sprout some feathers before having lunch at those ones

Further items of historical interest include the Moot Hall, in the high street. This building was built in the 15th century by Sir Robert D'Arcy, whose name you will see in various locations around Maldon. The old courtroom can still be viewed by arrangement, but the whole building is currently used by the local government. Inside, framed with great honour, is a copy of a Royal Charter awarded to Maldon by Henry II in 1171.

The All Saint's Church to the left of the Moot Hall dates back to the 12th century and it is possible to see statues of saints and important benefactors adorning the outside of the church. Interestingly it also has the only triangular church tower in England (Thanks Gunshot). Debatably the greatest building in Maldon is The Plume Library on Market Hill. This is a public library for education and research and is maintained by trustees of Thomas Plume's Charity. Its principal collection consists of a wide range of 16th and 17th Century British and European publications with emphasis on Theology, History and Natural Philosophy. Thomas Plume, Archdeacon of Rochester, bequeathed his books to the town of Maldon (his birthplace) at his death in 1704. Definitely worth a visit if you are able (presumably by summoning the aid of some supernatural being), to arrive at one of the rare times it is open (it lets in the filthy public for a total of 8 hours per week).

In a small square, just off the main street, you will find a bronze plaque, dedicated to the tale of Edward Bright. Now Mr. Bright lived in Church house, on the High street, and was, to say the least, moderately corpulent. His size became such a matter of jest that it led to the staking of a wager between Mr. Hance and Mr. Codd that seven hundred men could fit into Mr. Bright's waistcoat. Now even though Edward Bright weighed 44 stone, this is still a somewhat ludicrous bet. Or so thought Mr. Codd. Mr. Hance, being of a sneaky sort, found seven men from the peninsula called 'Dengie Hundred' to fit into the waistcoat, thus fulfilling the bet and taking the money. Now you may not find this particularly amusing, but it made me slightly interested in the history of the town and the surrounding area and, indirectly, lead to this particular writeup.

So if you happen to be in the area, Maldon is well worth a visit. There is probably not much to occupy your interest for more than half a day or so, but it is a typically quaint English town, with some history thrown in for fun.

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