Maldon Archive
Keeping the Past Alive

High Street and Maldon  

The place-name Maldon is first attested in 913 in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, where it appears as Maeldun. Maldon's name comes from Mael meaning 'monument or cross' and dun meaning 'hill', so translates as 'monument on the hill'. Saxons settled in the area in the fifth century and the area to the south is still known as the Dengie peninsula after the Dæningasthe tribe of Saxons.  It became a significant Saxon port with a hythe or quayside and artisan quarters. 

Evidence of imported pottery from this period has been found in archaeological digs. From 958 there was a royal mint issuing coins for the late Anglo-Saxon and early Norman kings. A Viking raid was beaten off in 924, but in another raid in 991 the defenders were defeated in the Battle of Maldon and the Vikings received tribute but apparently did not attempt to sack the town. It became the subject of the celebrated Old English poem: The Battle of Maldon. 

The battle is commemorated by a statue at the end of the Promenade of the slain Saxon warrior Byrhtnoth. According to the Domesday Book there were 180 townsmen in 1086. 

The town still had the mint and supplied a warhorse and warship for the king's service in return for its privileges of self-government. The town still had the mint and supplied a warhorse and warship for the king's service in return for its privileges of self-government. The town was awarded a charter by Henry II in 1171, stating the rights of the town as well as defining its borders and detailing its duty to provide a ship for the monarch "when necessary". A Charter of Richard I of December 1189 confirms “certain grants to Beeleigh Abbey, including the Church of Blessed Peter in Maldon and the Church of All Saints’ in the same town". 

There were strong urban traditions, with two members elected to the Commons and three guilds which hosted lavish religious plays until they were suppressed by Puritans in 1576. Then, until 1630, professional actors were invited    to perform plays, which were also stopped by Puritans. From 1570 to about 1800 a rival tradition of inviting prominent clergy to visit the town also existed. 

The Maldon Grain riots of 1629 took place after a particularly poor grain harvest. In March of that year a group of rioters led by one “Captain” Ann Carter, the wife of a local butcher boarded a Flemish grain ship.    

There was a widespread belief at the time that women were beyond the law and that any prosecution could only be   made against any man who might lie behind the felony. Refer to Legal rights of women in history. The women and child rioters removed some grain from the ship  by filling their caps and gowns. Captain Ann, seemingly emboldened by her success toured  the local area drumming up support among clothing workers. The situation came    to a head when  a further riot took place on 22 May. A special commission was established and Captain Ann was hanged at Chelmsford, Essex.  In the seventeenth century Thomas Plume started the Plume Library to house over 8,000 books and pamphlets printed between 1487 and his death in 1704; the collection has been added to at various times since 1704. The Plume Library is to be found at St Peter's Church. Only the original tower survives, the rest of the building having been rebuilt by Thomas Plume to house his library (on the first floor) and what was Maldon Grammar School (on  the ground floor).  nMaldon was chosen as one of the landing sites of a planned French invasion of Britain in 1744. However, the French invasion fleet was wrecked  in storms, and their forces never landed.