It’s the end of January. There is much to be hopeful about, perhaps we are at the beginning of the end of the pandemic. However, here in East Anglia it is still an on/off cold and grey affair as far as the weather is concerned and so I’ve been hunting around for colour and found these photos of a summer trip down memory lane.
A while ago I was in Essex visiting the village where I grew up and afterwards I drove to the town where I went to school, Maldon. It was strange to be a tourist in a place I had known well as a school pupil. I hadn’t been back since I walked out of the school gates and caught the bus home over 40 years ago. Let’s just say my school days were not the best days of my life.
Anyway, back to the town. Naturally, there’s been many changes in the intervening years since my ‘I’m never going back’ exit. Maldon is a strange mix of a once local rural population (reducing in number) combined with an influx of London overspill (even these days), hosting a small yet noticeable boating and sailing clique (resident and visiting) whilst at the same time tolerating a few quirky, slightly alternative folk. Thinking about it I suppose it didn’t feel that dissimilar to when I was at school, even then, those of us travelling in from the villages further afield, were considered outsiders.
Today, the High Street has changed and not changed. Some of the old buildings I remember are still standing. That’s the churches and the Moot Hall. There are three church structures with medieval traces, All Saints, with a triangular tower, Old St Peter’s, now Thomas Plume’s Library and the Maeldune Heritage Centre and just down Church St, St Mary the Virgin, also known as the Fisherman’s Church.
So, the obviously old and worthy buildings have survived however, the cinema has gone. The Art Deco ‘Embassy’ cinema designed by David E. Nye was built in 1936 and then demolished in 1985. One wonders why it couldn’t have been repurposed or partially conserved as the old redundant St Peter’s Church tower was saved when Thomas Plume built his Library around 1700.
Instead on the site now is a retirement housing complex called Embassy Court. I understand with an ageing population more purpose-built housing is required, but I think losing the cinema building is a pity. Embassy Court is functional, clean and tidy looking, but as a structure it’s not in the same class as ‘The Embassy’ was in its heyday.
Embassy Court is not the only newish redbrick building in the locality there is Maldon’s first Town Hall. This is another less than engaging building situated just off the High Street. Built in the last century opening in 1998 at the cost of £642,000 it has the expected council offices, community rooms and hall, but, architecturally speaking does not exhibit the confidence and flare of a successful town. The architect, local Terry Wynn, said at the time of the building’s opening “We were very concerned that when it was finished it didn’t look like a brand new building, we wanted it to fit in straight away”. Well, he was certainly right on that point, it fits in completely and is unremarkable to such an extent I failed to notice it at all. If you’re interested to see what I missed, you can take a mini tour here with See Around Britain – Maldon Town Hall.
Finally, there is one other old building still standing I remember only too well. It is the Blue Boar Hotel just off the top of the High Street on Silver Street. It has been a Grade II listed building since 1951 and according to Historic England the oldest part of hotel dates from the late 14th century. When I was at school, in the late 20th century, the hotel’s small bar tucked around the back was a favourite haunt for sixth formers.
However, it is the view from just outside the Blue Boar across to the White House on Silver Street that is significant to me. It hasn’t changed that much since I spent five hours painting it for my A Level Art exam. That year the theme for submissions was ‘Seen on a Quiet Street’. This was long before the days of mobile phones or even digital cameras and so there’s no record of my finished picture. However, I do remember during the course of the day several people stopping to look, chat and watch my progress. It was early May and the pink blossom on the cherry tree was only just past its prime. Concluding my memory lane tour on Silver Street felt apt.