The OAKhouse is a Grade 2 listed building and a great example of the many historical buildings in Maldon, one of the oldest market towns in England. A local history group is looking into the origins of the building and you can read about some of their preliminary findings below.
You can also read about the history of Maldon and the many attractions it offers to visitors. So why not combine a day out in the Maldon district with lunch or an afternoon drink at the OAKhouse.
The OAKhouse today
Following an extensive renovation in 2002, the OAKhouse opened its doors as the bar café you still see today. This was the invention of a group of friends who are all local to Maldon and wanted to bring a bit of bar café culture to Maldon, keeping its traditional theme, but adding their own stamp to the building.
They employed an old friend, John, who had previously been brought up in Maldon and fled to London to learn the trade, working in all sections of the field. After gaining 8 years’ experience, John relished the chance to come back to his home town and become the front man at the OAKhouse.
Origins of the OAKhouse
The earliest records show that land where the OAKhouse stands was opened for development in 1536-1560. Number 35 High Street is a Grade II listed building of mid 19th century construction, which has been extensively altered in the 20th century. Numbers 27-33 were demolished in 1917 revealing All Saints Church as it is today. There was a narrow passageway between No 33 and No 35 giving access to the buildings in the Walk. Number 35 was probably 3 units - 35, 35A and Church Walk/Upstairs.
Frank Myers, Dentist, advertised in the Maldon Express on 20th June 1881 that he was at Mr Bower’s house (No 35) for business.
1855-90 William Randolph Blower, Saddler and Harness Maker, was at No 35. He retired in 1890 and became the Agent for Sutton & Co Carriers (upstairs, entrance Church Walk).
The Great Fire of 1892 from the corner of Market Hill to the Moot Hall started in Orttewell’s shop (No 53) and Orttewell & Sons moved into No 35.
Orttewell & Sons sold laundry, dairy and domestic machinery, sanitary ware, Wingfield’s celebrated cutlery and Sheffield tools, lead, glass, sack, hemp, rope, all types of builder’s ironmongery, crank and electric bell-hangers, gas fitters, barbed wire for fencing, stable and harness room fittings, brooms, brushes, tennis balls and racquets. They stayed at No 35 until 1902.
In 1902, J Guiver took over the agency for Sutton & Co from William Blower which he held until 1929.
1922 William Blower is still at No 35 and has become a “Fancy Repository”.
1933-37 (perhaps longer) Joseph Bees, a Nurseryman, was at No 35. A florist and seedsman, his nurseries were in Wantz Road where the Wantz Haven development now stands.
After Orttewell moved out, No 35 was divided into two shops. One was occupied by the London Central Meat Co, Butchers from 1910-1937.
Between 1886-1906 Frances Bird, Solicitor, was at Upstairs/Church Walk.
After giving up the trade of a saddler in 1891, William Blower, widower aged 69, is recorded as living as No 35 with his daughter and a 14 year old female servant. There were also two other widowers, one described as under-tenant and the other as a lodger.
The Maldon Advertiser on 4th October 1912 announced that Mr Percy Beaumont had moved from No 53 to No 35, the entrance being in Church Passage.
There is no firm evidence of tenancy after 1937.
Pre-1957 Michael Seymour, photographer, was at No 35.
In 1957, a radio and television shop and a Ladies Hairdresser occupied the premises.
From 1963/64, A Brown, a builder, had his offices there.
In 1971, Fox and Jeacock, Florists, moved in.
They were followed by Cantelec, electrical equipment retailers with JM Vine, men’s outfitters at No 35A.
The ancient town of Maldon is situated on the River Blackwater where it joins the River Chelmer and was an early Saxon settlement, possibly even Roman. The entire district of Maldon is rich in history. The main town of Maldon itself is held to be among the oldest recorded towns in the county of Essex and records show that settlements in the area go back to Saxon times.
Maldon is located on the east coast in Essex. Due to its location the district has close ties with the coast in both industry and leisure terms and it is home to river estuaries for the Blackwater and Crouch rivers. The district is rich in wildlife and has many natural attractions including saltwater marshes, farmland and a range of charming villages.
Maldon is known throughout the country and in many parts of the world as the foremost modern-day centre for Thames sailing barges. The badge of Maldon District itself is a Thames sailing barge. These are among the last cargo vessels in the world still operating under sail, albeit now used in the spheres of education and leisure. Some ten to fifteen of the surviving fleet count Maldon as their home port, and many others are regular visitors alongside at the Hythe quay. An annual sailing barge race ends with a parade of sail and prize-giving at the quay. The yard where barges were once built is still working at the end of Maldon quay.
The area was an important commercial hub, given its access to estuaries and to the coast. In the past Maldon sailing barges were a major industry all along the east coast of the UK and the area supplied much of London with agricultural products. Even today you can still see some of these famous barges in the district although nowadays they are mainly used for charter or tourist purposes.
The main towns within Maldon are Maldon itself, Burnham on Crouch and Heybridge. The area is particularly well known to sailing enthusiasts and the marinas of the area - including the main marina at Blackwater - are well known within the sailing community and offer a range of facilities. Due to its location Maldon is often seen as being a perfect place from which to sail as you can get to continental Europe in a day.
Most people are surprised at the way the villages and towns of the district have retained their original character and individuality, although so close to major centres of population. There is a growing interest in walking, cycling, fishing, the study and observation of the natural world and other activities in the countryside. All around the district are nature reserves and footpaths, which allow unrivalled access to wildlife habitats, which are important, even on a global scale. The old railway line from Witham to Maldon is again bringing visitors to the area; it is a waymarked route for use by cyclists and walkers. The Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation offers further possibilities in the relative calm of non-tidal waters.
Visitors have been coming to Maldon district for a day out or holiday for many years. During the 18th century the growth in interest in saltwater bathing began to bring leisure visitors to Maldon. The extension of the railway to Burnham-on-Crouch in the 19th century meant that the town was more accessible; two London based sailing clubs moved to the town, and its popularity as a yachting venue grew. Reasons for visiting Maldon district are as varied as the attractions, amenities and leisure possibilities the area has to offer. The recently re-designed Promenade Park with free a water Splash Park, galleon play ship, ornamental lake, model boating lake and amphitheatre is a must for everybody and will make your visit complete.
The list of major events that take place each year grows as both professionals and amateurs organise something for everyone at all seasons of the year. A garden open here, a music happening there, carnivals, poetry readings, art exhibitions, concerts, travelling theatre productions, the list is endless.The town holds an annual "Taxi Day" which sees mentally and physically disabled children from London driven to Maldon in London Black Cabs for a fun day of activities and a meal. The event dates back to 1952 when a London cab driver visited the Elizabeth Fry Special School in Plaistow. He wanted to do something special for the young patients he saw there. He wrote to every one of Essex's seaside towns to arrange an outing and the only town that was willing to help was Maldon, thus Taxi Day has remained a tradition ever since.
Every year, the town holds the charitable Maldon mud race where competitors race across the Blackwater estuary at low tide, along the bank and back through the water.
Photos: Many thanks to Maldon Society for the use of these photos