MALDON, a borough, port, and market-town, having separate jurisdiction, and the head of a union, locally in the hundred of Dengie, S. division of Essex, 10 miles (E.) from Chelmsford, and 38 (E. N. E.) from London; containing 3967 inhabitants. This place is supposed by Camden and by Horsley to have been the Camalodunum of the Romans, one of the earliest colonies established by that people in Britain. Other antiquaries, however, have satisfactorily proved the station to have been at Colchester; under which head its history is given. The town was called by the Saxons Meal dune, or Male dune, from which its present appellation is evidently derived. It is pleasantly situated on an eminence, near the confluence of the rivers Blackwater and Chelmer, and consists principally of one spacious street, extending for more than a mile from west to east, and intersected by a smaller street. The houses, which were in general ancient, have been much improved in their appearance, and within the last half century many ranges of handsome modern houses have been erected; the town is lighted with gas, partially paved, and amply supplied with water. A library was founded by Dr. Thomas Plume, who bequeathed all his valuable books and pictures, and £40 per annum as a salary to a librarian in holy orders, who should reside in the town; there are also some book societies. The haven, formed by the bay of the Blackwater river, affords safe anchorage to vessels not drawing more than eight feet of water; ships of heavier burthen anchor in the offing, and discharge their cargoes by lighters on the quay. The trade is chiefly in coal, of which not less than 90,000 chaldrons are, on the average, imported annually; also in corn, deals, and iron. The number of vessels of above 50 tons registered at the port is 58, and their aggregate burthen 4704 tons. There is an excellent fishery, extending for more than 20 miles along the coast; and oysters of a very superior quality, called the Wall-fleet oysters, are found in abundance. The customhouse is a neat brick building. An act was passed in 1846 for a railway to Witham and Braintree, in connexion with the Eastern Counties line; and a canal from Heybridge to Chelmsford passes within a mile of the town. The market, principally for corn, is on Thursday; and fairs take place on May 1st, and September 13th and 14th.
Maldon claims to be a borough by prescription. Its burgesses are mentioned in Domesday book, where it is recorded that "in the half hundred of Maldune the king has one honour and pasture for 100 sheep;" also "180 houses which the burgesses hold, and 18 demolished manses, 15 of which (burgesses) hold half a hide and twenty acres, and the other men hold no more than their own houses in the borough." The earliest known charter was granted in 1155, by Henry II., who gave to the burgesses all the possessions which they then held of the crown, and all their liberties, by tenure of free burgage, the service reserved being the supply of one ship for 40 days, when summoned by the king; to which liberties and customs, was then added a complete exemption from the county jurisdiction. This charter was afterwards confirmed several times. The borough is now governed by a mayor, four aldermen, and twelve councillors, under the act of the 5th and 6th of William IV., c. 76, and the number of magistrates is six. The freedom is inherited by birth, or obtained by servitude. The town first exercised the elective franchise in the 2nd of Edward III., since which time it has continued to return two members to parliament; the adjoining parish of Heybridge was, in 1832, added to the ancient borough for electoral purposes, comprising together an area of 5274 acres: the mayor is returning officer. The recorder holds quarterly courts of session on the day before those for the county; and the petty-sessions for the hundred of Dengie are held here weekly. The admiralty jurisdiction was totally abolished by the act of the 5th and 6th of William IV. The powers of the county debt-court of Maldon, established in 1847, extend over the registration-district of Maldon. The town-hall is an edifice of brick, built in the reign of Henry VI., and called D'Arcy's Tower.
The old borough comprises the parishes of All Saints, containing 864; St. Peter, 1878; and St. Mary, 1225, inhabitants. The united parishes of All Saints and St. Peter contain by measurement 1430 acres, of which 40 are in the former. The living of All Saints' is a vicarage, with that of St. Peter's annexed, valued in the king's books at £10; net income, £319; patron, A. R. Prior, Esq.; impropriators, the landowners. The great tithes of St. Peter's have been commuted for £6, and the vicarial for £212. All Saints' church is a spacious structure, in the early Norman and early English styles, with a triangular tower surmounted by an hexagonal spire; in the south aisle are three chapels, or chantries, founded by Robert D'Arcy in the reign of Henry VI., and the church has various ancient monuments. For its repair, premises now producing £50 per annum were devised by Anastasia Wentworth, in 1630. The church of St. Peter has been demolished, with the exception of the tower, adjoining which is the library erected by Dr. Plume. The living of St. Mary's is a perpetual curacy, in the patronage of the Dean and Chapter of Westminster; net income, £165. The church, a large and very ancient structure, is said to have been founded prior to the Norman Conquest, by Ingelric, a Saxon nobleman; part of it was rebuilt in the reign of Charles I., and a gallery was erected in 1834. There are places of worship for the Society of Friends, Independents, and Wesleyans. Ralph Breder, in 1608, bequeathed £300 for the endowment of a free grammar school, to which several small bequests were subsequently added; a national school is partly supported by £25 per annum from Dr. Plume's charity, and there are some charitable bequests for distribution among the poor. The union of Maldon comprises 32 parishes or places, containing a population of 20,838.
Within less than a mile of the town are the remains of the Abbey of Beleigh, founded in 1180, by Robert Mantell, for Præmonstratensian canons, and dedicated to St. Nicholas; the revenue, at the Dissolution, was £196. 6. 5. The chapel, which is the most perfect portion of the ruins, is a small edifice in the early English style, with later insertions; the roof is groined, and supported on slender shafted columns and gracefully pointed arches. Henry Bouchier, Earl of Essex, and his countess, were interred in the chapel; and in digging for gravel in the ground adjoining, some coffins and skeletons have been discovered. A priory for Carmelite friars was established in 1292, by Richard Gravesend, Bishop of London, the revenue of which, at the Dissolution, was £26. 0. 8.; the only vestiges are the garden walls. An hospital for Lepers was founded by one of the monarchs, prior to the 16th of Edward II., and by Edward IV. was annexed to the abbey of Beleigh; the remains, now converted into a barn, exhibit a mixture of stone and of bricks and tiles, which appear to be of Roman origin. To the west of the town are the remains of a camp of quadrilateral form, including 22 acres, through which is the road to Chelmsford: on the north is a fine spring called Cromwell's. Dr. Plume, Archdeacon of Rochester, who founded the Plumean professorship of astronomy and experimental philosophy at Cambridge, was born at Maldon in 1630. The town gives the inferior title of Viscount to the Earl of Essex.