WE live in a Victorian mid-terrace house in Fambridge Road.

We bought it on a whim back in 1991, the intention being to use it as a 'stepping stone' to something larger and grander.

But in the event we just couldn’t bear to leave and have ended up being the longest occupants so far in its 150-plus-year history.

Our house, you see, seems to us to wrap itself around us. It has character, atmosphere and the kind of unseen patina that can only be created by decades of occupation – by the loves and loss, the ups and downs of the lives of people who came before us.

From the front our house is tiny, narrow, but, just like its history, it goes back a long way. It was once a simple two up, two down, with a wash house and privy in the backyard.

It’s quite different now and it’s ours – properly ours – now that the mortgage is paid off.

But, just like our predecessors, we are only its latest custodians. There is a lot of interest in ‘house history’ at the moment, no doubt triggered by popular television programmes, such as BBC2’s recently aired ‘A House Through Time’.

Historian and presenter David Olusoga tells the story of Britain from the point of view of just one house and its owners.

He delves into archives, old newspaper reports and even meets living descendants.

He encounters scandals and tragedies, explores the rise and fall in the fortunes of the inhabitants, and looks at how the wider community and society around the house changed.

  • Gazette:
  • The Victorian terrace in Fambridge Road

It isn’t that difficult to reveal the story of house like ours – nowadays you can do most of it on-line, but we were doubly lucky as our tenure involved a land registration.

As a result we were asked if we wanted a bundle of “redundant” old documents – legal papers associated with previous transactions.

We jumped at the chance and have since spent many enjoyable hours poring over those yellowed, crumpled pages. They offer a small insight into the gradual, 19th Century development of Maldon.

As more housing sprang up, hitherto farmlands on the outskirts of town (including Fambridge Road) became urbanised and buildings were numbered and re-numbered (ours is now 138, but was previously 84).

We bought the house from my cousin and his wife (during a Christening party in what was then their, now our, back garden).

Prior to their time, it was owned by some wealthy people from Great Waltham, who rented it out to their retired gardener and housekeeper.

Earlier still, it was home to a lecturer and before that a fireman.

Back in the 1950s it exchanged hands a couple of times for just £350 (I wish we had paid that for it).


  • Old legal paperwork came with the house

Turning to the 1939 England and Wales Register, the house was being shared by two widows – 61 year old Mable Anchor and Urith Warren (68).

To this day there are still separate locks on the two bedrooms upstairs.

Six years earlier, in 1933, it had been bought by a lorry driver for £260 and that purchase price hadn’t changed since a sale to a Suffolk businessman back in 1926.

Before 1926, sales are shown by the complete terrace (our house is one of a row of three). Bentall’s, the agricultural implement manufacturers of Heybridge, owned the row in 1920 and the middle house was home to 'Widow Franklin'.

Number 84 Fambridge Road, as it was then, was rented to “Hull” in 1913 and two years earlier, the 1911 Census reveals that a family of no less than seven occupied the four rooms.

It must have been very cramped for 41-year-old marine store dealer Thomas Horrocks, his wife Emily and their children – Thomas, 17, Lily, 15, Annie, 12, Eleanor, eight, and baby Edward, 13 months.

The owner of the terrace at that stage (and the man taking the rent) was Robert Woodyard, a Maldon builder.

Travelling back even further in time, the Horrocks are still in residence in 1901, albeit with just the three children and Thomas was then a bricklayer’s labourer.

A different family appears in the 1891 Census, however – the Everitts. Originally from Langford, 42-year-old Alfred lived in our house with wife Emily and this time four children – Florence, 14, Bertie, 10, Arthur, four, and Henry, one.

The Everitts were in the house in 1881, but in 1874 it was engine driver Charles Downes, his wife Hannah and their young family – Amy, four, Edith, three, Charles, two, and John, one month. Not only that, but unemployed visitor 32-year-old Sarah Livermore was also squeezed in somewhere.


  • Bentalls used to own the terrace

We have now arrived at the origins of the house, for we know from that bundle of legal documents that, on April 24, 1867, Joseph Dines, a Maldon builder who had his office next to the Swan pub in High Street, had inherited “a parcel of waste land situated in the Pinchgut Hall Road” – the early name for Fambridge Road, so called after a former isolation hospital, now 150-152.

It was Joseph who built the three-house terrace sometime later that year.

So there you have it – one, apparently insignificant Maldon house, familiar to a lot of people who have all contributed to its echoes.

We are the principal characters in the latest chapter of its story, but one day we will pass the baton on to someone else. Number 138 might just appear bricks and mortar, but hidden in its walls (and the walls of all the other old buildings, big or small, in Maldon and beyond) is a really fascinating, unique lineage, just waiting to be re-discovered.