Flaking paintwork provides a window to a lost pub with good ale and ‘good stabling’. Maldon historian Stephen Nunn investigates.

I CAN’T say I am overly keen on social media, but I do occasionally dip in to what they term the “microblogging networking service” Twitter.

Although there is some negative stuff on there, there are also some fascinating accounts that focus on very obscure aspects of history.

One of my favourites is @ghostsigns – all about “fading painted signs”.

The author, someone called Sam Roberts, posts remarkable images of faded commercial signage from the Victorian and Edwardian eras.

By signage, I don’t mean the usual enamel type, rather those that were painted directly on to external brickwork of shops and factories.

We actually have some great examples of these in Maldon. I have previously written, for example, about the faint letters under layers of paint on the door arch of the old Register Office (now Hair Media) at 6 Market Hill.

There is another ghost sign not far away at the bottom of the hill. You can’t miss it – it is high up on the end wall of number 46, the first building on the left as you pass over Fullbridge on your way into town.

Nowadays all that is left is a flaked grey background in a sort of rectangle shape with inverted rounded corners. Sadly, there doesn’t appear to be any writing still visible, so what did it originally say and how old is it?

I wondered if there might be some clues in relation to the history of the building itself. It is a lovely property and, according to its official Grade II Listing, it is made out of “red Flemish-bond brick, with a gabled Welsh slate roof”.


  • All that is left today

It is, as we can see, of three storeys with a cellar beneath and has a three-window range. There is a distinctive central door-case and the ground floor has (as the description goes) “window arches, altered to provide two 19th Century public-house windows”.

So there we have it, the clue is there. Yet another lost Maldon pub.

Past drinkers were really spoilt for choice in the Market Hill area of town. There was the Prince of Wales (later the Cromwell Guest House) at number 11, the Ship (now flats) at 37, the Welcome (now the Sunny) Sailor over the bridge at 1 Fullbridge and the former White Hart next to it at number 3.

Cross over the road and return back to the hill and we have our building at 46, which we now know from that listing was also a pub. Mention is made of Lions on Market Hill – two of them – the Red Lion and the White Lion, so was it one of those perhaps

Believe it or not, the Red and White Lions stood next to each other, but 46 was definitely the White one. There is a reference to a pub there in 1705 and the names Cooper, Brookes, Groves, Pond and Rumble appear as some of the first landlords.

There must have been some kind of major rebuild a hundred or more years later, but an inscribed beam down in the cellar provides evidence of those 18th Century origins.

As time moved on, by the 1820s the Everards were behind the bar, followed by James Rampee, Henry Gepp and then the Wrakes family.

That dynasty had the White Lion from at least 1855 until 1903, when Edward Osborne took over. It was landlord Osborne who advertised “good beds and good stabling”, and contemporary postcard views from his era show an impressive white stone lion standing guard above the doorway and, sure enough, our sign advertising “GOOD” in large capitals at the top, and “STABLING” in a smaller typeface below.

Those timber-framed stables, complete with ‘clinker’ brick floor, were to the rear of the building, in the grounds of what is today ‘Churston’.

To ensure it was indeed “good”, the White Lion had its own compliment of resident grooms and ostlers, who would look after your steed whilst you had a pint of the best.


  • The view up Market Hill in 1910

This was latterly brewed by Russell’s of Gravesend who, in turn, owned the pub. They were in operation from the 1850s until the 1930s, when they were acquired by Truman’s.

Meanwhile, at the White Lion, after Edward Osborne’s time, the last landlord was George Sewell.

The little brick pub finally closed in 1910 and became, of all things, a furniture store. It was then converted into flats and, within our living memory, it was Fern’s Restaurant.


  • The same view today

Today, it is the registered office of Danzer UK Ltd, agents involved in the sale of timber and building materials. In that respect, there might be a tenuous link to those later wooden furniture days at 46, but for me it will forever be a pub and one that, according to a ghost sign worthy of Twitter, as well as good beer, once offered “Good Stabling”.