The Old Custom House
34 Market Hill
The Old Custom House sits on a plot of 0.15 of an acre in a prime position on Market Hill and only 350 yards from Maldon High Street.
Maldon is a lively market town on the River Blackwater, which dates back to Anglo-Saxon times and is famous, among other things, for its Sea Salt and the traditional Thames sailing barges that use it as their home port. Shopping and leisure facilities include a Marks & Spencer’s, three other major supermarkets, a wide range of shops including a butcher, fishmonger and greengrocer, several boutiques and a number of restaurants. There is also an excellent preparatory school (Maldon Court) near the centre of the town.
The property dates back to the late 16th century and is listed as being of Architectural or Historical Interest Grade II* listed. The house has an impressive front brick elevation complemented by symmetrical sash windows either side of a central doorcase with a peg-tile roof behind the brick façade. The front range represents an early 18th century house carved out of the remains of a 16th-century structure. The rear wing to the left dates from the early 17th century and the rear wing to the right dates from the early 19th century. A quote from the listing states “at one time the Custom House. Late C16, early C18 and early C19. Timber-framed and rendered with front of grey/blue header brick with red brick dressings; plain tile roofs and front range roof hips up to taller rear range…the front range contains remains of a late C16 two-storey and unjettied timber-framed house.
The exposed north-east wall has remains of diamond-mullioned windows to attic, 1st and ground floors. In its rear wall is a contemporary, or slightly later, stack with chamfered-arched fireplace to the 1st floor. The north-eastern rear extension range has a roof of A-frame type with high mounted collars, and many-pegged curved braces between principals and collar…At the south-west end of front range, the base of a late C16 stack is exposed in the attic, with 2 octagonal shafts with moulded bases. In the early C18 the roof was raised, with reused material…The central entrance hall has early C19 panelling and dogleg staircase with barleysugar balusters (some renewed), and arched openings on 1st-floor landing with moulded capitals and pilasters. South-west front room is of C18 pine panelling. Early C19 rear wing has contemporary fireplaces on ground and 1st floor and 1st-floor room has window with vertical sliding shutters. The ground-floor bay window has reeded pilasters on its flanks.”
The house has a fascinating history and some of its original plans still survive. There is evidence to suggest that it was purchased for £90.00 in 1733 by Thomas Quilter, a successful mariner and shipowner (d.1751) and the property remained the Quilter family’s chief Maldon home until 1815. In 1817 it became Maldon’s Custom House, with the ground-floor rooms on the right hand side being used for administration and part of the front room partitioned off as a Public Lobby. The left-hand attic room was the Record Room and the rear left wing was occupied by a Custom House boatman.
The current owners have lived in the house for almost thirty-five years and have carried out an extensive programme of restoration with exceptional attention given to detail throughout. The wealth of beautiful original features includes some magnificent original floorboards on the top floor, carved treads and barley sugar spindles on the main staircase, 18th and 19th century wainscoting and panelling in the hall, study and dining room, a tall sixteen-pane sash window in the drawing room, and vertical sliding window shutters and a chamfer arched fireplace on the first floor, while the exposed roof trusses and a double octagonal Tudor chimney stack on the second floor are evidence of the timber-framed construction of the original building.
The internal layout is well thought out, with the two principal ground floor reception rooms (the dining room and the drawing room) arranged around the entrance hall and its elegant staircase. Other rooms on this floor include a large kitchen/breakfast room with vaulted ceiling, a study, a cellar, a laundry room and a cloakroom. There are six bedrooms (one with an ensuite) across the first and second floors and a first floor bathroom.
The rear garden extends some 178’ to the south-east and has been thoughtfully designed and planted to give colour throughout the year.
A flagstone brick and flag terrace extends across the rear of the house and a well-established red grape vine winds its way across one corner which is undercover, creating a sheltered area ideal for alfresco dining. The majority of the garden is enclosed by a very attractive brick wall which has been renovated and rebuilt and there is also a spring-fed well. A former outhouse makes a charming folly and a detached summerhouse (currently used a workshop), would make an excellent artist’s studio or office.
The house has parking and garaging behind Hillside flats accessed from Cromwell Lane, which is a right turning about eighty yards further up Market Hill and provides an allocated parking bay for The Customs House and a garage in the block immediately ahead.