To me, my contemporaries and to earlier generations of Maldonians, number 116 High Street is (and will forever be) The Gables.

For around 60 years the building bearing that name was a residential children’s home and I recall stories told to me about the place by the late councillor Brian Mead and by the talented plasterer/pargeter, Bob Hope, who both grew up there, and by my old friend, Maldon artist Charlie Tait, who said that the art forger, Eric Hebborn, was also a resident and honed his illicit painting skills there.

Ironically enough their old dining room (the back room on the right hand side) is still used as a place to eat today, but both the cuisine and the ambiance are very far removed from those days.

As early as 1933 the home was run by a Mr and Mrs Jones on behalf of Essex County Council.

They were, in 1937, succeeded as the “superintendents” by another married couple, Mr and Mrs Abraham.

The Gables only closed its doors as a children’s home in the 1990s and, after a short time as a family centre, that long chapter in the building’s story came to an end. However, 116 had served many other purposes before the 1930s and has done so since the 1990s.

The main part of the building, an impressive (Listed) town house, was built towards the close of the 18th century. Two balanced side wings (now 114 The Barbershop and 116a Skin Sorcerer) were added in 1858.

That extension work was undertaken by Maldon tradesmen Samuel Baxter (the bricklayer), Edward Spurgeon and Robert Tydeman (carpenters) and George Osborne (plumber) for the owner, the artist Robert Nightingale.

Robert had studied at the Royal Academy under the Royal artist, Sir Edwin Landseer, of ‘Monarch of the Glen’ fame.

Number 116 served as both Robert’s family home and as his studio, and he became a distinguished painter of animals (particularly of horses and dogs).

By 1878 the Nightingles had moved out and the building became a surgery under the partnership of Dr Edward Parker Gutteridge and Dr Henry Reynolds Brown.

They were, in turn, succeeded by Robert P Mumford, MA (Oxon), who was headmaster of Maldon Grammar School from 1904 to 1912. As well as living at 116, he also ran a private boys’ school from the building.

In 1913 it became a private house with a Mr HR Harmer in residence, and with the coming of the Great War it was requisitioned for use as an officers’ mess by military personnel stationed in town on transit to the front.

Maldon and Burnham Standard:

The building as it is today

Following the Armistice of 1918 it became what was described as a “First Class Boarding Establishment” – “the Gables Private Hotel”. This was initially run by Mrs Isobel S Lamont and then (from 1929) Miss Ann Brown.

And so we arrive at the beginning of that long period that it was a children’s home. After the home’s eventual closure and following a time standing empty, in 2006 planning permission was granted to convert the ground floor into a restaurant.

In 2008 this duly opened as ‘Intimo’, a family-owned and run business dedicated to creating “the true taste of Italy”. We had many great meals there and I really miss Juliana and those fun times.

Ten years after its foundation, Juliana and her family left, but ‘Intimo-Fresco’ continued under new ownership and management and was just as special, serving excellent cuisine.

Then, in 2021, number 116 had yet another refurbishment. The opulent décor is now the signature of what is called the ‘Chutney House’, with an extensive menu inspired by traditional Indian ingredients.

It is billed as a venue of elegance and with more than a nod to the building’s past, boasting both 18th Century and modern grandeur style.

Maldon and Burnham Standard:

The Chutney House Indian restaurant

In that respect, things have turned full circle – the present occupants looking back and respecting the origins of 116, but also thinking very much of the “here and now” and a modern offer of fine dining.

I am pleased to tell you that, following a recent visit, I can confirm that the food certainly does not disappoint. Sitting in what was the former dining room of The Gables, I looked around and thought about all of that heritage – an intense history packed into just four walls.

From private home, artist studio, doctor’s surgery, school, a place where the ghosts of Great War officers, many of whom enjoyed their last civilised meal here, are still present, to private school, hotel, a children’s home that nurtured the great and the good (and the infamous), and a continuing period of food hospitality, 116 really has seen it all.