ONE of our more well established High Street shops is Super Natural, at number 12.

It is hard to believe that the business has been there for more than 40 years, tempting customers with an eclectic mix of contemporary and traditional ornaments, cards, paintings, ladies' clothes and jewellery.

It is a real Aladdin’s cave of a place, all housed in a deceivingly spacious, characterful building.

Viewed from the street, number 12 appears to be a narrow, gable-ended structure, with modern recessed central door, canted shop front and central first-floor window – all of it finished off in the now familiar Super Natural green livery.

But that façade belies a rather curious layout. The Tardis-like space starts off with a room of shelves and display cases the width of the front exterior dimension, but then opens up into a much wider, later extension.

Here and there you catch a glimpse of ancient, time-gnarled timbers that provide clues to the skeleton of the building. In common with other older properties in High Street, number 12 has served many and varied purposes down the years.

It has had a succession of owners and occupiers. In a local directory for 1966 it appears as the private address of Mrs Alice Maud Brown.

Maldon and Burnham Standard:

The view as it is today 

In fact she had bought it in 1951. Earlier still, in 1946, it was described as a “dwelling house, part formerly occupied as a shop”.

Jumping back to 1933, fishmonger George Wheeler had his business there. Before his time it was confectioner Henry J Daws.

From the late 19th Century up to the end of the 1920s, the Ashleys were there – Maldon-born tailor James Ashley (died 1916) and then his widow Mary Ann (née Rudlen).

We are now back to the reign of Queen Victoria. The Greatrex family owned number 12 then, but from 1871 until the Ashleys arrived, the building served as a tobacconist-cum-jewellers – proprietor Alfred Barnard.

As a single man he was initially in residence with his housekeeper (Sarah Raymond), but later with new wife Matilda (née Bunting) and their son, Alfred Jnr.

During the early part of the 19th Century, the tenants included the Priors, Livermores and Drakes.

Before their occupation we only know the names of the owners – Babbs, Belsham, Shuttleworth, Coe, Francis and, from 1743, Ougham.

James Ougham had purchased the building from William Kemp and Thomas Jarvis. So having traced its human story back to the 18th Century, can we dig even deeper and get to the real roots of the building’s construction.

Each time I look into the story of these remarkable structures, they seem to somehow take on a different character.

Some have suggested that it dates from the late-17th Century, but the official (Grade II) listing places it (much more realistically) in the 16th Century “or earlier” (say around 1500).

Those previously mentioned beams and the fact that it is gable-ended help take us in the right architectural direction.

Add to that the abutting red tiled roof line that sits neatly with adjacent number 14 and you can begin to picture (albeit with a bit of imagination) what would have originally been a single structure.

Number 12 was once the right-angled cross-wing to 14. Whilst the main hall range would have been in what is now separate 14, 12 would have served as its parlour (a sort of ground floor sitting room) with a solar above (a private, family room).

All these centuries on, the parlour door access, with its arched head, can still be made out from the inside of 14. It really does make you wonder who, back in Tudor times, once walked through that now blocked doorway.

By the mid-16th century, this part of High Street was known as Roebuck Street and was the route between the main market/trading area outside of All Saints' Church and the open countryside and outskirts beyond.

Maldon and Burnham Standard:

Super Natural in Maldon High Street

Residential buildings were known to be in this area by at least 1500 and it would appear that one of the houses was a hall with integral cross wing.

Over the years I have researched and written about many of the old buildings at the top end of town – among them number 8 (when it was home to Sark), the Tap Room (at 10), what was once the Saracen’s Head (at number 20), the Jewellery Design Workshop (over the road at 9a) and Beresfords at 7 and 7a (formerly used by the clockmaker William Jefferies).

Each time I look into the story of these remarkable structures, they seem to somehow take on a different character.

They are no longer the familiar shops that we know today, they are instead places of special local heritage that have stood the test of time – footprints from a different age just waiting to be re-discovered, explored and deciphered.

Number 12 is certainly no exception.