Each of Maldon’s many eating establishments offer their own unique style of cuisine experience - and the Smokehouse is no exception.

Located at the end of Cromwell Lane, some might say their fish-based menu epitomises the traditional food of our riverside town.

After all, this is a place that, for centuries, had (and to a certain extent, still has) an economy that relied on the fruits of its river – the Blackwater.

Not only is the Smokehouse a reflection of that rich fishing heritage, its location is equally historic. Sitting alongside the River Chelmer (it doesn’t become the Blackwater until Heybridge Creek, beyond Fullbridge), it stands on a site that even saw action during the Second World War.

It was during the afternoon of Tuesday, February 29, 1944, that Lieutenant John Molen was flying his P51B Mustang over Maldon.

He was part of an escort supporting US bombers when engine failure forced him to bail out.

At less than 1,000ft, his parachute only just opened and he came down off Park Drive.

Meanwhile, his pilotless aircraft flew on and plummeted to earth not far from today’s Smokehouse.

It is but one brief chapter in the tale of the little lane with a big story.

Some might think that the thoroughfare has a connection with the infamous Lord Protector - statesman, politician and soldier, Oliver Cromwell. However, just like the adjacent hill, it is a corruption of the Old English words “crumb” and “wielle” – “small” and “springs” - an area peppered with watering places, mentioned in a deed of 1414.

For a time during the 19th Century, however, it went under a very different name – Union Lane.

Maldon and Burnham Standard: The view down the lane with the railway viaduct in the distance (by permission Kevin Fuller)The view down the lane with the railway viaduct in the distance (by permission Kevin Fuller) (Image: By permission Kevin Fuller)

The Union House (formerly a much older parish house) was located on Market Hill, at the entrance to the lane.

It was functioning as such from 1835 to1875, when a new workhouse opened in Spital Road (now St Peter’s Hospital).

On the other side of the junction was the Prince of Wales pub (later the Cromwell Guest House) and to the rear of the Union House, was its morgue (now an imaginatively converted private residence).

With all that history at the very entrance, the haunt of 'beadle', pauper and drinker alike, the route down to the Smokehouse is equally fascinating.

During the 1880s the houses here were the homes of carpenter/builders (the Cocketts), of a sawyer from the Fullbridge timber yard, one of the town Bobbies, a railway guard from our branch line, a corn porter and an errand boy.

There were 67 residents in those days and I don’t suppose that number is much different today. As well as the early 19th Century listed Cromwell Guest House and the Union House (now Hillside flats and cottage), there are other buildings of note.

Their architecture is really special – sash windows, Essex board, hipped and tiled roofs.

Number 21 is now a single house, but was originally a pair of early-19th century cottages.

All of those ghosts of residents past were in my head as my wife and I set off for the Smokehouse.

After a friendly welcome, we settled ourselves down at an outside table, bounded by marsh and a full tide.

An oystercatcher passed overhead and let us know of its presence with its distinctive, high-pitched cry.

A coxed gig rowed past towards Beeleigh and then returned.

Shoppers headed towards Tesco by way of the seawall opposite and the tall reeds of the newly established Chelmer and Blackwater Ironworks Meadow Reserve gently swayed in the breeze.

It was, by all accounts, a perfect day.

Maldon and Burnham Standard: The Smokehouse (by permission Steve Williams)The Smokehouse (by permission Steve Williams) (Image: By permission Steve Williams)

The sun shone and the wine arrived – a chilled bottle of herbal Sauvignon Blanc.

We plumped for a sharing platter with the fun name of ‘Seafood Overboard’.

In eager anticipation, I thought of the catches of big salmon recorded from the flood hole at Beeleigh in the 18th and 19th centuries, of Maldon oysters (a staple from Roman times to present-day luxury food), of my ancestors selling fresh dabs alongside the Bath Wall, and of a picture I have of old Ernie Pitt holding a prize Blackwater lobster.

Although it wasn’t long before, first a bag of fresh bread and then the platter arrived, we had made a marked impression on the bottle of Sauvignon.

The seafood was really excellent – Maldon cured Scottish smoked salmon, smoked crevetts and prawns with a Marie Rose sauce, slow smoked mackerel and a homemade crab pate.

Heaven is at the end of Cromwell Lane. I feel sure, that it won’t be long before we are treading the thoroughfare of history and beating our way to the Smokehouse once more.