My earliest memory of 132a Mill Road, the little (now bright yellow), single-storey building on the corner of Wantz Road, is of it being a greengrocers.

That would have been back in the 1960s, but it began serving that purpose long before my time.

A building plan dated 1925, now preserved in the Essex Record Office, details a proposed "shop and dwelling house", and gives the applicant’s name as JA Woodard.

The site had previously been “a yard and shed, lately used for the storage of steam cultivating engines”.

The newly constructed building was originally number 106, consisting of the main house (what was, until recently, Geoff Bird’s second-hand and antiques shop – re-numbered 132) and the attached greengrocers (today’s 132a).

The JA Woodard in question was Maldon shipwright James Arthur Woodard (1866-1947) who, 14 years earlier, lived at Clarence, Queen Street, with wife Alice (née Keeble) and their five children – four sons and one daughter.

One of those sons was James Cyril Woodard (1902-1984) and it was that James Woodard who became the “retail fruitier and greengrocer” at 106.

He is listed there in directories from at least 1929 and, ten years later, appears in the 1939 register, living in the house with wife Winifred (née Horsey), their daughter Eva and secretary/lodger Hilda Rast.

Fruiterers JC Woodard were still trading from the site in 1966, when I was young.

Then, in my teenage years, I used to go to the building when it had become White’s Antiques Shop.

Maldon and Burnham Standard: Plates in MaldonPlates in Maldon (Image: Stephen Nunn)

Geoff Bird continued in that vein – using the space in both 132a and 132 (132, in the meantime, having been various things, including a laundrette, bike shop and pet shop).

Today, the building(s) are numbered 132, the downstairs 132b (currently Brothers Barbershop) and 132a continues to be a separate, distinct part.

In 2019, a proposal was submitted to demolish the lot and replace it with a two storey dwelling, but permission was refused.

Geoff Bird sadly passed away in 2020 and by 2021 Blackwater Stays was at 132 and Bakes by Kelsey at 132a.

Mick Binnington then took on 132a and in 2022 started his Bloomsburys Art Café and Bookshop.

The next chapter began on February 7, 2024, with Mick, a multiple award-winning chef, re-launching his business at 132a as Plates.

Chef Binnington has spent the last 25 years cooking his way through some of the country’s Michelin Guide-starred kitchens, including stints as head chef for Gordon Ramsay and, more recently, as the chef owner of the Michelin Bib Gourmand-winning Windmill, at Chatham Green.

Since closing the Windmill he has been cooking privately for clients in their homes, which is something he still offers, but he has now decided to introduce more of a food and wine offering into Plates at 132a.

His mission is to cook some serious, exciting food, in the quirky, no frills, shabby-chic surroundings.

One of the dishes on offer is glazed smoked haddock omelette ‘Arnold Bennett’.

That recipe originated at the Savoy Hotel Grill, where it was the favourite dish of the prolific writer Enoch Arnold Bennett (1867-1931).

And at this point, as so often is the case with local history, we have the coming together of two special strands – the omelette dish at 132a and that famous writer’s associations with the town.

Arnold Bennett owned a converted Dutch Barge named Velsa and, in 1914, he published a book about his adventures.

Chapter 19 of The Log of the Velsa (published by Century, New York) is entitled 'The Incomparable Blackwater’.

The writer recalls sailing into Mersea Quarters in the September of 1913, proceeding up river to Tollesbury and anchoring off Osea, then “an establishment for the reformation of drunkards”.

The next morning (a “Sunday of glorious weather”) he rowed Velsa’s dinghy up to the Hythe to explore “the estuary town…the pearl…on a hill”.

Maldon and Burnham Standard: Arnold BennettArnold Bennett (Image: Drawing by Ann Puttock)

Velsa weighed anchor the following day and “at sunrise dropped slowly down river in company with a fleet of fishing-smacks”.

During his brief visit to Maldon he admired the resident Thames barges and, in 1918, produced water colour illustrations for Cyril Ionides' A Floating Home (Chatto & Windus), the first study of Thames barges.

Bennett’s eight drawings include the classic view looking towards St Mary’s, just a short walk from Mill Road.

Many of Bennett's novels and short stories are set in a fictionalised version of his native homeland, the Staffordshire Potteries. In his penultimate Five Towns novel, The Price of Love, published, by coincidence (or was it?) in the same year as The Log of the Velsa, one of the characters is called Mrs Maldon.

The novel is a vivid and dramatic portrayal of provincial society about to change forever with the outbreak of the First World War, the elderly Mrs Maldon representing old-school society before life was turned upside down.

Eight residents of Mill Road would go on to make the ultimate sacrifice in the conflict.

In that sense, things turn full circle and when I visit 132a, I know exactly what I will be ordering from the menu.