WITH a town as old as Maldon, every street has a story to tell.

Victoria Road, linking the lower end of High Street with the junction to Butt Lane and The Downs, is certainly no exception.

Even the name gives us a clue to the period of its development – during the reign of Queen Victoria from 1837 to 1901.

However, Victoria Road didn’t start off with that title as it was originally known (albeit colloquially) as Robin Hood Street.

Maldon’s archery butts (still in use as late as the 1570s) were in the area of the present-day Butt Lane car park, with the lane of the same name (adjacent to the Rose and Crown pub) as its access.

That early archery ground seems to have extended even further, as we have a Butt Field (owned by the Lawrence family in the 18th century) which occupied the area that we now know as Victoria Road.

To the locals, Butt Field (or at least a track that passed through it) was named after the most famous archer of all – the legendary Robin Hood.

As time went on and the days of compulsory archery practice were long gone, the site was earmarked for development.

By the 1870s it had become Queen Street (not to be confused with the one off Wantz Road) and six building plots were put up for sale in 1873.

It was then renamed Victoria Road and became one of our earliest suburban housing developments in town, sporadically constructed for the middle-classes in the Victorian and Edwardian eras and, in places, later still.

Preserved in the Essex Record Office are more than 100 sale catalogues, mortgages, building plans, conveyances, leases and deeds relating to some of those properties and spanning a period from the very early 1900s up to the late 1940s.

To help explain the road’s evolution we can focus on a few key incidents and sites.

In 1882 an early aviator, Sir Claude Champion de Crespigney, of Champion Lodge, Great Totham, accompanied by his assistant, Aeronaut Simmons, attempted to take off in a hot air balloon in a field near what was the gas works (now partly occupied by Queen’s Court).

Although, on that occasion, the flight had to be abandoned, a second successful launch took place in 1883.

The balloon rose and the adventurers made it all the way to Holland.

Religion came to the road in 1897 with the construction of a Catholic chapel, dedicated to the Assumption of Our Lady.

That stock brick and slated building is now used as the church hall and was eventually succeeded as the main place of worship by the red brick with stone dressings church next door, opened in 1925.

The location of the church clearly had an influence on some of the residents’ choice of homes.

Take for example, the bungalow Il Rosario (at 62), built by the Italian (and devoutly Catholic) Pietro Consonni, aka Lou, or Lewis Volta (1880-1940).

The growing population of Victoria Road created a demand for refreshments and the main pub to service the area was the Warwick Arms at the High Street end.

Officially 185 High Street, this was originally called the Queen Adelaide, but was re-named after the Earl of Warwick in 1899 and was both a tea room (via a side door in Victoria Road) and an ale house (via the current entrance).

With those places in mind, if we walk the length of Victoria Road from the Warwick to Il Rosario, the surviving architecture is very revealing indeed – not least the date stones.

First (on the left side) is Sunnyside, dated 1908.

Next to it are Excelsior Cottages (1901) and just round the corner, on the right, Winton Cottages (1908).

Further up on the left is Godwin Villa (1898) and adjacent, earlier still, Victoria Cottages (1897).

The undated Blackwater Cottages are next and the final house on the left has the original road sign high up on the wall.

And what of the people who originally lived in these houses?

The census is a good source of information. Take the return for 1911, for example, and as well as 61-year-old-priest Sidney Williams and his housekeeper at the presbytery (now 60a), in the neighbouring properties are a retired farmer, golf professional, police inspector, sawyer, railway guard, blacksmith and many more besides.

There are fewer houses and people in the earlier 1901 return, but they still seem to be what we would think of as the middle or upper-working classes.

During 1914-18 some of those families waved goodbye to loved ones as they left the road to go to war, seven of them never to return – Arthur Wright from number four, Joseph Chapman of Coronation Villas (number 32), Sidney Wiggins (number 63), brothers Adam and Alfred Eves from 67, George Smith at 69, and Martin Free, son of David and Jane Free of Oakleigh.

During the Second World War, the town’s Civil Defence services included an ARP sector post at 85 Victoria Road.

This proved to be well placed as, at 21.42hrs on Sunday, February 13, 1944, an anti-aircraft shell (presumably one of ours) fell to the rear of the road.

Thankfully there were no casualties and no damage, but it was a near miss.

Fast forward to the 1960s and a directory of 1966 lists 80 or so houses occupied by some familiar names – the Wiggins were still there, then there were the Markhams, Gladas, Notcutt, Hedgecock, Morton, Ruggles, Stammers, Chinnery, French (who had a guest house at 38) and a Tostelyn at 86 who just had “newspapers” next to his name.

The special thing about Victoria Road is that, despite the passing of almost 150 years, that founding spirit still lives on through the current-day residents.

The digital age has seen them establish a social media self-help group and they recently had their first community meeting in the church hall.

History is often shared by them and, in that way, the road that was born during the reign of Queen Victoria lives on and moves forward, taking the very best of the past with it.