Maldon historian Stephen Nunn is transported back in time by his fascinating collection of old rail tickets and other ephemera

AMONGST my ever growing collection of Maldon related ephemera, I have a box of assorted tickets.

Call me “anoraky”, but I really love little items like these.

To me, they are so much more than just pieces of old card – they are a tangible connection to important chapters in our local story.

Let me explain why I feel this way by describing just a few of them.

So we open the box and first out is a ticket to a dance. It was apparently held on Friday, February 17, 1933, from 9pm to 2am, at the “Parish Hall, Maldon”.

The music was provided by the “Harmony Five Dance Orchestra”, the ticket cost 3/6 (which included Light Refreshments) and all profits were to go to the “Maldon Unemployment Relief Fund”.

We are, of course, talking about the time of the Great Depression, when unemployment was high and everyday folk were in need of support.

If you could afford 3/6, that might go some way to helping others and you could have a bit of fun at the same time.

The Parish Hall - originally the Public Hall - was, as the stone in the central arch above the door still tells us, located at 43 to 45 High Street and was purpose-built as such in 1859.

It was accessed down a corridor off the main entrance, or round the back via Bull Lane.

Sadly, following more recent life as our post office and a supermarket, it has been empty for a long time now, but whenever I pass it by I think of that dance – a snapshot in 1930s time.

I often wonder who had that ticket in their pocket, who did they show it to at the door, what did they wear that night and how did the evening go – did it raise a good sum of money?

Next is a long, partly cut strip, sectioned off, but with a central panel titled; “Borough of Maldon”.

It states in quaint language of the time that “this ticket is issued subject to the Bye-laws. It must be retained and shown on demand of any authorised servant of the council”.

It all sounds very official, so what was it for?

Maldon and Burnham Standard:

  • The old Parish Hall (Photo: Jon Yuill)

The clues are in the words of the other parts and on the reverse – “chair 2d (for 3 hours), putting 3d, tennis 8d, boats 6d”.

It is, in fact, a combined ticket for holiday entertainments at Maldon’s Promenade Park, opened in 1895.

Whoever had that ticket had cut some of the parts off and redeemed them for a game of pitch and putt (where the maze and children’s playground is now located) and a go on the paddle-boats (they were on what is today part of the ornamental lake).

Then we have a selection of the so-called ‘Edmondson’ type railway tickets (full and halves) all pertaining to Maldon’s long-gone branch line.

In operation from 1848 to 1966, the tickets are partly LNER (the London, North-Eastern Railway company of 1923 to 1948) and BR (British Railways, in existence from1948 until the branch closure).

Some of the railway tickets are for longer journeys that involved a change – Maldon East to Liverpool Street (a third-class monthly return), to Sudbury (a third-class single), Colchester (third-class single), Brentwood (third-class privilege return) and Stratford (third-class single).

But I like the shorter, local trips. These include Maldon to Witham (second and third-class cheap day returns, a second-class single and a privilege third-class Return), Maldon to nearby Wickham Bishops (a child’s third-class single and a second-class special cheap day return) and, shorter still, Maldon to Langford (a child’s third-class, an adult third-class return and, would you believe, a first-class single.

You could have walked that journey just as quick and, indeed, you still can via the Blackwater Rail Trail footpath, alongside our bypass and up to the newly restored platform of Langford and Ulting Halt, with its excellent descriptive board.

I even have three Maldon East platform tickets (priced at 1d each and strictly “not transferable”).

Driving down Station Road and looking at the outside of that surviving, beautiful Victorian 'Jacobean' station building of 1848, I reflected on who might have bought those tickets all those years ago and why – was it some kind of early train spotting, or seeing off a loved one in a ‘Brief Encounter’ kind of way?

Maldon and Burnham Standard:

  • Maldon's old East Station

In the bottom of the box is yet another ticket, this time for a quite different line. It is LNER, “available for one single journey only”, at a charge of 5d for a “third single fare”.

The route covered was the very short hop between the villages of Tolleshunt Knights and Tolleshunt D’Arcy.

This was once a section of the so-called ‘Crab and Winkle’ line – the eight-mile Kelvedon to Tollesbury Light Railway, opened in 1904 and closed to passenger traffic in 1951.

When I hold that crumpled yellowed ticket I think of the words of someone who actually experienced the somewhat quirky ‘Titfield Thunderbolt’-like service first hand “...blundering along through broad bright Essex fields. Past cottage gardens and apple trees red with fruit... The engine was a shining museum-antediluvian. Everyone knew each other”.

I have no doubt that they did – the farmer, fisherman, pea-picker and midwife, and although the line has been closed now for over half a century, thanks to that ticket we can still join them.