IF I had to describe the most historic part of Maypole Road, I would say it is the stretch from Langford Cross to the Shoulder of Mutton.

Those names are rarely used today and so, to clarify, I mean between the junction at Holloway Road, Heybridge, and the bend at Captain’s Wood, Great Totham.

It’s a long, straight, fast road that can be dangerous and busy.

It hasn’t always been like that and in 1894 was described as “very pleasant ... skirting the prettily wooded Langford Park”.

In common with other ancient byways, it is packed with unique local history. For a start, it has the distinction of lying across four ancient parishes – Heybridge, Langford, Great Totham and Wickham Bishops (the boundaries of which have changed over the centuries) and it appears on maps dating back to at least the Chapman and André Survey of 1777.

Some say it is so straight it must be Roman, but I am not convinced.

It is, nonetheless, early and, as such, there are many historic places to see along the way. So let’s explore some of them by starting off at that oddly named Langford Cross.

The present building of that name is located at 167 Holloway Road (in the parish of Heybridge) but the place name originally related to a much larger piece of land – almost a hamlet you might say.

Maldon and Burnham Standard:

Through time - Maypole Road

There is a record of 'Langford Crosse' in 1675, but the bungalow on the site is much later and was at one time also known as The Warren.

Until 1926 it was owned by the May family, but then in the March of 1927 it was registered as an 'Industrial School', a sort of children’s home, for 11 displaced youngsters, all under the age of eight.

The superintendant was Miss Katherine Hunt, the daughter of the vicar of Feering, and she was succeeded by a Miss Booth.

The school, which was run on Montessori lines, eventually closed in 1933. It then became a sort of holiday retreat-cum-educational centre for poor mothers and children from Stepney.

This, in turn, closed and was sold in 1951 to become a private house – and so it remains.

We leave all of that fascinating heritage behind us as we now travel northwards up the Maypole Road.

Despite encroaching housing, this is still largely an agricultural belt and the next place on our right is one of the associated farms – Howell’s (now in Great Totham).

A corruption of ‘Hollwells’, this is probably taken from a family surname, as we know that a James Hollwell was laid to rest in Heybridge churchyard in 1696.

Maldon and Burnham Standard:

Ravens before restoration (courtesy the late Peter Came)

Howell’s, as it became, was once part of the mighty De Crespigny estate and that family entered into at least one agreement for the surrender of its tenancy and the issuing of a new lease in 1901.

Continuing our journey, on the opposite side of the road is ‘Ravens’ (actually in Langford). Nowadays it looks like a grandiose manor house, with its ornate gates and pillar statues, but it actually started life as two humble farm-workers cottages.

The buildings, then known as Langford Park Cottages, were part of the Byron estate and were used as a temporary isolation hospital in 1894. During the war years the Gowers lived in one of them and were lucky to escape with their lives when, during the afternoon of August 24, 1940, a German Heinkel bomber crashed and exploded in the adjoining field.

But that, as they say, is another story.

Next right is Furzelands Farm (Great Totham) – historically linked to Howell's and also part of the De Crespigny estate, with AA Byford as their tenant farmer in the 1900s.

There are some fascinating surviving accounts of 1854 that detail the names of the farm workers, their duties and wages paid when Oliver Herring Esq was the farmer on behalf of the Oxley-Parkers.

Maldon and Burnham Standard:

The entrance to the park (by permission Kevin Fuller)

Almost opposite the turning to the farm is White Lodge (Langford). This was one of two such lodges which originally protected the entrances to the park and now long-gone Langford Grove, a beautiful mid-Georgian (1782) country house, built for the Wescombes, descended to the Byrons, used as a girls’ school and, sadly, largely demolished in 1953.

Only the West Pavilion of the Grove survives, along with its Home Farm/stables, now accessed further along the road.

Next we come to that awkward bend at the edge of Captain’s Wood – a tight turn that locals knew colloquially as the Shoulder of Mutton, allegedly after the cut of meat.

Hidden behind the trees on the left of the bend is Gun Farm (just in Wickham Bishops). Until the early 1930s, this 15th Century (or even earlier), Grade II Listed timber-framed building was a pub.

It opened as such in the 1770s and was initially called ‘The Maypole’ (hence the title of the road).

However, in the 1860s it was re-named (you’ve guessed it) the Shoulder of Mutton, begging the question which came first – the bend or the pub?

Maldon and Burnham Standard:

The Shoulder of Mutton pub (Heinkels over Heybridge)

It is at this point that we will, at least for now, stop our tour. We have only travelled 1½ miles. The AA estimate it takes two minutes in a car, which according to my calculations equates to 45 miles per hour. I bet many drivers cover it quicker than that.

It’s a shame, because after all these years it is still a “pleasant…pretty wooded” route and, as we now know, it has a fantastic story to tell if only we care to look out for it.