The building now known as the Moot Hall is the surviving fragment of a much larger dwelling known as the D’arcy Mansion or Master D’arcy’s Tower which has stood in some form on Maldon’s High Street since the early 15th Century.
Believed to have been built in around 1420, the tower is part of a brick extension to an existing timber manor house and was commissioned by Sir Robert D’arcy ( d1448) probably not long after his marriage in 1417 to a Maldon heiress Alice Fitzlangley (1395-1448). D’arcy was the MP for Maldon six times, a lawyer by trade and had become a rich and powerful man as legal advisor to the king and local gentry and his family held part of the Manor of Little Maldon.
Due to the almost continuous occupation of the tower for nearly 600 years, and at least two or possibly 3 periods of dereliction, and subsequent restoration, there are few architectural clues to its original size, shape and design but it is thought that the Mansion was formerly considerably larger and the Tower is all that is left. Built to the highest possible standards by Flemish bricklayers, it consists of three floors of brick construction laid in English bond with a main front block and offset rear wing, and a hexagonal newell stair turret (a rare survivor in almost original condition).
It is believed to be the oldest secular decorated brick building in the country and is grade I Listed, the ultimate level of protection that is given to an ancient building in England. A masterpiece of the medieval bricklayer’s art it demonstrates how D’Arcy was at the forefront of architectural innovation for his day.
In 1539 the D’arcy family sold off most of their Maldon property in order to fund other interests and broke up the mansion. In 1550 they finally surrenderd the brick tower to the king in part payment for the dissolved priory at St Osyth and severed their last links with Maldon.
The neglected tower was purchased by the Borough of Maldon in 1576 for the princely sum of £55, and it became the Moot Hall and it has been owned by the Town ever since. ‘Moot’ is a Saxon word meaning place of assembly or debate. The Moot Hall has served Maldon as town hall, prison, police station, court house, charter house, armoury, council chamber and public meeting space for nearly 450 years.
Now it is has a new life as a centre for the social history of the town, and plays host to numerous events, performances and exhibitions. It is also a venue for civil ceremonies and we have high hopes for an incredible future for this wonderful building.
Julie Miller – 2014
D’arcy family Coat of Arms
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