Tolleshunt D’Arcy is the prettiest of the trio of Tolleshunt villages (the others being Tolleshunt Major and Tolleshunt Knights), situated a few miles north east of Maldon and just north of the Blackwater estuary. The name comes from the Saxon, meaning Toll’s spring (no surprise that there’s always been plenty of water in these parts) and D’Arcy being the name of one of the early residents. D’Arcy Hall lies to the south of the village; the russet D’Arcy Spice apple variety originated from its gardens at least from 1840, some say even earlier.
Prior to being called D’Arcy, the village had several names: Tolleshunt Tregoz, Tolleshunt Valoines and Tolleshunt de Boys. These were all the names of the local landowners; ownership passed through the female line so when the owner died, the next generation took over, and the new husband’s name became the new village name. Eventually, a John D’Arcy married into the de Boys family and the name stuck.
There are a number of historic buildings in the village. The centre is very attractive as a result; it’s a conservation area and new developments are in keeping with the older architecture. Commercial properties are scant, but stopping off at the local convenience store for a chat with owner Christine is a pleasure, and the Queen’s Head pub is a popular local. D’Arcy House, a few doors further down, has a couple of notable former residents. John Salter lived there; he was a doctor, horticulturalist, vice-president of the Kennel Club and a high-ranking Freemason.
Later, the place was home to Margery Allingham, the author who created detective Albert Campion. Her book, The Oaken Heart, is set in Tolleshunt D’Arcy and she writes fondly about the place. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, members of her husband’s club, the Thursday Club, used to come down from London to play the village cricket team. In 1949, the Duke of Edinburgh came, though Margery tried to keep his identity secret by pretending he was a lookalike.
Opposite D’Arcy House, its base protected by a wooden cage, is the village maypole, a listed monument. A description of it opens The Oaken Heart: “The pole, which is only a pole, has a weathercock on top of it of it, and at its foot, where one waits for the bus, grow two may-trees, one red and one white, which the Old Doctors and Mrs Graves put there forty years ago.” Buses still stop here today, en route from Tollesbury to Colchester. If you’re waiting for one in November, the apples will be ripe for the picking in the garden of nearby Maypole Cottage. Ask first!