Coordinates: 51°44′10″N 0°28′47″E / 51.7361, 0.4798
Chelmsford's Shire Hall

Chelmsford is located in Essex

 Chelmsford shown within Essex
Population 102,400
OS grid reference TL713070
District Chelmsford
Shire county Essex
Region East
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district CM1,CM2,CM3
Dialling code 01245
Police Essex
Fire Essex
Ambulance East of England
EU Parliament East of England
UK Parliament Chelmsford
List of places: UK • England • Essex

Chelmsford (play /ˈɛlmzfərd/) is the county town of Essex, England and the principal settlement of the borough of Chelmsford. It is located in the London commuter belt, approximately 32 miles (51 km) northeast of Charing Cross, London, and approximately the same distance from the once provincial Roman capital at Colchester. The town currently has a population of approximately 102,400 however this is thought to be rapidly increasing on a year by year basis with many people from Essex and the London borders re-locating to the County town.

The main conurbation incorporates all or part of the former parishes of: Broomfield, Great Baddow, Moulsham, Widford and Springfield, including Springfield Barnes, now more commonly known as Chelmer Village.

The town is surrounded by many small villages that retain their original charm (examples of these are Danbury, Writtle, Good and High Easter, Roxwell, Mashbury, Chignal Smealy, Little Baddow, Great and Little Waltham, Howe Street, Pleshey and Bicknacre).

Chelmsford is a modern, well placed town that has a large number of commuters who work in the City of London financial sector, and its residents are known as 'Chelmsfordians'.


Chelmsford Cathedral

The 18-arch Victorian Railway Viaduct that carries the London-to-Norwich Mainline through Central Park Chelmsford

Early history[]

In 1199 the Bishop of London was granted a Royal Charter for Chelmsford to hold a market, marking the origin of the modern town. An under-cover market, operating Tuesday to Saturday, is still an important part of the town centre over 800 years later. The town's name is derived from 'Ceolmaer's ford' which was close to the site of the present High Street stone bridge. In the Domesday Book of 1086 the town was called 'Celmeresfort' and by 1189 it had changed to 'Chelmsford'.

Before 1199, there were settlements nearby from ancient times. A Neolithic and a late Bronze Age settlement have been found in the Springfield suburb, and the town was occupied by the Romans. A Roman fort was built in AD 60, and a civilian town grew up around it. The town was given the name of Caesaromagus (the market place of Caesar), although the reason for it being given the great honour of bearing the Imperial prefix is now unclear – possibly as a failed 'planned town' provincial capital to replace Londinium or Camulodunum. The remains of a mansio, a combination post office, civic centre and hotel, lie beneath the streets of modern Moulsham, and the ruins of an octagonal temple are located beneath the Odeon roundabout.

The town became the seat of the local assize during the early 13th century (though assizes were also held at Brentwood) and by 1218 was recognised as the county town of Essex, a position it has retained to the present day. Chelmsford was significantly involved in the Peasants' Revolt of 1381, and Richard II moved on to the town after quelling the rebellion in London. 'The Sleepers and The Shadows', written by the late Hilda Grieve in 1988 using original sources, states: "For nearly a week, from Monday 1st July to Saturday 6th July [1381], Chelmsford became the seat of government ... The king probably lodged at his nearby manor house at Writtle. He was attended by his council, headed by the temporary Chancellor ... the new chief justice ... the royal chancery ... Their formidable task in Chelmsford was to draft, engross, date, seal and despatch by messengers riding to the farthest corners of the realm, the daily batches of commissions, mandates, letters, orders and proclamations issued by the government not only to speed the process of pacification of the kingdom, but to conduct much ordinary day to day business of the Crown and Government." Richard II famously revoked the charters which he had made in concession to the peasants on 2 July 1381, while in Chelmsford. It could be said that given this movement of government power, Chelmsford for a few days at least became the capital of England. Many of the ringleaders of the revolt were executed on the gallows at what is now Primrose Hill.

An important Anglo-Saxon burial was discovered at Broomfield to the north of Chelmsford in the late 19th century and the finds are now in the British Museum. The road 'Saxon Way' now marks the site. In the 17th century many of the victims of Matthew Hopkins (the self-styled "Witchfinder General") spent their last days imprisoned in Chelmsford, before being tried at the Assizes and hanged for witchcraft.

Henry VIII purchased the Boleyn estate in 1516, and built Beaulieu Palace on the current site of New Hall School. This later became the residence of his then mistress, and later wife Ann. Soon after it became the residence of Henry's daughter, by his first marriage, Mary I.

King Robert I of Scotland, better known as Robert the Bruce had close ties with the nearby village of Writtle and there is some evidence to suggest he was born at Montpeliers Farm in the village,[1][2][3][4] but the story is disputed and possibly conflated with his father, Robert de Brus, 6th Lord of Annandale.

World War II[]

During World War II Chelmsford, an important centre of light engineering war production, was attacked from the air on several occasions, both by aircraft of the Luftwaffe and by missile. The worst single loss of life took place on Tuesday 19 December 1944, when the 367th Vergeltungswaffe 2 or V2 rocket to hit England fell on a residential street (Henry Road) near the Hoffmans ball bearing factory and not far from the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company factory in New Street which may also have been the target. (It is seen being protected by a barrage balloon in a wartime photograph.) Thirty-nine people were killed and 138 injured, 47 seriously. Several dwellings in Henry Road were completely destroyed, and many in nearby streets were badly damaged. A recently restored monument to the dead is in the borough cemetery in Writtle Road.

The GHQ Line part of the British hardened field defences of World War II runs directly through Chelmsford with many pillboxes still in existence to the north and south of the town. Faded camouflage paint still remains on old buildings near Waterhouse Lane.

Hylands Park, the site of the annual V festival, then hosted a Prisoner of war camp, and from 1944 was the headquarters of the Special Air Service (SAS).[5]

Recent history[]

Since the 1980s Chelmsford has suffered from a decline in its defence-related industries, most notably The Marconi Company with all of its factories closing. However, the town's location close to London and at the centre of Essex has helped it grow in importance as an administrative and distribution centre. The one-time largest employer in Chelmsford, R.H.P. (the former Hoffman ball bearing manufacturing Company) closed its New Street/Rectory Lane site in 1989. Some of the factory remains and have been converted into luxury apartments and a health club although most of the site was demolished to make way for the Rivermead Campus of the Anglia Ruskin University

Beaulieu Park, 'The Village' and Chancellor Park are some of the most recent large scale housing developments built in the town to complement earlier developments such as Chelmer Village which was built throughout the 1980s.

In 2007, the Channel 4 programme "Location, Location, Location" voted Chelmsford as the 8th best place to live in the UK.

Local government and politics[]

Chelmsford is at the geographic and political centre of Essex and has been the county town since 1215. It is the location of the headquarters of Essex County Council at County Hall on Market Road[6] and the headquarters of Chelmsford Borough Council on Duke Street.[7] The headquarters of Essex Police are located in the Springfield area of the town at Kingston Crescent.[8]

Chelmsford formed part of the ancient Chelmsford hundred of Essex.[9] It was incorporated as a municipal borough in 1888,[10] under the provisions of the Municipal Corporations Act 1882. In 1934 the borough was enlarged by gaining 1,659 acres (6.714 km2) from Chelmsford Rural District, including parts of the parishes of Broomfield, Springfield, Widford and Writtle.[10] The municipal borough was abolished in 1974 and its former area was combined with most of the remainder of the rural district to form the larger Chelmsford borough.

For the Chelmsford constituency in the House of Commons the member of Parliament is Simon Burns.


Business and commerce[]

High Chelmer Shopping Centre prior to the 2009 refurbishment.

Originally an agricultural and market town, Chelmsford has been an important centre for industry since the 19th century. Following the opening of the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation in 1797, cheaper transportation and raw materials made milling and malting the main industries until the 1850s, when increasing prosperity created a local market for agricultural machinery.

Foundries and engineering works followed including Fell Christy at his Factory (In later years known as Christy Norris Ltd) on the corner of Kings Road and Broomfield Road opened 1858, closed 1985, Coleman and Moreton, Thomas Clarkson (Steam Omnibus manufacturer and Founder of the Eastern National Bus Company) and Eddington and Stevenson (makers of traction engines). The Company Christy Norris still survives, trading as Christy Turner Ltd based in Ipswich. A nearby road to the old Factory was named "Fell Christy" in his honour.

As well as the headquarters of Essex County and Chelmsford Borough Councils, the modern town is home to a range of national and international companies including M&G Group, e2v Technologies and ebm-papst UK Ltd. The continuing importance of Chelmsford as an employment centre is demonstrated by the fact that the number of "in" commuters (mostly from other parts of Essex) almost exactly balances the number of workers commuting into London.

Chelmsford is largely a commercial town which employs around 80,000 people. There are two medium-sized shopping centres, High Chelmer and The Meadows. Chelmsford has three retail parks, Riverside, Chelmer Village and the smaller Homelands Retail Park housing a Flagship B&Q Store and Springfield Garden Centre (part of the Garden centre Group). The High Street is full of independent and chain stores. As well as the leading High Street names, there is also a wide variety of specialist retailers, especially in Baddow Road and Moulsham Street which are located at the end of the pedestrianised High Street. On 6 January 2005, Chelmsford was granted Fairtrade Town status.[11]

Several years ago, Chelmsford was labelled a mere clone town; however new developments are proving the statement wrong, with new business opportunities around the town. Sizeable businesses are now based in the Chelmsford Business Park at Boreham housing companies such as the Anderson Group. The town also has a low unemployment rate (1.6% in 2002) and a well-educated workforce, with 9% holding a degree or above (in 2002; British average: 7.1%).[12]

Chelmsford has a vibrant nightlife scene with many nightclubs, pubs, wine bars and restaurants in the town centre area, particularly in Duke Street, Moulsham Street, the town centre end of Baddow Road and the bottom section of Springfield Road. Its central Essex location and good public transport links make the town ideal for revellers, commuters and tourists to visit from surrounding areas.


Guglielmo Marconi

File:New street.jpg

Marconi's New Street Factory in 1920


Colonel R. E. Crompton

The frontage to Colonel Crompton's former Arc Works in Writtle Road

In 1899, Guglielmo Marconi opened the world's first "wireless" factory under the name The Marconi Wireless Telegraph & Signal Company in Hall Street employing around 50 people. The company was later called the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company Ltd. For this reason Chelmsford is credited as the "birthplace of radio", and this phrase can be seen on administrative signs on major roads entering the town although this statement is disputed.[13][14]

Marconi soon outgrew its Hall Street premises and in June 1912 the company moved to a brand new purpose built 70,000-square-foot (6,500 m2) factory in New Street that still stands today. On 15 June 1920 the factory was the location of the first official publicised sound broadcast in the United Kingdom, featuring Dame Nellie Melba using two 450 feet (140 m) radio broadcasting masts.

In 1922, the world's first regular wireless broadcasts for entertainment began from the Marconi laboratories at Writtle near Chelmsford – Call sign '2MT' in what was little more than a wooden hut.

In 1999, Marconi's defence division, including the Chelmsford facilities, were purchased by British Aerospace to form BAE Systems. Two sites remain under BAE control; the Great Baddow site which is now BAE's Advanced Technology Centre and its Integrated Systems Technologies business at Glebe Road.

The military and secure communications division of Marconi was merged into Selex Communications was based at the New Street factory however they vacated the site in April 2008 with the remaining operations moved to nearby Basildon.This brought to an end of more than 100 years of the Marconi name in Chelmsford.[15]

The New Street factory was scheduled to be redeveloped with work planned to start during 2010,[16] however this fell through after the new site owners Ashwell Property Group entered administration in December 2009.

The New Street site including the Grade II listed front façade remains empty, derelict and vandalised with its future uncertain much to the dismay of Marconi Veterans and Chelmsfordians.[17][18]

Cromptons Electrical Engineering[]

Chelmsford became home to the United Kingdom's first electrical engineering works established by Rookes Evelyn Bell Crompton. Crompton as he was better known was a leading authority of electrical engineering and was a pioneer of electric street lighting and electric traction motors within the UK. Crompton installed electric street lights around the town centre to celebrate the incorporation of the Borough of Chelmsford in 1888. Although this made Chelmsford one of the earliest towns to receive electric street lighting, the Council later decided to have it removed because gas was cheaper and the Council owned the gasworks. Crompton supplied the traction motors for the first electric trains on Southend Pier. The company also manufactured electrical switchgear, alternators and generators for many power stations in the UK and worldwide.

Crompton set up his original factory known as the 'Arc Works' in Queen Street in 1878. After a fire there in 1895,[19] he built a huge new electrical engineering factory also called the 'Arc Works' in Writtle Road. The Firm was called Crompton and Co. and in 1927 became Crompton Parkinson after Colonel Crompton formed a business partnership with fellow British electrical engineer Frank Parkinson. During World War II, the factory was frequently targeted by the Luftwaffe. In 1969 Crompton Parkinson Ltd was downsized and operations moved elsewhere after a takeover by Hawker Siddeley and the site was taken over by the Marconi Company and became the base for the newly formed Marconi Radar Systems Ltd.[20]

After years of decline, the Marconi factory finally closed in 1992[19] and the site was demolished a few years later apart from the frontage on Writtle Road. A housing development called 'The Village' now occupies the site with road names such as Rookes Crescent, Evelyn Place, Crompton Street and Parkinson Drive as tributes to the former occupant.

Hoffmann Ball Bearings (R.H.P)[]

The United Kingdom's first ball bearing factory was established at New Street and Rectory Lane in Chelmsford in 1898 by cousins Geoffrey and Charles Barrett and bankrolled by American ball bearing machine manufacturer Ernst Gustav Hoffmann from whom the Company took its name. The Hoffmann Manufacturing Company rapidly expanded and soon achieved worldwide fame for their precision-made bearings boasting an accuracy better than 1/10,000 of an inch (2.5 micrometres) for all their products. Hoffmann bearings were later used in the first transatlantic flights and extensively on machinery during World War I. For many years it was Chelmsford's main employer with more employees than the nearby Marconi Company.

The firm became R.H.P.(Ransome Hoffmann and Pollard) after amalgamation with the Ransome and Pollard bearing manufacturing companies in 1969. The factory that once employed 7500 employees over 50 acres in its heyday[21] was wound down during the 1980s and finally closing for good on December 23, 1989.[21]

The company assets and name were absorbed into the Japanese NSK Ltd bearing company in early 1990 trading as NSK-RHP Ltd.[22][23] at its UK base in Newark on Trent with the historic R.H.P name finally disappearing in 2001.[22]

Most of the factory was demolished during the summer of 1990 and the site is now occupied by the sprawling Rivermead Campus of the Anglia Ruskin University.

The only connection to the company name in Chelmsford today is the R.H.P. Bowls club located on part of the old Hoffmans Social Club site at Canterbury Way and Hoffmans Way at the corner of the old factory site at New Street and Rectory Lane.

English Electric Valve Company[]

Original called the Phoenix Dynamo Company, the company was founded by Serge Aisenstein in 1947. It soon was noted for supplying 3" orthicons for the worldwide television transmission of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey. The company, now known as e2v technologies plc still has its headquarters in Waterhouse Lane. In January 2007, the company celebrated 60 years in Chelmsford.


Britvic House, Britvic headquarters

Britvic's world headquarters, the Britvic House, is in Chelmsford.[24] The soft drink company began life as the British Vitamin Company in 1948. However, the origins of the company can be traced back to a chemist's in the town's Tindal Street, where flavoured waters were on sale as early as the mid-19th century. The company changed its name to Britvic in 1971 after its successful brand, which was launched in 1949. Britvic has a large factory on Widford Industrial Estate with its head office located in Broomfield Road.[25]


Chelmsford railway station

A licensed Chelmsford Hackney Carriage taxi


The Eastern Counties Railway arrived in Chelmsford in 1842, although owing to the geography of the town, three viaducts had to be constructed, the longest of which is the 18 arch Central Park viaduct. The station was built at the end of the second viaduct with the third viaduct at the River Chelmer at Springfield. The present-day Chelmsford railway station dates from around 1885 and is in the town centre and around 14,000 commuters travel to London Liverpool Street daily by rail making Chelmsford the busiest station outside of London which is completely non-terminus. The station is served by the railway franchise National Express East Anglia.

Services from Chelmsford are operated to London Liverpool Street and Ipswich, Clacton, Harwich, Braintree and Norwich, with alternating hourly services to Peterborough and Lowestoft. Despite having platforms elevated on a viaduct, the station has full disabled access via a lift for each of the two platforms and as well as stair access. This dates from an extensive refurbishment of the station's ground-level facilities in the late 1980s.


A new bus terminal in Duke Street opened in March 2007 which replaced an ageing 1930s Bus station. It incorporates shops and apartments and has a covered roof for passengers. This is mainly used by the First Essex Bus Company which has many routes around the town and beyond including the X30 Southend to Stansted Airport Flyer.

Essex County Council Highways & Transportation Department have considered the construction of a Bus Rapid Transit System to be built serving the Beaulieu Park/Springfield Area because of the increasing demand for Rapid Transit Plans in Ipswich, Colchester and Southend.

Chelmsford has a Park & Ride service that is based at nearby Sandon, just off the A12 at Junction 18. It runs from 7 am to 7 pm, Monday to Saturday with five bus stops around the town (one near High Chelmer for shopping) and charges £2.20 per adult and free for old-age pensioners or people under the age of 16. An adult weekly ticket is £11.00 and Adult monthly £42.00. It currently has a capacity of 1,200 cars. Opened in March 2006, it has proved highly successful and is widely used.


The main London to Colchester A12 trunk road which evolved from the Great East Road originally built by the Romans to connect London and Colchester,[26] used to pass through the town but is now diverted around the east. The £34.8m nine-mile (14 km) bypass opened in November 1986. The A414 is the main east-west route through the Borough, and the A130 and A131 run approximately north-south.

Chelmsford is around 25 to 30 minutes' drive from London Stansted Airport (via A130/A120), and London Heathrow, London Gatwick, London City, Luton and Southend airports are all within reach.

In the southwest of the town centre, the A138 meets the A414 at The Army and Navy roundabout which is notorious for its traffic congestion, even though the north–south road at this point is no longer part of the A12. Until 1986, when the Chelmsford bypass was opened, the roundabout was in an even worse state. Traffic lights were tried to improve matters in the early 2000s but that scheme was abandoned after a short while however some of the lights where recommissioned for early morning and evening part time use in 2009. The recently built bus lane on the A1114 Great Baddow Bypass and priority to traffic using it has meant traffic queues approaching the roundabout can now be over a mile long during peak periods.

The junction is unusual for its flyover, in a similar manner to the Hogarth Roundabout in Chiswick, London. It is bi-directional, being open where traffic goes one way into town (westerly) until 2.30 pm each day and one way (easterly) out of town after 2.30 pm. The flyover is now closed from 9 pm every night. A two-way flyover has been mooted ever since the original was built in 1978: it is very unlikely to happen – the local council has stated that the cost would be prohibitive. The roundabout is still called "The Army and Navy", even though the public house from which the junction got its name has been demolished.

Construction of a replacement 'Chelmer Viaduct' A138 road which connects Chelmer Village Way roundabout to the Army and Navy roundabout will begin in the summer of 2012, to replace the existing 1932 structure which will remain open during construction. However the old road and bridge will be demolished shortly after construction is completed.[27]

Licensed Hackney Carriage Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles[]

Following delimitation of the number of Hackney Carriage licences issued by the local authority in Chelmsford in 2005,[28] the number of hackney carriage taxis that can ply for hire within the Borough of Chelmsford has risen from 82 to 173[29] prompting a long running dispute between Chelmsford Borough Council and Chelmsford Taxi Association over excessive taxi license numbers within the Borough.[29][30]

At the privately owned Chelmsford railway station taxi rank,only the 116 Chelmsford Taxi Association affiliated hackney carriages are permitted to ply for hire at the station. There are 8 other taxi ranks located within the town which are designated for all Chelmsford Borough Council licensed taxis which are located at Barrack Square, Baddow Road, Bond Street, Fairfield Road, Market Road, Tindal Street, Viaduct Road and Victoria Road,[31] however the Barrack Square and Viaduct Road taxi ranks mainly operate at night for visitors to the pubs and clubs within that area and the Market Road taxi rank is only used during the daytime.

Licensed hackney carriages in the Borough of Chelmsford are easily identifiable as they are predominately black in colour with light blue local authority license plates on the front/rear and illuminated green 'for hire' signs inside the front windscreen and illuminated rooflights.[32] Any new hackney carriage licenses issued by the authority since delimitation in 2005, the vehicle must be purpose built, wheelchair-accessible, black in colour and have a minimum of five seats not including the driver. Licenses issued prior to delimitation the vehicles can be either saloon car design or wheelchair accessible type vehicles. Chelmsford hackney carriage taxis can be flagged down by members of the public anywhere within the Borough.

Licensed Private Hire vehicles in Chelmsford are identifiable by their yellow local authority licence plates on the front/rear of the vehicles and lack of an illuminated rooflight. These vehicles are not permitted to ply for hire and must be pre-booked by telephone. They can be of any colour. All licensed hackney carriage taxis and private hire vehicles in Chelmsford will have a large rectangular council identification sticker with its license number on the front doors.[32][33] Both type of licensed vehicles are required to be tested for mechanical defects by the authority twice yearly in addition to the annual MOT test.

All persons holding a dual hackney carriage or private hire driver license within the Borough of Chelmsford must meet strict criteria as laid down by the authority which includes license renewal every 2 years, a Criminal Records Bureau enhanced disclosure check every 3 years and a DVLA group 2[34] medical examination every 4 years.[35]

Future transport plans[]

Map of route for the proposed new Chelmsford bypass

Proposals for a bypass of Chelmsford connecting the A12 interchange at Boreham (Junction 19) and the A131 were put forward for public consultation by Essex County Council in 2006, the preferred route was announced in March 2007. It comprises the creation of 7.9 km (4.9 miles) of two lane dual carriageway and junctions connecting to the A12 and A131, it will sever 10 footpaths/bridleways and involve almost entirely greenfield construction.[36] The scheme was estimated to cost £138 million in March 2007[36] but was increased to an estimated range of £229 – £ 262 million in February 2008.[37] The scheme still requires funding and planning permission with applications timetabled for 2009–2011, a public inquiry timetabled for 2012 and with an estimated construction start date of 2014–2016.[38] The Chelmsford North Action Group (NAG) objects to this scheme on the basis stating the Chelmsford was to "be engulfed by huge motorways connecting the Channel Ports, via a new Lower Thames Crossing, A130, on to Stansted, M11 and A14".[39]

A second new Park and Ride scheme on the A130 near Little Waltham in addition to that at Sandon began construction in March 2010 at a price of £7.9 million.[40] There has been criticism of the park and ride as some worry it would be unable to provide a service to the nearby Broomfield Hospital from the new site.[41] The Little Waltham Park and Ride is due for completion in April 2011.

A new second railway station for the town was announced in September 2009 and is due to be built near the Boreham Interchange. Completion for the project is likely to be in 2015.[42]


Melbourne Court seen here before the 2008 redevelopment

The "Kings Tower" during construction late 2006

The former Chain Home Radar Tower in Great Baddow Chelmsford

Hylands House

The River Can in the town centre with part of the 1960s flood prevention scheme clearly visible

A major new development was completed in 2007 in the West End of Chelmsford just off Duke Street called "53 Park Central" which contains a new Bus Station, shops and luxury apartments. The lower level apartments of this development and the Bus Station area are sometimes called 'The Marconi Plaza', while the upper level apartments are part of the "Kings Tower". The Bus Station and shops were opened in January 2007 while the rest of the development was ready in September 2007.

Another site near the large suburb of Springfield is in its planning stages. It will be a new neighbourhood which will be an urban village containing 3,500 homes. This would include a new Chelmsford North East Bypass connecting the A12 interchange at Boreham (Junction 19) and the A131.[36]

The Public House "The Army and Navy" from which the notorious roundabout gets its name was demolished in March 2007. It was replaced by a Travelodge Hotel, a Frankie & Benny's Restaurant, a bed store and private flats. Building work started at the site in October 2007 and the project was completed in December 2008.

Chelmsford's tallest building,[43] Melbourne Court in Melbourne Avenue has received an £8,000,000 investment for extensive refurbishment and to create a new Neighbourhood Centre. This was completed early in 2009. Recently, plans were revealed for 'Waterside', a large development of shops, bars and restaurants on the banks of the River Chelmer on derelict land near the Essex Records Office at the end of Wharf Road. If this development goes ahead, High Bridge Road connecting Parkway and Springfield Road would be demolished along with the adjacent gasometers and a new central link road would be built.

Another development recently finished is 'The Hub' in Waterloo Lane. This contains luxury apartments and two Restaurants. There are other new developments completed during 2009 including new private flats on the former car dealership on the corner of Rainsford Road and Parkway.

The former Anglia Ruskin University central campus off Victoria Road South was demolished in January/February 2010 and will be redeveloped for retail and leisure use. High Chelmer Shopping Centre underwent a refit during 2008/2009 with new flooring, lighting with a new front entrance and logo re-brand. Further work is currently being carried out in the shopping centre; an old portion was demolished in Spring 2011, and building work commenced soon after. The work, which will result in the opening of new shops, is due to be completed in early 2012.

In January 2011, John Lewis announced together with development partner Aquila House Holdings that it was to Anchor a brand new 65,000 Square Foot department store as part of a 230,000 square foot retail development at Chelmsford's Riverside. There will also be 2 other large format shops included in the development. The main anchor store will be complemented by a further 25 shops and restaurants. In addition to this there will also be a 280 space underground shoppers car park.

Places of interest[]

There are many places of interest within Chelmsford, including the 18-arch Victorian railway viaduct that spans the River Can in Central Park. One of three railway viaducts in the town that carry the Great Eastern Main Line. The Viaduct was constructed during 1842 by the Eastern Counties Railway Company and opened for passenger traffic on 29 March 1843.[44] Chelmsford Cathedral which is located directly behind The Shire Hall. Originally called St Mary's Church, it became a Cathedral when the Diocese of Chelmsford was created in 1914. It is officially the second smallest in England behind Derby Cathedral.

Chelmsford's two tallest buildings are Melbourne Court built in 1962 in Melbourne Avenue, locally known as Melbourne flats, and the new development completed in 2007, the 13-floor "Kings Tower" in Duke Street. They share the same height of 141.04 feet (42.99 m). The tallest structure by far in the Chelmsford area is the former Chain Home radar tower in the urban village Great Baddow which rises to 360 ft (110 m). It originally stood at Canewdon but was reassembled in Chelmsford in 1959[45] and is the only Chain Home tower still in its original unmodified form in the UK. It is a highly visible landmark throughout the town and surrounding area.

The Shire Hall is situated at the top of the High Street. Opened in July 1791 and built by local Architect and Essex County Surveyor John Johnson, it features a Portland Stone façade. One of the oldest and most prominent buildings in Chelmsford, it was built as a courthouse, which it has remained to this day.

Chelmsford Prison is a male prison and Young Offenders Institution, constructed in 1830. The 1979 film special of the TV series Porridge was filmed largely on location at Chelmsford Prison (while it was closed for repairs after a fire). The prison itself courted controversy for many years for its poor conditions, and was branded one of the worst gaols in the country by the Chief Inspector of Prisons in 2003.

Hylands House and Park just to the west of the town is a country house and parkland, saved from dereliction and purchased by the local council in 1966 after the death of the last private owner. Much damaged by fire and vandalism by the time of the sale, the house has now been completely restored by Chelmsford Borough Council. The house dates originally from 1730, and the park, currently 574 acres (2.323 km2) was landscaped by Humphry Repton. It is open to the public and used for a wide range of community events, including the annual music festival V Festival. It is also available for weddings and other private hires including conferences etc.

Chelmsford Museum in Oaklands Park, off Moulsham Street, is a local history and industrial heritage museum which also incorporates the Essex Regiment Museum. A major £5 million extension and redevelopment scheme opened in January 2010 and the museum now includes exhibits and interactive displays focusing on Crompton, Marconi, and Hoffmann, as well as illustrating the development of the town from prehistory up to modern times.[46] It also holds pottery including Castle Hedingham ware and the Turner Prize winner Grayson Perry. There is a live beehive and a collection of beautiful 18th century glasses which were featured on the BBC TV programme Flog It!. A second site at Sandon Mill – Chelmsford's former waterworks – displays further exhibits from Chelmsford's telecommunications, electrical engineering and rolling bearings industries.[47]

Geography and climate[]


From over 600,000 years ago, during the Pleistocene ice age, until the Anglian Stage around 478,000 to 424,000 years ago, the early River Thames flowed through the area where Chelmsford now stands, from Harlow to Colchester, before crossing what is now the North Sea to become a tributary of the Rhine. Consequently, gravel deposits are frequently found in the area and current and former gravel pits in the district are common.

Chelmsford has two rivers, the River Can and the River Chelmer. Although often confused to be the same river in the town centre, they are quite separate until they join together towards the east of the town to form the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation which heads out towards Maldon before flowing into tidal waters at the Blackwater Estuary. In the other direction, the Chelmer comes from the north from its source near Thaxted while the Can comes from the West from Writtle where it separates from the River Wid.

Up to the 1960s, these rivers were extremely prone to flooding the town centre area including two disastrous floods in August 1888 (known locally as 'The Great Flood') and in September 1958 (which also badly affected nearby Wickford) causing widespread damage. Flood prevention schemes in the 1960s on both rivers have largely prevented any further incidents here although the natural floodplains to the north and east such as The 'Baddow Meads' and The 'Chelmer Valley' continue to see flooding on a regular basis especially after prolonged heavy rainfall.


As with all of the UK, Chelmsford has a maritime climate type, being to the southeast of England, the town enjoys a warmer climate than most of the United Kingdom and often experiences amongst the warmest summers in Britain; It is also one of the drier areas in the country. The nearest met office weather station is Writtle, about 1 mile west of the town centre.

Temperatures can sometimes reach 30.0 °C (86.0 °F) in the summer, this figure was last achieved in 2010, and on an average of 17.1 days[48] the temperature will achieve a value of 25.1°C (77.2°F) or above. The hottest day on record was on Sunday 10 August 2003 when 35.7 °C (96.3 °F)[49] was recorded. Before that, 35.2°C (95.4°F)[50] was recorded in August 1990. On average, however, the hottest day should rise to 29.8°C (85.6°F).[51]

The coldest temperature recorded at Writtle was -20.6 °C (-5.1 °F)[52] on 29 January 1947. A low of -18.0 °C (-0.4 °F)[53] was also recorded in the recorded during December 1981. Most recently the temperature fell to -13.0 °C (8.6 °F)[54] on 20 December 2010. Air frost is recorded on an average of 52.3 nights of the year, and typically the coldest night will fall to -7.9 °C (17.8 °F)[55]

Rainfall average's 576.9 mm[56] a year, with daily totals of over 1 mm falling on 105.1 days[57] of the year. Thunderstorms mostly occur during July and August; however, they can occur anytime of the year. All average's refer to the 30 year observation period 1971–2000, except for the annual average coldest night (1961–1990).

Snow, although infrequent, is sometimes seen in the winter months because the town is near the east coast where cold, moist air is brought in from the North Sea. Snow accumulation is generally seen in the Chelmsford area at least once every winter and snowfall accumulates for an average of 2.5 inches (6 cm). In recent years, there has been up to three inches (8 cm) of snow on days in January and February which has resulted in minor disruption to transport and caused some schools to close. However, the snow tends not to persist for a significant length of time.

The last substantial snowfalls in Chelmsford were on 14 February 1991 and 7 January 1982 when around 18 inches (46 cm) to 24 inches (61 cm) fell.

Climate data for Writtle, elevation 32 m, 1971–2000, extremes 1960–
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 15.1
Average high °C (°F) 7.1
Average low °C (°F) 1.1
Record low °C (°F) −20.6
Precipitation mm (inches) 53.97
Source: KNMI[58]


John Dee, noted Elizabethan philosopher, magician and scientist and also responsible for the introduction to the first English translation of Euclid was educated at the Chantry School (later re-founded as the Grammar School) in the sixteenth century.

Chelmsford is also home to part of the Anglia Ruskin University (formerly called Anglia Polytechnic) and to the grammar schools of Chelmsford County High School and King Edward VI Grammar School, founded in 1551 by charter of King Edward VI on the site of an earlier educational foundation (although evidence suggests it could have been around as early as 1292).

A Catholic Secondary School in the area is St John Payne Catholic Comprehensive School. New Hall School, founded in 1642, is a private, Catholic boarding school which caters to pupils from the age of 3 right through to sixth form. The New Hall building, previously named Palace of Beaulieu[59] has great history including that of Henry VIII.[60]

Chelmsford College is the main provider of further education in the borough. Established in the early 1960s, the college occupies three sites in the town. The main site on Moulsham Street dates from the 1960s and the Princes Road site is a late 1980s building. There are around 2200 fulltime and 2,100 part-time students enrolled on a wide range of academic, vocational and occupational programmes. The College is rated as "GOOD" by OFSTED and holds the prestigious Investors in People (IiP) Champion status and is also an IiP Gold award holder.

Educational establishments in Chelmsford include:

  • Anglia Ruskin University
  • King Edward VI Grammar School, known locally as 'KEGS'
  • St John Payne Catholic Comprehensive School
  • Writtle College, an agricultural college
  • Great Baddow High School
  • Moulsham High School and humanities college
  • Hylands School Specialist Science and Sixth Form College
  • The Boswells School
  • Columbus School and College, a special needs school.
  • Chelmer Valley High School
  • New Hall School, established 1642.
  • Chelmsford County High School for Girls, consistently one of the top five schools in the UK for both GCSE and A-level results.
  • St Peters College, the former Rainsford High School, which is due for closure in August 2011.[61]
  • The Sandon School
  • Chelmsford College a college of further education
  • Alyonushka, Chelmsford Russian School. Language School in New London Road.

Society and culture[]


Chelmsford is home to local radio station Chelmsford Radio,[62] but it does not broadcast from the town. The station recently moved to studios in Southend having vacated its Heybridge premises on 12 January 2009. The station was originally situated in Chelmsford until November 2006. This station was previously known as Dream 107.7 until February, and before that, 107.7 Chelmer FM up to 2002. The station began broadcasting on 18 October 1998. It is the local station for mid-Essex. Adventure Radio have owned this station since 2008, where it was purchased from Tindle Radio Ltd.

Chelmsford also has a local opt-out of Heart FM. Heart Essex (previously Essex FM up to June 2009) has been on air since 12 September 1981 and has been owned by Global Radio since 2007. It moved to studios in Glebe Road in late 2004, having previously been based in Southend-on-Sea. In May 2009, the station was rebranded to The Heart of Essex, Essex FM. In June 2009, the popular Essex FM née Essex Radio name brand was dropped after 28 years.

BBC Essex has been on air since 5 November 1986 and its studios are based in New London Road.

Until their closure in the mid 2000s Anglia Television/ITV Anglia had offices located in Chelmsford town centre. Chelmsford is served by London and East Anglia regional variations of the BBC and ITV1.

Publications based in Chelmsford include the Essex Chronicle, which was founded as the Chelmsford Chronicle in 1764. The weekly Essex Chronicle newspaper is the longest in continuous publication in the country. Until the closure of the printing plant in 2002, the paper was also printed in the town. It is now printed on presses by the Northcliffe Media Group which now owns the paper. Chelmsford Weekly News is a free local paper delivered to every home.

The fictional town of Framley in the newspaper satire The Framley Examiner is largely based on Chelmsford, along with surrounding areas such as Writtle (called Wripple).


Chelmsford Cathedral is the second smallest cathedral in England after Derby Cathedral. It was built in the 15th and early 16th centuries, when it was the parish church of the prosperous medieval town. The Diocese of Chelmsford was established in 1914 from part of the Diocese of St Albans. It covers all of Essex and much of East London.

Chelmsford is also situated in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brentwood and the two dioceses are now uniquely (at least within England) conterminous. With the coming of the Reformation the Catholic community of Chelmsford was subjected to the anti-Catholic laws and Chelmsford was the site of the death of a Catholic martyr, Saint John Payne. In the 19th century, native Catholics resurfaced and immigrants helped to build up the Catholic community. There are now three Catholic churches within Chelmsford along with a Norbertine canonry situated on New London Road; St. Philip's Priory. There is a synagogue which opened in 2009 in neighbouring Shenfield which serves the Chelmsford Jewish community, there is also a Jewish cemetery which has been there for many years.

Other denominations are also represented, the United Reformed Church, Baptists and the Seventh-day Adventist Church all have places of worship within the town. For the local Muslim community the Main Jamia Masjid mosque is located on Moulsham Street at the junction with Parkway.[63]


Essex County Cricket Club is one of the 18 major county clubs which make up the English domestic Cricket structure, representing the county of Essex. The club is based at the County Ground in New Writtle Street.

Chelmsford City Football Club play in the Blue Square South Division. The Club's home ground is at the Chelmsford Sport & Athletics Centre, Melbourne Park where they share with Chelmsford Athletic Club. Chelmsford is one of the largest settlements in England without a Football League team.

Chelmsford Hockey Club is a Men's and Ladies' (field) hockey Club based in the County of Essex (England). It has over one hundred and fifty regular adult playing members, of all ages and abilities, as well as a thriving youth section. It fields eight Men's teams and five Ladies' teams every weekend, including two Men's Veterans' XI's. The Ladies' 1st XI compete in the English Hockey League Premier Division and the Men's 1st XI compete in the English Hockey League Division 1. The remaining Men's teams play in the East League while the other Ladies' XIs play in the East Premier League and Essex League. The Club is undoubtedly one of the most successful Hockey Clubs in the country.

The Chelmsford Chieftains are an Ice Hockey Team that are based at the Riverside Ice and Leisure Centre and play in the English National Ice Hockey League.

The Chelmsford Rugby Football Club was established in 1920 and for the last 40 years have been playing rugby at Coronation Park, Timpsons Lane, Chelmsford. At present, there are around 330 members and the club fields up to five senior teams each week. Chelmsford currently (2011) play in London Division North East 2 division. In addition to the senior teams, there are 150 Mini/Youth members providing teams from under 6's to under 17's.

For the last seven years, a Ladies' team has been established, although owing to the lack of proper facilities they only play on an irregular basis.

The Chelmsford campus of Anglia Ruskin University also has many sports teams including a football, netball, hockey, fencing, Rugby Union and American Football


Hylands Park hosts the annual V Festival every penultimate weekend in August since 1996. The 21st World Scout Jamboree 2007 was also held at Hylands Park from 27 July to 8 August 2007.

Chelmsford is home of Essex street diversions, East Anglia's largest festival of international street theatre and the 3 foot People Festival, the UK's only 4-day festival exclusively for under-5-year-olds.

Notable people born in Chelmsford[]

Statue of Sir Nicholas Conyngham Tindal, Tindal Square Chelmsford.

  • Najma Akhtar (b.1962), jazz singer.[64]
  • Liam Chilvers (b.1981), professional footballer.[65]
  • Sarah Cracknell (b.1967), singer, Saint Etienne.[66]
  • Hazell Dean (b.1956), singer.[67]
  • James Gibson (b.1980), swimmer.[68]
  • Greg Halford (b.1984), professional footballer.[69]
  • Philemon Holland (b.1552), translator.[70]
  • Geoff Hurst (b.1941), 1966 England World Cup final player. Although born in Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater Manchester, he grew up in Chelmsford.[71]
  • Andy Jenkinson (b.1979), musician also known as "Ceephax Acid Crew".[72]
  • Tom Jenkinson (b.1975), musician also known as "Squarepusher".[73]
  • Harry Judd (b.1985), drummer, McFly.[74]
  • George Clift King (b.1848), former Mayor of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.[75]
  • Anne Knight (b.1786), anti-slavery campaigner and pioneer of feminism.[76]
  • Malcolm O'Kelly (b.1974) Irish international rugby union player.[77]
  • Tom Payne (b.1982), Waterloo Road actor.[78]
  • Grayson Perry (b.1960) Turner prize-winning artist.[79]
  • Nigel Spink (b.1958), professional footballer and UEFA cup finallist as well as junior goalkeeper at Writtle Minors football club.[80]
  • Joseph Strutt (b.1742), engraver and antiquary.[81]
  • Sir Nicholas Conyngham Tindal (b.1776), lawyer, judge and Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas.
  • James Harper (b.1980), professional footballer.[82]
  • Peter Collins (b.1948), professional footballer, Chelmsford City and Tottenham Hotspur.[83]
  • Guthrie Govan (b.1971), professional jazz/rock/fusion guitar player.

Nearest places[]

Twin towns[]

Chelmsford's official twin towns[84] are:

Further reading[]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
  • Foreman, Stephen: Hylands – the story of an Essex country house and its owners (Ian Henry Publications, 1999)
  • Lee, Janet Olivia: Chelmsford – Birthplace of Radio (Chelmsford Borough Council, 2001)
  • Lowen, Ceri: Hylands House – a brief history and guide (Chelmsford Borough Council, 2005)
  • Wander, Tim: 2MT Writtle – The birth of British Broadcasting (Capella Publications, 1988)
  • Weller-Lewis, Hugh: Chelmsford Borough Guide (Macmillan, 1995)
  • Wickenden, Nick: A Celebration of Chelmsford (Chelmsford Borough Council, 1999)
  • a town, its people and its past (Chelmsford Record Office, 1988)
  • Grieve, Hilda: The Sleepers and the Shadows Volume 2 Chelmsford: a town, its people and its past (Chelmsford Record Office, 1994)
  • Begent, Andrew: Chelmsford At War (Ian Henry Publications Ltd, 1999)
  • Torry, Gilbert: Chelmsford through the ages (East Anglian Magazine Ltd, 1977)


  1. ^ Robert's absolution for Comyn’s murder, in 1310, gives Robert as a layman of Carrick, indicating Carrick / Turnberry was either his primary residence, or place of birth. Lochmaben has a claim, as a possession of the Bruce family, but is not supported by a medieval source. The contemporary claims of Essex / the Bruce estate at Writtle Essex, during the coronation of Edward, have been discounted by G. W. S. Barrow.
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External links[]

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This page uses content from the English language Wikipedia. The original content was at Chelmsford. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with this Familypedia wiki, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons License.