"In the end, it's not the years in your life that count, it's the life in your years." - Abraham Lincoln

Posted on October 15, 2017 by Sioux under General


Chelmsford is new ground for me, so there was lots of exploring to do. My friend also had access to a monastery in Saffron Walden and we planned to spend a weekend there aswell as making time to go into Cambridge. 


Chelmsford’s heritage began with the arrival of the Romans in 60 AD and was then named Caesaromagus or ‘market-place of Caesar’, giving it the great honour of bearing the name of Caesar – the only town in Britain to do so. After the commissioning of a bridge over the River Can in 1199, a Royal Charter was granted for Chelmsford to hold a market, marking the origin of the modern town. The city’s name is derived from Ceolmaer’s Ford which was close to the site of the present day stone bridge. In the Domesday Book of 1086, the town was called Celmeresfort and by 1189 it had changed to Chelmsford. The city was significantly involved in the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381, and when Richard II moved on to the town after quelling the rebellion in London, it has been said that 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. During World War II Chelmsford was an important centre of light engineering war production and was attacked from the air on several occasions, both by aircraft of the Luftwaffe and by missile.  

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Voted in 2007 as the 8th-best place to live in the UK,

Chelmsford is credited as being “the birthplace of radio”

due to the  world’s first “wireless” factory under the name

‘The Marconi Wireless Telegraph & Signal Company’ opening there in 1899. The city also

became home to the United Kingdom’s first electrical engineering works in 1878.

Sadly, since the 1980’s Chelmsford has suffered from a decline in its defence-related industries, most notably the Marconi Company with all of its factories either being closed or sold; however, the city’s location close to London and at the centre of Essex has helped it grow in importance as an administrative and distribution centre. 

Admiral and Central Parks, which the viaduct splits

in half, are stunning park areas in the centre of the

city. Beautiful gardens and fountains as well as a

pathway alongside the River Can, make the parks

the perfect place to relax. I spent some hours

wandering around Central Park and then headed to

the cathedral. 

Owing to the geography of the town, three viaducts had to be constructed in 1842, the longest of which is the 18 arch Central Park viaduct, to accommodate the arrival of the railway system. The present-day station dates from around 1885 and is currently used by around 14,000 commuters travelling into London. The 18-arch Victorian Railway Viaduct that carries the London to Norwich mainline through Central Park was built in 1842 and is one of three viaducts in the town. You can see by the different coloured brickwork is that it has been patched up/repaired many times. 

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The church of St Mary the Virgin in Chelmsford was probably first built along with the town eight hundred years ago, and was rebuilt in the 15th and early 16th centuries, with walls of flint rubble, stone and brick. It became a cathedral when the Anglican Diocese of Chelmsford was created in 1914. The tower with a spire houses a ring of thirteen bells. The south porch was extended in 1953 to mark Anglo-American friendship after WW2 and the many US airmen stationed in Essex.

The Cathedral is the proud owner of two organs. Known as the Nave Organ and the Chancel Organ after their positions and roles within the church. 

Usually, statues in a church of a mother holding a child sculpture represent the Virgin Mary holding the Christ Child as a baby or a toddler. This bronze sculpture in St Peter’s Chapel however is very different. Entitled The Bombed Child, this statue represents a mother holding the corpse of her dead child, killed by a bomb blast. The alternative title, Pietà, links it with that other traditional representation of mother and son, the Virgin cradling the body of her crucified son.

Churches are often decorated on the outside with gargoyles and figures of saints. At a glance this figure of St Peter (easily identifiable because of his key) could be mistaken for a medieval figure but a closer look confirms that it is modern.


Apart from the crispness of the figuring, the saint is wearing modern type fishing boots and the key to unlock the gate of Heaven is the shape of a giant Yale key!  

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A painting was commissioned to be created on thirty-five oak panels depicting the Tree of Life, designed to cover the opening left after an old organ was removed. The artist said the inspiration behind the piece was the music and choral tradition of the Cathedral and that he very much wanted his mural to reflect this, with the swirling motion in the painting representing the musical traditions. The symmetrical design of the tree was to represent opposing ideas with the tree bursting into life on one side and dying back on the other. The lighting in the Cathedral was very different from the church where the mural was painted and the artist spent several weeks on a “cherry picker”, changing the colour and bringing the panels to life.

The Shire Hall in Chelmsford is an impressive Georgian building which still dominates Chelmsford town centre. When originally built, the Shire Hall was designed to permit meetings of the county council and other civic meetings, and house the assizes, the quarter sessions for the county and the petty sessions for the division. By 1779 the hall was too small and a second building was designed and completed by 1791. In a square form, the building is fronted with white Portland stone with white Suffolk brick forming the rest. The front is decorated with three

bas-reliefs to represent Justice, Wisdom and Mercy. 

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                                                                                                 Over the road from Shire Hall is a memorial to Sir Nicholas                                                                                                  Conyngham Tindal (1776-1846). Chelmsford born and                                                                                                        bred, and a lawyer of repute, a monument was erected in                                                                                                    1850, in his honour. The inscription praises him as ‘The                                                                                                      image of a judge, whose administration of English law                                                                                                          directed by serene wisdom animated by purest love of                                                                                                        justice endeared by unwearied kindness and graced by the most lucid style will be held by his country in undying remembrance’. Sir Nick was also a member of the legal team charged with defending Caroline of Brunswick, then wife of George IV, against a charge of adultery in 1820. Though the scandalous Caroline was undoubtedly guilty, her defence succeeded in getting the case dropped, no doubt to the displeasure of George IV who had hoped to use a guilty verdict to secure his divorce.  

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The ‘Stone Bridge’, also known as Bishop’s Bridge or Moulsham Bridge,built in 1787 across the River Can, is the third bridge to be constructed on the spot since 1199. 

I headed to a nearby pub for lunch and

thirst quencher; then some people watching before catching the bus back home. An interesting morning out! 

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2 responses to “Travel time – new spaces, friendly faces #2 – exploring Chelmsford”

  1. Paul says:

    Ahhhh…… The stained glass windows are something to behold

  2. Cheryl Wilkinson says:

    Info so interesting thank you for sharing with us – beautiful pics too :o)

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