| 60.09 km²|
3.9% (Dec 2014)
Chelmsford is the principal settlement of the City of Chelmsford and the county town of Essex, in the East of England. 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 urban area of the city has a population of approximately 110,000, whilst the district has a population of 168,310.
The main conurbation incorporates all or part of the former parishes of Broomfield, Great Baddow, Galleywood, Writtle, Moulsham, Widford and Springfield, including Springfield Barnes, now known as Chelmer Village.
The communities of Chelmsford, Massachusetts, Chelmsford, Ontario, and Chelmsford, New Brunswick, are named after the city.
Chelmsfords population consists of a large number of City and Docklands commuters, attracted by the 30–35 minute journey from Central London via the Great Eastern Main Line. The same journey takes approximately 60 minutes by road via the A12.
On 14 March 2012, chairman of the Privy Council and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced that Chelmsford, along with Perth, Scotland and St Asaph, Wales, was to be granted city status. The Letters Patent officially granting city status to Chelmsford from The Queen were received on 6 June 2012.
The demonym for a Chelmsford resident is "Chelmsfordian".
In 1199, following the commissioning of a bridge over the River Can by Maurice, Bishop of London, William of Sainte-Mere-Eglise 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 city centre over 800 years later. The citys name is derived from Ceolmaers 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. Its position on the Londinium – Camulodonum Roman road (the modern A12) ensured the early prosperity of Chelmsford; in the first decade of the 12th century its population had grown to several hundred, which was large for its time.
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 disappeared for a while after the Romans left Britain.
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 Hilda Grieve in 1988 using original sources, states: "For nearly a week, from Monday 1st July to Saturday 6th July , 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 Henrys 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, but the story is disputed and possibly conflated with his father, Robert de Brus, 6th Lord of Annandale.
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.
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 city 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. Chelmsford Cathedral which is located directly behind The Shire Hall. Originally called St Marys 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.
Chelmsfords two tallest buildings are Parkside Court built in 1962 as Melbourne Court in Melbourne Avenue, sometimes 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 and is the only Chain Home tower still in its original unmodified form in the UK. It is a highly visible landmark throughout the city 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 facade. One of the oldest and most prominent buildings in Chelmsford, it was built as a courthouse and there has been a court on the site since at least 1199. However this finally came to an end on 2 April 2012 with the opening of a new Magistrates Court a short distance away in New Street.
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. In 2011 the Chief Inspector returned to claim "Chelmsford was a transformed establishment" and awarded the prison an excellent report.
Hylands House and Park just to the west of the city 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 City Council. The house dates from 1730, and the park, 574 acres (2.32 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. The 21st World Scout Jamboree 2007 was held at Hylands Park from 27 July to 8 August 2007. Within the grounds which comprise woodland, rolling grassland and lakes is a large childrens play area with adjoining car parking.
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 and city from prehistory up to modern times. 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 – Chelmsfords former waterworks – displays further exhibits from Chelmsfords telecommunications, electrical engineering and rolling bearings industries.
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 city centre, they are quite separate until they join together towards the east of the city 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 city 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.
Chelmsford is home to local radio station Chelmsford Radio, but it does not broadcast from the city. The station recently moved to studios in Southend having vacated its Heybridge premises on 12 January 2009. The station was originally situated in Chelmsford City Centre in Cater House 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. As of February 19, 2015, Chelmsford and Southend Radio re-branded and merged to form Radio Essex,
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 nee 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 city 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. Another popular publication is the free "Edge" magazine, a primarily volunteer effort aimed at older Chelmsfordians. The Face of Chelmsford is a monthly magazine delivered to 12,500 homes in Chelmsford that has now become a digital publication updated daily.