Descriptive Gazetteer Entry for CHELMSFORD

CHELMSFORD, a town, a parish, a sub-district, a district, and a hundred, in Essex. The town stands on a pleasant site, near the centre of the county, at the confluence of the rivers Chelmer and Cann, on the Roman road to Colchester, and on the Eastern Union railway, 29¾ miles NE by E of London. It derives its name from an ancient ford on the Chelmer; it was supposed by Camden, but incorrectly, to have been the Canonium of the Romans; it belonged, from the time of Edward the Confessor till that of Henry VIII., to the bishops of London; it got a bridge, about the year 1100, to draw through it the great eastward thoroughfare which had previously passed through the village of Writtle; it was coustituted, in 1199, a market-town; it sent, in the time of Edward III., four representatives to a grand council held at Westminster; and it is now the political capital of the county, the head-quarters of militia, the seat of sessions, assizes, and elections.

The town comprises four principal streets; includes the populous hamlet of Moulsham; and presents a modern and agreeable appearance. A beautiful iron bridge spans the Chelmer; a handsome, one-arched stone bridge, in lieu of the ancient one, crosses the Cann; and a viaduct of 18 brick arches, each 30 feet in span, takes the railway over the Cann. The Shire hall stands near the centre of the town; is an elegant edifice of Portland stone; has a rusticated basement, supporting four Ionic columns; and contains an open corn exchange below, and a spacious handsome assembly or county room above. The county jail stands at Springfield, about a mile distant; and is on the radiating principle, with capacity for 330 male and 42 female prisoners. A neatly-sculptured conduit, of quadrangular form, about 15 feet high, stands adjacent to the Shire hall, and is supplied from a spring about a mile distant. Barracks for about 4, 000 men, with defences against invasion, were constructed during the war with France, but subsequently demolished. The ancient parish church was of unknown date, but is recorded to have been repaired in 1424; it contained four guilds or chantries; and it fell suddenly to the ground on a night in January 1800. The present church occupies its site; is modelled externally in imitation of its architecture; has, at the west end, a square flint pinnacled tower; was opened in September 1803; and contains monuments of the Mildmays, and a fine organ. A small Dominican priory stood in Moulsham, on a site still called the Friars; and a modern church is now in that suburb. There are chapels for Independents, Baptists, Wesleyans, Primitive Methodists, Quakers, Latter Day Saints, and Roman Catholics. The Independent chapel is a fine spacious edifice, erected in 1840. The grammar school was founded in 1552, and rebuilt in 1782; has an income of £489 from endowment; and numbers among its pupils Holland the translator of Camden, Dee the astronomer, Mildmay the founder of Emmanuel college in Cambridge, and Archdeacon Plume. Alms-houses and other charities have £109. There is a neat theatre; and races are run in August, on an oval course of nearly 2 miles.

The town has a head post office, ‡ a railway station with telegraph, two banking offices, and four chief inns; and publishes two weekly newspapers. Markets are held on Fridays, and fairs on 12 May and 12 Nov. Little manufacture exists; but a good trade in land produce is carried on. The Chelmer is navigable hither; and a canal communicates with the Blackwater. Pop., 5, 513. Houses, 1, 166. The parish comprises 2, 841 acres. Real property, £19, 324. Pop., 8, 407. Houses, 1, 750. The manor passed, in the time of Henry VIII, to the Crown: and was given, by Elizabeth, to the Mildmays. The living is a rectory in the diocese of Rochester. Value, £588.* Patron, Sir H. St. John Mildmay. Moulsham church is a separate charge, served by a vicar. Value, £290.* Patron, the Rector.

The sub-district contains also the parish of Widford. Acres, 3, 533. Pop., 8, 664. Houses, 1,800. The district comprehend likewise the sub-district of Writtle, containing the parishes of Writtle, Roxwell, Chignal-St. James, Chignal-Smealy, Broomfield, and Good-Easter; the sub-district of Great Waltham, containing the parishes of Great Waltham, Little Waltham, Great Leighs, Little Leighs, Boreham, Mashbury, and Pleshey; the sub-district of Great Baddow, containing the parishes of Great Baddow, Little Baddow, Springfield, Sandon, and Danbury; and the sub-district of Ingatestone, containing the parishes of Ingatestone, Runwell, Rettendon, Woodham-Ferris, East Hanningfield, South Hanningfield, West Hanningfield, Stock, Buttsbury, Fryerning, and Margaretting. Acres, 83, 906. Poor-rates, £20, 606. Pop. in 1841, 30, 607; in 1861, 32, 765. Houses, 6, 916. Marriages in 1860, 172; births, 1, 020, -of which 49 were illegitimate; deaths, 600, -of which 193 were at ages under 5 years, and 18 at ages above 85. Marriages in the ten years 1851-60, 1,869; births, 9, 766; deaths, 6, 270. The places of worship in 1851 were 34 of the Church of England, with 12, 304 sittings; 15 of Independents, with 4, 222 s.; 3 of Baptists, with 640 s.; 1 of Quakers, with 600 s.; 3 of Wesleyan Methodists, with 379 s.; 2 undefined, with 404 s.; 1 of the Catholic and Apostolic church, with 120 s.; and 3 of Roman Catholics, with 1, 650 s. The schools were 41 public day schools, with 3, 581 scholars; 64 private day schools, with 1, 008 s.; 37 Sunday schools, with 3, 097 s.; and 2 evening schools for adults, with 32 s. The workhouse is at Chelmsford. -The hundred is not far from being co-extensive with the district. Acres, 83, 740. Pop., 32, 608. Houses, 6, 891.

(John Marius Wilson, Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales (1870-72))

Linked entities:
Feature Description: "a town, a parish, a sub-district, a district, and a hundred"   (ADL Feature Type: "cities")
Administrative units: Chelmsford CP/AP       Chelmsford Hundred       Chelmsford SubD       Chelmsford SubD       Chelmsford PLU/RegD       Essex AncC
Place: Chelmsford

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