Chelmsford in 1837
CHELMSFORD, a market-town and parish in the hundred of Chelmsford, and nearly in the centre of the county of Essex, of which it is the county town, 28 miles N.E. by E. from London, on the high road to Ipswich.
Chelmsford derives its name from its situation in the vicinity of an ancient ford on the river Chelmer, near its confluence with the river Cam. In the reign of Edward the Confessor, and at the time of the Norman survey, it was in the possession of the bishops of London. But it was never a place of any importance till the reign of Henry I, when Maurice, then bishop of London, built a stone bridge over the river Cam, and diverting the road which previously passed through Writtle, made Chelmsford the great thoroughfare to Suffolk and Norfolk. From this time the town has gradually increased in importance. It consists principally of three streets, which are macadamized, and partially lighted with gas. The houses are generally well built. The inhabitants are well supplied with water from a spring, called Burges Well, about one mile from the town. The water is conducted through pipes into a reservoir, over which is a dome supported by six Doric columns. A handsome stone bridge was erected over the Cam in the latter part of the last century, connecting the town with the hamlet of Moulsham, and replacing the old bridge built by Bishop Maurice.
The shire hall is a handsome building, fronted with Portland stone. The basement, which is rustic, supports four Ionic pillars ; between the pillars are three figures in basso-rilievo, of Wisdom, Justice, and Mercy. In the upper part of the building, besides two commodious courts, are a grand-jury-room and witness-room, and an assembly-room, 86 feet by 30 feet, where public balls are held at Easter and Christmas. Over the chimney-piece of the grand jury room is a handsome bust of Thomas Gardiner Bramston, Esq., twenty years a chairman of the quarter-sessions. The old jail, built in 1779, is now only used for debtors, and the house of correction, which adjoins it, for female convicts. A new jail has lately been erected about a mile from the town, at Springfield. It is built on the radiating principle, and is capable of accommodating 272 prisoners, although it has contained many more. During the late war two extensive barracks were erected near the town, which could accommodate 4,000 men, but they have recently been pulled down.
The theatre is a neat building. Races take place annually at Galley-wood Common, about two miles from the town. The market-day is Friday ; and fairs are held on the 12th May and 12th November, principally for horses and cattle. The assizes for the county are held here, as well as four quarter-sessions and four petty sessions.
The population of Chelmsford in 1831 was 5,435, of whom 2,885 were females.
The living is a rectory in the jurisdiction of the commissary of Essex and Kent. The church is dedicated to St. Mary; the body has lately been rebuilt, and is a handsome building, in the later style of English architecture. The tower is square and embattled, and is surmounted by a lofty spire. The archdeacon holds his court in this church, and the wills and records are deposited in an office over the south porch. A new chapel is now being erected by subscription (August, 1836). There are two places of worship for Independents, one for the Society of Friends, and one for Wesleyan Methodists.
The free grammar-school was founded and endowed by Edward VI. The school, in common with those at Maldon and Brentwood, has an exhibition of £6 per annum at Caius College, Cambridge. The management of the school is vested in four hereditary trustees. The school-house was rebuilt in 1782, by R. Benger, Esq., on the site of a more ancient one built by Sir John Tyrreil.
Chelmsford has a charity school, for the maintenance, clothing, and education of fifty boys, founded in 1713, and one for twenty girls, founded in 1714, both supported by voluntary contributions ; a Lancasterian, an infant, and a national school for children of both sexes : six alms-houses, founded by Sir Thomas Mildmay, were rebuilt in the end of the last century by William Mildmay, Esq. There are also four almshouses in Baddow-lane.