Chelmsford, the county town of Essex, is located in the heart of East Anglia and surrounded by densely cultivated farmland. Situated near the junction of the Rivers Can and Chelmer, its livestock market, which began about 1200 AD, grew to become one of the most important in the area. The Romans settled here not long after their invasion in AD 43; building a small town called Caesaromagus, near to the Moulsham area of Chelmsford, on the main road (A12) between London and Colechester. The later medieval settlement at Moulsham, and also on the other side of the river at Celmeresfort, were the beginnings of the current town (which took its name from Celmeresfort). The arrival of the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation in 1797, and the railway in 1843, enabled the town to grow into an important centre for industry. The town's long industrial heritage is told in the Chelmsford Museum near Oaklands Park. Sandford Mill, the old waterworks located on the River Chelmer, is also open for visitors on special event days.
Many of the town's 18th century buildings were designed by John Johnson, although only a few remain, such as the town bridge and the classical Shire Hall. Johnson also played a role in the restoration of the Church of St Mary, St Peter and St Cedd, located at the top of the High Street, which obtained cathedral status in 1914. The even older All Saints' Church, in the Springfield area, has the remnants of old Roman tiles and bricks built into the church walls.
The town has a multi-screen cinema, several theatres, a leisure centre with pool and flume, and an ice rink. There are two large shopping centres and the main shopping precinct is fully pedestrianised. There is also a lovely riverside walk and cycle route, which runs through the beatutiful Central Park and Wrest Parks along the River Can. County cricket is played at the Essex County Cricket Club, near to Central Park.
County Hall, Market Road, Chelmsford CM1 1QH - Tel: 01245 283400
The cathedral is basically a l5th century parish church (built on the site of a much earlier church) with additions and improvements made over the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. The chequered flint work around the east end and south porch of the cathedral is typical of Essex churches of the 15th century. There are some fine 19th and 20th century stained glass windows. The most recent addition is a 20th century statue of St Peter on the South Chapel, which shows the saint in modern fisherman's clothes holding a 'Yale' type key.
Guided tours are available.
Opening times: daily, except Sunday 12.30 - 2.00pm Admission Free
Location: New Street, Chelmsford CM1 1TY - Tel: +44 (0) 1245 294489
The museum tells the history of Chelmsford from the Ice Age to the present day. In addition to local and social history, it contains collections on natural history, archeology, fossils, drawings and paintings.
There is also a comprehensive exhibition concerning the early days of the Marconi Company, which created the world's first radio company in Chelmsford in 1899.
Opening times: Mon to Sat (inc BH, ex Gd Friday): 10am to 5pm. Sun: 1pm to 4pm. Admission Free
Location: Oaklands Park, Moulsham Street, Chelmsford CM2 9AQ - Tel: 01245 475498
Claiming to be "A garden of inspirational beauty", Hyde Hall is a great day out for all keen gardeners, at any time of year. The 18th century Hyde Hall was once a working farm, covering a 360-acre estate, that has been gradually landscaped over the years to become one of the best gardens in East Anglia. Located in an area of Essex that has very little rainfall, the grounds feature a specialist Dry Garden, with a range of plants that are able to cope with these arid conditions. There is also a modern rose garden, an Australian and New Zealand Garden, a Hilltop Garden, the Queen Mother's Garden and several colour themed herbaceous borders. The site also contains a horticultural library, gift shop, restaurant, plant centre and regular farmer's market.
Opening times: all year (ex 25 Dec) from 10am, closing times vary with season Admission Charge
(free to RHS members)
Location: Buckhatch Lane, Rettendon, Chelmsford CM3 8ET - Tel: 01245 400256 Website
Attractions, Museums & Days Out:
Colne Valley Railway
| Lee Valley Park
| Mayhem Paintball
| Royal Gunpowder Mills
| Saffron Walden Museum
| Secret Nuclear Bunker
| Southend Museum
| Southend Pier Museum
Castles, Monuments & Heritage Sites: Colchester Castle | Bourne Mill | Hadleigh Castle | Harwich Fort | Hedingham Castle | Mountfitchet Castle | Tilbury Fort | Waltham Abbey
Gardens & Historic Houses: Audley End | Beth Chatto Gardens | Layer Marney Tower | Mistley Towers | Paycocke's | RHS Garden Hyde Hall
Nature & Wildlife: Colchester Zoo | RSPB Essex Marshes | RSPB Canvey Marsh | RSPB Rainham Marshes
Chelmsford, Basildon, Romford, Southend, Colchester, Harlow, Brentwood, West Ham, Witham