An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, Volume 2, Central and South west. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1921.

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'Chelmsford', in An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, Volume 2, Central and South west, (London, 1921) pp. 39-44. British History Online [accessed 24 April 2024]

In this section

15. CHELMSFORD. (F.c.)

(O.S. 6 in. lii. N.E.)

Chelmsford, a cathedral city and the county town of Essex, stands at the junction of the rivers Chelmer and Can. The principal monuments are the Cathedral and the Friary.


(1). Fragments apparently of a bath-building were found in 1849 during excavations for a sawpit between Lady's Lane and Moulsham Street (the London to Colchester road), i.e., in the angle formed by the latter and the River Can (Essex Arch. Soc. Trans. I., 59). The foundations, so far as examined and recorded, do not form a coherent plan, but include part of a corridor with a pillared hypocaust on its N.W. side and another room at its S.W. end. N.E. and N.W. of this group are remains of other rectangular compartments that on the N.E. apparently marked the end of the building in that direction, but 45 ft. N.W. of the corridor was an apse 20 ft. in diameter containing another pillared hypocaust. The walls were of septaria with brick bonding courses, and remained to some height. The usual painted wall-plaster, coins, pottery (some of the 1st century), etc., were found but ill-recorded and one tile was inscribed C.I.S. and stamped in relief with a scene of wolves attacking stags. There were indications that the building had been destroyed by fire. The foundations were left and covered up again.

In the same district coins, including a silver coin of Claudius, and urns, some containing burnt bones, have been found at various times both S.E. and N.W. of the London (Moulsham) road; especially in 1901 in extending the electric light works of Messrs. Crompton, Writtle Road; in 1893 in Cherry Garden Lane between Chelmsford and Widford; in 1849, opposite the "new chapel at Moulsham." N. of the river similar finds are recorded from Springfield in making the railway line in Stump Lane, and between there and Chelmsford. (Gent's. Mag., 1840, II., 258; Brit. Arch. Assoc. Journ., III. (1848), 321; Essex Arch. Soc. Trans. I., 199; 6 in. O.S. Map, lii. N.E.; Essex County Chronicle, 24th May, 1901.)

These finds indicate a small settlement close to the main road and probably S. of the rivercrossing.


(2). Cathedral Church of St. Mary the Virgin (Plate p. 42) stands in the town. The walls are of flint-rubble intermixed with some blocks of freestone; the dressings are partly of limestone and partly of Reigate stone; the roofs are leaded. The old details are all of the 15th or early 16th century. The S. and W. arches of the North Chapel and the W. arch of the S. chapel are of c. 1400–1410, indicating that at that period the plan included at least a Chancel, North Chapel, North Aisle, and South Aisle. Probably c. 1430 the South Chapel was added or re-built. The South Porch was added in the second half of the century, and c. 1489 the N. and S. arcades were re-built and a clearstorey added to the nave. The exterior of the nave is said to have borne the following inscription: "Pray for the good estate of all the townsheps of Chelmysford that hath . . . good willers and procorers of helpers to this werke and . . . them that first began and longest shall continowe . . . in the yere of our Lorde I thousand IIII hundreth [LXXXV]IIII." At the same time the N. and S. aisles were possibly re-built. The West Tower was added c. 1500 and was flanked by the ends of the aisles, which may have been lengthened to receive it. Probably early in the 16th century the S. chapel was lengthened and re-built. In 1800 the roof of the nave fell, destroying the clearstorey and most of the S. arcade and part of the N. arcade, and extensive rebuilding took place. During the 19th century most of the structure was altered or renewed; the N. chapel and S. porch were largely re-built, and a clearstorey added to the chancel.

Architectural Description—The Chancel (41 ft. by 21 ft.) has a modern window in the re-built E. wall. In the N. wall are two arches: the eastern is modern; the western (Plate p. xxx) is of early 15th-century date; it is semi-circular and moulded, with two two-centred and moulded sub-arches and a pierced central spandrel filled with vertical tracery; the sub-arches spring from a pier with four attached shafts having moulded capitals and bases; the responds are attached half-piers. On the S. side is an arcade of c. 1420–30 and of three bays with four-centred arches of two orders, the outer order continuous in the E. and W. responds; the piers and responds are similar to those of the sub-arches in the N. wall. The chancel-arch is probably of late 15th-century date; it is moulded and two-centred, with a plain label on the W. face springing from moulded capitals which now have no shafts; the responds have attached semi-octagonal shafts with moulded capitals and bases.

The North-East Chapel (14 ft. by 16 ft.) is modern in all details, but the E. wall is apparently of old flint with bands of ashlar. In the W. wall is a modern arch into the N. chapel.

The North Chapel (24½ ft. by 16 ft.) has in the N. wall a modern arch opening into the N. vestry. In the W. wall, opening into the N. aisle, is an early 15th-century moulded and two-centred arch springing from responds with attached shafts having moulded capitals and bases, the latter damaged.

The North Vestry is modern.

The South Chapel (41½ ft. by 15½ ft.) is modern in all details except the 15th-century piscina in the S. wall (see Fittings), and the early 15th-century archway in the W. wall, opening into the S. aisle; it has a two-centred arch of two orders, the outer continuous, the inner springing from attached shafts with inserted moulded capitals of early 16th-century date and bases, one of which is modern.

The Nave (73 ft. by 22 ft.) has N. and S. arcades of four bays and of late 15th or early 16th-century date largely re-built; the piers have attached shafts of trefoil plan on the E. and W. sides and of circular plan on the N. and S. sides; the bases and capitals are moulded, and above the capitals the shafts are continued as mouldings on the arches; in the N. arcade the N. shaft of the third pier is mostly missing. At the W. end the E. buttresses of the tower project into the nave and enclose tall cupboards, each ventilated on the E. face by a square pierced quatrefoil, with a central rose boss on the N. and a flowered lozenge on the S.; above these openings the buttresses are sloped back to the walls, and from this level spring the attached shafts of a roof-arch of c. 1800; in the S. wall is an isolated capital, possibly connected with a former roof.

The North Aisle (16 ft. wide), has in the N. wall W. of the modern arcade a window of three trefoiled lights with tracery under a square head, all of the 15th century, much restored. In the W. wall is a modern window.

Chelmsford, The Cathedral Church of St Mary the Virgin.

The South Aisle (15 ft. wide), is modern in all details.

The 15th-century South Porch is of two storeys and is enriched externally with stone and flint inlay pattern, much restored, consisting of a high dado of chequer-pattern surmounted by crocketed and trefoiled panels; above these is 16th-century brickwork and a panelled and pinnacled parapet, partly restored. The entrance-archway and windows are all modern except some of the splaystones of the window in the W. wall.

The West Tower (15 ft. by 16 ft.), is of three stages with a moulded plinth enriched with panels and shields, and an embattled parapet with stepped merlons, probably modern, and a moulded string-course having beast-head gargoyles. The E. tower-arch is of two moulded orders, the inner springing from a large and the other having a small semi-octagonal shaft with moulded capitals. The N. and S. tower-arches are similar but much lower. The late 15th-century W. window is of three cinque-foiled lights with moulded jambs and vertical tracery under a moulded four-centred head; the label has been restored. The late 15th-century W. doorway has a moulded two-centred arch in a square head, and moulded jambs each with two attached shafts with moulded capitals and bases, much perished; the ogee label is crocketed; the spandrels of the arch are traceried and have each a shield, one with a De Vere molet in the quarter and the other with a Bourchier knot; the spandrel of the label is carved with a chained boar. S. of the W. doorway is the doorway to the stair-turret; it has a flattened four-centred head. The second stage has in the N., S. and W. walls a window of two cinque-foiled lights with moulded jambs and tracery under a two-centred head; the labels are modern. The third stage or bell-chamber has in each wall a late 15th-century window, partly restored, of three cinque-foiled lights with tracery under a two-centred head. Above the tower-roof is an 18th-century leaded spirelet rising from an open octagonal lantern with elliptical arches on moulded capitals; above the arches is a moulded cornice.

The Roof of the N. aisle is modern except for the late 15th or early 16th-century westernmost principal, which is moulded and carved with running foliage; below it is an arched truss carved with foliage, and with pierced traceried spandrels; it is supported by figures with shields, probably modern; some of the purlins are old and carved with foliage. The roof of the S. aisle is modern except the westernmost principal of c. 1500. The ceiling of the S. porch incorporates twenty traceried heads of 15th-century panelling and one moulded beam. The ceiling of the lowest stage of the tower is divided into nine square bays by moulded principals, and has moulded diagonal joists and common joists, probably all of c. 1500.

Fittings—Books: In parvise of S. porch—small library, mostly of theological works, many old, in modern shelves with two old cartouches, one with coat of arms, the other with donor's inscription and date 1679. Coffin-lid: In churchyard— W. of tower, tapering slab with hollow-chamfered edge, probably 13th-century. Door: In doorway to stair-turret, with moulded frame, four-centred head, and vertical moulded fillets, late 15th-century. Indent: In churchyard—E. of S. chapel, of civilian, two wives, and inscription plate, c. 1430. Inscriptions and Scratchings: Fixed to N.E. buttress of tower—lead panel with Royal Arms and inscription dated 1637, from former roof. On S.E. buttress of tower—slab with inscription recording benefaction, dated 1701. Scratched on N.W. respond of tower—I.W. 1656. On S. arcade of chancel—numerous mason's marks. Lockers: See Nave. Monuments and Floor-slabs. Monuments: In N. vestry—against E. wall, (1) of Thomas Mildmay, 1566, and Avice (Gunson), his wife, 1557, high sarcophagus in freestone, erected in 1571, divided in front into three panels by fluted Composite attached columns supporting entablature with enriched frieze and standing on enriched plinth; middle panel with achievement of arms; N. panel with small kneeling figures of woman and seven daughters; S. panel with similar figures of man and eight sons; above entablature are crude pinnacles and three enriched pediments, one segmental and two triangular; tomb finished with a capping of ogee form fluted on top with strap-work in front and terminating in a Greek Ionic capital surmounted by a gilt ball; N. end of tomb has panel and pediment and shield of arms; S. end modern. In S. chapel—on S. wall, (2) of Mathew Rudd, 1615, marble tablet with pediment and black marble slab with inscription and engraved with kneeling figures of man in civil dress, with wife, two sons and three daughters, at a prayer-desk, on which stands a skeleton. In outer N. aisle—on N. wall, (3) to Robert Bownd, 1696, white and grey marble tablet flanked by Ionic columns surmounted by broken voluted pediment with urn and shield of arms. On N.E. buttress of tower—(4) fragment of panelled front of monument with part of lozenge of arms and coronet, early 17th-century. Floor-slabs: In nave—at E. end, (1) to Anne (Caryer) wife of Rev. Mr. Pocklington, rector, 1709, and to Rev. Oliver Pocklington, 1741; (2) to Francis Porter and Thomasina (Bownds), his wife, 1692. In outer N. aisle—(3) to Hannah (?Maplesden), (?) wife of (?) Eleazar Bownd, 1714; (4) to Robert Bownd, 1696. In S. aisle—(5) to Thomas Hammond, 1702; (6) to Rev. Michael Batt, (?) 1705. Under tower—(7) to Thomas Marsh, 1698, Mary, his wife, 1715, Thomas, their son, 1706, and infant daughters, Mary and Love. In churchyard—E. of S. chapel, (8) to John Woodcock, 1705. Piscina: In S. chapel—in S. wall, with damaged sex-foiled drain, chamfered jambs and four-centred head, 15th-century. Plate: includes cup of 1620, dated 1621; two large flagons of 1697, dated 1697; alms-dish of 1700, dated 1701, and two stand-patens of 1707, dated 1707.

Condition—Good, much re-built and restored.


(3) Guy Harlings, house, 60 yards E. of the cathedral, has been entirely re-built, but the modern hall is lined with early 16th-century linen-fold panelling; the frieze is carved with a variety of men's heads and above one doorway is a shield of arms, on a bend between three roundels a lion passant impaling a cheveron engrailed.

Monuments (4–36).

The following monuments, unless otherwise described, are of the 17th century and of two storeys, timber-framed and plastered; the roofs are tiled. Some of the buildings have exposed ceiling-beams and original chimney-stacks.

Condition—Good, or fairly good.

New Street

(4). House, two tenements, on the E. side of the street 50 yards N. of (3). The upper storey projects in front.

(5). House, now two tenements, opposite (4).

Tindal Street, W. side

(6). Bell Hotel, 100 yards S. of the cathedral, is of three storeys with attics. It has been refronted with modern brick and otherwise much altered.

(7). Spotted Dog Inn, 40 yards S.E. of (6), is of three storeys. The back wing was built probably in the 15th or early in the 16th century. The rear portion of the main block is of early 17th-century date but the front is entirely modern. Inside the building the back wing has original king-post roof trusses.

(8). House, two shops, S.E. of (7).

(9). Dolphin Inn, 40 yards S.E. of (8), was built early in the 16th century, and has inside the building original moulded ceiling-beams and joists, some with foliated stops. On the first floor are original cambered and chamfered tie-beams.

(10). House and outhouse, S.E. of (9). The House, now a shop, with the Outhouse at the back was built late in the 17th or early in the 18th century. The house has been refronted with modern brick.

(11). House, now two shops and gateway, S.E. of (10), is of three storeys.

High Street, W. side

(12). House, now two shops, 330 yards S.S.E. of the cathedral, is of three storeys with attics. The walls are of brick. It was built probably early in the 18th century, and has an original modillioned eaves-cornice to part of the front. In the roof are two dormer windows with segmental heads.

(13). House and shop, 30 yards S.S.E. of (12) and N. of the Queen's Head Inn, is of three storeys and has a modern front. This with the Inn (re-built) and (14) probably formed one building originally. The upper storey projects on shaped brackets under the covered entrance on the S. side.

(14). House and shop, S. of the Queen's Head Inn, is of three storeys with a modern front. Inside the building is an original staircase with wavy balusters.

(15). House and shop, 10 yards S. of (14), is of three storeys with attics, and has a modern brick front. Inside the building is some original panelling with a moulded cornice.

(16). House and two shops, 25 yards N. of the old bridge, has a covered passage on the S. side leading to Ormonde's Yard. This passage has chamfered gate-posts with two original carved consoles to the lintel.

E. side

(17). House and shop, 180 yards S.S.E. of the cathedral, is of three storeys, with a modern brick front and a narrow passage on the N. side..

(18). House and shop, S. of (17), has been re-built in the 18th century except the back wing which has a projecting upper storey on the N. side.

(19). House and three shops, 70 yards S.S.E. of (18), was built in the 16th or early in the 17th century, and has an 18th-century brick front with a modillioned eaves-cornice.

(20). Cottage, at back of No. 24, High Street and 15 yards E. of (19), has an original chimney-stack with three conjoined diagonal shafts.

(21). King's Head Hotel, 10 yards S. of Springfield Road, is of two storeys with attics and cellars. It has remains of late 15th or early 16th-century construction, a 17th-century addition at the back and a modern brick front. The 17th-century wing has a gable with moulded barge-boards. Inside the building is an original fireplace with a four-centred head.

Chelmsford, Plan Shewing the Position of Monuments.

(22) House, two shops, 12 yards S. of (21), is of three storeys, and was built early in the 16th century. The upper storey originally projected in front but has been much altered and faced with modern brick. Inside the building, the N. shop has richly moulded ceiling-beams and joists. On the S. side is an original partition with some re-used moulded joists and part of a doorway with a four-centred head.

Moulsham Street, E. side

(23). House and four shops, 110 yards S.S.W. of the old bridge, has a brick front.

(24). House, four tenements with two shops, 70 yards S.W. of (23), was built c. 1600.

(25). House, two tenements, 35 yards S.W. of Hall Street. The upper storey projects in front.


(26). House and shop, 20 yards S.W. of (25), has a projecting upper storey in front.

(27). House, 40 yards N.E. of Hamlet Road, has been entirely re-built but has, set in front, an oak panel with the inscription "Anno Domini 1579 A C: R I."

W. side

(28). The Friary (Plate p. 45), five tenements and shops, at the N.E. corner of Friar's Place, was built late in the 15th or early in the 16th century. The gatehouse of the Dominican Friary is said to have adjoined it on the S.W. The upper storey projects in front and has in the southernmost bay an original moulded bressumer carved with two bands of ornament, one of vines and one of scrolled foliage. The S.W. side has an original window with diamond-shaped mullions, now blocked, and a 16th-century panelled door. Inside the building the southernmost shop has moulded ceiling-beams and joists.

(29). House and two shops, at the S.W. corner of Friar's Place.

(30). House and two shops, S.W. of (29), was built probably early in the 16th century. Inside the building is an original roof with king-post trusses.

(31). House and shop, 5 yards S.W. of (30).

(32). House and shop, 60 yards S.W. of (31), has a back wing of early 16th-century date. The front part was re-built probably late in the 17th century. Inside the building the back wing has an original moulded ceiling-beam.

(33). House and two shops, 50 yards S.W. of (32).

(34). House, S.W. of (33), was probably re-built in the 18th century, but contains a considerable quantity of mid 17th-century panelling, with fluted pilasters and geometrical ornament.

(35). Bay Horse Inn, 80 yards S.W. of (34), was built about the middle of the 16th century on an L-shaped plan with the wings extending towards the S.W. and N.W. The roof has tiebeams with curved braces and queen-posts.

(36). House and two shops, on the S. side of the Baddow Road 125 yards S. of the old bridge, was built in the 16th century. The western part is a 17th-century addition. The upper storey projects in front at two levels. Inside the building is an original moulded ceiling-beam.