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C H E L M S F O R D, Essex
Universal British Directory of 1791
This town gives rise to the hundred of that name, which hundred, lying nearly in the centre of the county, is both advantageously and pleasantly situated. The roads are exceedingly good, the soil is fertile, and the air temperate. It is not, as has been described, a flat heavy country, but agreeably diversified with lawns and eminences, and plentifully supplied with the purest water: under these many advantages, it is no wonder that we find it populous, and that the generality of the inhabitants enjoy a goods state of health. To add to the agreeable variety, it is ornamented with several neat and elegant seats of the gentry, &c, many of whom make this the chief place for their country residence. It contains thirty parishes:
Chicknal St. James
Chelmsford stands at the confluence of two rivers, the Chelmer, and the Cann; from the former of which it derived its name. In some places, Doomesday-book has it Celmeresfort; in others, Celmeresford, and Chelmsford: however it is evidently a contraction of Chelmer's-Ford, all carriages, cattle, &c, being under the necessity of fording this river before bridges were thrown over it. Chelmsford is the capital of the county, and distant from London 29 measured miles. The town consists of four streets, the principal of which is beautiful, regular and well-built. The entrance from the metropolis was over an old stone bridge, built by Maurice, bishop of London, anno 1100, in the reign of Henry the First; but which had so much decayed, as to render it necessary to be rebuilt, which the magistrates of the county had done in 1787; and there is now a strong stone bridge of one beautiful arch. No sooner is this passed over, than the attentive traveller is struck with the most agreeable surprize - a spacious ample street presents itself, of a considerable length, in which are many handsome good houses. At the upper end, upon an ascent, stands the shire-hall, which is now rebuilding, and, when finished, will be a most magnificent edifice: it contains two handsome roomy courts, finished in the most convenient and elegant manner; many large and useful rooms for the purposes of transacting the business of the county; and in front, which is of stone, there is a capital ball-room; the length of the whole building 84 feet; there are 4 beautiful pillars erected of the Ionic order, between each of which there is a handsome window, and above the windows are three emblematic figures representing Justice, Wisdom, and Mercy. This beautiful edifice was built by Mr. Johnson, the county surveyor; the execution goes great credit to his abilities as an architect; and will be a lasting monument of the taste and spirit of the magistrates of this opulent county. On the left of this building is seen the tower spire, and chief part of the church; which venerable structure terminates this elegant piece of perspective. Each street lies with an easy descent towards centre, and is washed with a current of clear water. What contributes much to the peculiar cleanliness of this town, is its being paved on one side, the other part gravelled. The sign-posts, which used formerly to project out, so as to be a very glaring nuisance, are now entirely removed; and the inhabitants seem inspired with a laudable emulation, in endeavouring to outvie each other in the neatness of their dwellings. The Chelmer and the Cann form here an angle, along which lie many pleasure-gardens, &c, and some of them are agreeably laid out. On the banks of these rivers various temples and summer-houses are built, some of which are so pretty in the manner of their construction as to display an elegance of taste in the projectors. In an open space (nearly a square) adjoining the shire-hall, stands a conduit. When it was first erected is uncertain, as it bears no date; but it was beautified by the noble family of Fitzwalters. It is of a quadrangular form, about fifteen feet high, built with stone and brick; it has four pipes, one on each side, from which the purest water is perpetually flowing. The following inscription is on the side that fronts the part from whence the spring rises:" This conduit in one minute runs 1 hogshead and ½ and 4 gallons and ½; in one day, 2262 hogsheads and 54 gallons; in one month, 63360 hogsheads; and in one year, 825942 hogsheads and 54 gallons."Lower down, in four small tables, are the underwritten inscriptions on each side; they are happily chosen, and very ellusive on the subject
" Benignus benignis,"
Bountiful to the bounteous
" Nec parcus parcis "
Liberal to the coveteous
" Nec diminitus largiendo "
Not diminished by bestowing
" Sic charitas a deo fonte "
Thus charity from the heavenly fountain,
Two hundred pounds were given by Sir William Mildmay, Bart. the intent whereof to be applied towards keeping the useful conduit, and its pipes, in repair, with which, and 100l. presented from the Sun Fire-Insurance Office, in London, 100l. from the Royal Exchange Assurance Fire-Office, and a subscription raised among the inhabitants, it is intended to rebuild it in an elegant style; also to convey the whole of the water from the head of the well, as a great quantity is found to run to waste. The spring from which it is supplied rises about a quarter of a mile from the town, and is called Burges's well; it is large and strongly bricked round: upon particular occasions this conduit has withheld its chrystal stream, and, to indulge the sons of Bacchus, poured fourth wine with great liberality.
This town is considerable in many respects. It is most conveniently situated for the transactions of the public business of the county. The assizes, general quarter sessions, petty sessions, county courts, and sittings of the commissioners for the land and window-tax, are held here. Here likewise are made the elections for the knights of the shire, and here stands the county-gaol, which was rebuilt of stone in 1777, and is one of the finest gaols in the kingdom.
The great road from London to Colchester, Harwich, Suffolk, and many parts of Norfolk, lies through this town; on which account it is furnished with several good inns for the reception of travellers, viz. Black Boy, Saracen's Head, Bell, White Lion, White Hart, &c. Here is a good market every Friday, supplied with corn, meat, fish, fowls, &c. &c. and a very large fair on the 1st of May and 1st of November.
Public diversions are very frequent in this town, such as balls, concerts, &c. The queen gives an annual plate of one hundred guineas value, and two plates, value fifty pounds each, are also given annually to be run for on Galleywood-common, near this place; one of which is collected from the neighbouring nobility and gentry; and the other, called the town-plate, is subscribed for by its inhabitants, which renders the town at that time a lively scene, as most of the nobility and gentry of the county usually attend.
A regular and respectable constituted lodge of the ancient order of the free and accepted masonry is held here, the Friday on or preceding the full moon, in every month.
The church is a noble structure, situated at the end of the town, and dedicated to St. Mary; it has three spacious aisles, which run to the end of the chancel, and are leaded. A stately square tower, built of stone, stands at the West end, with proper pyramids on each corner; upon it is erected a light genteel spire, which is likewise leaded, and has rather a pretty effect. It has a ring of excellent bells, and also a clock. The body of the church is supported by pillars of a light construction, and excellent workmanship; the windows are Gothic and curious; at the West end, adjoining to the belfry, is an excellent and beautiful organ. The church appears to have been built about 300 years, The register's office, for the transaction of ecclesiastical business, is over the great porch-door, under the window of which is an ancient carved niche, that seems to have contained some curious piece of sculpture.
In this town is a royal free grammar-school, founded by king Edward the Sixth, in 1552, and liberally endowed by that monarch. This princely foundation was obtained through the petition of Sir William Petre, Knt. Sir Walter Mildmay, Knt. Sir Henry Tyrrell, Knt. and Thomas Mildmay, Esq. who were by Edward constituted a body of corporate and politic, for ever, by the name of the governors of the possessions, revenues, and goods, of the free-school of king Edward, in the parish of Chelmsford. The governors have a large seal of brass, on which is curiously engraved a rose, somewhat after the manner of the seal of the Privy Council. Mr. Morant observes, that this seal was found, some years ago, in one of the streets of Colchester, and sold, but that the purchaser generously presented it to the governors of the school. The late governors used to take their respective turns to preside and manage, for five years each successively. But the present ones act jointly; they are Lord Petre, J. J. Tufnell, R. Benyon, and B. Bramston, Esqrs. The present school-house, &c. was erected in 1782, by R. Benyon, Esq. who was at that time acting governor, Sir John Tyrrell, Bart. purchased great part of the yard, gardens, &c. belonging to the George-inn; he likewise purchased a considerable part of the inn itself. This with additions and enlargements, he converted into a house for the head master, and it made and exceedingly good one; but in 1781, being so much out of repair, it was found expedient to rebuild it. The school-room, which has been improved, is lofty and spacious; at the end of it is a neat and convenient garden; the situation is pretty, and the whole forms a comfortable residence. Besides this, the town has the advantage of two charity-schools; one founded the 17th of August, 1713, for 50 boys; the other, in April, 1714, for 20 girls; both which are now incorporated, and supported by voluntary subscriptions.
The chief support of this place, besides the business of the county, is the multitude of carriers and passengers constantly passing to London, with great droves of cattle, provisions, and manufactures.
In the year 1765 a proposal was made to make the river Chelmer navigable from Moulsham-bridge to the port of Maldon. An act of parliament was obtained for that purpose, and a certain number of commissioners was appointed to see it carried into execution. But the opposition set on foot by the inhabitants, and the supporters of the borough of Maldon, on account of it being injurious to the town, totally set aside the plan, by which the town of Chelmsford was deprived of a navigable river, and the interior country, for upwards of twenty miles, thereby deprived of many advantages which it would certainly have derived had the proposed improvements taken place.
The bank, under the firm of Crickitt, Menish, and Co. is open nine till five, and its bills are drawn on Esdaile and Co. Lombard-street, London.
The post to and from London passes through the town every morning and evening, Sunday excepted. The post-office opens at eight in the morning and shuts at ten at night. The postage of letters is 4d. The Post Mistress is Mary Kirby.
Coaches, &c.A coach from the Four Swans, Bishopsgate-street, daily at seven in the morning; and from the Cross Keys, and Spread Eagle, Gracechurch-street, daily at two in the afternoon in summer, and ten in the morning in winter.A caravan from the Saracen's Head, Aldgate, ever Saturday, at eleven in the morning.A waggon from the Catherine Wheel, Bishopsgate-street, ever Saturday, at five in the afternoon; from the Blue Boar, Whitechapel, Tuesday and Friday, at five in the afternoon, from the Swan, Whitechapel, Tuesday and Friday, at four in the afternoon; from the Saracen's Head, Aldgate, every Saturday, at ten in the morning; and from the Ipswich Arms, Cullum-street, every Thursday, at noon.A cart from the Ram, Smithfield, every Friday, at six in the morning.A vessel from Harrison's wharf.
There are many seats of the nobility and gentry in the neighbourhood of Chelmsford, among which we shall notice the following. On the manor of Moulsham stands the mansion-house of the ancient family of the Mildmays, distinguished by the name of Moulsham-hall. It is delightfully placed on an easy ascent, about a quarter of a mile on the East side of the town, and stands nearly East, West, North, and South. The grand front commands Danbury hill; it is very regular, and on the top of it are three statues, representing Diana, Apollo, and Mercury; under these are the family arms in basso relievo, carved in freestone. The other parts of the house have a view of the London road, the town of Chelmsford, gardens, &c. It was rebuilt by the late Benjamin earl Fitzwater, and was planned with the nicest skill and judgement, to render it so completely elegant, and at the time truly commodious. The pilasters, cornices, entablatures, and other decorative ornaments, are all of stone. In the inside is a quadrangular court flagged. It has a gallery on each floor round it, by which means an easy access is obtained to all the different apartments, without the inconveniency of making any of them a passage; the principal rooms are large, and well disposed; the grand hall at the entrance is lofty, and the cieling curiously wrought with fret-work. In the breakfast-room are many pictures of the ancient part of the Mildmay family, which are well executed; and the house in general contains a great variety of excellent paintings. Here are several plantations of hops by the road side, which in summer, have a pleasing appearance.
The great road through the hamlet of Moulsham was formerly very indifferent, on account of its unnevenness, but it has been levelled and made a very good road.
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