The Church of St. Mary the Virgin became Chelmsford Cathedral following a cranky contest in 1913 to choose a suitable site for the new Cathedral to serve East London. Unfortunately, funds proved short, so plans for a new building were quickly abandoned, but in 1923, Sir Charles Nicholson added two bays to the east end of the building, seen on the far right of the central portion of the building below.
The old parish church recorded its first service in 1223, and indeed, the earliest stonework is Norman. The 15th century saw a rebuilding, including the tower, crenellations and South porch. Today we complain about dilatory contractors but compare modern delays of a few months to the century it took to complete that relatively straightforward and small project due to the War of the Roses. Yes, families on both sides were financing it: The Bouchiers were on the York side (white rose), and de Veres represented the house of Lancaster (red rose).
The 1921 floorplan below does not show the two new bays added in 1923.
But you can see them in this photo, taken from the east end, looking west.
The South Porch is the portion jutting out with the Harlequin patterned tile on the bottom and the crenellations on the top. The flint flushwork’s midsection inspired the cladding on the 20th-century additions.
The fiddler, below, sits on top of the buttress supporting the South Chapel.
The porch provides a warm welcome with bright floral displays beneath a modern stained glass window.
The window, installed in the 1950s, commemorates the many US airmen stationed in Essex.
Inside, the nave is open and spacious, with a clear view of the chancel and its east window.
In 1800, several pillars and the ceiling collapsed while work was done on the south aisle vaults. The rhyme goes:
Chelmsford Church and Writtle steeple
fell down one day but killed no people
The new ceiling displays circular mouldings, similar to the previous ceiling. The colouring was added in 1961, and doesn’t it look it! Mary Quant, anyone?
A short clerestory surmounts the 15th-century pointed arches before the vaulted roof begins. Here we are looking north from just inside the south aisle, with the nave, the north aisle, and the outer north aisle beyond. Very spacious and light.
Now at the eastern end of the nave, looking into the chancel. The east window by Clayton & Bell dates to 1859; they enlarged it in 1878.
The 1923 addition can be seen on the left. Notice how the ceiling is slightly different, and the windows are longer. The original ceiling is red; the newer one is blue.
Looking from the south chapel through to the sanctuary. The 1923 addition can be seen on the far right of the sanctuary; it has no stained glass clerestory window but has a taller arch.
Looking into the south chapel,
The Cathedral banner was designed and embroidered by Beryl Dean and involved 850 hours of work. It was presented to the Cathedral in 1960. The Byzantine-style Blessed Virgin Mary is stitched on the background of Indian cloth of gold; the symbols represent the Blessed Trinity, the Holy Spirit and the Star of Bethlehem with interlacing angels’ wings.
The Cathedral sports some excellent Victorian stained glass by the ubiquitous Clayton & Bell company.
One of the chapels is devoted to the armed services.
Small but very welcoming. Back outside, we took a moment to appreciate the well-kept grounds and the central location, only a few minutes from the town centre.
Thanks for joining!