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Chelmsford City Walk

An easy ramble highlighting some historic buildings.

Distance 3 miles (4.8km)

Minimum time 1hr 15min

Ascent/gradient Negligible

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Pedestrianised streets and pavements

Landscape Historic streets and buildings

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 183 Chelmsford & The Rodings, Maldon & Witham

Start/finish TL 713067

Dog friendliness Pedestrianised areas provide traffic-free walking but dogs aren't allowed in shops and restaurants

Parking Numerous pay-and-display car parks in city centre

Public toilets Duke Street

1 From Bond Street car park, join the High Street to Shire Hall, site of the assizes and quarter sessions where, 350 years ago, Nonconformists and witches were tried in open court beneath a timber-framed canopy. Today the 18th-century building is used as the Magistrates Court. Turn left at Shire Hall and take the first turning on the right to England's smallest cathedral. Walk clockwise around the cathedral passing old sunken gravestones and leave the grounds the same way you came in.

2 Cross Tindal Square passing the statue of 19th-century judge, Chief Justice Nicholas Tindal, who was born and bred in Chelmsford. Walk along Tindal Street passing Judge Tindal's Tavern on the left, to the traffic lights at New London Road. Here, turn right and cross the bridge over the River Cam to Parkway. Just around the corner, beside the subway, an information panel describes the site of a 13th-century Dominican friary. Take the subway and follow the signs for the C & E Hospital. As you emerge you see the yellow brick Infirmary and Dispensary on your right.

3 Continue past the hospital to where a pathway to the right leads to a statue of Graham Gooch, captain of Essex and England cricket teams. Just past the statue, and along a pathway parallel with New London Road, are two Victorian villas, Thornwood and Bellefield. The first mayor of Chelmsford, Frederick Chancellor lived at Bellefield until his death in 1918.

4 Continue along New London Road for more examples of fine Victorian-style houses and attractive terraced cottages, many of which have been converted into offices. A little further up on the left is the delightful Melford Villas, now given over to bed and breakfast accomodation. Immediately next door is the street's oldest business, Lucking & Sons, funeral directors, which is adjacent to the overgrown Nonconformists' cemetery. Here is the grave of an escaped slave who made it all the way to Chelmsford from New Orleans.

5 Turn left into Elm Road and left again into Moulsham Street. At the end, cross Parkway via the subway to reach the High Street. Just after Baddow Street, on the right, is the former Regent Playhouse Theatre, now a trendy café. On Springfield Road, the next turning on the right, is the site of the Black Boy Inn, immortalised by Charles Dickens in The Pickwick Papers.

6 Back in the High Street, on the right, is the Royal Bank of Scotland, the former Mansion House and lodgings of the judge when he came to sit at the assizes. Shire Hall is straight ahead and from here you return to the car park.

Once a small Roman military settlement located on slightly raised ground near the junction of the River Cam and the River Chelmer, Chelmsford was known as Caesaromagus or Caesar's Plain, and was the only place name in Roman Britain to have an imperial prefix. Granted a market charter in 1218, it became the county town of Essex, a position it still holds today.

Moulsham Street is the site of the old London Road and the former manor of Moulsham, given to Thomas Mildmay by Henry VIII for his role as receiver of monies during the dissolution of the monasteries. The street contains many listed buildings, including six almhouses founded by Thomas Mildmay, and rebuilt in 1758. Further along there are shops and cottages where the upper storeys overhang. A particularly good example is No 41,which dates back to the 15th century.

Parts of the cathedral date back to 1420; on the south east side is a figure of St Peter holding a Yale key. In the grounds, look for the triangular gravestone dedicated to three Marys, Mary Ann Wolmar, Mary Elizabeth Eve and Mary Smith, who perished in a fire which partially destroyed the town in 1808. Note the grim epitaph 'Prepare for death ere ye retire to rest, for ye know not what a day may bring forth'.

While you're there

Two free museums, right next door to each other and a short walk from the town centre, in Oakland Park, are the Chelmsford and Essex Museum, for displays of local and social history and the Essex Regiment Museum for military exhibits and a large archive of photographs, letters and diaries.

What to look for

Look for the blue plaques, commemorating famous people, on buildings around the town. They include Thomas Hooker, the founder of Connecticut in 1636, and others who helped shape Chelmsford's history, such as Guglielmo Marconi, 'the Father of Wireless' who established the world's first radio factory in New Street.

Where to eat and drink

There's a wide choice of restaurants, cafés and atmospheric pubs along this route including the delightful Bay Horse pub, a weather-boarded 17th-century inn with a peg tile roof in Moulsham Street, and a number of riverside pavement-style coffee shops including Costa Café next to the Meadway shopping centre.


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