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Chelmsford Cathedral

History

Blessed Sacrament windowThe first church on the site of the present Cathedral was founded (as was the town of Chelmsford itself) 800 years ago. This church was dedicated to St Mary the Virgin, and was rebuilt in the 15th and early 16th centuries. It became a Cathedral in 1914 when the Diocese of Chelmsford was created to meet the needs of the growing population east of London. In 1954 its dedication was extended to include St Peter and St Cedd.

 

Architecture

The exterior walls are of flint rubble intermixed with blocks of building stone and brick. There is a fine tower topped by a spire with a weather vane that portrays a dragon coming out of the sun. On the south east corner is a contemporary statue of St Peter with his fishing boots, net, fish and key.

Attractions

It is one of the smallest cathedrals in England. What it lacks in size, it makes up for in warmth and brightness. The nave, with its colourful roof, was rebuilt early in the 19th century after a collapse due to excavation in the vault. In 1983, the interior was refurbished. The honey-coloured limestone helps to give the Cathedral its sense of space and light. The new seating gives flexibility for worship as well as for musical events, particularly the annual Chelmsford Cathedral Festival in May. The altar, the Bishop’s chair and the font are all made from Westmoreland slate. The bronze and steel ambos on each side of the chancel arch, the screens of the two chapels at the back of the nave and the bronze statue depicting the sufferings of today’s world are all by contemporary artists.

The stained-glass windows are all of the 19th and 20th centuries. The large east window depicts the Virgin Mary, eleven disciples and scenes from the life and ministry of Jesus. It replaced a window destroyed in 1641 by a mob inflamed by puritan passions.

The interesting 15th century south porch was enriched in 1953 to mark Anglo-US friendship. Many US airmen were stationed in Essex during the Second World War.

The Cathedral also has links with Thomas Hooker, who was Town Lecturer in Chelmsford from 1626 to 1629. He had to leave for the New World because of his Puritan views. He went on to found the town of Hartford, Connecticut and has been called the Father of American Democracy.

The Cathedral has two splendid organs. The nave organ, installed in 1994 at the west end of the Cathedral, was the first completely new organ with mechanical action to be built in an Anglican cathedral in this country for more than a century.

The chancel organ was completed in 1995. The pipework is from an organ of 1884 made for the church of St Andrew in Cambridge. Although both organs are independent instruments, all but the choir division of the nave organ can be played from the console of the chancel organ.

Local Interest

City centre park and shopping, wide choice of restaurants