Chelmsford was the National Seat of Government from 1st to 6th July 1381, when Richard II regained control after the Peasants’ Revolt was defeated at Billericay. The revolt at Brentwood had spread to Chelmsford in protest at poll taxes of one shilling in the pound (5p). Despite being described by Charles Dickens as 'the dullest and most stupid spot on the face of the earth', Chelmsford is actually quite interesting.
As Caesaromagnus, it was the only town in Roman Britain to be named after Julius Caesar – as is Beauvais in France. Since it was started in the reign of King John, Chelmsford Market has operated continuously for 806 years. The world’s first radio factory was founded by Gugliemo Marconi in Hall Street in 1899 and the world’s first wireless telegraph broadcasting service began transmission from Chelmsford on February 23rd, 1922.
Chelmsford has the largest burns unit in Europe. By coincidence, the MP for Chelmsford West is called Simon Burns but because he got only a ‘Douglas’ (from Worcester College, Oxford) he is known to his friends as ‘Third Degree Burns’.
The first wireless factory was established in Chelmsford by Marconi in 1899.
If any one were to ask me what in my opinion was the dullest and most stupid spot on the face of the Earth, I should decidedly say Chelmsford.
Chelmsford officially became a city in 2012.
Hangman William Calcraft (1800-79) came from Little Baddow, in Essex, now a suburb of Chelmsford. He served for 45 years (1829-1874) and is estimated to have hanged between 400 and 450 people, including at least 35 women. He used the ‘short-drop’ method by which the condemned was strangled, rather than the ‘long-drop’ which breaks the neck. In 1868, he carried out the last public executions in Britain.
He was paid a guinea a week retainer plus a guinea for each hanging and half a crown (12.5p) for each flogging. He got similar fees at two other prisons where he was official hangman – Maidstone in Kent and Horsemonger Lane in Surrey– but he could substantially increase his earnings by working at other prisons where he typically charged between £10 and £15. By 1850, there were 6,000 miles of railway in Britain, and Calcraft, who loved travelling, was able to work nationwide. He used to sell off bits of the rope he had used to hang famous criminals as souvenirs.
Robert the Bruce was born in Chelmsford.
Britain's first electric toaster, the eclipse, was made in Chelmsford.
There were four sets of Chelmsford Witch Trials - 1566, 1579, 1589 and 1645.
The 1645 trials, at which 25 old ladies were accused, were presided over by the notorious Witch Finder General, Matthew Hopkins. 19 of the 25 accused were hanged including the one-legged Elizabeth Clark (despite turning King’s evidence and betraying five others) and Rebecca West of Colchester, who confessed to having married the Devil. Only 3 of the 600 witches prosecuted in Essex during the 173 years witchcraft was illegal actually came from Chelmsford.
Chelmsford, Massachussets was founded by emigrants from Chelmsford in 1653.