On 19 September 2018 Jackie Arnot, our Chairman, welcomed everyone to the first of the new season of evening talks. She then welcomed and introduced the speaker, Yvonne Lawrence. Mrs Lawrence used the alliterative caption her talk to illustrate three important stories which have been woven into the fabric of Chelmsford’s history.
First she looked at it’s development as a market town. This dates from the thirteenth century when the Bishop of London obtained the right for a market to be held in Chelmsford on Fridays. The Bishop also had the wooden bridge over the river, which separated Chelmsford from Moulsham, rebuilt. This had been provided by the Romans, but no-one maintained it after their departure and it had collapsed, leaving Chelmsford isolated. However, the new bridge and market brought in an era of prosperity for the town and soon it was a thriving bustling place, with more and more new properties being built. Eventually it was to have a cattle market, a corn exchange and many important civic buildings. Although many of the features have disappeared, or drastically altered, we now again have market stalls in the High Street - though without the mess and smells of medieval times!
Mrs Lawrence next looked at the influence of the Mildmay family on the history of Chelmsford. Thomas Mildmay arrived in the town in 1506. He was a mercer by trade, making high quality cloth used for clothing used by high quality people. Thomas obviously had ambitions to join them. He bought a property known as Guy Harlings, a good place in which to bring up his fifteen children. He also illegally obtained a coat of arms. He was so determined that his family would prosper that he had an unusually complex will drawn up. This stated that the Mildmay estate could never be sold or broken up, but must always pass to a male Mildmay heir. The family had acquired land and property, and had a mansion (demolished in 1809) on what is now the site of Moulsham Schools. By then the family had run out of heirs and the terms of the will was causing great problems, and in 1839 Parliament gave permission for the will to be revoked.
The third and final strand of Mrs Lawrence’s talk was the arrival in Chelmsford of Marconi. To begin with Marconi was only concerned with the military and naval application of radio signals, he had not thought of vocal transmission or using radio for entertainment. Of course, we all know of the part played by radio in the Titanic tragedy and the huge boost it gave to the Marconi company. But years later something happier happened and we were privileged to hear a recording of Dame Nellie Melba making her historic broadcast from Writtle in 1920. Jackie thanked Mrs Lawrence for her brilliant talk, both informative and entertaining.