Chelmsford in old picture postcards

Chelmsford in old picture postcards

:   Stan Jarvis
:   Essex
:   United Kingdom
:   978-90-288-2734-9
:   112
:   EUR 16.95 Incl BTW *

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Fragmenten uit het boek 'Chelmsford in old picture postcards'

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Chelmsford is not a special place in the story of England. It is not a magnet of scenic attraction, drawing thousands of tourists, but it has enjoyed, quietly and modestly, through seven hundred years and more, the status of County Town of Essex, the county which is the gateway to Britain for visitors from all over the world. The town has been the hub of the administration of justice and of local government for hundreds of years following its development as a centre of trade. The Romans actually named the settlement they founded 'Caesar's Market', and nearly two thousand years later that market, for farmers and for shoppers, is still regularly held.

In the interests of trade and commerce the town has gradually grown and constantly changed. Old buildings have been demolished with an eye to improvement in profit and trade. The preservation of property in the interest of historical record or environmental beauty was, until very recently, a minor consideration. So the ancient buildings the tourists flock to photograph do not exist in Chelmsford.

The old postcards of the town are therefore of great interest because they show more effectively than words can tell the many changes in the Chelmsford

townscape. Changes which show a site being developed again and again as years pass and patterns of trade and commerce change at each shake of time's kaleidoscope. It has not been easy to discover a range of postcards to represent the whole of Chelmsford. Townsfolk, intent on business, did not bother to make collections of cards showing buildings or streets they were ab out to knock down and redevelope; so most cards were bought to be posted out of the town. The visitors might send them as a form of greeting to their friends, but many older Chelmsfordians will be able to reeall with pleasure, from the reproductions in these pages, the many cards they sent off in the days when the telephone was a rich man's toy, and one hundred and one arrangements were made, postponed or cancelled at the last minute through the speedy service of the picture postcard popped into the postbox. In fact, the scribbled messages on the backs of these postcards could well be studied for the light they shed on the social history of their time.

The scarcity of such postcards has been more than made up for by the amazing collection of original photographs from which the cards were reproduced that exists in the Essex Record Office and the

Che1msford Pub1ic Library. They are for the greater part the work of the Spaldings, father and son, and show Chelmsford scenes from as early as 1870 to as late as 193 S. But for the unfortunate early death of the grandson, who does contribute two aerial photographs to this book, the span of family conneetion with Chelmsford photography wou1d have been further extended. As it is we can see the development from the old plate camera where movement caused a blur to the hand camera operated by the pilot of a high-speed plane which produces an aerial view of the greatest, c1earest detail.

The choice of postcards or original photographs to be inc1uded in this book has been very difficult to make. lt was decided that an arrangement which featured an imaginary walk through the main thoroughfare would be appreciated not on1y by those who have known the town well all down the years, but also for those of recent acquaintance with Chelmsford who will need the assistance of a kind of guided tour to get their bearings where so much of a street scene has altered. At appropriate times diversions from the main street are made to visit buildings and scenes which were the subject of old postcards. Chelmsford

today is a very large Borough, having taken in twentyseven villages since the re-organisation of local government in 1974. lt would not be possib1e to feature all those villages in a book like this, but there are two expeditions out of the town, into nearby Great Baddow, now joined up to the town by building development, and to Writtle, following the carrier's van, to show, by these two examples, that it was the hinterland of villages, looking to the centre for its shops, its crafts, its trades, its very life-support, th at made Chelmsford into the important centre of agricultural and industrial and administrative business that it is today.

Finally, it may seem easy to pro duce a book of photographs, but the research required to make the captions accurate and interesting is considerab1e. In this work I have had cause to be much obliged to Mr. Geoff Baker for his expert, photographic knowledge and real assistance in reproduction; and I owe Eddie and Diana Ketley a debt of gratitude for their interest, advice and encouragement.

1. A rare view of the centre of Chelmsford taken by Lieutenant Spalding, R.A.F., flying over the town in 1920. The High Street leads from bottom left up to the Shire Hall and Tindal Square, with the Corn Exchange on the left of the Square. The parish church, now the Cathedral of the Chelmsford Diocese, rises from the centre of the picture. The main railway line to London runs along the viaduct on the left at the top. The many roofs tiled in local style show how little the town centre had developed up to that time. The market had long since been removed from the broadening High Street to Market Road at the top left-hand edge beyond the Corn Exchange.

2. Lieutenant Spalding, son of the celebrated local photographer Fred Spalding, swooped low in his aeroplane to take a close-up of Tindal Square. The long shadows and the absence of traffic show that this photograph was taken in the early morning of an autumn day in 1920. The scaffolding on the building in the left foreground shows that the old houses were demolished to allow the building of the present branch of the Midland Bank. The 'Sebastopol Cannon' stands outside the Shire Hall. Beyend the churchyard stands the church school, now closed. On the roof of the third house to the left of the Shire Hall ean be seen the greenhouse-like strueture whieh formed Fred Spatding's studio; plaeed on the roof of his shop so that he eould take maximum advantage of naturallight in the early days of photography.

3. Fred Spalding took this photograph of a painting done in 1874 to show the difference from the view he took, shown next, fifty years or so later. The wooden bridge was transferred to Admirals Park, to the left of the picture, in February, 1922, where it can still be seen today, though it is now closed in the interests of safety. The circu1ar foundations of the mill could be seen when the ground was cleared in 1959 to make the present car park. The mill is marked as 'Rainsford Mill (corn)' on the Ordnance Survey map of 1876, but in the next edition of 1897 it has disappeared and new buildings are shown on that site. Now the car park itself awaits development as part of the town's relief road system.

4. Compare the previous picture with this photograph of Rainsford Lane, looking from the south up to Rainsford End. The new bridge carries over the river the 1ane which formerly stopped abruptly at its bank, carrying on only as a ford and a farm track. This bridge was built in 1921 and was probab1y the reason for, and date of the photograph. The lane was known in early days as Gallows Lane because public executions took place near its junotien with Rainsford Road and human bones have been unearthed in excavations there. The bridge itself was used in France during the First World War and subsequently was bought by the Borough Council from the War Office. A newer bridge now spans the widened road and the greenhouses behind the trees on the right have long since given way to the Fire Station, built in 1959, and its associated firemen's houses.

5. Some boys were learning the domestic arts and crafts as far back as 1905, the date of this postcard, one of a whole series showing life at the Essex Industrial School. By 1927, according to the local directory, it was being cailed the Essex Home School for Boys. lt was established in 1872 in Baddow Road, then, in 1878 the present buildings were erected on fourteen acres of open land off Rainsford Road. lts fuil title then, 'Essex Industrial School and Home for Destitute Boys', is further explained in the 1894 Directory: Object: To clothe, [eed, lodge, educate and train to industrial work, destitute and neglected boys, especially orphans and those in danger of falling into crime ... when a boy leaves he is provided with outfit, and apprentieed or placed in employment most suitable to him. Having very much changed its objectives to suit changing social patterns down the years, the School was finally rendered obsolete and closed in 1982. Development of the site is now under discussion.

6. Back towards town the road leads on to the junction with Broomfield Road, the scene of this photograph. The road in the foreground is Duke Street; that on the right is Broomfield Road. The date is about 1900. The temperanee hotel was formerly the Red Cow Inn, established before 1722. In 1867 it was owned by Writtle Brewery and William Payne Bruty was the landlord of twenty years standing. Then the inn's history took an unusua1 turn; it became a coffee tavern, curiously re-named the Red Cow British Workman and was described thus in 1894: ... th ere are public dining and coffee rooms and commercial room, H. Marriage, treasurer; E. Rosling, secretary; Manager of the 'Britisb workman " W. Clarke. A Eoan Society is held here ... Headquarters, United Football Club. It seems that a little group of socialists met here regularly at this time, addressed, on occasions, by that 'Sweet Singer and Socialist' John Evelyn Barlas.

7. Rainsford End corner in 1928. The house in the left foreground is Rainsford House, already by this time bought up for use as the Municipal Offices, with George Barford esconced there as Town Clerk. It was demolished in 1961 to make way for the purpose-built Town Hall. The road coming into the picture from the left is Coval Lane, now considerably widened as part of the relief road called Parkway, The car showrooms on its further side were owned then by John Austin and later by Donald Denoon, whose business, taken over by Tricentrol, moved to the Widford Industrial Estate, to allow the building of an office block on the site. The writing on the wall of the house further along on the left advertises the County' Hotel which has expanded in both directions.


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8. This photograph was taken at the same junction, looking along Broomfield Road, with the Red Cow Temperanee Hotel on the left. The tall lamp-posts were part of the town lighting system introduced by Colonel Crompton, made in his Anchor Works at Chelmsford. On the original print Fred Spalding noted in his own hand, 'Beautiful trees all gone now. Shops both sides.' The scene ean be dated roughly to the early twentieth century by the presence of the steam traction engine. The temperanee hotel eventually became Barclays Bank, but they removed from it in recent years and it has been used by more than one firm as a discount warehouse.

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