Old Images of Chelmsford, Essex

Chelmsford Essex old photos & film local history

Glimpse history through old images of Chelmsford, Essex, England.

Chelmsford in Essex officially became a city on 6 June 2012, marking the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II.

But people have been living in the area through the Neolithic and Bronze Age eras, and the Roman fort of AD60 encouraged the building of a town here.

The commission of a bridge and a market Royal Charter in 1199 meant the settlement quickly grew and soon became the county town.

It was here that the self-styled Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins found many of his unfortunate victims around the time of the English Civil War. 

The Marconi Works

This is archive film of the Marconi Works in New Street. It includes men and women working in the factory, before taking a look at the sports club and busy local streets.

The film opens with Mr Norman Lea, chief of testing. “A cigarette helps to solve many problems” apparently. Next we see Mr WJ Davis and Mr D O’Donovan of the Designs Department. Then it’s onto the factory floor. There’s a nice shot from the factory yard, showing the building and immediate environment.

Crystal grinding for constant frequency drives is shown, with lots of busy factory workers.

Mr WT Ditcham now appears. “Mr WT Ditcham was the voice on the air many years before broadcasting became general, he announced for Dame Nellie Melba on June 15th 1920”.

Marconi Works New Street Chelmsford – Posted to YouTube by IOWFilmClub

More scenes of factory work, including Danger signs. Then testing radio telephone equipment terminal gear at Broomfield – while smoking, obviously.

After work, great streams of men and women pour out of the factory gates. Nice closeups of dozens of people.

Near the end of the film is footage of a busy city street, overrun with bicycles and ladies wearing big fur coats. The Saracen’s Head Hotel is one of many local businesses to appear.

Girl Guides Event 1949

At a massed rally of Girl Guides and Brownies in 1949, Princess Margaret appeared in her new uniform as Sea Ranger Commodore. Unfortunately none of the adults or teenagers in the film are named, although perhaps more than a hundred appear on film.

At the time, Princess Margaret was 19 years old.

The previous Sea Ranger Commodore and Chief Ranger was her eldest sister Elizabeth, who became Queen Elizabeth II on 6 February 1952.

Princess Margaret hosts girl guides rally at Chelmsford (1949) – British Pathé on YouTube

1960s Chelmsford

A look back to an age where most people in the area still travelled by bus. But the streets were already struggling with rising traffic levels.

Colchester & Chelmsford in the Sixties DVD clip – TIMEREELTV on YouTube

1970s Carnival

This lovely 1970s video is silent but in colour. The marching band is followed by a series of floats, performers and a juvenile baton twirling team. It’s all very familiar to those who attended carnivals in the 1970s.

Chelmsford Carnival around 1975 – Danny Carpenter on YouTube

1986 Compared To 2011

This is great video montage comparing a wide range of locations in 1986 to the same place in 2011. 

The original 1986 photos came about because Mrs Field at Chelmsford College suggested one of her pupils take photos of the local area for a school project. She then suggested taking photos of the same locations six months later.

Chelmsford then and now – snipercheata on YouTube

Meadows Shopping Centre 1992

This is a brilliant short film of the Meadows Shopping Centre under construction in 1992. Remember when all shopping centres had plants in abundance? At least the shiny glass lifts lasted longer. 

It’s strange how old fashioned the Waitrose sign looks now. And how tragic that Bhs is long gone, when it was clearly the flagship store for the new shopping centre in 1992.

Chelmsford Essex 1992 – Malcolm Tilsed on YouTube

BHS 1992

Back in 1992, Malcolm Tilsed was Manager of the local BHS store. This is a digitised version of his old VHS tape from 2 June 1995. Hundreds of staff and customers appear.

This video takes in the store’s setting, and the behind the scenes work that customers rarely noticed. We see a delivery driver, cleaning, careful display presentations, stock displays, till loading, office workers, menu display, cooking, preparing the light section, and all the staff ready with their smiles. Then the shutters open for customers!

And then there’s a montage of the charity events, which raised so much money for worthwhile causes.

BHS Chelmsford Shopping Experience 2 June 1995 Malcolm Tilsed – Malcolm Tilsed on YouTube

Chelmsford in 2009

In case this video leaves you in no doubt, Chelmsford’s selling point is its proximity to London. I jest, although there’s something a bit dystopian about the way Chelmsford is presented in this video from 2009.

However, lots of people appear in the shopping areas so keep an eye out for someone you know.

Chelmsford – beresfordgroup on YouTube

Building Beaulieu 2015

A building site in 2015, long since completed and occupied.

Beaulieu, Chelmsford from above – SuperKO1980 on YouTube

More about Essex


Discover more Essex locations, Facebook Groups and Local History Resources

About the author