Deep in the Essex heartland, the calm and affluent city of Chelmsford bears little resemblance to the brash stereotypes of the borough.
Chelmsford has been a market town since the 1100’s, when it was granted a Royal Charter by the Bishop of London, and grew throughout the Medieval period to become the County Town of Essex, and much later, home to the UK’s first regular radio broadcasts from Guglielmo Marconi’s factory in 1922.
More recently, Chelmsford’s modern riverside apartments have been drawing in young professionals, whilst the excellent independent schools (two of which are among the UK’s top ten grammar schools) often seal the deal for families considering the area. The downside? Chelmsfordians often have to contend with frustrating traffic jams, bland dining options and a lack of vibrant cultural life.
However, if you’re in possession of a generous budget, the suburbs of Springfield and Great Baddow and the centrally-located Old Moulsham are usually regarded as some of the nicest places to live in Chelmsford. Other rivals for the best place to live in Chelmsford include the recent Beaulieu Park development, an increasingly popular ‘Urban Village’, with a new secondary school, shopping outlets and capacity for 3,600 properties, as well as the nearby historic village of Writtle.
‘Just thirty-two miles from the capital, the disadvantage of living in such close proximity to London is the effect this has on property prices – the cost of the average property in Chelmsford has risen rapidly by 40% since 2014 to over £320,000 and shows no signs of slowing down’.
Nowadays Chelmsford is somewhat of a commuter hub, with four trains an hour to the capital and around 14,000 London commuters per day, making Chelmsford Station one of the busiest outside of London. The M25 is also nearby and the A12 will take you into London in around an hour, although traffic jams are notoriously bad on this route.
Within the city itself there are various bus services operating from the central bus terminal on Duke Street, as well as routes further afield to Southend and Stanstead Airport. For those living further out, the city is well served by two Park & Ride facilities at Sandon and Chelmer Valley.
London may be on your doorstep, but Chelmsford still has much to offer – particularly for such a compact city. Two shopping centres, Meadows and High Chelmer, provide major high street stores including Warehouse, Boots and HMV, while the pedestrianised High Street offers the likes of Debenhams and M&S. Independent boutiques and businesses such as Boudicca Interiors and The Farm Shop can be found on Moulsham Street, while the indoor market on Bellmead has a good selection of unique offerings including vintage stalls and a friendly local butchers.
Dining out is more limited, with a mix of chain restaurants, coffee shops, gastropubs and the occasional independent spot. Prezzo, Pinchos and Pizza Express can all be found around Baddow Road, while a little further out of the city, gastropubs The Green Man and The Fox & Goose are popular with families on the weekends. Nearby Writtle is home to some of Chelmsford’s most upmarket restaurants, such as Modern European eatery Grahams on the Green and the sophisticated Bridge Street Lounge & Grill.
If you prefer home cooking, Chelmsford is well supplied with supermarkets – large branches of Tesco and Asda can all be found here, as well as a well-stocked Oriental supermarket for international products. For something a little more special, an open-air market descends on the High Street every Friday and Saturday with stalls selling organic produce from local producers.
Health & Sport
Fitness fans in the area tend to flock to the council-run Riverside Ice and Leisure Centre, which offers facilities including multiple swimming pools, a gym, squash courts and an ice rink, or alternatively the Chelmsford branches of popular gym chains Virgin Active and Nuffield Health Fitness & Wellbeing. For more outdoor pursuits, the city is home to three golf clubs, two of which are within walking distance of the town centre.
Despite the recent promotion to city status, cultural life in Chelmsford is yet to catch up. There are three reasonable theatres where live music performances, plays and film screenings can be found, and most blockbusters are covered by either the large Odeon Cinema, or smaller, art-house Everyman Cinema. For historically-minded residents, the Chelmsford Museum and Sanford Mill are both worth a visit, while the musically-inclined will enjoy being in such close proximity to V Festival every August, which takes place in Hylands Park.
Chelmsford has a good selection of state secondary and primary schools, with the best primary schools in the area being Perryfields Junior School and Beehive Lane Community School – both of which were ranked among the best in the UK.
Schools and Education
Among secondary schools, Chelmer Valley High School, Moulsham High School, and Great Baddow High School are all highly rated by Ofsted. Meanwhile, leading schools in the area include King Edward VI Grammar School for Boys, and Chelmsford Country High School for Girls, both of which are highly rated nationally, as well as prep schools including St Cedd’s and St Annes.
For further education, Chelmsford is home to a modern campus of Angela Ruskin University, which was ranked 39th in the UK by the Times Higher Education rankings in 2016.
Chelmsford is generally regarded as a safe city to live in, with a lower crime rate than the UK average. Moulsham, Melbourne and Springfield have slightly higher levels crimes rates, with the majority of recorded crimes are either violent or anti-social.
Adding to the family-friendly nature of Chelmsford is the abundance of green space, from the huge Hylands Park on the outskirts of the town to more central spaces including Admirals Park, Melbourne Park and Central Park.