This list entry was subjected to a Minor Amendment on the 10 August 2022 to amend the description and reformat the text to current standards
TL 7006 NE
Cathedral Church of St Mary the Virgin
(Formerly listed under Tindal Square)
The church was wholly rebuilt in the C15, at which date it comprised an aisled nave, chancel with North and South chapels, a West tower and South porch. The spire was rebuilt in 1749. The nave collapsed in 1800 following excavation in the vaults, and was rebuilt by John Johnson. Chancel and South chapel restored by Frederic Chancellor 1862, who also designed the North transept and outer North aisle added in 1873. Chancel East window and clerestory by A W Blomfield, 1877-8. There was further restoration by Chancellor in the 1880s. The two East bays of the chancel were added in 1926-8 to designs by Sir Charles Nicholson. The large complex of vestries and the original chapterhouse were added in 1929, also to designs by Nicholson. A new chapterhouse was built elsewhere, and the chapterhouse converted to a song school in 1990, and the whole complex was refurbished in the early C21 by Andrew Murdoch of Fitzroy Robinson.
MATERIALS: The medieval and the later C19, C20 and C21 work is mainly flint rubble, but has some handmade brick, with stone dressings, decorative stone banding and much flint flushwork. Early C19 stock brick nave and South aisle, the South clerestory and South aisle ashlar faced. Some Coade stone also used for details in the early C19 work.
PLAN: Nave with North and South aisles, South porch and West porch. Chancel with North and South chapels. Large song school (formerly chapterhouse) and vestry complex attached to the chancel on the North.
EXTERIOR: A large, late medieval town church greatly extended and restored in the C19 and C20.
Late C15 West tower rises high above the nave. Embattled flint flushwork parapet with small pinnacles. Complex C15 West door with ogee label breaking through a square frame with traceried spandrels. Perpendicular W window and bell openings. Classical octagonal lantern of 1749 topped by a tall needle spire of the same date.
Two-storey C15 South porch with very fine flint flushwork said by Pevsner to be 'among the best in Essex'. The embattled flushwork parapet on the porch, and continuing onto the aisle, is similar to that on the tower, and the sides of the porch have pinnacled arcades among other motifs. The outer South door is Tudor-arched in a square frame with carved spandrels and a vaulted niche above. Tudor-arched inner doorway and staircase of 1956. The porch ceiling has tracery panels.
West of the porch, the South aisle is partly flint, partly handmade brick and has brick banding. The South aisle East of the porch as rebuilt by Johnson in the early C19 and is ashlar faced, as is the clerestory above it. The aisle and clerestory window tracery is Coade stone. The East gable of the nave, and the North clerestory are stock brick, also by Johnson. The C15 South chapel has two C19 square-headed Perpendicular-style windows separated by a restored C15 door with an ogee label. The South East buttress is topped by a figure of St Peter wearing fishing boots and carrying a modern key by Thomas Huxley-Jones of 1960.
The chancel clerestory, on the medieval chancel, is 1877-8 in Perpendicular style by Blomfield. It has six windows on the South; those on the North are internal and are blocked to allow for the North transept. The projecting eastern section of the chancel was added in 1926-8 in a C15 style, but it has plain, almost flat, buttresses topped by small gables that are characteristic of Nicholson's style and distinctly C20. It is slightly higher than the medieval chancel and has matching clerestory windows and a chequered parapet. The Perpendicular-style East window, which was enlarged from three lights to five by Blomfield, was reused by Nicholson.
The North side of the chancel is dominated by a large, two-storied complex of vestries, former chapterhouse and song school in flint with Tudor-style windows. These lead off the North transept added in 1879 by Blomfield. The core was built to designs by Nicholson in 1929, with additions of Andrew Murdoch of 2003-4. The C19 outer North aisle is shorter at the West than the inner North aisle, and has three large, late Perpendicular-style windows in square frames and a North door with a gabled hoodmould. The West bay of the inner North aisle is mixed flint and early brick, and has a window similar to those in the outer North aisle.
INTERIOR: four-bay nave arcades with lozenge-shaped piers and fine mouldings, C15 in origin but much rebuilt in the early C19. The South arcade piers are Coade stone above the bases. The outer North aisle by Chancellor is similar, but has bolder capitals. The Tudor Gothic nave ceiling (painted and gilded in 1961 by Stephen Dykes Bower) is by Johnson, and has rose-window roundels. The ribs are supported by female figures between the windows. The nave aisle roofs are 1899, and are based on C15 fragments. A small balcony above the South door leads into the upper chamber above the South porch, added by Chancellor.
Tall C15 tower arch. The tower is enclosed within the West end of the nave and the North and South sides of the tower open into bays continuing the aisles. C15 chancel arch with slender octagonal shafts on the responds. The three-bay chancel arcades are early C15, but differ from North to South. On the South side, three bays with depressed arches, but on the North the western two bays, leading into the North transept, are enclosed within a large, round outer arch and have pierced tracery infill in the spandrel. The eastern arch is separated from the others by a length of walling. A C15 arch leads from the North transept into the North East chapel. The North transept window is blocked but retains its tracery. C19 hammerbeam roof in North transept. The C20 chancel extension projects beyond the chapels. C19 arch-braced chancel roof on posts descending to a string course below the clerestory; the C20 sanctuary roof is similar but has also has collars and stone shafts descending to the floor. The whole was painted and gilded by Stephen Dykes Bower in 1957.
PRINCIPAL FIXTURES: Refurnished and reordered in 1983-4 by Robert Potter, when many C19 and early C20 fittings were removed. Fittings of this date include Westmoreland slate font on a bronze base and Westmoreland slate altar designed by Potter; Westmoreland slate cathedra by John Skelton; screens to North West and South West chapels, and steel and bronze ambos by Guiseppe Lund. Multi-coloured silk patchwork hanging of 1982 by Beryl Dean under the East window. Light oak choir stalls of 1957. On blocked North transept window, painted Tree of Life by Mark Cazalet, 2004. Sculptures include a Pieta (The Bombed Child) in the SW chapel by Georg Erlich, Christ the Healer in the North West chapel also by Erlich, Madonna and Child by Peter Ball, and Christus by Thomas Huxley-Jones. Above the chancel arch, Christus Rex also by Ball.
Very good C19 and C20 glass. East window of 1859 by Clayton and Bell, enlarged in 1878, also by Clayton and Bell two windows in former South chapel. In the South aisle West of the porch by Henry Holiday, 1905-6. Chancel clerestory windows by A O Hemming, 1906-7. Four windows in the nave by Archibald Keightley Nicholson after 1927, West window of Sout West chapel also by Nicholson as a war memorial, and the East window of the North (Mildmay) chapel by A K Nicholson studios, 1950-1, replacing bomb-damaged glass. Figure of St. Peter by John Hutton, 1969.
Some good monuments, including in the North transept, Thomas (d.1566) and Avice Mildmay (d.1557), erected 1571, an unusual standing wall monument with an ogee head with strapwork. The base has three panels, with the husband and sons, in one, the wife and daughters in another and their arms in the centre. In South chancel Chapel, Matthew Rudd (d 1615): incised mural slab, attributed to Francis Grigs, with an upright skeleton between the figures. In the North East (Mildmay) chapel, Earl Fitzwalter (Benjamin Mildmay), d.1756, a large standing wall monument with a large urn in a pedimented niche flanked by cherubs and Corinthian columns of Siena marble, signed by James Lovell. In the chancel, a standing figure within a C17-style niche (all in limestone) to J E Watts-Ditchfield, d.1923, first bishop of Chelmsford, by John Walker. South chapel, Mary Marsh, d. 1757, attributed to Henry Cheere, also J P Tindal, d. 1797 at the Battle of Camperdown on board HMS Monarch, shown in relief at the base of the slab. In the nave, Evelyn, Lady Rayleigh, d. 1934 by C d'O Pilkington Jackson. In the outer North aisle, Robert Bownd, d.1696, a fine wall tablet with Ionic columns, flaming urns and flower garlands.
HISTORY: St Mary's was the parish church of Chelmsford, and is said to have been founded at the same time as the town c.1200. The church was wholly rebuilt in the C15, probably in several phases, and all traces of any earlier work are lost. It was damaged during the Civil War, when the East window was smashed. It was restored and enlarged in the C19 to meet the needs of Chelmsford's growing population. In 1914 it became the cathedral of the new diocese of Chelmsford. Various schemes for enlarging the new cathedral were proposed, and the main additions were the complex of vestries, including former chapter house to the North and the enlargement of the chancel. Sir Charles Nicholson's work is a notable episode in his important career. The cathedral was refurnished in the early 1980s to meet changing liturgical needs that demanded more flexible liturgical space. In 1990 a new Chapter house was built on a different site, and the former chapter house adjacent to the N transept was concerted into a song school.
Buildings of England: Essex (2007), 201-6
REASONS FOR DESIGNATION
The Cathedral Church of St Mary the Virgin, Chelmsford, Essex is designated at Grade I for the following principal reasons:
* A fine medieval town church with excellent flint flushwork on the porch and tower, greatly extended in the C19 and C20.
* Very high quality C20 fixtures, reflecting its elevation to Cathedral status in 1913 and subsequent ongoing development.
* Extensive survival of Georgian restoration (especially to the nave roof): of high quality and an unusual survival.
* Of high interest for the successive phases of restoration, showing evolving approaches to church renewal, and continuing the development right up to modern times.
* The church enjoys very strong townscape value, and forms the core of historic Chelmsford.
* Very good C19 and C20 glass.
* Very good monuments.