The first church on the site of the present Cathedral was founded (as was the town of Chelmsford itself) 800 years ago. This church was dedicated to St Mary the Virgin, and was rebuilt in the 15th and early 16th centuries. It became a Cathedral in 1914 when the Diocese of Chelmsford was created to meet the needs of the growing population east of London. In 1954 its dedication was extended to include St Peter and St Cedd.
The nave, with its colourful ceiling was rebuilt early in the 19th century after a partial collapse due to excavation in the vault. In 1983, the interior was refurbished. The honey-coloured limestone floor helps to give the Cathedral its sense of space and light. New seating gives flexibility for worship as well as for musical events. The altar, the Bishop's chair (cathedra) and the font are all made from Westmorland slate. The bronze and steel ambos on each side of the chancel arch, the screens of the two chapels at the west end of the nave and the bronze Pietà, depicting the sufferings of today's world, are all by contemporary artists.
The stained-glass windows are all of the 19th and 20th centuries. The large east window depicts the Virgin Mary, eleven disciples and scenes from the life and ministry of Jesus. It replaced a window destroyed in 1641 by a mob inflamed by puritan passions.
The interesting 15th century south porch was enriched in 1953 to mark Anglo-US friendship. Many US airmen were stationed in Essex during the Second World War.
The Cathedral also has links with Thomas Hooker, who was Town Lecturer in Chelmsford from 1626-29. He had to leave for the New World because of his Puritan views. He went on to found the town of Hartford, Connecticut and has been called the Father of American Democracy.
The exterior walls are of flint rubble intermixed with blocks of building stone and brick. There is a fine tower topped by a spire with a weather vane that portrays a dragon coming out of the sun.The tower houses a fine ring of 13 bells. On the south east corner of the church is a contemporary statue of St Peter with his fishing boots, net, fish and key.
The Cathedral has two splendid organs. The nave organ, installed in 1994 at the west end of the Cathedral, was the first completely new organ with mechanical action to be built in an Anglican cathedral in this country for more than a century. The chancel organ was completed in 1995. The pipework is from an organ of 1884 made for the church of St Andrew in Cambridge. Although both organs are independent instruments, all but the choir division of the nave organ can be played from the console of the chancel organ.
Chelmsford Cathedral is open daily. Please come and join us. All are welcome.