Chelmsford, the county town of Essex, was awarded city status in 2012 in light of its growing population and increasingly diverse economy.
Historically, however, it was once a thriving market town with a strong agricultural sector. Malting, milling, foundries and light engineering have all had their day, and Chelmsford also lays claim to the birthplace of radio after Guglielmo Marconi opened a factory in the city back in 1899.
Latterly labelled a ‘clone town’ and commuter hub, the city has undergone several redevelopment projects in recent years – with more in the pipeline – that have coincided with a rise in the number of independent shops and businesses.
Indeed, a pedestrianised high street links two shopping centres, making Chelmsford one of Essex’s largest retail and commercial hubs. Both Essex County Council and Essex Police are based in Chelmsford, while its proximity to London – some 30 miles to the southwest – has also boosted its role in the distribution sector.
Name: Hylands House
Address: Hylands House
Tel: 01245 605500
Owned and operated by Chelmsford Borough Council, this impressive grade-II listed property lies in 574 acres of landscaped parkland – which plays host to the annual V music festival – and a comprehensive restoration project was finally completed several years ago. The entire building or the ground floor can be hired for exclusive use, with the latter comprising 12 different meeting and event spaces. They range in size from the Hanbury Suite (up to 12 delegates boardroom style) to the Banqueting Room (up to 100 theatre-style). A range of light refreshments and buffets are available.
Name: Osea Island
Address: Osea Island, Maldon, CM9 8UH
Tel: 07810 753226
Osea Island lies 15 miles east of Chelmsford in the Blackwater estuary and is fringed by four miles of beaches and coastline. It is rich in bird and wildlife and is accessed at low tide by a mile-long road (originally built by the Romans) that connects it to the mainland – or by six-passenger water taxi. Accommodation includes a ten-bedroom Manor House and The Manor Beach House which sleeps 16, plus 14 cottages, six apartments and, available from May this year, the Chapel House which sleeps up to 12 people. This unusual venue’s meeting and event locations range from the Manor House Boardroom with stunning sea views (for up to 20 people) and the Yoga shack (for 20-30 people seated), to the newly renovated Manor Barn (available from April for approximately 100 seated and 200 standing) and the Orchard and Rose Gardens (summer only, for up to 40 seated or 80 standing). Activities on offer at Osea Island include bird-watching, fishing, cycling, walking tours, cookery classes, winetasting and creative classes.
NEW KID ON THE BLOCK
Name: Oasis Waterfront Place
Address: Oasis Waterfront Place, Wharf Road, Chelmsford, CM2 6LU
Tel: 020 3286 9174
This new, waterside venue is located around a 15-minute walk east of Chelmsford train station, and three of its four meeting and event spaces overlook the Chelmer and Blackwater canal. The Chelmer Hall, originally part of the first inland coal-fired gas works, has room for up to 200 delegates theatre-style – the same as the venue’s Upper Hall. The Café seats 100 people theatre-style and 40 in a boardroom set up, and the Horizon Suite can host a maximum of 40.
ON A SHOESTRING
Name: Essex Record Office
Address: Wharf Road, Chelmsford, Essex, CM2 6YT
Tel: 01245 244644
The county’s hub of historic information and records has a number of meeting rooms and spaces available for private hire. The largest is the Spalding room with capacity for up to 140 delegates and the smallest, the Andre room, is suitable for up to 12 people. Others range in capacity from 16 to 32 delegates and there’s an option of hiring three adjacent rooms together with a breakout area. Equipment available for hire includes media projectors, flip charts and AV systems. The ERO does not offer a catering service but can assist with arranging external contracts.
Name: Bishop Hall Lane, Chelmsford, CM1 1SQ
Address: Farncombe Estate, Broadway, Worcestershire, WR12 7LJ
Tel: 0845 196 6707
The Chelmsford campus of the Anglia Ruskin University (based in Cambridge) has undergone significant investment in recent years and most of the buildings at the Rivermead site are less then ten years old and come complete with state-of-the-art technology and AV facilities. Among the venues available for hire are 400 and 200-seat lecture theatres – plus two smaller lecture theatres – as well as specialist units such as a mock law court, clinical skills lab, operating theatre and a research institute.
SMALL BUT PERFECTLY FORMED
Name: Moulsham Mill
Address: Moulsham Mill, Parkway, Chelmsford, CM2 7PX
Tel: 01245 608200
Incredibly, a mill has stood on this particular site for over 1,000 years – and was listed in the Domesday Book – but the existing grade-II listed building dates back ‘only’ to 1819. Today, it is a booming craft and business centre home to numerous small companies and a ‘virtual office’ service. A conference room can host up to 90 people while office space is also available to hire on a longer-term basis.
How to get there: By car, Chelmsford is around 60 minutes from central London and 30 minutes from both Stansted Airport (to the north) and Southend Airport (to the south). London City Airport is a 45-minute drive away. The train journey between Chelmsford and London Liverpool Street stations takes a little over 30 minutes and there are regular services.
Contact: Carol Jolly, Membership & Business Tourism Manager. Tel: 01245 435152 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For further information see: www.visitessex.com/business