Everything you need to know about living in Chelmsford

Bond Street Chelmsford with Everyman cinema

Bond Street opened in 2016 as a luxury shopping destination - Credit: Simon Callaghan

Since becoming a city in 2012, Chelmsford has continued to transform into a destination that’s buzzing with life. Sybilla Hart discovers why it’s one of the UK’s most sought-after places to live and play

It won’t come as any surprise to residents of the cathedral city of Chelmsford that it was voted the best place to live in the east of England by The Sunday Times in 2019. Combining accessibility to London, excellent schooling, hundreds of acres of outside space, world-class shopping on Bond Street, a strong community spirit and a stunning cathedral all makes the case for Chelmsford as an aspirational place to call home. Chelmsford was the capital of England in the 14th century (admittedly only for 5 days!) when the seat government was moved there temporarily; it is also the birthplace of radio.  

The magnificent cathedral in Chelmsford, UK

The magnificent cathedral - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Things to do in Chelmsford

Hylands Estate, set in 574 acres, is the perfect country park in which to relax, away from the bustle and hype of the city. At its heart is a Grade II* listed neoclassical villa, which is now owned by Chelmsford City Council and is used as an upmarket wedding venue. Why not take a picnic and enjoy the green oasis now that spring is nearly here? Entry is completely free and it's open seven days a week. Aside from a restored parkland, there are ancient woodlands to discover, not to mention grasslands, lakes, ponds and formal gardens. The Serpentine Lake was designed to look like a river by the celebrated landscape designer of his day, Sir Humphrey Repton, in 1800. You can buy duck food and feed the ducks at the delightful Pleasure Gardens.   

Hylands House

Hylands House is a grand Palladian villa - Credit: Nigel Gibson / Hylands Estate

Don't miss Hylands’ One World Gardens, which was opened by Prince William to celebrate the Centenary of Scouting at the 21st World Scout Jamboree in 2007. Hylands say that ‘the design of this small jewel of a garden is based on the principles of the Scouting movement and is designed as a children’s garden. Its inspiration comes from the ideals of the Arts and Craft movement, with the emphasis on the use of traditional skills, materials and design.’ 

To the north east of Chelmsford city, Admirals Park is also well worth a visit. Set in 30 acres with the River Can meandering through it, a cricket pitch and a children’s play area, it's a lovely spot for a family day out. 

Autumn colors display their beauty in this park in Essex, England.

Chelmsford's parks provide a great escape from city life - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Shopping in Chelmsford

Opened in 2016, Bond Street offers a tempting array of options as far as retail therapy goes. Aside from the impressive John Lewis department store, there is a White Company, Foyle’s bookshop, Joules and Hotel Chocolat. Not to mention Essex favourite Tiptree Tea Room & Shop. But let's not forget about the smaller independent shops born of the city. Custom-made handbags by local designer Olivia and Gray are at 2 Pickwick Avenue and Riko’s Spanish Baby Boutique stocks lovely traditional baby clothes and is located at 2B Trinity Road.   

Three women wearing Olivia and Gray personalised handbags

Olivia and Gray is an independent handbag designer - Credit: Vicky Holmes Business Photography

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Meanwhile, Rock the Frock Bridal stocks modern and design-led wedding dresses, as well as beautiful big-day jewellery at its shop at 14 Broomfield Road. Over at 3 Rainsford Road you will find The Vintage Cosmetic Company, which sells everything a girl needs to feel glamorous, from ‘dolly’ make-up headbands to manicure sets.   

Accommodation in Chelmsford

If it's accommodation you’re after, there are plenty of options in Chelmsford. If you want to be close to the action and stay in the centre of town, you cannot beat County Hotel on Rainsford Road. Reviews speak of excellent breakfasts and friendly staff. Its restaurant, Samphire, is beautifully decorated with wood panelling and aquamarine soft furnishings. There’s a focus on using local ingredients, serving up the like of melanzane alla parmigiana and Southend's Rossi ice cream. County Hotel is situated just a three-minute walk away from Chelmsford Railway Station.  

Further afield in the countryside just outside Chelmsford, you can find luxurious gems such as Pontlands Park, The Lion Inn at Boreham or Channels Estate in Little Waltham.  

Best places to eat in Chelmsford

Whether you’re staying at Channels Estate or you’re a local, make sure you head to Channels Bar and Brasserie, one of the best dining spots in the area. Order a wing of beef for two followed by a tonka bean cream carrot cake for dessert.   

In the city centre, seek out the cosy and romantic Wine Cellar Bar & Bistro on Duke Street.  Order a Ferrero Rocher cheesecake and passion fruit-infused pornstar martini. Byron Burgers on Bond Street is a more relaxed spot to recharge and refuel with one of its famous beef burgers after a busy shopping session.   

Property for sale in Chelmsford

(Properties on the market at time of publication)

Chelmsford is seeing a property boom, with sales increasing by more than a quarter last year, according to the latest research by Savills. The estate agents also say that the market is busy and buoyant, with the number of homes selling for more than £1million rising by 130 per cent last year. Karl Manning, head of the residential team at Savills Chelmsford says, ‘Property in the city remains relatively affordable. Areas such as Springfield Road and Broomfield Road are a particular draw for buyers, with good-sized family homes.’  

Southborough House Fenn Wright

Southborough House - Credit: Fenn Wright

How about the Grade II listed Southborough House? Designed by architect C.H.B. Quennell for Francis Crittal, the metal window manufacturer, the house is just under 5,000 square feet. On the market with Fenn Wright, guide price is £1.7million. 

30 The Green Writtle for sale with Savills

30 The Green, Writtle - Credit: Savills

There’s also 30 The Green, Writtle, a former restaurant that has been transformed into a wonderful four-bedroom family home overlooking Writtle village green. On the market with Savills, guide price £995,000.  

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Best beer gardens in Chelmsford: https://www.greatbritishlife.co.uk/food-and-drink/establishments/best-beer-gardens-chelmsford-8885424

Review of Channels, Chelmsford: https://www.greatbritishlife.co.uk/food-and-drink/restaurant-reviews/dinner-at-channels-bar-brasserie-chelmsford-8917996