Cathedral Church of St Mary the Virgin,
|Church of England|
|Diocese of Chelmsford|
The Cathedral Church of St Mary the Virgin, St Peter and St Cedd, of Chelmsford, commonly known as Chelmsford Cathedral stands in the city of Chelmsford in Essex. It became a cathedral when the Diocese of Chelmsford was created in 1914, carved from the Diocese of St Albans, and is the seat of the Bishop of Chelmsford.
The Church of St Mary the Virgin in Chelmsford was probably first built along with the town eight hundred years ago. It was rebuilt in the 15th and early 16th centuries, with walls of flint rubble, stone and brick. It has a tower with a spire.
The nave partially collapsed in 1800, and was rebuilt by the County architect John Johnson, retaining the Perpendicular design, but using Coade stone piers and tracery, and a plaster ceiling. The upper part of the chancel was rebuilt in 1878.
In 1914 the church became the cathedral for the newly created Diocese of Chelmsford.
The south porch was extended in 1953 to mark British-American friendship after the Second World War and the many American airmen stationed in Essex. In 1954, the cathedral was additionally dedicated to Saints Peter and Cedd. In 1983, the interior of the cathedral was extensively refurbished, with a new floor, seating, altar, bishop's throne, font and artwork. In 1994 and 1995 two pipe organs were installed, the first in the nave and the second in the chancel. The stained-glass windows were all installed in the 19th and 20th centuries.
In 2000 a sculpture of "Christ in Glory", by Peter Eugene Ball, was placed above the chancel arch. In 2004 two further major works of art were commissioned, and are now in place: Mark Cazelet's "Tree of Life" painting in the North Transept, and Philip Sanderson's altar frontal in the Mildmay Chapel.
The cathedral celebrates its links with Thomas Hooker, who was Chelmsford Town Lecturer between 1626 and 1629. He fled to the New World because of his Puritan views and founded the town of Hartford in Connecticut and is considered one of the founders of American democracy.
- The cathedral has a ring of thirteen bells, twelve of which were cast by John Warner & Sons at Cripplegate and were dedicated in 1913.
- The cathedral music department, led by the Organist and Master of the Choristers, includes the Assistant Organist and Director of the Girls' Choir, Organ Scholar, Music and Liturgy Assistant and Choir Matron.
- The cathedral choir consists of twenty boys (aged 7–13) and twelve men. The choir sings the daily choral services and choral eucharist, matins (monthly) and choral evensong on Sundays. The men of the choir are made up of professional lay clerks, choral scholars and volunteer 'singing men'.
- The Cathedral Girls' Choir consists of sixteen girls (aged 11–18). They sing choral evensong every Tuesday and frequently join the men of the cathedral choir for other choral services and concerts.
- The Voluntary Choir was formed in 2001 and frequently sings at cathedral services often during the holiday periods after Christmas, Easter and through the summer.
- The Nave Organ is situated at the west end of the cathedral under the Tower. It is a four-manual instrument with mechanical action built by Mander Organs in 1994.
- The Chancel Organ is a two manual mechanical instrument built by Mander Organs in 1995. It incorporates 19th century pipework Hill and Holdich and is widely admired for its character and versatility. The Nave Organ's great, swell, solo and pedal divisions can be played via an electric link from the Chancel Organ console.
A specification of the organs can be found at the National Pipe Organ Register.
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