Chelmsford Industrial Trail

In 1987 Stanley Wood wrote the Chelmsford Industrial Trail for the ‘Chelmsford Industrial Museum Society and Essex Schools’. He recognised Chelmsford as having been ‘the birthplace of a great modern industry deeply affecting all our daily lives’. He continued: ‘in Chelmsford Marconi started the radio industry … so we can say that the world electronics industry, one of the most typical of 20th century activities [and still so in the 21st century], sprang from … Chelmsford’. Wood felt that ‘Chelmsford is a town with a great story … [if] you live here you should know the story and be proud of it’.

To mark the 30th anniversary of Wood’s innovative guide the Essex Industrial Archaeology Group decided to produce a new edition of Wood’s original Trail. This new edition includes those industrial sites in Wood’s original which survive, albeit in an altered state, 30 years later, describing what changes have taken place, but also highlighting those sites which have been totally lost and redeveloped. As Wood was principally interested in the industries established in the town during the 19th and 20th centuries, most of which were still operating in 1987, he omitted some of the more traditional industries such as malting and brewing, so this new edition includes sites associated with these industries. This addition of sites which Wood did not include also reflects the expansion in the interests of industrial archaeologists, and so a number of sites of workers’ housing are included.

At the time of Wood’s writing, archaeological investigation in Chelmsford had been limited to the Roman and Medieval periods This situation changed from the early 1990s when major industries were closing and interest in documenting, recording and preserving some of the buildings grew. As a result of these changes industrial sites in Chelmsford became the subject of archaeological excavation, of individual historic industrial building and structures surveys, and were included in the Essex County Council Thematic Surveys of Industrial Sites and Monuments. The information gained from these activities, which have continued to take place over the last 30 years, has been used to enhance the details given in this revised edition of Wood’s Trail. By revising the Trail in this way, changes to the industrial and economic activity of Chelmsford from manufacturing town to a retail and service industry city are drawn out.

Copies of the Chelmsford Industrial Trail can be bought for £4 at the Chelmsford Museum, the Ideas Hub Chelmsford or by emailing EIAG at

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Chelmsford Industrial Trail eiag illustration 1
Chelmsford Industrial Trail Cover