The World of Fred Spalding
The face of Chelmsford is changing faster than most.
Salutary, then, to take stock of two excellent exhibitions that chart some of the developments of the last hundred years.
At the Museum, until May 11, “Chelmsford Then and Now”, paintings by members of the Chelmsford Art Society, inspired by Bennett Bamford’s watercolours of a century ago.
Some locations are still recognizable – the Stone Bridge, caught nicely by Phil Kyffin, Springfield Wharf, atmospherically captured by Bob Vasey, whose Mildmay Almshouses [just down the road from the Museum in Oaklands Park] featured a prominent yellow van instead of Bamford’s distant pony trap.
New Street has altered more than most – who now remembers Eli Bacon’s store where the police station now stands ? - and Charlie Tait’s recent study is already out of date, the Snip’s weather-boards replaced by the new Crown Court. There was a lively collage of the Wheatsheaf, which happily still survives.
Although there was some beautiful work inspired by the obviously picturesque, I suspect that a hundred years hence the transient town centre will be of more interest, like Ann Snow’s view of soul-less Tindal Street, with ghostly motorbikes in the foreground.
In the Cathedral until April 30, an equally intriguing glimpse into the world of Fred Spalding, alderman and photographer extraordinaire, whose studio can be seen in his 1860 study of Tindal Square. Hylands House stands “smart and self-confident” in the Edwardian sunshine, a charabanc leaves the Griffin in 1906, Marconi meets the Mayor in 1912, and the Cathedral interior looks very Victorian in 1905.
Both these exhibitions are free. Do try to see them; you cannot fail to be fascinated.