Open main menu
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

career, and he served as a midshipman on board the “Cambrian” frigate in 1807 at the second bombardment of Copenhagen. His only surviving brother, however, died about this time, and he became entitled to succeed to a valuable estate in the West Indies, so it was decided that he should leave the navy and study law, with a view to practising in the West Indies and eventually managing his property in person. Another change of fortune, however, awaited him, for a volcano destroyed the family estate, and he was thrown back upon his prospect of a legal practice in the West Indies. He proceeded to enter at Gray’s Inn in 1813, and was called on the 18th of November 1818, another change in his prospects being brought about by the strong advice of Godfrey Sykes, a special pleader in whose chambers he had been a pupil, that he should remain to try his fortune in England. He accordingly joined the home circuit, and soon got into good practice at the Surrey sessions, while he also made a fortunate purchase in buying the right to appear in the old palace court (see Lord Steward). In 1824 he distinguished himself by his defence of Joseph Hunt when on his trial at Hertford with John Thurtell for the murder of Wm. Weare; and eight years later at Chelmsford assizes he won a hard-fought action in an ejectment case after three trials, to which he attributed so much of his subsequent success that when he was raised to the peerage he assumed the title Lord Chelmsford. In 1834 he was made king’s counsel, and in 1835 was briefed in the Dublin election inquiry which unseated Daniel O’Connell. In 1840 he was elected M.P. for Woodstock. In 1844 he became solicitor-general, but having ceased to enjoy the favour of the duke of Marlborough, lost his seat for Woodstock and had to find another at Abingdon. In 1845 he became attorney-general, holding the post until the fall of the Peel administration on the 3rd of July 1846. Thus by three days Thesiger missed being chief justice of the common pleas, for on the 6th of July Sir Nicholas Tindal died, and the seat on the bench, which would have been Thesiger’s as of right, fell to the Liberal attorney-general, Sir Thomas Wilde. Sir Frederic Thesiger remained in parliament, changing his seat, however, again in 1852, and becoming member for Stamford. During this period he enjoyed a very large practice at the bar, being employed in many causes célèbres. On Lord Derby coming into office for the second time in 1858, Sir Frederic Thesiger was raised straight from the bar to the lord chancellorship (as were Lord Brougham, Lord Selborne and Lord Halsbury). In the following year Lord Derby resigned and his cabinet was broken up. Again in 1866, on Lord Derby coming into office for the third time, Lord Chelmsford became lord chancellor for a short period. In 1868 Lord Derby retired, and Disraeli, who took his place as prime minister, wished for Lord Cairns as lord chancellor. Lord Chelmsford was very sore at his supersession and the manner of it, but, according to Lord Malmesbury he retired under a compact made before he took office. Ten years later Lord Chelmsford died in London on the 5th of October 1878. Lord Chelmsford had married in 1822 Anna Maria Tinling. He left four sons and three daughters, of whom the eldest, Frederick Augustus, 2nd Baron Chelmsford (1827–1905), earned distinction as a soldier, while the third, Alfred Henry Thesiger (1838–1880) was made a lord justice of appeal and a privy councillor in 1877, at the early age of thirty-nine, but died only three years later.

See Lives of the Chancellors (1908), by J. B. Atlay, who has had the advantage of access to an unpublished autobiography of Lord Chelmsford’s.

CHELMSFORD, a market town and municipal borough, and the county town of Essex, England, in the Chelmsford parliamentary division, 30 m. E.N.E. from London by the Great Eastern railway. Pop. (1901) 12,580. It is situated in the valley of the Chelmer, at the confluence of the Cann, and has communication by the river with Maldon and the Blackwater estuary 11 m. east. Besides the parish church of St Mary, a graceful Perpendicular edifice, largely rebuilt, the town has a grammar school founded by Edward VI., an endowed charity school and a museum. It is the seat of the county assizes and quarter sessions, and has a handsome shire hall; the county gaol is near the town. Its corn and cattle markets are among the largest in the county; for the first a fine exchange is provided. In the centre of the square in which the corn exchange is situated stands a bronze statue of Lord Chief-Justice Tindal (1776–1846), a native of the parish. There are agricultural implement and iron foundries, large electric light and engineering works, breweries, tanneries, maltings and extensive corn mills. There is a race-course 2 m. south of the town. The borough is under a mayor, 6 aldermen and 18 councillors. Area 2308 acres.

A place of settlement since Palaeolithic times, Chelmsford (Chilmersford, Chelmeresford, Chelmesford) owed its importance to its position on the road from London to Colchester. It consisted of two manors: that of Moulsham, which remained in the possession of Westminster Abbey from Saxon times till the reign of Henry VIII., when it was granted to Thomas Mildmay; and that of Bishop’s Hall, which was held by the bishops of London from the reign of Edward the Confessor to 1545, when it passed to the crown and was granted to Thomas Mildmay in 1563. The medieval history of Chelmsford centred round the manor of Bishop’s Hall. Early in the 12th century Bishop Maurice built the bridge over the Chelmer which brought the road from London directly through the town, thus making it an important stopping-place. The town was not incorporated until 1888. In 1225 Chelmsford was made the centre for the collection of fifteenths from the county of Essex, and in 1227 it became the regular seat of assizes and quarter-sessions. Edward I. confirmed Bishop Richard de Gravesend in his rights of frank pledge in Chelmsford in 1290, and in 1395 Richard II. granted the return of writs to Bishop Robert de Braybroke. In 1377 writs were issued for the return of representatives from Chelmsford to parliament, but no return of members has been found. In 1199 the bishop obtained the grant of a weekly market at the yearly rent of one palfrey, and in 1201 that of an annual fair, now discontinued, for four days from the feast of St Philip and St James.

CHELSEA, a western metropolitan borough of London, England, bounded E. by the city of Westminster, N.W. by Kensington, S.W. by Fulham, and S. by the river Thames. Pop. (1901) 73,842. Its chief thoroughfare is Sloane Street, containing handsome houses and good shops, running south from Knightsbridge to Sloane Square. Hence King’s Road leads west, a wholly commercial highway, named in honour of Charles II., and recalling the king’s private road from St James’s Palace to Fulham, which was maintained until the reign of George IV. The main roads south communicate with the Victoria or Chelsea, Albert and Battersea bridges over the Thames. The beautiful Chelsea embankment, planted with trees and lined with fine houses and, in part, with public gardens, stretches between Victoria and Battersea bridges. The better residential portion of Chelsea is the eastern, near Sloane Street and along the river; the western, extending north to Fulham Road, is mainly a poor quarter.

Chelsea, especially the riverside district, abounds in historical associations. At Cealchythe a synod was held in 785. A similar name occurs in a Saxon charter of the 11th century and in Domesday; in the 16th century it is Chelcith. The later termination ey or ea was associated with the insular character of the land, and the prefix with a gravel bank (ceosol; cf. Chesil Bank, Dorsetshire) thrown up by the river; but the early suffix hythe is common in the meaning of a haven. The manor was originally in the possession of Westminster Abbey, but its history is fragmentary until Tudor times. It then came into the hands of Henry VIII., passed from him to his wife Catharine Parr, and thereafter had a succession of owners, among whom were the Howards, to whom it was granted by Queen Elizabeth, and the Cheynes, from whom it was purchased in 1712 by Sir Hans Sloane, after which it passed to the Cadogans. The memorials which crowd the picturesque church and churchyard of St Luke near the river, commonly known as the Old Church, to a great extent epitomize the history of Chelsea. Such are those of Sir Thomas More (d. 1535); Lord Bray, lord of the manor (1539), his father and son; Lady Jane Guyldeford, duchess of Northumberland, who died “at her maner of Chelse”