Alderman Cramphorn and his link to Chelmsford Theatre

Born in Chelmsford in 1845 and long since deceased before any plans were made to have a theatre on Fairfield Road, you might wonder what Alderman Thomas John Deeks Cramphorn’s connection would be to Chelmsford Theatre.

By all accounts Cramphorn was successful in business. In the 1881 census he is described as an accountant, but later as a shopman and corn merchant. Along with his brother he built Cramphorn’s up to be one of the biggest Essex agricultural firms and remained a substantial farming operation until 1963. By the 1960s the firm had over 70 shops. There were two head offices in Chelmsford and Brentwood, a mill at Springfield, and granaries at Brentwood, Halstead and Chelmsford along with a large number of shops. He would also serve on the Council for many years and was Mayor on six occasions.

Cramphorn was well known for his concern for the welfare of Chelmsford’s residents,  taking particular interest in the improvement of housing for the working classes and in the provision of sports activities for local children. 

At his death, the Essex Chronicle described him as "a man of most kindly, lovable disposition, and he will be sorely missed for his geniality and generosity, and his great public service.”

Alderman Cramphorn bequeathed money to many charitable causes in his will. This included a substantial bequest left to the Borough of  Chelmsford for a building or improvements that would “advance the dignity of my native town and promote the prosperity and well being of the town and its inhabitants”.

On the death of his niece, Miss J.C. Cramphorn in 1976, this bequest was fulfilled. Five years later, on 25 April 1981, our studio theatre, the construction of being made possible by money from the will, was opened by Councillor A.E. Cole, Mayor of Chelmsford 1980–81. The purpose of the venue is to host new material and emerging artists. It has developed to include live screenings from across the globe, as well as varied comedy acts, and remains a huge contributor to cultural experiences in the city.

A blue plaque has now been placed outside our theatre recognising Alderman Cramphorn’s significant contributions to Chelmsford, including the bequest in his will which part-funded the creation of Chelmsford Theatre Studio.

You can read more about Alderman Thomas Cramphorn in Chelmsford City Life's article.

Images of Alderman Cramphorn have been graciously provided by the Cramphorn family.

Alderman Cramphorn’s relatives, Anne and Anthony Cramphorn, and Richard Percy, with the Mayor of Chelmsford, Cllr Sue Dobson.

Alderman Cramphorn’s relatives, Anne and Anthony Cramphorn, and Richard Percy, with the Mayor of Chelmsford, Cllr Sue Dobson.