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Pam Swaby interviewed by Colin Fletcher

Last year, at the ARU Exhibition, I met Pam Swaby; a very active member of the Chelmsford Civic Society. I was intrigued, as after living many years in Chelmsford, I had only recently heard about the Society. In order to find out more an email interview was held with Pam. Without further ado here is the interview:

Q: What are the aims of the Chelmsford Civic Society?

A: The aims of CCS are to stimulate public interest in and appreciation and care of the history, appearance and character of Chelmsford. In addition, rivers, parks and trees, transport, roads and car parking,

Q: When did you first hear of the Chelmsford Civic Society and how long have you been a member?

A: My initial joining - 2008 when the meetings met at Moulsham Mill under the leadership of Denis Hance and Patrick Bermingham. As a family, we had arrived in Chelmsford in 2006 and decided to become a member of CCS - as interest in planning matters, history and community struck a chord.

Q: What are your current role and responsibilities in the Society?

A: Malcolm Noble became Chairman in 2012 - as CCS was about to close - I joined the team and became Membership Secretary also participating in inviting speakers on topical subjects - which continues to this day. I am responsible for promoting our events. Membership is £15 for 2 people, £10 for individual. I also with Chris Neale and Ros Webb helped to set up an exhibition at the World's First Wireless Factory in 2016 as it was about to be converted into apartments. The Construction Company agreed with the Council that we could stage the exhibition for 3 months - so we campaigned to raise £380,000. The target was ambitious and the Company decided to convert the ground floor to apartments instead. Not to be thwarted, I ran an exhibition in Bond Street in 2017 on Titanic - which was enthusiastically supported. Tim Wander is our historical lecturer and author whom we could not manage without. He helped set up both the 2020 and 2022 Centenary.

Q: The Anglia Ruskin University recently held an exhibition in June & July 2022; how would you describe the event?

A: ARU exhibition 2022 - coincidentally I met Prof Laurie Butler, ARU at Chelmsford Cathedral during the British Science Festival and decided to pluck up courage and ask him if he had any space at ARU - his response was a resounding YES. Hence this year we were given the golden opportunity to stage an exhibition in June - Chelmsford Innovation - Marconi and Beyond. The response was very encouraging and BBC Essex joined us and we were thrilled to display the actual Coronation camera with Martyn Clarke captivating the visitors with his knowledge and Paul Green with his vintage radio collection. We have now been invited to stage an annual exhibition at ARU with CSES.

Q: What notable achievements are, in part or whole, due to the Civic Society?

A: Malcolm Noble has battled with both Councils to open up Shire Hall - with the current remedial work in the front of the building we are certainly hoping for it to be opened in April.
One of our important contributions to the City is running Heritage Open Days in October alerting the public to all our heritage and podcasts which appear on the CCS website - the responsibility of Alan Pamphilon and Paul McClean. Anecdote - I had always been keen to provide walks around the City and on one occasion a student at Keggs devised a basic walk to which I joined with members of the public. On this walk there was also a gentleman who showed knowledge of our industrial history so I seized the opportunity to invite him to take up the role. Thankfully he was as enthusiastic about the idea as I was and Alan P is Chelmsford's resident Walks Guide and goes from strength to strength.
We are also charged with investigating any new planning applications which arise and the recent decision to change the name of The Cramphorn Theatre has certainly ruffled feathers as the Cramphorn family donated immense funding to set up the theatre. Discussions are ongoing at the moment and opinions are strong but it would appear that it will in future be called The Studio.

Q: What are the current efforts of the Society?

A: Since 2016, we have continued to push for a Heritage Centre in the City because of our valuable industrial legacy and discussions are still ongoing – let’s hope not too long! A heritage and visitor centre would be the icing on the cake. At the moment I am working with the publican at The Woolpack who would like to decorate the internal bar with Marconi images and memorabilia.

For further details about the Chelmsford Civic Society and membership visit