History of Chelmsford u3a

The idea for a Chelmsford u3a was originally suggested at a meeting of the Essex Pre-Retirement Association. Jean Pitt, Vice-principal of Chelmsford Adult Education Centre, also ran some of the pre-Retirement courses around Essex , which were offered to local companies. Jo Benson, who was also a tutor and an enthusiastic member of Basildon and Billericay u3a, offered her help in trying to set up a group in Chelmsford . It transpired that at least three attempts had been made previously by various organisations, but there was insufficient response from the public.

This time delegates from past Pre-Retirement courses were contacted and about 25 people attended a meeting at the Essex County Council offices. This initial response encouraged a launch meeting being organised at ‘The Health Education Council’ premises at the old ‘Chelmsford & Essex’ hospital in New London Road . Notification was sent to the Essex Chronicle and the Mayor of Chelmsford agreed to attend and open the meeting. BBC Essex Radio also promoted the meeting.

From the many enquiries, it became obvious a few days before that the Lecture Room at the C&E would not be large enough, so arrangements were made to transfer the meeting to Christ Church main hall further up New London Road , which could accommodate about 100 people. The date was the 26th January 1993.

On the afternoon of the meeting, (which was very wet), Maurice Flude, the Principal of Chelmsford Adult Education Centre, stood outside the original venue directing people up the road to the larger venue. About 100 people did turn up, despite the weather. The Mayor opened the meeting, and then Jo Benson and Jean Pitt explained the aims and objectives of the British u3a, based on the French model.

A committee was set up that afternoon and the volunteers met soon after to elect the officers. Jean Pitt became Chairman with Michael Pitt as Vice-chairman. Peter Russell became Treasurer with Hilda Russell as Secretary, and Gina Fost became Facilitator and Co-ordinator of the Interest Groups. Di Angel and Bob Husband were also on the original committee.

The first monthly meeting was held on Tuesday 16th February 1993 at Chelmsford Adult College in Beeches Road , when the first groups were formed. The groups formed were, Art, Bridge, Craft, Gardening, History, Language, Literature/Writing, Theatre, Walking/Rambling. There were already 76 paid up members. This really was an amazing start from nothing.

(It is worth noting that the annual subscription then was £10, so it has actually become cheaper over the years.)

The following monthly meetings were held at Trinity Methodist Hall, opposite the County Hotel. As the membership grew larger the monthly meetings were moved to the AEEU Hall in Primrose Hill, and then to The Old Chelmsfordians Sports & Social Club in Rainsford Road. We outgrew that venue and then moved to hold our meetings in the Great Baddow Millennium Community Centre

By 1998 it was decided to try and form some new u3as in other areas as numbers were still increasing. Some experienced members from Chelmsford u3a who lived further afield volunteered to set them up. Hence Baddow & Galleywood, Witham and Braintree , and Maldon evolved.

In 2008 we moved our meetings to a new location, the Marconi Club. We continued to grow and prosper at our new location. The name of the venue changed in 2017 when it became Hamptons Sports and Leisure.

The venue was sold in late 2019, and the new owners decided to configure the building for a different type of community use. This new configuration did not best meet our needs, so we began a search for different premises to hold our monthly meetings. The committee found an ideal location, Christ Church, 164 New London Road, Chelmsford

Many of our previous Chairs and committee members remain active within the current membership. We are indebted to all those people who have worked long and hard to leave a vibrant organisation and strong legacy, that continues to provide a wonderful opportunity for the people of Chelmsford as they enter the third age in their life.